Monday, March 22, 2010

And so, it begins...learning to run again

Okay, so despite getting the nod from my doctor to start running again, I haven't, really.  Until Friday that is.  I can't explain what it is, but I'm kind of terrified to start up again after six months away.  Despite knowing that I was able to compete in a 10k last year and five 5ks, despite the fact that I learned to love running, despite that it made me feel good almost every time I did it, I just can't get motivated.

But I joined the gym.  And this past Friday was my first "fitness coaching" appointment.  The gym gives you these four free fitness coaching sessions, because they think that if they get you to talk to someone about your goals they can a) get you motivated to use the gym and not cancel your membership and b) maybe get you to sign up with one of the fitness coaches as your trainer.  Fair enough.

So we started with my goals - I want to be able to run again, and be able to run faster.  I want to be more toned and lose some weight.  I want to be able to do the Mud Run in July without keeling over. My fitness coach/trainer, Mike, was nice and seemed to know what he was doing.  He went through some strength training exercises that I could do to build lean muscle and we talked about what goals I should be hitting during the week, how often I should really be getting to the gym.  He weighed me, and although I'm not a fan of posting this anywhere publicly, my weight was 153lbs (I'm 5'9").  I should mention I was fully clothed with shoes on, and had eaten lunch around 2 that day (my appointment was at 3).  My weight that morning was 149.8lbs.  He also checked my body fat percentage, which was 24.7%.  That's within the acceptable range, but healthy is really about 22% and ideal is 19.7%.  So I've got to shoot for healthy at least.  Ugh.  It was all rather depressing, and of course, I immediately got into the mindset that these are insurmountable goals.

Then, after giving me the tour, he left me to my own devices, suggesting I do the 15-12-10 series of squats with a kettlebell that he showed me.  He said for me to build lean muscles, I need to do continuous reps (not resting between sets, but resting at the end of the group of three) and I should be tiring myself out from the number of reps I'm doing and not the weight.  He suggested doing 15 of each of a regular squat (holding the kettlebell with my arms down), then a row with the kettlebell and a squat, and then holding the kettlebell at about heart height, and as I come out of the squat, lifting it over my head.  Sounds okay, right?  Well, I did the three types of squats 15 times, rested for a minute or two, did the three types of squats 12 times, rested, and then 10 times.  So that works out to 111 squats with a 17-pound kettlebell, after not working out for 10 days and not being overly strong to begin with. 



So I tried to do some lunges after that, but my muscles just could not hold me up and I could feel my left thigh starting to spasm.  Instead of running right home like I wanted to, I decided to do some cardio.  Mike had suggested starting out on the elliptical for me, because there's less impact, so I can avoid shin splints (he also thinks I need to find somewhere softer to run than pavement, so I've got to figure out where the heck that would be that's convenient for me).  But I couldn't find the ellipticals - this gym is confusing! - and so I just headed to the treadmill.  (Of course, I saw the ellipticals across the way as soon as I got on the treadmill. Sigh.

I'm not even sure how much running I did - the longest interval was about 2 straight minutes, after which the machine was telling me my heart rate was at a solid 186 - but I did run/walk for 30 minutes with a short cool down.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to actually walk out the doors of the gym without collapsing, but I managed it and have spent the last couple of days hobbling around and taking Advil.

That's my M.O. - the old overdoing it, then suffering for a few days and maybe using that as an excuse to not continue to work hard.  I have been taking long walks with the dog the last couple of days, which helps, and then I did about four hours of yardwork yesterday which I can feel all over.  I so want to quit the gym and just hide out at home, but I do think it will be good for me in the long run.  I'm thinking of having Mike be my trainer for a little while - it will give me accountability for one.  Also, I'm one of those gym people who learns a circuit and just does it every time - not because I don't like to switch up my workouts, but because I'm always worried what people think about me (despite knowing that those people are likely just wondering what other people think of them!).  Mike pointed out that this isn't effective because your body gets used to whatever you're doing after two weeks. Plus, I learned that the weight machines aren't really all that effective either, because they take on some of the work of the exercise. So I've really got to push myself to actually achieve change, and if I have a trainer, I think I'll learn how to do that and get comfortable with the gym at the same time.  It still all makes me sick to my stomach though!

So anyway, I'm trying to motivate myself to go to tonight's yoga class.  I'm supposed to be hitting the gym three times a week, and any other workouts are just gravy (so I really do plan to revive the couch to 5k soon and be doing that as well).  I've also got an appointment on Friday afternoon with another fitness coach to talk about nutrition - of course, in my mind, I'm just waiting for the scolding that will come about all the sweets I eat.  Which means I bought six cupcakes on Friday and I'm eating them before I go.  We'll see how it goes - I reminded myself that as an adult, I can eat whatever I want, and I just have to remember that there are consequences to what I do eat. 

But I'm not giving up my Pepsi.

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Jillian Michaels

Dear Jillian Michaels,

I hate you.  No, not because you're a bad person or anything (I'm convinced you're not), but because you say things like "you're on your way to being shredded" and "those abs aren't coming for free."  Also, because you make me do things I'm convinced are impossible, like endless plank poses combined with cardio, strength or abs, cardio jumping/punching with weights, and "rockstar" kicks.  Ugh.  Plus, where did you find these "buddies" of yours?  The "perfect" factory?  It's a bit disheartening to get to level three and realize that Anita - you know, the girl doing the "easy" version of everything - actually has zero percent body fat.  Thanks.

But maybe the reason I hate you most is because you're right and your workouts do work.  Though I thought I'd be stuck following Anita the entire way through (which I considered even a stretch on day one, level one), I've found that by day 10 of each level, I can follow you and, once in a brief while, Natalie.  I truly believed I was going to trip and injure myself attempting to do those rockstar kicks, but by day 3 of level 3, I was managing them.  And today, while resting my sneaker on the desk, I noticed a muscle in my calf.  Without flexing.  That wasn't there before.

So maybe the scale hasn't budged more than 3-ish pounds since I started.  And maybe I'm still getting winded walking up the stairs (thanks bronchial asthma).  But I no longer find myself limp in child's pose drenched in sweat at the end of circuit three (drenched in sweat, yes, but not keeled over).  And I think I feel a *little* bit stronger.  And even my new fitness coach at the gym (who I haven't met, just on the phone) says that the Shred is a good thing to do.  So perhaps instead of hating you, I thank you.  But I'm reserving judgment until the end of the Shred.  Six more days...


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Visits to the Doctor Are Not Always a Breeze

Okay, so as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I made a doctor's appointment for this past Tuesday, so I could figure out about my wheezing and get back to running asap.  In the meantime, I've been keeping up with the 30-day Shred (I finished Day 2 of Level 3 on Tuesday morning) and have been incorporating a little bit of additional resistance training into my day.  I've been wheezing and had a tight feeling in my chest again since I got back from a trip overseas in mid-January, but I had waited to go to the doctor because he's two hours away and I'm in a ceramics class for three hours every Saturday. 

I wasn't worried about my appointment - I had a laundry list of things to talk to him about, but I figured the wheezing was just because of the bronchitis I had in October and he'd just prescribe me an inhaler and send me on my way.  I've also been having some periodic stomach pain (it feels like I'm starving, but when I eat, it hurts even more and lasts for about five days at a time) and wanted to talk to him about the toe I injured just before Christmas, which I still can't bend and hurts if I bump it into anything - and I'm klutzy, so that happens frequently.  I first chatted with him in his office about everything and he informed me that "big toes are different to little toes" so I shouldn't have assumed that they wouldn't have been able to do anything when I first injured it.  Then he walked me to the exam room, told me to change into the gown, and said that my wheezing "could be a couple of things" and he'd be right back. 

Of course, he wasn't right back, so like the good hypochondriac I am, I started to worry about what the wheezing could mean - I figured if it was just bronchial asthma, he would have just said so.  Once he came back and examined me, he sat down and said that likely each of my symptoms was caused by something separate.  Because I had gotten better from the bronchitis, and then after flying back from Europe felt worse again, the worst case scenario was that I had a pulmonary embolism (that's a blood clot in the lungs).  I watch enough television to know that a pulmonary embolism makes you a ticking time bomb and is a very serious thing.  He said that he wanted me to get a cat scan and when I asked him if there was anything that I should avoid doing before I had the cat scan, he said "Well, we're going to make sure you get it done today."  I knew he was concerned then, because my doctor is one of the most even-keeled people ever (which helps me avoid any hysteria).  He added that he wanted me to get an x-ray of my foot, but that we weren't going to worry about that right away and said that he thought my stomach pain was caused by an ulcer, and told me an over the counter medication I could take for that. 

I was still stuck on that embolism word though.

He told me they wanted to do an EKG there at the office, so I got to experience my first EKG - the nurse was very nice about it and explained everything she was doing.  She told me it would take her longer to hook me up than it would to run the test, and she was right.  In the meantime, I'd called my dad while trying to hold it together to tell him that I had to go to the hospital.  He said my mom would want to meet me there and I said I'd be in touch when I knew more.

The receptionist got me an appointment quickly and we both called to double check that my insurance wouldn't require any additional tests before approving the cat scan (they didn't).  I headed over to the hospital and my mom met me in the lobby - she's spent a LOT of time at the hospital in the past year because my grandmother has been quite sick, so she brought some crocheting to keep her hands busy and stayed very calm, which helped me.  I think it also helped that I really don't like to cry in public, so I held it together so nobody would see me cry!

I got signed in and got my ID bracelet, before a nurse took me in the back to put in an IV - I was getting a cat scan with contrast, so they needed to be able to give me the dye.  They also took blood first so that they could check my kidney function to make sure I could process the dye okay.  It was fine, so I waited a couple of minutes before they brought me in for the test.  I liked that I didn't have to wear a hospital gown or anything, and that the cat scan machine was open - I had an MRI a few years ago because of my migraines, and that was a TERRIBLE experience!  So this was much easier.  Until they injected the dye - they'd warned me that I would suddenly feel very hot, with the heat traveling from my head to my toes, like a hot flash (though my mom informed me that hot flashes are actually much worse - awesome).  But as the dye went in, my arm hurt terribly.  I thought that was normal, so I just held on and then I started to feel incredibly nauseous and as if I couldn't breathe.  I was trying to breathe through the nausea just to get to the end of the test, but I started to gag.  Fortunately, they'd gotten what they needed, and rushed in to make sure I was okay and not having an allergic reaction to the dye. I didn't get a rash or any itchiness, which was a good sign they said, but I felt weak and lightheaded for a few minutes.  They went to get my mom, and then put us in a little waiting room to wait for the results.  I had to keep in the IV just in case they had to admit me.  Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for the results to come back and the doctor to call and say they were negative.


So I did just have bronchial asthma, which seems to have suddenly gotten MUCH worse since I got all stressed out about the possibility of having a blood clot.  But I have an inhaler for that, so hopefully that will get better.  I did go for the x-ray of my foot yesterday, but I'm still waiting to hear back from the doctor to find out what the story is.  I have the all clear to keep working out - I just have to take a puff of the inhaler before I do - and once I know about my toe, I'll either be back to running or taking care of that! I'm hoping to sneak in the rest of the Shred before I would have to do anything about my injured toe :)

Only a few of my family members and friends know about what happened Tuesday, but I thought it was important to write a post about it for a couple of reasons - 1) I didn't know that chest tightness was a sign of a possible blood clot in the lungs and that really scared me, so don't assume that if you've had a lifetime of lung problems like I have that it's not something new - go to your doctor!! and 2) if I had had a pulmonary embolism, all the working out and the shoveling that I've done in the last six weeks could have killed me.  Really.  So I'm now a firm believer that it IS actually a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and it's not just a disclaimer because of the lawyers.  If I'd gone to my doctor six weeks ago, I still would have had to be tested, but I was fortunate that it turned out I didn't have a blood clot.  So if you're thinking about starting a new workout and you're not feeling 100%, do me a favor and check with your doctor first.

I'm feeling so very grateful that everything turned out the way it did, and I commend Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.  They were all so very kind to me - everyone asked if I had had the test before, and made sure to explain what was going to happen at each step.  Everyone was very calm and pleasant there, and although I was still nervous and scared, I felt like I was in the right place and well cared for.  And the whole experience really puts things into perspective.  It definitely inspired me to keep up with working out and getting healthy, so that I can hopefully avoid some of the preventable health problems!  I must admit that I've taken the last two days off the Shred because I've been both tired and just recovering from Tuesday's stress, but I will be back to it tomorrow and hopefully back to running again pretty soon!