Shelter in Place and get your exercise on!

Have you reduced the amount you exercise because you are sheltering in place due to COVID-19? It’s very likely your gym has closed while we all are practicing social distancing. If going to the gym was your only source of exercise, I encourage you to get creative and find new ways to keep on moving your body!

I teach fitness classes for fun. I also have a “day” job, which is stressful at times, and some weeks, I work A LOT more than 40 hours per week! The only way for me to remain sane (and sleep well) is to get physical activity. The first week my gym was closed I was a complete sloth. I wasn’t teaching classes because they were cancelled. With no access to the gym equipment it was very easy to stop my usual fitness routine. The first week of shelter in place, I think I exercised 2 times.

During these desperate times, why not revert back to the way we used to do it? About 20 years ago, the people that I knew did not have access to a gym. This means most of us that were fit had to find ways to be fit without any (or very little) gym equipment. We didn’t own treadmills or stationary bikes, instead, we either bought the Turbo Jam Series, owned multiple Richard Simmons workout videos, or exercised outside.

In my previous post, Exercise is Awesome! And Provides Many Health Benefits!, I mentioned one of the health benefits of exercise is that it reduces stress! I would understand if many of you are stressed. You may be worried about your loved ones who are most susceptible to COVID-19! Or you may be worried about your finances. I’m sure the list of worries goes on and on. While listening to the news this AM, not only did the physician speaking mention that exercise reduces stress but also that exercise in nature (outside) also reduces stress.

I understand many, if not all of us, are under a shelter in place order. Under these orders we can still go outside and in some cases our cities may still allow us access to the fitness trails throughout our city. This is of course as long as we continue to be responsible and maintain social distancing! If you have access, I am encouraging you to go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Enjoy some fresh air and sunshine (we don’t have too much sunshine right now in Chicago but when we do, I take it in!).

If you don’t have access to a safe space outside, please remember that there are a TON of workouts on YouTube, many you can do from the comfort of your own home. There are also people who are offering FREE, yes FREE, live classes using apps such as Zoom or Facebook Live. Take advantage of these to help maintain your health (and sanity)!

Staying fit during this very stressful time is extremely important. I have been working out almost daily this past week and I noticed that I am a lot less stressed and am sleeping better! Take a moment for yourself or include your kids in a little bit of physical activity. Stay well my friends!

Exercise is Awesome! And Provides Many Health Benefits!

In January, I volunteered to present for my work wellness program. I set the date of my presentation to today. Approximately 125 people from my company attended my talk today, luckily for me most of the attendees were virtual and about 10 of my colleagues were live with me in the conference room. I turned on my camera so that the virtual attendees could see me. It was nerve wracking but also kind of fun.

I discussed the benefits of exercise outside of weight loss. When I was in graduate school, we learned that although weight loss is possible with exercise, a person is more likely to lose more weight by altering his/her nutritional intake and creating a calorie deficit. The class was filled with several fitness instructors and personal trainers. The information felt like a punch in the gut because weight loss is the most common reason people start an exercise program. The professor of our class encouraged us to discuss with our clients/class participants the other health benefits of exercise.

Did you know that exercise can improve your cardiac and lung function? Physical activity can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, and risk of diabetes. Exercise can reduce risk of falls, improve physical activity performance, reduces stress and anxiety, and improve cognitive function? Check out this awesome Ted Talk by Wendy Suzuki who discusses the brain changing benefits of exercise. 

After learning all of these fantastic benefits of exercise on our health and well being, don’t you just want to get up and start moving your body? My daughter took this picture of me below, I had just gotten home from teaching a spin class. I always feel AWESOME after I teach a class. On these mornings, I don’t have the need for coffee because my body feels great, I feel smart, I am motivated and productive and I feel happy, energetic, and ready to take on the day! The “high” of the exercise session takes several hours to wear off.

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Although I feel fantastic after an exercise session, I am always caught off guard when I struggle to go to the gym for a 40 minute weight lifting session or outside for a 30 minute run. Why does my brain talk me into skipping an exercise session? It’s as if it so easily forgets all of the health benefits that exercise provides!

One of my spin class participants had been absent from my classes for several months. I noticed he was missing. At first, I thought he was absent because it was summer time and some people tend to ride outside during the summer months. Anyway it turns out that he was away because he had a blood clot in his leg that almost claimed his life. In fact, his physician told him that had he not been exercising regularly when he got the blood clot, he most likely would have died. WHOA! Exercise saved his life!

Friends, if you have taken a quick break from your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you can take something away from learning about the benefits of exercise and jump back on the wagon!?!

Be well my friends! Exercise is AWESOME, so get moving!

Uterine Fibroids: Post UFE! Our bodies are AMAZING! (post #3)

For the past 10 days I have been recovering from the UFE procedure I told you all about in Uterine Fibroids: Let’s talk about it (Post #2). Today, I feel AWESOME! I feel 100% recovered from the procedure. I won’t know until sometime in March if this procedure worked. However, if how I feel today or yesterday is any indication of success, I’m betting I’m finally going to get relief! YAY!

Anyone who is interested in a “day by day” in depth look at recovery, please let me know, I have this information written down. I figured I’d spare you all the in depth detail and give you a quick summary of recovery post UFE and how I feel today, 10 days post.

I feel AWESOME!!!!AMAZING!!!BEAUTIFUL!!! today and I felt the same yesterday! I think I feel so good because I gave my body rest, exercise and healthy food to heal. The way I approach recovery isn’t for everyone but it works really well for me and I have had great success in healing using fitness and a healthy diet as a supplement to the healing process. I listen to my body and give it what it needs.

Getting a UFE is extremely painful. My doctor always requires his patients to be admitted to the hospital and stay overnight. The overnight stay is recommended because this procedure causes very acute and severe pain almost immediately and the pain lasts for up to 24-48 hours post-op. Anyway, this information aside, I had two requests for the doctor prior to my surgery.

  1. I asked the doctor to provide me (IV) Tylenol and Motrin while admitted in the hospital and to make sure nobody puts a morphine pump on me. ((This is a personal preference to not take narcotic drugs and not something I would recommend for anyone else unless it’s your own personal preference)).
  2. I requested to go home the same day of my surgery, even if I didn’t get released until the evening.

Both of my requests were granted by my doctor. I did not take any narcotic drugs after the surgery and I went home the same day at 7:00 PM to sleep in my own bed. I was armed with Tylenol and Motrin (over the counter pills) to use for pain. I managed all of my pain with Tylenol and Motrin and I’m okay, I did it!

Pain after surgery was highest during the first 48 hours. I needed ample rest!

Post Op Recovery: Days 1-10

  1. The day after surgery I took it pretty easy, watched some movies, I took my dog for a walk to get some fresh air.
  2. Days 2 and 3 post-op, I went to the gym to walk around the track (2 to 3 miles each day).
  3. BACK TO WORK! On day 4, I wasn’t feeling the best but went to work and took my dog for a walk. I rested on this day after work because that’s what my body needed.
  4. Day 5, I went to the gym and lifted weights for my upper body, keeping the weights much lighter than usual. Then I walked on the treadmill for 10 or 15 minutes afterwards.
  5. Day 6, I subbed for someones spin class but I took it really easy. I kept my heart rate low (115-120 bpm) and the gears low as to not overdo it.
  6. Day 7, I did not sleep well, I was itching in my sleep and felt very bloated. I had to teach my own spin class on this day in the early AM so I sucked it up and taught the class. I worked a little harder teaching this spin class keeping my heart rate in the 120-140 bpm range. I felt a little better after spin class but came home to shower and realized I had a rash from my abdomen down to my thighs on the front and back of my body. The rash was itchy but I was able to ignore it for most of the day. When I got home I took an antihistamine and felt better.
  7. Day 8, I had an appointment with my doctor. I still felt slightly bloated. My puncture wound (from surgery) was completely healed and he was happy with the way my recovery is going. The rash and itchiness was gone. I showed the doctor a picture of the rash but he wasn’t sure it had anything to do with the surgery. I went to the gym and lifted weights today. I used weights that were a couple of pounds lighter than usual just to make sure I didn’t overdo it. I basically returned to my “usual” activities.
  8. Day 9 post-op, I went running!! My mile time was slower than usual but I felt great! The day was beautiful, the sun was shining and I felt marvelous. I am down almost 4 pounds since surgery! My abdomen is starting to shrink, it doesn’t look inflamed or bloated anymore! Woohooo!
  9. Today is day 10, I feel wonderful today. I am wearing a dress and I feel pretty! I will probably swim at the gym today.

There is a general recommendation after UFE of waiting 2 weeks to go back to all of your usual activities. I feel as though I healed faster than usual. I have had no pain since day 8 (and that was really low level). I have FINALLY found some blogs of what post-op recovery looks like for others who have had a UFE. We are all different. I bet it probably makes a difference where our fibroids are, how many we have, and what size they are. This is just my story and I respect that we are all individual and will have our own experiences.

Physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and ample sleep are key for me when I am healing (and everyday!). I always listen to my body to make sure I am fueling it appropriately. I have found in two instances now that physical activity has provided benefit to my healing process. Thank you for taking the time to learn about my journey. I hope this has been informative and helpful. Listen to your body because our bodies are AMAZING and AWESOME! Stay strong and heal quickly my friends!!!

Uterine Fibroids: Let’s talk about it (Post #2)

For those of you that have read my post from yesterday, thank you. I am continuing on with my story in case someone needs to hear this. I struggled to find blogs where anyone was talking about this and learning of someone else’s experience would have helped me.

What do the Doctors recommend?

I have been to at least 6 different doctors in 3 different States (moved a couple of times)  in the last 15 years to discuss my heavy menstrual cycle, pelvic pain, low iron stores, and low energy. Six of six doctors recommended I either take birth control pills, get an IUD, or have a hysterectomy. Most of the Doctors did not recommend further testing to understand the underlying cause. I felt like my problems were so routine that the Doctors didn’t have the time for me, they only wanted to prescribe me medicine and have me go on my way.

I have waited so long to help myself because I really wanted to address the root cause of my problem. I am not one to mask my symptoms or add additional hormones/chemicals to my body. I also feel strongly about keeping my God given parts if possible. (Disclaimer: There is a lot of information about menstrual cycle in the rest of this paragraph. Please skip if not interested in symptoms or the mention of blood grosses you out). I have had low energy due to low iron stores, menstrual cycles averaging 26 days apart with 10 days of bleeding and about 5 days of spotting. Sitting through a 1 to 2 hour meeting during the work day has been a challenge (fingers crossed I didn’t bleed through my clothes in the Office – humiliating). Also, going from sitting to standing is always worrisome because this is when I would most likely have a large gush of blood that may easily cause a scene depending on where I am. This problem affects my quality of life and I didn’t want to live like this anymore.

Four years ago, I met a Gynecologist who listened to me and recommended for me to complete some tests. At the time I visited this doctor, I was anemic (low iron in my blood). The Physician ordered a sonohysterography (ultrasound with saline solution). This procedure is EXTREMELY unpleasant. It is done in the doctor’s office and your cervix is dilated. The doctor uses a saline solution along with an inter-vaginal ultrasound. If you have never had your cervix dilated in a doctor’s office (without any kind of pain medication) I can tell you it is painful and feels much like the early stages of labor. From this test, I learned that I had 5 fibroids all measuring about 2 to 3 centimeters with the largest one measuring just over 3 cm. The largest one was also located in an area of my uterus that could particularly be the cause of my problems. This doctor recommended a uterine ablation (cauterization of the uterus), hysterectomy (uterus removal),  IUD, or birth control pills.

At the time, I didn’t opt for any of these solutions. I especially didn’t want to get a hysterectomy because I did not want to go through early menopause or lose my parts because I figure they are there for good reason. The uterine ablation was an option but there was a small percentage my uterus could get perforated during the procedure. I didn’t like the risk of that happening so at this time I opted out of all recommended treatments.

I  recently met with a new Gynecologist who immediately sent me for an inter-vaginal ultrasound. We learned that 3 of the 5 fibroids had doubled in size in 4 years. Now I have 3 lemon size fibroids in my uterus among other small fibroids. She recommended all of the usual treatments but also included a recommendation of having a UFE.

UFE Defined: “Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat fibroid tumors of the uterus which can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and pressure on the bladder or bowel. It uses a form of real-time x-ray called fluoroscopy to guide the delivery of embolic agents to the uterus and fibroids. These agents block the arteries that provide blood to the fibroids and cause them to shrink.” (credit for this information: radiologyinformation.org). This procedure does two things really well, it shrinks fibroids and reduces heavy menstrual periods.

This is a procedure I had never heard of before. This Doctor thought I may be a pretty good candidate for it. If I chose this procedure I could keep my uterus, shrink my fibroids, have low risk of entering early menopause and have a high likelihood of experiencing a decrease in all of my symptoms. In addition to all of my other symptoms described earlier, my uterus is as large as a 12-week pregnant women’s uterus. I have been looking slightly pregnant for about the last year now. I have also slowly been gaining weight over the last year for a total weight gain of 13 pounds on the day of my surgery.

I read about each procedure, weighed the risks and benefits and finally decided upon a UFE. The doctor did a biopsy of the uterine tissue in her office (test came back negative-no cancer) and I was sent for an MRI. Then I had a consultation with an interventional radiologist physician who does these procedures. The radiologist was awesome and had the best bedside manner and spent over 2 hours with me answering all of my questions.

At first glance, my MRI showed at least 7 fibroids. The radiologist spent some time going over my MRI just before my surgery and counted at least 20 fibroids (he lost count there so many!)!

Why did I choose UFE over a hysterectomy?

I have waited several years to make a decision because I didn’t care for my options. I worried about not feeling whole if I were to get a hysterectomy. Somehow, I felt I would be less of a woman without my uterus. I worried about entering early menopause. I am slightly scared of menopause. What if I feel differently about my husband after menopause? I should probably read more about that since menopause is inevitable. Also, I learned a hysterectomy may cause me to have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Since I have a genetic tendency towards cardiovascular disease, I really didn’t want to increase my risk (I believe this is a greater risk if you have your ovaries removed). Usually a hysterectomy requires an incision which would require 4 to 6 weeks for recovery. One positive thing about having a hysterectomy is that the fibroids would be 100% gone and be unable to grow inside me ever again. If you are considering a hysterectomy you should read about it and come to your own conclusions, this is where my research led me.

I learned that the recovery period for a UFE is 1 to 2 weeks. There are no incisions involved but only a puncture wound in the groin area. My doctor indicated that I would be able to start walking the day of surgery. There is some risk of early menopause with this procedure too but the risk is lower than then that of a hysterectomy. The doctor warned me that women who get this surgery often have pain that is 10 out 10 in the first 24-48 hours. The surgery is typically inpatient and one-nights hospital stay is required (depends on your doctor probably).

I chose to have this procedure for all of the reasons mentioned above. I’m not suggesting this choice for anyone else, only providing information of what other options are available. This problem affects many women and it’s important for you to know that you are not alone.

Stay tuned for my experience with UFE. I had the procedure on December 12th. I look forward to being able to share my experience with you. So far I am well enough to blog about it. Be well my friends, until the next time!

Uterine Fibroids: Let’s talk about it (post #1)

Almost 15 years ago (age 28), I was diagnosed with a uterine fibroid. I had a routine ultrasound when pregnant with my daughter and the midwives took notice of the fibroid. I had no idea the significance of having a fibroid or how having one might affect me in the future. Then 14 years ago, when I was pregnant with my last child, the midwives asked me to have a second ultrasound later in my pregnancy so that they could check on the fibroid. I still do not understand their concern.

A pregnancy demands a lot of blood supply and so do fibroids. The fibroid could have caused me pain due to the lack of blood flow to that area as the baby growing inside of me was using the blood supply to thrive. Now I’m wondering if the gull bladder pain I thought I was having during my last pregnancy was actually pain caused by the starving fibroid? I certainly wished I had known that a fibroid could have caused me pain during this time because I drank a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice to clear what I thought was a gull stone. By the way drinking this concoction IS NOT RECOMMENDED — IT’S DISGUSTING! Who knew if I even had a gull stone? It could have been pain caused by a fibroid?

Anyway, I’m still unsure of the midwives concern of my fibroid but I guess that point is moot now since my youngest child is 13 years old and I don’t plan on having any more children. I am 43 years old and blessed with 3 beautiful and healthy children and am so grateful for each of them! A woman with fibroids can have difficulty getting pregnant so I’m especially grateful for my 3 children because today my uterus is full of (non-cancerous) fibroid tumors causing my uterus to be the size of a 12-week pregnant woman’s uterus.

What are Fibroids and who gets them?

“Fibroids are tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. These tumors are almost always not cancerous. 20 to 80% of women develop fibroids by the time they reach 50 years old, but fibroids are also common in women who are 40. Not all women with fibroids have symptoms. Women who do have symptoms often find fibroids hard to live with. Some have pain and heavy menstrual bleeding. Treatment for uterine fibroids depends on your symptoms.” (This information came from womenshealth.gov).

It’s important to know that although a high percentage of women get fibroids, it’s a lower percentage of women that actually have symptoms. When the symptoms start to affect a woman’s quality of life, that is when she may want to look into her options of how to reduce/remove the symptoms. My fibroid symptoms include heavy bleeding, lengthy periods, and sporadic severe pelvic pain.

I never knew when I might have severe pelvic pain. The pain is debilitating. I would compare the pain to labor, the part where the child’s head is crowning. I struggled to stand, sit, or even walk. One time I was teaching a spin class and I could not sit on the seat of the bike. Luckily, that pain was short lived because I didn’t want my class to notice something was wrong. Another time I was out walking my dog when the pain hit. I felt frozen in the middle of the sidewalk. Walking was almost unfathomable and not walking wasn’t much better. It’s not like I was going to lie down on the sidewalk and wait for the pain to pass. So I powered through and made it home and hoped the pain would pass quickly.

My pursuit to figure out how to help myself improve the quality of my life started 15 years ago. I finally reached a decision of what I would do to help myself and scheduled a procedure for December 12, 2019. This has been a very long pursuit and not an easy decision. I feel I made the best decision I could have made for myself. Stay tuned for the next blog post to learn about about what the doctors recommended over the 15 year time period and how I arrived at my final decision.

Friends, until the next time, remember that food and fitness matters. Fuel your body with healthy foods that provide the greatest amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Treat yourself to daily exercise and fresh air whenever possible! Most importantly, remember to love yourself anyway when you are struggling to make the best food and fitness choices.

 

Transform yourself at any age!

Recently my husband peeked in my closet because he said something smelled funky in there. I had already removed all of the shoes from my closet thinking perhaps they were the culprit. He found a large puffy bag hanging in there and said this is the smell, what is this(?), get rid of this! It’s okay, you can laugh, he is a lot more feng shui than me. I revealed to him what was in the bag, yes, circa 1994, my high school prom dress.

My daughters were so delighted that I still had this dress, they could not wait for me to try it on! I wasn’t quite sure if after 3 kids (albeit one is grown and the other two are 12 and 13) if this baby would still fit! Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only was I able to pull the dress up over my hips, but it also zipped! Let’s be real, it’s not as if I’m ever going to wear this dress again, what with the puffy shoulder style and all, but it was still fun to take a trip down memory lane.

Ten years ago, the pictures above would not have been posted on my Facebook page. Why? Well because I simply would NOT have been able to squeeze my mom bod in that dress! Ten years ago, I was the mama of a 13, 3, and 2 year old. Those were the days where my cupboards were still packed with fiber one bars and corn chips! My fridge was packed with veggies and fruit too, but those were not my go-to snacks. When I finally got the kids down for bed and I was ready for some R & R, I was definitely shoveling corn chips in my mouth. My fitness activities back then included running, biking, strength training, and swimming. However, we were much more likely to skip workouts due to the sheer exhaustion of parenting and working full time.

I can’t say I’ve been chasing to fit back into my high school prom dress. That goal has always seem unattainable to me. Mostly because I thought after bearing children my mom bod was here to stay. What I mean by this is that bearing children changes our bodies, our curves seem to be in different places. Our hips and chests and abdomens seem to have taken on new shapes. I always believed I could shape up these new curves and look healthy and fit! I never thought I could look like I did when I was 17. Of course, my face doesn’t look like I’m 17, I’ve aged. Eating cleanly (diet full of leafy greens, veggies of all colors, beans, fish, fruit, and okay – I eat french fries too :)) and maintaining a high activity level has definitely been a benefit to my new shape. Don’t despair my friends, you can reach your fitness goals and transform you body (whatever that means to you), and you can do these things at any age! I’ve been enjoying this new body shape for the past two years! I just looked at my drivers license (which was new 3 years ago) and at that time I wasn’t there yet! A lot of patience, persistence, hard work, and support from my peeps are the things that helped me get here!

I think getting more sleep and reducing my stress level have both been paramount in obtaining my new body shape. I don’t count calories, I simply eat healthy (most of the time)! I don’t buy snacks that fill my cupboards, because if I do I know they will be what I reach for when it’s finally time to unwind from my day. Be well my friends and enjoy your food and fitness journey! Be kind to yourself!

Who schedules their annual physical the Monday after Thanksgiving?

As we rolled into November this year, I realized I hadn’t yet scheduled my annual physical. I like knowing what my blood numbers are as compared to last year, so I feel this is an important appointment to schedule. When I finally called my physician’s office to schedule my appointment, the first available was the Monday after Thanksgiving. I gave zero thought to the timing of my appointment and scheduled it.

I walked into my appointment, the first thing the nurse does is take my temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and measures my oxygen saturation. I don’t mind any of these tests because my numbers have always been pretty good. The next thing she does is ask me to step out in the hall to check my weight and height. I quickly start shedding as much clothing as possible, especially my shoes. On this Monday, the Monday after the Holiday weekend, my weight was up much higher than I would have thought. I expected it to be up a few pounds, however, the doctor’s scale measured me a solid 5 pounds more than my usual weight and 7 pounds more than the last time I had my annual physical exam. YIKES!

My weight is super consistent. The numbers on the scale generally only vary about 2 pounds, consistently for the last year. [I’m not bragging] I have worked very hard to dial in my physical activity and food intake in order to keep my weight and general overall health extremely consistent. One way I measure my health is by checking those blood numbers annually, including monitoring my cholesterol, blood sugar, and a whole host of other blood tests.

So here I am sitting with my doctor and discussing how life has been going the past 12 months and everything was going well. When we got to my weight, I felt defensive and told my doc that I knew my weight was up since my last visit, and I explained to her that I believe the extra weight was not a “true” weight gain, but likely an after shock from the Holiday weekend. The craziest part is, I generally do not even indulge that much and hadn’t really indulged over the holiday weekend. Anyway as I was on the defensive, my physician says, “it’s okay Jo, as we age, we all gain 3 pounds a year. I expect your weight to increase annually”. UMMMMM, WHAAAATTTTT! Am I supposed to accept that an increase of 3 pounds a year is fine because it’s a result of aging? I choose not to accept this as my destiny, just because from a medical perspective it’s “okay” because it happens to everyone. I choose to continue to do everything in my power to maintain (not gain). I believe that maintaining my fitness level and healthy food intake can help minimize this average annual weight gain.

Sorry, this is my soap box. I’m making choices today be healthy and fit because it feels right for me. I choose not to accept something just because a doctor says it’s okay, and perfectly normal.

Be healthy and well my friends! Do you what you want! Make a choice for the “health” of it today 🙂 !!!!

Turkey Trot, Family Style!

In the early 2000’s, I was not particularly fit and my diet was not great either. A friend of mine encouraged me to join a women’s fitness group who met 3 days a week at the local high school. The athletic trainer employed by the local high school was training about 10 or 15 women, providing us with a tailored weight training routine and cardio workout. We arrived at 5:00 AM, three days a week to lift weights and run/walk.

The trainer encouraged us all to start training for a local 5K, so as part of our morning workout we would lift weights for about 20 to 30 minutes and then head out for another 20 or 30 minute brisk walk/run. We started the walk/run workouts in May and ran our first 5K in July. I really enjoyed working out with all of the women, but getting up at 5 AM was starting to get tiresome. However  I didn’t want to work out alone. So just before the 5K with the women’s group,  I encouraged my boyfriend (now husband) and son to run/bike in the evenings with me.

My son and boyfriend supported me and started to work out with me (my son riding his bike because he was quite young and my boyfriend running along beside me). I also encouraged some of my other family members to join us for our first 5K. I have to say even after training for 6 to 8 weeks, I was not ready for the race. We did it though, we entered the race and completed it! Completing that 5K felt like such a victory! Little did I know that from this first race a tradition of family 5K’s was born!

I don’t even know what year we did our first family turkey trot together, but I do know the tradition started in the early 2000’s. My son completed his first Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot with us when he was 8 or 9 years old. When our daughters were born we continued the tradition of running 5K’s as a family. We bought a double stroller and took the girls with us. Rain, snow, sleet, ice, or sub-zero temps, we missed very few years of the turkey trot. After we finished, we would head over to my family’s house for a HUGE Thankgiving feast. We would all laugh and chat about our 5K times and discuss the weather (was it colder/hotter/snowier this year than last)! The food was always yummy and we always ate way too much!

This year the tradition continues, we ran our 5K, family style. My youngest daughter ran right along with her dad, her fastest time ever! My older daughter started to run with me and then dropped back to run her own race. In Michigan, my adult son ran the turkey trot with his fiance and her family! The only difference this year than in years past is that I made my own Thanksgiving feast and shared it with friends and neighbors. I cook more intentionally than I did in the past. I read some food blogs to learn about the food I was cooking, I bought fresh, whole food ingredients and followed recipes. I didn’t overeat but made a note to enjoy every bite.

I love my family tradition of running together on Thanksgiving Day (and really any other time I can get my family to run together – usually a Holiday)! I love the tradition of making a feast of delicious foods and sharing with family and friends! The only change I’ve made is eating with intention. If I remain present during the meal and taste the flavor of the dish, I feel satisfied!

For those of you that are following me on my blog, THANK YOU! I am grateful that you are joining me on this health journey! I’m so thankful that my friend encouraged me to join her and women’s fitness group way back in the day. I’m not sure I’d be sharing my passion for health/running with my family without the invitation from my friend. I’m so grateful that I woke up that first day at 5:00 AM and dragged myself to that first workout! Be well my friends, please share with me your family fitness/food traditions!

“The time you shared today is the time you will remember tomorrow.”
Nishan Panwar

The Career That Changed My Life

Friends! I can’t believe it’s been since March 25th that I have shared anything with you! Thank you for your patience as I have gone through a career change twice this year. All is well now and I love my new career.

In the beginning of the year, I had just crossed into my 3rd year of working for a great company. I held the same position at this company for 3 years. In general, I enjoyed what I was doing, however, I was ready for more challenging work. I also have had a long-term goal of breaking into the Health and Wellness field as a Manager or Director of Health and Wellness. I was offered an opportunity to work as a Director of Health and Wellness so I left my comfortable position in late January to pursue my dream!

I worked as a Health and Wellness Director for about 3 months. I learned more about myself in those three months than I have probably learned in my entire working career (my entire working career is more years than I care to publish).

Health and wellness are really important to me. I spend a lot of time reading about nutrition and fitness. I make goals to eat healthily and exercise most days of the week.  This lifestyle carries over to my family members as well because I make it a point to schedule family activities that include healthy food and family exercise (ie. hiking, 5ks, swimming). I learn about cooking food from scratch. When I cook, I use as many fresh food items as possible and add as many colorful vegetables to our plate as it will allow. I try to work out at least 5 days a week and make sure I am active in some way at least 7 days a week. I use an activity tracker to help track my daily activity and sleep. I teach fitness classes not only because I enjoy teaching but also to assist me in accomplishing my fitness goals.

For decades now, not only have I cared about my own health and wellness, but I have also been concerned about my family’s health as well as all of the people around me. I care about the health of the people who attend my fitness classes, my coworkers, and also my friends and acquaintances. Whenever anyone has ever asked me to help them with their health and wellness goals, I am always there to provide ideas, create them a fitness plan, and recommend reading material. Because of all this, I thought a career in Health and Wellness would be perfect!

So my new career was not what I had hoped and dreamed. In fact, my experience was quite the opposite. Although I am passionate about health and wellness and I love helping people reach their health and fitness goals, I learned that perhaps doing this as a full time job is not the right fit for me. The leader of the organization I worked for was also the most challenging person I have worked with in my entire life. I spent a lot of time reading business books and trying to learn tools to help manage my reaction to the daily conversations I had to have with this person. I have worked with a number of people in my life and those whom I thought were challenging personalities. None of these people could even come close to what I had to endure with this leader.

I learned that I should appreciate all people and personalities and try to learn from every person that is put in my path. It can be very easy to take things personally in a work environment, especially when receiving feedback. I have learned that many things can be taken at face value, listen and learn if there is something to learn. Take responsibility for a problem if it is yours, try to provide solutions rather than letting everyone know the problem. I learned a lot about who I am in a very short period of time. I do not regret taking an opportunity to try a new career, one that I thought I would love. Although, I was not very healthy or well when I was working in this position, it made me realize how much better I can be! The experience was one which I needed to have in order to be a better person, appreciate and learn from all those people who cross my path, understand what I like to do and the types of things at which I excel.

I still love health and wellness. I still have a desire to help others reach their goals. I just realized that I do that best in the capacity I have always done it. I love teaching fitness classes as something fun “on the side”. I eat well and I feed my family really delicious meals that contain all of the colors of the rainbow, made up of many different kinds of vegetables and fruit is our dessert. When anyone asks me about fitness or food, I’m always happy to share what I do for myself and my family!

Be well friends! I believe a lot can be gained if one embraces change in his/her life!

Food for Fuel, Physical Activity for Stress Reduction

Hi Friends! Thank you for your patience as I’ve been silent for quite some time now!

Remember we discussed being patient with ourselves and not being too hard on ourselves when we take a break from our daily fitness routines or healthy eating? It’s so important to avoid negative self talk and be kind to yourself. Celebrate the days or moments when you do something healthy and good for yourself!

PHEW! These past 7 or 8 weeks have been quite a challenge for me. I have exercised less in the past 8 weeks than I would have thought ever possible! Thankfully, I am continuing to fuel my body with healthy food. While I’m adjusting to a new work routine my fitness routine has suffered. I feel conflicted with this new reality because my job is to walk, talk, eat, and breathe health and wellness. Anyway, I’m back at it and moving forward! I felt so AWESOME yesterday after teaching a Zumba class and then going to my own gym to swim laps! Amazing how much a bit of physical activity can help melt the stress away!

I recently came across a headline about the cabbage soup diet. Any of you ever tried the cabbage soup diet? I have definitely made a pot of cabbage soup in the past. A few times, I used the cabbage soup diet to “jump start” whatever new diet I was trying. I don’t recall getting past the first few of days of the diet because it is very restrictive around what else one can eat. I believe the number of calories allowed for this diet was no match for the number of calories needed for my fitness routine. I wasn’t fueling my body the way I should have been, resulting in feeling lethargic and blah. I am curious how many others have tried this diet in the past and how it made your body feel?

I am currently practicing intentional eating, this effort is a work in progress. The idea around intentional eating is learning not only which but also the perfect amount of nutritious foods I should eat that will provide me enough energy to meet my mental and physical needs. Every day I start off with the intention to feed my body nutritious foods that will give me the most bang for my buck! To me, eating with intention seems so much less limiting than a week of cabbage soup. Intentional eating is all about the choices I make. I choose if the food is good or bad for me. How I feel after eating the food is my meter for whether or not I want to eat that type of food again.

My intentional eating effort has taken me to a place I never thought possible. Most days, I feel pretty great. I am learning that the more “whole” the food is, the better I feel. It has taken me quite some time to get to a place where I replace a fast food stop with a bag of mixed nuts and a cut up apple stored in the console of my car. Don’t worry the apple hasn’t been there for days. I have learned that food that is overly processed makes me feel unwell (ie. lethargic, nauseated). On occasion, I’ll begin to crave fast food or packaged, processed food and I make a choice to either eat it or not. When I eat it, I intentionally notice how it makes me feel. If the food makes me feel unwell, then I store that feeling in my memory in hopes that I will avoid eating that type of food the next time.

Take a moment and recall how eating sugary foods makes you feel? I bet your initial reaction is that sugar makes you feel pretty darn good! Yes, of course the body’s initial reaction to sugar is a beautiful, wonderful, and pleasurable experience. Now get past that moment of happiness and elation, what happens next? My personal experience is that my brain is like OH YEAH GIVE ME MORE but when I polish off the MORE I don’t feel like I did when I took the first bite. My body is building up a tolerance to the sugar. If my body is more tolerant then this means it takes more sugar to get that same initial feeling.

Now recall how you feel after you engage in physical activity. First, envision what activity you are doing? Are you working out at the gym, going for a walk or bike ride outside, participating in a fitness class, or swimming? How does this activity make your body and mind feel? After you get past the part of “exercising”, I bet you also feel pretty darn good?! Your brain is releasing endorphins to help squash your stress level as well as producing proteins that help reduce anxiety and depression levels and increase cognitive function.

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty down. I was definitely in a funk and have been in one for several weeks now. I went to work to finish up some things I didn’t get to earlier in the week. I had a feeling of chest tightness and my outlook on the day and future days was very abysmal. I have felt for the past several weeks that my level of physical activity is not sufficient. Anyway yesterday, I made an intentional choice to change my behavior. I first taught a Zumba class. MAN!! do you have any idea how I felt during and after that Zumba class? I felt like I was on cloud 9!!! Then once I got home (still feeling AWESOME) I asked my husband if he’d like to go to the gym. We went swimming! Again, I felt so AWESOME! My body new exactly what to do!

How do I feel today? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Well I definitely feel SORE! But that’s okay! I will go for a run today because the sun is shining and all is right in my world! I will be intentional today for the health of it!!! Be well my friends!