I had a bad week, fitness-wise.

During my planned six-mile run on Sunday, I felt my right hip/glute area tighten up. I didn’t misstep or do anything different, it just happened. I was able to continue running, but I cut it short a mile, and finished the last mile pretty slowly with some pain.

dumbbells top2The injury caused me to miss my normal workouts as I tried to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it. I saw a chiropractor, who I know will fix my tight muscles, misaligned hips and curved lumbar spine. I did upper body work on Wednesday, but that was the only training I managed. My normal week consists of three strength training days, one strength day with my trainer, a boot camp class and two days of running.

Not surprisingly, my mood plummeted. It didn’t occur to me until Friday – when I was feeling especially depressed and lacked energy – that lack of exercise was the primary culprit.

Endorphins are a powerful thing. Physical activity increases the release of these neurotransmitters, which help reduce stress, pain and generally make you feel pretty damn good. Some call it a “runner’s high”, but research has also proved that it takes relatively strenuous exercise to release endorphins. Light-to-moderate cardio won’t necessarily do the trick. But, anecdotally, I’d say we all feel better if we just go for a nice walk.

So, once I realized I just needed to get my exercise in (and the chiropractor told me the only thing I needed to avoid was anything that “hurt”), I went to my garage with my dumbbells and jump rope for an hour-long lifting session with a jump-rope finisher.

Boom. All better.

 

It’s difficult sometimes to see what some of my Integrative Nutrition classmates are doing with their health coaching certification and to not feel inadequate.

But we all have a different purpose. I know mine isn’t to quit my full-time job, rent out an office and go all out on marketing to attract dozens of clients, teach workshops and make health coaching a lucrative career. That would be awesome, of course, but I’ve come to realize that’s not the plan for me.

I have a couple of clients. I coach them on a part-time basis while maintaining the job that pays the bills. I’m fine with this, and I’m trying not to say things like, “I only have two clients”.  I have two clients who have seen results and are making healthy lifestyle changes. Boom.

tiffany card

One of my clients was doing quite well. She had lost a good amount of weight, and healthy eating and physical activity was becoming routine for her. As we approached the end of our six months together, she told me she was pregnant. This is what she wanted, of course, but obviously weight loss is no longer a goal, for now. But she is sticking with me during her pregnancy so I can help keep her on track. I know, firsthand, what it’s like to go through a pregnancy eating crap and without regular exercise. It’s why I am where I am today. She now has the tools to make good decisions. I’m just going to be there to make sure that continues.

I just had my last meeting with my second client. She has been so awesome to work with, I nearly cried when we hugged and said goodbye. During our six months together, she has lost 26 pounds, incorporated regular workouts into her week and tested a ton of different dietary theories while finding what works best for her. She has nailed down proper portion sizes and has a stable of resources to refer to when she has questions. She feels great and is full of energy and optimism. We may still meet from time to time when she needs additional help, but for now she’s going to give it a go on her own.

I love helping people gravitate toward a healthy lifestyle. It’s quite thrilling, actually. Whether it’s two people or 20 people, I’m happy.

So, now I’m ready to help someone else. If you’ve tried to lose weight or incorporate exercise into your life before without lasting success, you may need a guide to offer encouragement, accountability and support. This is the role of a health coach. I will listen to your struggles. I will give you workout tips and even at-home workouts to do on your own. I will take you step by step through gradually changing your diet and lifestyle to meet your goals.

Shoot me an e-mail at todiforfitness86@gmail.com if you would like to set up a free initial health coaching consultation.

Raise your hand if you feel stressed. Pardon me for using a trendy phrase, but … I know, right?

Honestly, this post is for me as much as it is for you. You know my obsession with health and fitness, obviously. But I, too, have stress. I’m not going to simply tell you to get more sleep, eat right and exercise. Easy, right? Well, no. I’m well aware that there are many things that get in the way of all that.

You have young children who require your supervision 24/7.

You have grown children whom you miss terribly.

You want children, but can’t have them.

Your marriage is unhappy.

You’re in a complicated relationship.

Your life seems like all work and no play.

You are overwhelmed with things you have to do, with no time for things you want to do.

You are experiencing health problems; or maybe it’s someone you love.

You must take care of your aging parents.

You don’t feel like you have any close friends. You’re lonely.

You have teenagers. Enough said.

You’re going through divorce.

You lost your job.

You hate your job, but don’t feel you have any other options.

I could probably add another 20 things to this list and you would all be nodding your head. These struggles affect your physical health as well as your mental health.

There are many ways to deal with it, so you just need to find something that works for you.

What’s been helping me lately is running. Not for speed or distance, but just running comfortably as long as I feel like it in the time that I have. Maybe you have some other form of gentle exercise that does this for you. Walking? Yoga? Tai Chi? Squeezing in just a few minutes of something like this will help ease some of the stress and perhaps divert your thoughts long enough to get through the rough spot.

I often use yoga as a warm-up or cool-down. During a recent strength workout, I couldn’t keep my mind off of something stressful and on my workout. So it was kind of lame. I decided to do some yoga afterward, and the mental clarity I experienced was pronounced. I’m not making this shit up. I honestly felt so much better physically and mentally after doing just 10 minutes of yoga.

I’ve also used meditation and breathing techniques to calm myself down, gain focus and get those stupid thoughts out of my head. Try some of Dr. Andrew Weil’s breathing exercises. I took a meditation course from Deanna Reiter, a trainer and yoga instructor from Minneapolis. There are many different styles – including guided and transcendental – but a good way to start is what she called “3 minutes before 3 o’clock”. Simply start with three minutes a day, sitting peacefully uninterrupted with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath. From there, you just extend the time. Here is a simple guide to meditation.

Herbal tea can also be calming, as can magnesium supplements like Natural Calm.

We all know we need seven or eight hours of sleep each night. But I’m not going to tell you to simply GET MORE SLEEP! Because, well, it’s not always possible. Dr. Weil recently wrote about circadian rhythms here. Ideally, we would all sleep between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. That’s when your body needs to recover. How many of you do that? I can’t go to bed at 10 because I work nights. I’m also a night owl and, even on my nights off, I’m rarely in bed before 1 a.m. Or maybe late night is your “you” time, so you’re going to stay up and listen to your music or watch your shows, dammit. So, go to bed late and sleep in? Maybe, but you have little kids who get up early or older kids you have to get off to school, so that’s not going to happen either. Or you have to get up early to workout before you go to work. Not many of us live in the perfect world where we can get ideal sleep. DO YOUR BEST.

The key with sleep, for me, is to make it good sleep. How do you do that? Get into a ritual before bedtime that doesn’t include running around like a crazy woman or staring at a screen of some sort: no TV, no phone, no computer or tablet. Drink some herbal tea or Natural Calm. Listen to some music. Do some calming yoga moves like these. PREPARE for sleep.

So I know some may say, “I don’t have time for this!” I really hate that excuse. We all have time for things. I have time to read books, but I don’t. I should, but I don’t. I do other things with that time. I actually read a blog post recently that listed reasons why women refuse sex (I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WOULD DO THIS). Soooo many women commented about not having time. But you have time to read that post and comment on it, then read all the other comments and scoff at them? Hell, you could have had a whole crap load of fun in bed in that time, ladies. Plus, STRESS RELIEF! So, seriously, you have time to scour Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and read blogs like this, right? You have time for your TV shows or books. You have time to watch stupid cat videos on YouTube. Your marriage, your kids, your job, your LIFE are all important things that require effort. Spend some time every day on stress relief. Your life with thank you. Again, I’m not perfect and I don’t do these things all the time. But I recognize when I’ve been slacking and I see the negative result. It’s hard work being healthy and happy.

Have other stress-relieving techniques? Share them, please!

I’m one of those people who personally feels meaning in song lyrics. (Warning: if you tell me to listen to a song, I’m going to read something into it based on the words.) Eminem’s ‘Til I Collapse is one of those songs on my running playlist that helps me not only because of the pace, but because of the lyrics, too. Regardless of how you feel about him or his music, Marshall Mathers is a poetic genius. The opening to this song never fails to get my adrenaline flowing and push me through at least four minutes of a run (I should probably put it on repeat, actually):

Cause sometimes you just feel tired

You feel weak and when you feel weak

You feel like you wanna just give up

But you gotta search within you

You gotta find that inner strength

And just pull that shit out of you

And get that motivation to not give up

And not be a quitter

No matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse

Fall cleaning

Posted: August 19, 2014 in diet, fitness, food, hormones, women
Tags:

“Spring cleaning” is a tradition for some. The windows, the carpet, the blinds and curtains, suuuuper fun stuff like that. I used to do it every spring, back when I was regimented about such things. These days, I clean when things get dirty, when I have time, and when I’m motivated. Those things don’t align often. That’s probably why my house has pet hair tumbleweed everywhere and why I can barely see through the dirt on my upstairs windows. Who wants to get on a freaking ladder?

During the last few weeks, though, I’m finding myself in a “fall cleaning” mode, partly with the house but also with my life in general. Maybe it’s because of school starting, but I think other things are in play here.

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Token photo of my youngest on his first day of Kindergarten.

As I wrote about here, I have been going through some hormonal changes and getting help from Dr. Heather Walker at Advanced Wellness to get things in order inside my body. In that last post, I wrote that I had lost seven pounds in the process. That number has since climbed to 12, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m now holding steady at my goal weight that I set about five years ago, which I honestly didn’t think was reachable. The toxins in my body have been cleaned out, and I’m finally happy with my body and my life.

During all the tweaking with my supplements to get my hormones happy again, I began to lack motivation for, well, anything. It started seeping into my workouts, which hadn’t happened in years. I was on the verge of adrenal fatigue. Though I still dragged myself to the gym, my workouts weren’t quite as tough, and I sometimes cut them short. I stopped prepping meals. I didn’t communicate well: with my husband, my kids, my coworkers, my friends. I felt constantly annoyed with everyone and everything.

Then, about two or three weeks ago, I finally felt refreshed. I am less annoyed. I have new gym workouts that are KICKING MY ASS. I sleep well and begin my day with energy again. I’m cooking again. My home and work lives are much more enjoyable. And this week, I started cleaning.

It’s all tied in together, you see. If you’re tired all the time, there’s something wrong. If you’re fighting with your spouse all the time, there’s something wrong. If you have no motivation, there’s something wrong. Don’t chalk  it up to “being old” (because you’re probably not old so don’t even use that excuse. ever) or busy or whatever. It’s likely your diet, your lack of exercise and/or sleep and, of course, your hormones. Find the source, take steps to fix it and you’ll be happy, refreshed and CLEAN.

And yay for the kids going back to school!

 

First, the good news. I’ve lost seven pounds in the last month. The bad news: six of those pounds were muscle.

In early May, I started seeing Dr. Heather Walker at Advanced Wellness to see what was going on with my hormones. I’ve known for some time that things weren’t right because 1) despite all my work, the fat was not coming off below the waist, 2) I’ve struggled with perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings, and 3) a myriad of other issues ranging from sleep to allergies.

Through fascinating testing, she discovered that my endocrine system, ovaries, sinuses, and other areas weren’t functioning properly. So Dr. Heather put me on a regimen of several different herbal supplements. The hope is that these supplements will straighten things out, then I can live without them. She’s tweaked things along the way, based on my feedback and further testing. It’s been a process, for sure. But many things have improved. Some have not. I trust it just takes time. After all, it took years of not taking care of myself to get to this point. The fix won’t be quick.

supplementsWhy do you care? Because hormones are king. You can work your butt off in the gym, eat clean, meditate and live green, but still struggle to lose weight, suffer from depression or have digestive issues. I’ve seen a meme on social media that basically says, “exercise, eat right, it’s that simple.” Well, no, it’s not simple. Hormones are very complex, and I don’t fully understand them. If you struggle despite feeling like you’re doing everything right, find someone like Dr. Heather.

Now, the weight loss is an exciting result. But when my trainer gave me the latest numbers from my body fat measurement, I was more than frustrated. I expected the weight loss would translate into fat loss, especially because I could see a difference below the waist. But I felt deflated when he told me most of that loss was muscle. Sure, there are worse things I could go through than to lose muscle. I still have plenty of it. But considering the style of workouts I do, the fact that I lost muscle was a shock. That’s what I do: I build muscle. So, what? How?

Well, it later occurred to me that here’s how: I’ve slacked on my diet. Not that I’ve been eating crap, but I haven’t been eating enough. Specifically, I haven’t been eating enough protein. My motivation to cook and to cook in big batches has waned. I’m not always getting my post-workout protein shake, which I swear by. Some don’t believe in protein shakes, and that’s fine. But if you don’t get protein into your body ASAP after your workout, your muscles will catabolize. Those of us who work out five, six, seven days a week need to get even more of it than the average person. My goal is 90 grams of protein a day. I’m vegetarian, so that makes it even more challenging. But I found ways to get it before through greek yogurt, cottage cheese, almond and coconut milk, nuts, beans, and protein powders. So I just have to stay focused and motivated.

I am a continual work in progress. So are you. The key is to keep working hard and push through the frustration. Health and happiness are worth it.

 

 

I attended a couple of workshops this weekend for continuing education credits on my group exercise instructor certification. One was on foam rolling, which I’ve learned a bit about lately and have found the foam roller to be an awesome tool for muscle recovery. The other was on small group training.

The instructor for the latter was more interested in his own agenda and didn’t really follow the course outline. He was all about safety, so that’s fine. Some of the tangents he went on were valid and educated. That was fine, too. He told us the right way to do shoulder presses (hint: not like you’ve been doing them). He told us that stretching post-exercise was useless. He told us not to do the sit-and-reach stretch for the hamstrings. He told us that it doesn’t matter if your knees pass your toes when doing squats. He was very experienced and knowledgeable, so I’ll give him his due. Also, I’ve heard some of that stuff elsewhere. I just didn’t learn much about how to lead small groups.

What I did learn – though unintended – was that there are so many experts with so many different opinions and thoughts on what is good and right in the world of fitness that it’s difficult for us to determine which way to go. Seems there’s always an article written by some expert on why something you previously thought was good is actually bad. This goes for food, too.

I’ve always heard and read that burpees are an awesome total body cardio exercise, for instance. Everyone loves to hate them. But we do them because they kick our butts and we feel a major burn, right? I read an article recently, however, that told me what a terribly dangerous exercise they were. They’ll ruin your back. Soooooo, now what?

I’m technically a fitness professional, but I’m often baffled by the constant contradictions. I think too many fitness experts are on a quest to make sure people know that they are the experts. “Listen to me, because I know my shit and that other joker doesn’t.” Others actually do know their shit – I mean, the science behind all this stuff – and just want you to be educated. Those are the ones I listen to.

I can’t tell you what’s right and wrong. But I will tell you what I do in these instances. I don’t simply say, “oh, heh, that one guy online said burpees were bad so I’m not doing them anymore.” I seek out those I know who have been credible sources of information for me in the past: my trainer, his bosses and certain fitness professionals online who have either been recommended to me or I’ve met and learned a lot from.

I also use my own common sense. You know that old joke that goes something like this: “heh, doc, it hurts when I do this.” Then the doctor says, “well, don’t do that”. Yep. If you have back pain when you do burpees, then don’t do them. If you have knee pain when you do squats, maybe your form is bad. And maybe don’t do them for awhile until the knee pain clears up. If you have shoulder pain, find exercises to do that don’t bother your shoulder. And, oh, I don’t know, maybe go see a doctor, chiropractor or other expert if the pain is chronic.

There is always new science in regards to health and fitness. Perhaps in 10 years, some of these things will be proven, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean that today’s science is wrong. It’s just constantly evolving.

Here are a few of my credible sources:

1) James Fryer, Stephen and Michelle Ladd at the Human Form

2) Eric Cressey

3) The Poliquin Group

4) Precision Nutrition

5) Wellness Mama

6) Metabolic Effect

Also a shout out to some of my fav inspirational and educational bloggers, fitness pros and Facebook peeps: Danny J of the Sweaty Betties, Liana Ryan of LRX Fitness, Jen Sinkler of Thrive as the Fittest, Nutrition Snob, and Busy Mom Gets Fit (Val Solomon). Check ‘em out on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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I love my medal

So, yeah, I ran 13.1 miles last week.

I’m proud of that, yet I keep thinking, “but, …”

But I struggled the last two miles.

But my feet were killing me.

But my knees hurt.

But I was slow, finishing in 2:26.10.

But I finished 5,933 out of 8,311.

But I finished 214 out of 401 women in the 45-49 age group.

But I averaged just over an 11-minute mile, slower than I expected.

But, but, but. Most people who have congratulated me don’t care about my time or that I had a rough couple of miles. They think it’s awesome that I did it. My husband and my kids think I rock. Some of my friends think I’m badass.

But I know too many who judge and criticize. Negative thinkers abound in my world. I work in the newspaper industry, where cynicism rules. Perhaps I let these folks in my head. Maybe I’m one of them? Some days I feel badass, some days notsomuch. I am one of them.

Here’s how I’m going to use that mentality, though: I’m going to get better. I’m going to figure out why my feet were hurting and find a way to minimize that on long runs. I’m going to figure out how to get faster. I’m going to run this same half marathon next year, if not one in the fall. Can’t wait.

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Pre-race breakfast

But back to that 13.1.

I feel like I did everything right. I was in bed at 10:30 the night before, much earlier than my usual 1-2 a.m. schedule. I woke up at 5:30 a.m., had a good breakfast of two eggs, two slices of sprouted-grain bread with peanut butter and a banana. I got my gear on, then spent 30 minutes on foam rolling and active, yoga-type stretching. I was loose, wide awake and out the door at 7 a.m.

My energy level was fine. On my long training runs, I typically struggled around the eight-mile mark. A couple of times, I ran a 10-minute pace early on and paid for it later in the run. So I knew I needed to bring it down to 10:30 to keep from running out of steam early. I did so and felt great through six, seven and eight. Mile nine was actually my fastest (10.05), according to my Nike Plus app. I had a pack of organic energy chews, and popped in two every three miles, just like in training.

I entered Schiller Park, the scenic German Village square near Downtown Columbus, at mile 10 and my favorite song came on. So I sang and danced to “Happy” around the park at a good pace despite the intensifying ache in my knees. I thought I could probably pick up the pace at this point.

Then mile 11 hit and my feet seemed to be swelling up. My shoes felt tight on the tops of my feet and I wondered if I should stop and loosen them. I didn’t because I knew it would be that much tougher to get going again. I had put Vaseline on my toes to prevent chafing, which helped on my last two training runs. But my toes were kind of annoying me now.

Pretty soon, my achy knees were secondary to my achy, swelling feet. Then we started uphill. Damn those course organizers for ending the race on an incline.

My legs were kind of dragging by mile 12, but I wasn’t going to walk. My family, whom I saw twice along the route, later told me how great I looked at the first spot (around nine) then not so much at the second (12.5). When I saw them the second time, all I could yell was, “I’m almost done!”

Shortly after, we rounded a corner – uphill, of course – and I knew I was close. Finally, the adrenaline kicked in. Could’ve used that a bit earlier.

I picked up my pace significantly as I got to the top of that hill and rounded the last corner to come down the stretch. I passed a bunch of people and that felt freaking awesome. I actually felt emotional and heard myself say, “holy crap.”

I love my medal. It’s huge and it’s heavy and it hangs on a mirror in my kitchen. I achieved something pretty awesome.

But I’m going to get better. Any advice you can offer is welcome.

 

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My neighbors made this sign, which I saw as I drove down my street to come home.