Day One

I already miss french fries.

Okay, not really, but I know the white hot passion for something that only french fries can cure, and it’s gonna happen.

Oh, it’s gonna happen.

Today I began the Whole30 program. It’s been a whole ten hours, and so far, so good. I mean, I slept for about seven of those hours, so how bad could it be, right? Truthfully, this morning’s breakfast of scrambled eggs and a banana was actually quite palatable. I have eggs quite often, so this seems like a treat.

Let’s see how I view eggs at the end of this 30 day program, shall we?

The only major difference for me is drinking black coffee. No creamer. No sugar. Oh, and wonderful husband of mine: don’t think I didn’t fucking notice that you hid the sugar bowl.

Nice touch.

Perhaps he hid it from himself, since he’s traveling this journey with me.

So, today it begins. I’m not setting out to achieve anything dramatic, but I would like my belly fat roll to get a little smaller, my thighs to perhaps not rub together THAT much, and maybe even get rid of some of this acne that’s been plaguing me in recent months.

So, allow me to apologize to you in advance for the things I may do out of hunger. I certainly won’t mean to snap at you when you ask me a simple yes/no question. I won’t hate you when you walk by me carrying hot french fries from the cafeteria. I won’t question our friendship when you sip on that Diet Coke.

But, I can’t promise that once or twice along this journey I won’t question my resolve, my willpower, or my ability to see this through. I’m human.

And this human loves cheese.

And wine.

Damn it.

whole30whynowine

 

 

Stay Well, Travel Well

Another reader asked for some blog space, and I’m always happy to share my little corner of the blogosphere with others. Here are some great tips for travelers and exercise.

Take it away, Mike!…..

Stay Well, Travel Well- Fitness Tips for Travelers

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, spending time away from home can
be stressful. Often, the interruption of daily routine that results from travel schedules
can cause people to fall away from habits of healthy eating and regular exercise
regimes. By paying a little attention to details, you can maintain your healthy habits
while traveling and at the same time minimize travel-induced stress.

Planning a Healthy Trip

Before you leave on any trip, do some research to make sure you can take
advantage of the healthy options available to visitors at your destination. On a recent
trip to San Francisco, I did my due diligence by scouring a travel review site in order
to find the best hotel for me in the area. I was given a list of all the best hotels in San
Francisco and from there was able to click on any of them and see the rating, price,
amenities offered, and reviews from people who have stayed there. If you plan on
staying for several days, learn about hiking, biking or running trails in the community
where you will be visiting.

Healthy Commuting

For many travelers, the stress of a journey sets in even before they arrive at their
destination. Combat the physical stress of travel by remaining well-hydrated and
taking breaks to stretch and walk. Drink plenty of water before and during your trip.
Whether flying or driving, be sure to take breaks to stretch. You can even do a little
in-flight exercising to help minimize swollen or stiff joints.

Arrival

When you arrive at your destination, take some time to get oriented and grounded
before heading to meetings or on a sightseeing adventure. Locate the fitness
amenities in the hotel. Take the time to organize your room and unpack your
belongings. Then spend a few minutes walking through some basic yoga positions
or stretching. You will feel more grounded and become better acclimated to your
new environment, which will greatly reduce the stress of your trip.

Your Stay

Throughout your stay, take steps to maintain your personal fitness and well being.
Incorporate exercise into each day, whether you do in-room yoga, enjoy some time
in the fitness center of your hotel or take a morning run. At mealtimes, make healthy
choices. Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants. If your hotel provides a complimentary
breakfast, enjoy healthy options such as oatmeal, fruit and whole-grain toast rather
than high-calorie pastries and other less nutritious options. To avoid late-night
snacking on pizza or whatever is available onsite, make a trip to a local health
market for fruit, nuts and other nutritious goodies.

 

Warrior Weapons

In keeping with the last post regarding a friend and her cancer, a reader expressed an interest in sharing some health and fitness tips for those who are fighting the battle. I am happy to share her article, and links to find more information.

Thanks to Melanie Bowen for the info. Keep up the good fight, warriors.

Starting an Exercise Routine After Cancer

Running, walking, yoga, and even martial arts has been shown to help cancer patients and even reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Evidence now shows that those who exercise daily can reduce fatigue related to treatment. There are a variety of other benefits, ranging from increased mobility to stress relief. With any kind of exercise during rigorous medical treatment like chemotherapy and radiation, it’s important to consult a doctor before committing to any plan. By speaking with an oncologist, you can find out what activities will better suit your health situation.

Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

Researchers have shown that exercise, specifically cycling, running, and low impact exercises are some of the best ways to reduce fatigue and start building endurance, muscle strength and mobility. In some cases, cancer patients can benefit even more from daily exercise, such as mesothelioma patients after chemotherapy. Studies have also shown that physical activity can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Exercise also improves energy and mental health, which may benefit those who are going through depression after cancer.

What Kind of Exercises to Choose

Most patients first start with shorter and less strenuous exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Even a short walk in the morning or night can contribute to better mobility and physical health. However, if you really want to start doing something for your body, low impact exercises are an easier way to start moving your body, build muscle and improve joint health. Low impact exercises include walking, yoga, strength training, cycling, elliptical machines, swimming, a Stairmaster, rowing machines and even kayaking. For those who want to get more exercise or need rigorous activities, start with running for short periods of time, then upgrade to kickboxing, regular jogs, cardio training and even high-energy dance like Zumba.

Risks for Those Starting to Exercise

Running and rigorous exercise isn’t the key to improving health in every cancer patient. Along with fatigue come other disadvantages after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer. It can mean that your immune system can’t fight off infections and bacteria as well, making it difficult to stress the body with rigorous exercise or even go to public swimming pools and gyms. In other cases, your bones, muscles and joints may not be ready for high impact exercise. That’s why it’s important to start slow with lower impact exercises and build upon your body’s strengths as you go. In many cases, you should be able to warm up and go for a light jog before doing any sort of strenuous activity. 

What Else Can You Do

In addition to exercise, remember that nutrition, vitamins, the right diet and medication can also help with the side effects of cancer treatment. For one thing, ginseng has been proven to help with fatigue and allow for more rigorous activity. Acupuncture has also been recommended to help relieve fatigue in cancer patients, as well as lowering depression and anxiety. It is important to start taking the steps to become a healthier you, and it all starts with speaking to your doctor.

Exercise and Cancer

Mesothelioma 

Survivorship During And After Cancer

Day Eight

and I’m still lovin’ it.

Bikram yoga.

I have attended eight days in a row, seven of those days Bikram, and one day of Power yoga. I feel strong. I feel focused. I feel determined. I feel more inclined to eat an orange after class rather than trash it with junk food.

Today marked a few ‘firsts’. I was able to hold some poses for the entire length of time, and other poses a few seconds longer. I can actually feel my body stretching further each and every day. I am absolutely amazed. We humans don’t tend to take the time to fully stretch, so when you do it on a daily basis for 90 minutes, gains will be made.

But, perhaps the biggest gain today was the attempt and success at one of the most difficult Bikram yoga poses for me: the Toe Stand. It starts out with the Tree Pose, and morphs into this pretzel-like seated squat. In transition to the toe stand, I always feel like I’m going to fall flat on my face, but today?

I didn’t.

With my left leg planted, my right leg on my left thigh, I assumed the Tree Pose. I held it for a few seconds, and when the time seemed right, I leaned forward. Before I knew what happened, I actually found my ass in the air, my right leg remaining on my left thigh, and my fingertips on the ground in front of me.

Holy shit. I did it.

Lower my ass down to squat, and with a few seconds, I attempt to balance.

I caught myself before I sat down, but you know what?

Those few seconds of the elusive Toe Stand count.

And I’m feeling pretty accomplished today.

In just a short amount of time, yoga has taught me something that years of running failed to prove. My body may not be perfectly suited for any particular sport, but with daily practice, I can see gains that I didn’t think possible. Every day I get a little stronger, a little more flexible, hold poses for a longer period of time. Bodies truly do come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all welcome in the yoga studio.

If you judge people by their body type, you’ll be in for a major letdown when you walk into the yoga studio. That guy with the ripped abs? He may not be able to bend past his waist. And the girl with the big muffin top? She will rock the Standing Bow Pose.

You just never know.

So, check your ego at the door, wear as little as possible with comfort in mind, and know that the only difference between your body and the rest of your classmates is the fact that it’s yours, and only you know your limitations and when it makes good sense to gently push your limits.

I may never get that ‘runner’s body’ back again, and you know what? That’s okay.

I love the body I have right now, because it allowed me to accomplish something new today, and it’s only going to get stronger.

Namaste.

Day Two

Not only did I survive my first day of Bikram yoga, but I returned just 24 hours later for more of the same.

This morning found me in the same room, in virtually the same spot as I was just a day earlier for my inaugural yoga class. Today, I felt perhaps a teeny bit more comfortable, and I was ready to enter the ‘torture room’ once again.

One thing that immediately struck me as I finished up with my first yoga class yesterday was just how little I truly cared about getting up so early to attend. Normally, I would balk at rising before the sun to attend any sort of organized exercise class, but this just felt…..different. It felt relaxing and challenging at the same time.

I never thought that was possible.

For those who might not know, I had previously participated in CrossFit before bowing out gracefully a few months back, and with a return to running, I honestly didn’t see CrossFit fitting into my life anymore. I missed running, and all those endorphins. In the end, I identified more with running and less with CrossFit.

To each their own, right?

I had heard about Bikram yoga from a friend who raved about it. She claimed it literally transformed her life.

Well, shit. How could I NOT attend at least one class to see what all the hullabaloo was about?

After yesterday’s successful debut, I decided pretty early on yesterday afternoon that I was going to get up and do it all over again today. I am so glad I did.

Today was a bit harder and a bit easier all at the same time. Some of the poses that I struggled with yesterday seemed just a tiny bit easier to find today. While I am far from gracefully completing the Eagle pose, at least I figured out exactly how to interlock my appendages while my body carefully found its sweet spot. After each of my two classes, I feel refreshed, energized, and the flush from the workout doesn’t leave my face for hours.

As we women can attest, we are always our own worst critic, right? In Bikram, you are in a brightly-lit studio with no lack of mirrors to view your own reflection. I’ve never actually participated in anything that truly made me take a good look at myself as much as I have in the past two days. It’s humbling. It’s real. It’s me.

In some respects, I love what I see as my reflection greets me. In other respects, I see just how much work I have to do. After only two days, I can see how accountable yoga will be for me. I will face my own reflection day after day, and only I can see changes that may inevitably occur.

I find the heat therapeutic, cleansing, but most of all I get a sense of intimacy. The heat cannot be ignored. The heat is there to help you push through and gain a new sense of what your body can actually accomplish. I am more flexible in the past two days than I probably have been my entire life. I like that.

So, with two days under my belt, I have made a commitment to myself to attend daily as many days in a row that I am able. I have my schedule made out for at least the next eight days. At the end of those eight days, I will see where I stand and how I feel.

We shall see.

Heavy Breathing, Bikram Style

Check another ‘first’ off my list.

I attended my very first yoga class this morning. Not just ANY yoga class, but BIKRAM yoga. Hot yoga. Sweaty yoga. Slippery yoga. So-hot-you-think-you-might-pass-out yoga.

It is three hours post-class, and I am still feeling the after-effects. I have that flushed look about my face. I feel a bit sore, but not in the usual way. I feel as if my muscles have been gently and repeatedly stretched beyond anything I have ever done. I feel very awake. I am also thirsty and ravenous.

I also feel as if I just went out on a longish run. I’ll admit, I was skeptical as to the cardiovascular effect that yoga would have on me, but after 90 minutes of bending, stretching, and a bit of beginner contorting, I am a believer.

I feel good.

A friend I’ve had the pleasure of knowing through my CrossFit days was kind enough to accompany me to my inaugural class this morning, bright and early at 6:30 a.m. I walked in to the studio to find my tall, lithe, graceful, bendy friend tucked back in the corner, and I made my way over to her.

She looked absolutely beautiful. At this hour? It’s just not fair. And she looked like she knew exactly what the hell she was doing. I got nervous. I looked like a bit of an awkward duckling amongst a group of beautiful, graceful swans. She is calmly sitting on her yoga mat. Meanwhile, I am standing there next to her with my hoodie on, beginning to panic, feeling the sweat beads trickle down my back. “Where do I put my stuff?” I said to her. “Come with me. I’ll show you the locker room.”

With my huge, oversized hoodie safely tucked away, I ventured back into the sauna. Thank goodness I was in the back of the room. The only thing behind me was the wall.

We settled in and got started. First things first.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Loudly. Heavily.

This is where I nearly lost it. I’ve never been in a room full of other people who are simultaneously breathing heavily. Big, long inhales, followed by loud, whooshing exhales, and the body posture that goes along with it. I felt like a kid in a school play who has to pretend they are a bird. Standing Deep Breathing. Stand up straight, feet together. Inhale. Exhale and look at the wall behind you. The sound was actually quite loud. I wanted to giggle, but I wanted to look like I knew what the hell I was doing. I think I managed to pull it together in the end. The only time I have ever sounded like that, even remotely, was while running. Marathons. Toward the end. Hell….we had just gotten started this morning.

Oh boy.

Here. We. Go……..

I moved slowly and carefully between each of the 26 Bikram positions, and found that some poses were easier than others, and some weren’t as difficult as I envisioned. I have already identified a few that I want to focus on and become stronger. While I was doing my absolute best to attain and hold these positions, I admit it: I looked around.

So many beautiful, glistening, sweaty, toned bodies achieving these positions easily. Not everyone was able to do every pose, but it quickly became evident who the yoga pros were, and those who were still seeking that elusive position. I, on the other hand, did my best to do one thing:

breathe.

I felt awkward at times, trying to get my body to bend in positions it has only heard about. I felt it protest beneath me. I heard things creaking as I shifted my weight. While my body was being put through all these positions, I was able to do one thing:

not fall down.

Because let’s face it: that would suck.

Yoga is relaxing, challenging, focused, and beautiful. All of the above. I was pleasantly surprised that I found the 90 minutes to flow nicely. I never felt like the class was too long or too brief. It was just right. I finally understood why people flock to it. I think everyone should try it at least once. Yeah. Including you. There were lots of different body types represented this morning, but even those that were bigger than some were still as graceful as ballerinas. And very bendy. And it was amazing to watch.

I glanced over at my friend as we began the second half of the class. We laid on our backs. She is so tall, I had to physically move my head up down just to see her entire lithe frame.

If I didn’t like her so much, I would hate her.

She was making this look incredibly easy. She has that enviable body. She’s tall. She’s long. She’s graceful. She’s beautiful inside and out. She’s also not just into yoga. She does CrossFit. She runs. I’m sure there’s more, but hey isn’t that enough?

Bitch.

But alas, she’s my friend, and she accompanied me to my very first venture into the world of yoga, and for that I am forever grateful.

And yeah, I’ll definitely do yoga again.

Tomorrow. And maybe even the day after that.

But first things first: hydrate.

 

A Heaping Helping of Humble Pie

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!”
-Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

Truer words were never spoken.

In the almost month since my return to running, I have had to put my ego aside, swallow my pride, and remember: I’m starting over.

I have been away from the very activity that brought me such joy for so long now, that it became time to finally admit that I can’t just pick up where I left off a few years back. I’m starting from ground zero, square one, back at the beginning.

The body isn’t where it used to be, physically or mentally. At times, it’s a slow and arduous task. Other times, I savor the endorphins that wash over me with each and every smooth step. Yet I only have to look down to remind myself how far removed I am from that last marathon or that last training run. The mind desperately craves what the body simply cannot provide right now. The mind wants to keep running, but the hamstrings and quads protest loudly. The art is finding that place where the two can coexist peacefully.

Yesterday that place was 5 miles on the treadmill.

In an effort to appease both the mind and the body, I’ve decided to focus on consistency and lower mileage in these beginning days. As much as I long for those long runs out-of-doors, honestly, this body simply isn’t ready for that. I think it’s safer and smarter to focus on building that base that I lack. I know what I need to do. It’s just a matter of telling myself that there’s a bigger picture here.

The bigger picture is a healthier, albeit older runner. A runner who simply cannot beat herself up over the amount of time that has passed since consistent running held an important place in her life. A runner who realizes that the body she peers down at today won’t be the same body that carries her across the finish line of the next race, the next marathon.

Until then, I keep running.

And pass me another slice of that humble pie.