Posts Tagged ‘consistency’


Anyone who subscribed to Confessions of a CrossFit Fattie some time ago will know it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted.

Why?

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From chARiTyelise at etsy.com.

That big motivator of most things bad, fear.  I didn’t want to talk about what was going on. But now that I’m feeling a bit better, it’s time to ‘fess up.

Almost a year ago I was feeling the best I had in years. Well enough to go for a week to Tampa by myself to visit my mom. I was great about staying on my CrossFit workout while I was there.

And then I crashed. It took me two weeks after I came back to do much of anything except sleep. I assumed that I’d gotten those bad habits conquered, what with my regular visits to the physical therapist extraordinaire and my consistent workouts.

But I was wrong.

I hadn’t factored in what would happen when I started trying to resume a “normal” life, one with work in it. I participated in NaNoWriMo, and the writing started to take priority over the workouts. I’m fine, I thought, like any backslider. It’s just a glitch; I’ll get better.

And then November ended, and with it NaNo, and I’d completed the fifty-thousand words. And I looked upon it and found it good. I really thought I could go back to my old ways of spending nonstop hours at the computer without harming myself.

I started picking up more freelancing work. I started planning an AWA-style workshop for the new year. It didn’t happen. I kept doing the freelance copyediting1 and writing because it was fun, and it had been so long, but for the gigs with Thomson Reuters, since I’d been consistently earning any money. And I was doing work I enjoyed.

I’d hated becoming the unreliable employee that illness had made me into. I was able to be reliable as a volunteer at DailySource.org because it was a telecommuting job. I didn’t have to get dressed and drive; I just had to have enough energy to make it through my shifts and organize my work around my down times.

Now I was taking on more responsibility, and what was the mistake? The same one I’d made my entire life — that I could escape the consequences of ignoring my duties to my health. I’d think about it tomorrow.

As the new year came, I left the routine of regular workouts, becoming more and more sporadic. Not surprisingly, I started feeling worse. I was annoyed that I was losing what definition I’d gained in my arms and legs. But I kept telling myself that the occasional workout that I was getting in was going to help me maintain until I had time for more.

Yeah, right. That’s worked so well for me in the past.

And the migraines started getting worse again. And I had to be responsible, take care of the clients who expected their work to be done on time and well. So that became a priority. The excuse I’d tried to tell other people not to use, “I don’t have time,” was returning to my vocabulary, even though I knew that it was a lie. I didn’t have the time NOT to work out, because failing to do so ate into the rest of my life, taking time away to be sick or alternate between insomnia and hypersomnia. And sleepy editors are sloppy editors, so I’d be waiting for that window of time when everything was working to work.

Then I had a couple of weeks of something I hadn’t done in years, not since I’d figured out my food sensitivities and sworn off corn and dairy and kicked my Coca-Cola habit. I went on an eating binge.

cupcake tier

Cupcake tier from The Cake Shop.

That’s my oldtime modus operandi for weight gain. It had been years, truly, years since I’d last been a bitchy binger. “Bring me baked goods,” I demanded of my husband in a take-no-prisoners way. He did. I’d eat a six-pack of cupcakes and want more. I put on ten pounds in a week. Turns out one of my drugs had pooped out on me (okay, that’s not the technical term, but it captures what I mean), and it took me while to figure it out. The first thing you look for is something new, not something old, when your behavior goes wonky.  But now I’ve figured out that the first thing to think about if I get bingey is to consider any drugs that work on neurochemicals, but particularly antidepressants. It was the Wellbutrin that my brain had started to ignore, and the first thing my body did was say, “Send me sugar.” Turns out the brain’s its own sweet tooth, using a disproportionate amount of glucose, which I learned from a TED Talk2:

I don’t want one of those nasty things in my brain, although if you told me it was the only thing between me and a daily migraine, I’d seriously consider it.

At any rate, the next clue was complete lack of energy and motivation, accompanied by showers of weeping eyes. No good reason, just started crying anytime I wasn’t distracted. So I went to my friendly pill prescriber and spent the  next three months getting titrated up to an effective dose of Viibryd. It’s new, and I almost said, “No, thanks,” when she told me about it, because I didn’t want a new thing on the market. No one knows what’s wrong with it yet. All I knew right away was that it made me queasy and gave me the worst smelling flatulence I’d had in my life. Powerful bastards, too: the farting would wake me up at night as if a cannon had been shot out of my…well, you know. And I put on another ten pounds of fluff eating starchy stuff to combat the constant nausea.

About the time I finally started to feel normal again, I was knocked down by an allergic reaction to the bloody stuff.  Itchy everywhere, including my throat and mouth, which is a bad sign. I develop drug allergies every so often, and this one was acting suspiciously like the one that gave me blisters all over the inside of my mouth. Because of the depression symptoms, I’d started counseling right around the same time, and that helped me get through the tsunami of helplessness and hopelessness that attacked me.

Now that’s cleared my system, and a new/old drug seems to be working. I’m slowly working my way back up from zero, starting out at the exact same weight I was when I started this blog. But unlike days past, I refuse to stop. I refuse to let the bad juju win. I’m back to more healthy eating (no more Mr. Gutsquirm) and, ooo-rah, working out.

And life, with its odd synchronicities, sent me a client whose wife is a CrossFit instructor at the box closest to me. I pass it every time I go to a physical therapy appointment. As soon as it cools down, I’m going to gut up with my big gut and go workout in public. Then I can talk more authoritatively about putting yourself out there. Time to stop denying the importance of the social structure, time to stop assuming they’re all going to judge me, time to overcome inertia. (Or maybe just defy gravity — whatever it is that’s keeping you away from health..)

1. Every time I mention copyediting, I cringe to think that someone will read my blog and think “Who the hell is she to call herself a copyeditor?” My errors on my blog are evidence that everyone needs a copyeditor, even a copyeditor. Oh, and “copyeditor” and “copy editor” are both used by the people calling themselves that. I won’t bore you with the details. If you want me to bid on copyediting work for you, please contact  Amy at amy@indiereader.com and tell her you’d like me to work on your project.
2. I’m hooked on TED Talks. Awesome info in twenty minutes or less.


While I live in what’s arguably the most military-oriented major metropolitan area outside of the D.C. area, nothing blew up. I had to hit the ground for internal reasons.

Over the last week my workouts have been limited by cold sweats and light-headedness. The fatigue has been bad enough that I’ve had several days when I fell asleep reading for pleasure, which almost never happens (technical or high-concentration reading is a whole ‘nother kettle). This presents a problem when you need to  keep working out as consistently as possible, but you want to, well, not die in the attempt by falling and hitting your head on hard and pointy things, like the edge of a weight stand.

My current issues were brought on by a combination of ridiculously high pollen counts, fluid behind the ears and a possible reaction to the flu and TDAP shots I got. Your causes may vary, but the solution is the same. Know your limits, but go to them.

That’s when I go to the ground: WODs built around things I can do on the floor. Here’s my list of options; please suggest any others.

The Concept 2 Model C, no longer in production.

Rowing: Up to 20 minutes; I use the rower to the right. Upside: It’s a great all around workout, and you’re sitting down, so it’s pretty easy to avoid any real problems (although I’d keep the area clear on either side if I’m particularly unbalanced). Downside: It’s a great all around workout, so you can be exhausted pretty quickly. If I get all 20 minutes in on a bad day, I feel like I did a good job.

Sit-ups: 3 x 10. Upside: Yes, they’re better at working your hip flexors than your abs, but you’re still on the ground. Downside: If you don’t have someplace to hook your feet (see our contraption, below right, attached to the garage wall), you’d do better with crunches.

Push-ups: 3 x 10. Upside: Great for those arms. Downside: If you’re overweight and/or you’ve got a disproportionate amount of fat deposited on your derriere, you need to either do “knee” push-ups or be very careful to keep your abs tight (stomach to backbone) so you don’t overload your lumbar spine. (You can also substitute planks.)

The sit-up do-hitchy welded and well-attached to our garage wall.

The following exercises were given to me as physical therapy exercises, but they are still valid as core stabilizers, and when you just need to lie down while working out, they’re better than nothing.

Theraband chest pull: 3 x 10. Grasp the theraband appropriate to your strength (probably yellow, red or blue) in each hand, extend your arms full length (you may need to adjust your grip; you’ll want the bit between your hands not to sag at all) and parallel to your chest. Pull your hands apart until they’re at your sides (you look like a “T” at this point). Usually this is done standing, but you can do it lying down.

Straight leg raises: 1 x 20 each side. This, like the preceding, were given to me as physical therapy exercises, but they are still valid as core stabilizers. Upside: My quads still find them challenging because I have a built-in weight set. Downside: None I can think of. Boring?

Hip adductor raises: 1 x 20 each side. I can’t seem to find one that matches the one I do. Lie on your side and cross the upper leg over the under so that you’ve made a triangle with your leg and the floor with your lower leg as an anchor of one corner. Raise your lower leg, keeping it in a straight line with your back as if you were standing on it. (If that torques your knee, you can use a pillow or rolled towel to prop up the top leg. You just need to get it out of the way.

Supine bridging: (It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page)1 x 20 each side. I use an 8 lb sand-filled fitness ball between my knees.

Abdominal squeeze and your friend, the hip flexor: 3 x 1 minute each. Lie on your back, pressing your lumbar into the ground, with your knees up and feet braced on the ground. Put your arms to your sides, and when you start the clock, pull your belly button into your  spine (well, try). Focus on pulling in tighter each time you exhale — but don’t hold your breath. I alternate these with each leg doing its abductor/adductor workout. You straighten out one of your legs, and then lower and lift your knee to the ground, still trying to keep your ab tight and without losing control of the leg. Don’t rush; form and control are more important. Do these for a minute per leg.

I then conclude with a bunch of stretches: gastroc, supine hamstring, supine piriformis, upper trapezoid and thoracic mobilization.

I’ve got more I can do on my back on what Gary has dubbed “the scaling machine,” but more on that in a future post.

 


Peanut Butter Cookie Batch

Peanut Butter Cookie Batch (Photo credit: Greatist): I can’t stand peanut butter, but maybe some of you crave it.

I love Greatist. I encourage anyone interested in health, fitness and weight loss to subscribe to them. No, I have no financial or personal interest in them, so feel free to take it or leave it with my blessing and no effect on my pocketbook:

  1. How to foam roll like a pro
  2. Can you be too sore to work out?
  3. 10 interval training mobile apps to download right now
  4. News: Talk to yourself to stay motivated
  5. Schedule your day to reduce stress
  6. Give in to cravings to avoid binges
  7. Ultimate guide to good posture at work
  8. Develop a routine to improve sleep
  9. Why do I eat when I’m not hungry?
  10. How to handle criticism like a pro

There seems to be a “routines” theme in my list. Maybe I’m trying to tell myself something. I’m not even touching the word “pro,” given that I’m a woman old enough to remember that as a euphemism.


The Illness/Wellness Spectrum

I’ve thought about illness to wellness spectrum (above) a lot lately. Whenever I think about it, I recall civil defendants’ attorneys describing “a preponderance of the evidence” as meaning the plaintiff has to push a boulder over the top of a peak before a jury can conclude that the plaintiff has won the case. (Plaintiffs’ attorneys, on the other hand, will start out like an Olympic diver at the top of a platform with outstretched arms, but with more clothes, and begin see-sawing to explain that the scales just need to be tipped.)

Pushing a boulder up a mountain is not a bad metaphor for getting fit when you’re already chronically ill. Or, better, climbing an icy slope with a backpack. You gotta push up that slope, and any time you lose your grip or your balance, you start sliding back down that damn mountain, with the load of the past dragging at you.

And now I think I may have found an ice axe, which you use to stick into an icy slope to make sure you don’t slide any farther. The maneuver referred to as a self-arrest. I like that term: You stop yourself before you start picking up speed on your way down. From Wikipedia:

 The longer the delay of the climber before he/she starts to put weight on the axe’s pick the longer s/he freely accelerates down the slope.

Ariel Bravy learns to self-arrest with an ice axe on St. Mary’s Glacier, Colorado.

In the past I’ve worked out and thought, gee, I feel better now, but when I stopped, I had to think about it before I realized I kind of missed it.

That’s not the case any longer. These days, at the three-day no-workout mark I start declining and find myself in increasing pain. That’s when I use the ice axe. It is something that makes me say to myself that there is no more time for delay, no excuse, and that if I don’t do something now, even if it hurts, things will just get worse.

I’m not talking about the stiffness and pain of the morning. That’s one of the reasons I hate waking up. I start out sleepy and warm, and then the fog dissipates and, like a morning glory, my pain opens to the sun. But those creaks tend to even out (or at least recede into the background) as the day goes on and I warm up.

Nor am I talking about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the sore you get from breaking down and rebuilding muscles. (I almost like that pain; it means I’ve done something to push myself.)

No, the pain that is the warning arrives at night when I try to go to sleep that tells me I’m starting to fall. No anti-inflammatory will make it go away. I can’t reposition my body to ease it. Ice nor heat will beat it into submission. It’s a bone-deep ache that generally affects me from the hips down. And when it happens, I either have to be so sleepy that I could fall asleep while someone was amputating my leg, or I have to get out of bed and at least stretch in order to get the pain level down to the point I can sleep.

On those nights, I wake up knowing that no matter what is hurting me, I’ve got to do *some* sort of exercise. Time for the ice axe.

I’ve crawled out of bed, ate a little something and hydrated, then exercised, and crawled back to bed, completely spent for the day. I’ve exercised with a night mask and ear plugs (on better days, inside with sunglasses) because of a migraine (and had it get worse during the exercise). I’ve exercised with twinges in my knee that I jammed. I’ve had nausea and dizziness while working out (when light-headed, I try to make sure I don’t do anything that involves standing with a heavy weight). I’ve sneezed, hacked, coughed, wheezed and otherwise been an allergy queen during my workouts..

I’ve had a lot of what I’ve come to call fibro spasms (more intensely during workouts; they seem to lay off once I stop): the closest I can come to describing it is that an area along any muscle fiber of about 3 inches long and a half-inch wide that suddenly hurts as if someone pushed into a particularly tender bruise. It lasts for less than 30 seconds in any given spot, then wanders to kick a different muscle.

But none of that deters me once the three-day ache kicks in; it makes me  use all my will to plunge my imaginary ice axe into the side of the friggin’ mountain and say to myself, “Yeah, this sucks, but do you really want to hit the bottom of this slope at full speed?”

And I work out. It may be modified or scaled because of whatever is going on, but I get out of bed and move and lift and stretch.

Someday I’ll get over the top and let the backpack coast down ahead of me and spill out a million fragments. And then I’ll walk down the other side.


This last week I had a rather unexpected setback. I had a “minor” oral surgery procedure that managed to knock me on my butt for at least three days straight (advertised as “you’ll be up and going the day after”). I visited my wonderful physical therapist, Dr. Stephanie Thurmond, and after talking to her, and reading some blogs and comments from other folks in my position, I started thinking about CrossFit for “nonathletes” generally and what’s important for those of us who

  • are overweight to morbidly obese,
  • are over 50,
  • are congenitally awkward and remember PE as a torture chamber filled with humiliation,
  • have accumulated injuries that need accommodation,
  • are illness- or injury-prone,
  • have hormone issues (HRT, perimenopausal). and/or
  • have illnesses that make them hypersensitive to stimuli (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, allergies and asthma, as examples).

I’ve discussed much of this in other posts, but I felt the need to sum up.

1. Get past the slogans and hype.

“Forging Elite Fitness,”  CrossFit’s official slogan, intimidates the hell out of most non-elite nonathletes. And lots of affiliates (aka boxes) like to up the ante. One I saw recently was “Blood is replaceable, Sweat is Expected and Tears are optional.”  At this point it made me laugh, but a couple of years ago I would have seen it as a “nonathletes need not apply” sign. Although my husband was really into it, and is level-headed about pretty much everything, I still saw it as a testosterone-marketed competitive activity.

And it may have been, at least in the beginning. But the CrossFit powers-that-be quickly saw that even if you’ve got motivated folks, not all of them are athletes, or, if they are, they’re specialized enough that they burn out in a CrossFit workout, which is generally designed to improve your ability to function in the real world. You read variations on it all the time: “Our specialty is not specializing.” So even competitive athletes had to have parts of their WODs (workout of the day) scaled.

So it seemed that as CrossFit expanded and evolved, many CrossFit coaches saw the benefit of making the program more inclusive, involving the elderly and kids. I mean, as long as you’re having to adjust WODs on a custom basis, why not do it for anyone?

2. Ask questions. Lots of them.

Membership in a CrossFit affiliate isn’t cheap, nor is hiring a CrossFit coach.  Boxes are cropping up everywhere (at least in my neck of the woods), so you may have some choices. Or you can consider working out at home, but you need someone who knows what they’re doing to watch how you’re doing things or you can easily end up worse rather than better.

First, look at staff bios if they’re available; I prefer being able to read them online. Most CrossFit boxes have at least a semblance of a web page. Ideally, you’d find a coach who has a lot of experience or special interest in working with people with whatever limitations you have, and, cherry on top, has professional training in biomechanics (like a physical therapist). Kelly Starrett is a well known CrossFit instructor who is also a physical therapist and he has tons of good information. But even his website can make you think it wouldn’t be a good fit, as he works with “elite athletes” and uses the term “athlete” to describe who his website is for. But I emailed the site, asking for clarification. I received the following response:

These mobilization are for everyone and everyone is an athlete!

Not my mindset, but cool, now I know that if I were in the San Francisco area, I’d definitely look at going there. And the response was from another physical therapist apparently working with Starrett.

But not every CrossFit box is going to have that attitude or that depth of experience. However, CrossFit central is very big on working with nonathletes, even if some individual coaches aren’t:

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

A bit stuffy, but the bottom line is that CrossFit is designed to improve anyone’s overall fitness. And affiliates and coaches who are members of CrossFit have access to materials to help them scale IF the coach is interested in working it out. Your job is to figure out which coach is going to be not just willing to work with your limitations, but who has an active interest in doing so.

So take the time to talk to the coaches before making a decision. Listen carefully to their responses. Tell them your particular concerns and ask them how they’ll be able to scale down or adapt the program for you.

3. Make consistency your first priority

Most injuries occur when people try to do too much too soon. Whatever your limitations, be willing to start slow and concentrate on being steady at it. When I started, I was really consistent for five months before a knee problem got in the way, and I let myself be sidelined for at least an equal amount of time. This last setback felt almost as bad, but I did what little I could within 3 days of my recovery. I’m bouncing back far more quickly than I have in the past.

And I have discovered that if I miss more than around 3 days in a row, I will start deteriorating in a much broader sense than being able to do fewer reps or less weight. Whichever illness has decided to start picking on me, migraines or fibro or seasonal allergies, it will get worse as well, and then my sleep is affected because I’m in pain or hacking, and things begin to snowball. If I suck it up and do what I can without injuring myself, which may be far less than what I was doing before whatever obstacle got in my way.

4. Listen to your body, and tell your coach what it’s saying

If your body is hurting, you need to evaluate it. I’ve written earlier posts about when to pay attention to pain and when to ignore it. Short version: If it’s sharp and new, stop and figure out whether you can continue or if you need to stop. Achey pains and cramps are generally not going to be things you’ll need to quit for.

But your coach cannot help you if you don’t communicate. I’m bad at this; I hate sounding like a whiner, particularly when other people are doing the same thing easily. But your primary goal should be getting yourself fit. That’s the whole reason you’re putting yourself through this stuff and why you came to CrossFit to begin with, so swallow your pride and tell your coach your problem. Sometimes it’s just a slight form problem that’s causing the pain.

For example, I started feeling a weird pain in my left knee (which is the bad one) while on the rower. It was on the outside of my knee, which was new. Turned out that I was opening my legs to give my gut extra room so I could get a longer push, which was putting torque on my knee. As soon as I corrected that, the problem went away. You will learn to troubleshoot some of the problems yourself, but often you need someone else to watch to see the form flaw.

5. Scale, scale, scale; form, form, form. Did I mention you should scale?

One of the aspects of a CrossFit workout is intensity: You need to push yourself. But that doesn’t mean overdoing it. What you are capable of doing is, to some extent, subjective. And it will vary from day-to-day. If you’ve tweaked a muscle, scale back anything that is the problem. Find ways to deal with whatever areas give you problems. Rule of thumb is that you should find the first round relatively easy and begin to start having difficulty (needing to take more stops, for example) around the third set. If you start getting sloppy with your form, you are increasing the chances of getting injured. On the other hand, if it’s just a lot of effort, but you can keep the form, then you’re on target.

This is what you’ve looked for in your coach: Someone who is willing to be creative to find solutions to your weaknesses. Use that creativity to scale appropriately. Concentrate on getting the form right and the rest will take care of itself.

6. Expect set-backs

Life happens, and things will get in the way of being as consistent as you’d like to be. Illnesses, vacations, injuries, surgeries, drugs: Any of these may cause a period when you can’t work out. It happens. Don’t flagellate yourself. Do what you can as soon as you can. This is the same principle as in weight loss. There’s a great post from LiveStrong’s The Born Reality that applies; here’s a taste:

Having worked with clients for more than 10 years, most people suffer from an extreme inability to fail on a small scale. When they screw-up, that’s it for them–they have screwed up permanently, and so they keep going.

Conventional wisdom tells us that if you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging–that’s the logical thing to do. However, when it comes to nutrition, we aren’t logical or conventionally wise. When clients have a dietary faux pas, their impulse, paradoxically, is to make it worse; after they eat the brownie, they think, “Well, I’ve ruined today. I may as well just eat whatever I want and then be good tomorrow.”

That would be bad enough by itself; however, for many people, they carry the failure over to the next day, and the day after, and finally, “I’ll be good tomorrow” becomes “I’ll start again on Monday.”

The Monday Mindset

Historically, Monday is the busiest day at gyms. (In my facility, attendance is 30% higher than any other day of the week, and that is not unique.) A decade of looking at clients’ food logs makes it clear that Monday is also the day with the highest level of dietary compliance.

Which is ironic, considering this: In my view, Monday is the most dangerous day of the week. Not Monday, but the idea of Monday–a fresh start, always available, never more than a week away.

7. Remember that you are only competing with yourself

CrossFit encourages competition and working in a group. In a well-run CrossFit box, the other people working with you should be supportive, and the coaches should create a supportive environment. Of course, we live in a flawed world with flawed people. There may be someone who makes you uncomfortable or is smug about how much “better” s/he is at whatever WOD. Don’t worry about them, and don’t let the jerks get you down. Most affiliates keep records of your times, reps, etc., and will make a big deal when you achieve a personal best.

It is a big deal. Pat yourself on the back and keep going!


I alluded to my recent health issues (well, more than “alluded” in some) in recent posts: Pain and other challenges, Pain and other challenges: Part 2 and Pain and other challenges: Part the third.  The problems kept piling up, and the key feature to improvement, consistency, has eluded me. I think I’m now on the way to surmounting the problem.

One of the issues that is only tangentially about me is that my migraine specialist, Dr. Robert Nett, died in a car accident back in February. His death was a loss to the medical community, as he was both a researcher and a practitioner, an M.D. and a pharmacist, and very attentive to his patients. It was, of course, even more of a loss to his family and friends, but I’m sure all of his patients felt the loss as well.

I found out when in a different specialist’s office. I’d listed Dr. Nett as the doctor treating me for migraines, and the doctor’s assistant asked me a couple of times who was taking care of that. I repeated the answer a couple of times, a bit confused. Then she realized I hadn’t been told.  When she told me, my first thought was “What a waste!”  My second was “His poor family.”  And my third, I’m a bit embarrassed to say, was “What will I do now?” Selfish much?

But there’s been some validity to the concern. I’ve been heavily medicated to prevent the migraines, and I was developing some sporadic and odd side effects. He had planned to reduce them at some point after they’d done their job of resetting the sensitivity of my brain to stimuli. However, you basically had to audition to get an appointment with him because he was in such high demand. Now that he’s gone, pretty much everyone here in San Antonio that specializes in migraines is slammed and we’re looking at, ohh, August, maybe, before I actually see one of them.

So my internist (whom I’ve called “wonderful” several times, and realized I use “wonderful” way too often, so let’s say she’s amazing — because she is) has been temporarily dealing with my migraine meds as well as my grab bag of assorted illnesses. I had an appointment with her because of a hacking cough I couldn’t shake and managed to have one of the side-effect “spells” that  periodically plague me. I won’t bore you with the details, but she sent me straight to the ER, and on the follow-up appointment said that I was acting as if I’d “had three bottles of tequila, and [she] knew [I] hadn’t done.”

So what with the actual migraines, the recurrent hacking cough, and the spectrum of light-headed to stoned beyond belief, I’ve been extremely inconsistent with my exercise.

So at said follow-up, I talked to her about reducing all of the drugs to zero and asked her if she thought I was being overly simplistic in thinking that diet and consistent exercise would take care of the problem. She nixed reducing everything, even over a lengthy period of time, and pretty much told me I could expect to be on X, Y and Z for the rest of my life. On the other hand, she was in favor of reducing to eliminating some of them.

But we both knew that the ones that were first on the chopping block were those which were preventing the migraines, as they’re also the ones probably responsible for my problems. So I kept thinking, well, what about the exercise if I’m in the middle of a migraine?

She did agree that exercise and weight loss would/could eliminate (or at least ameliorate) most of my medical issues. But I was stuck on the “How can I be consistently exercising if I’m having all these problems?” and not expressing it well and we kind of went in a circle for a bit.

It took me a while to formulate the right question (because of all the foggy brain problems), but I finally came up with it: Is there any reason I should stop if I’m having a migraine, feeling wobbly or hacking like crazy — or do I just need to suck it up?

She smothered a chortle (or at least that’s what I think it was), and said, “Well, basically, yes. Suck it up.”

Fair enough. My fear has been that I’ll make things worse. Now, if necessary, I’ll go workout with my earplugs and sleeping mask, and if it makes any one migraine worse, I’ll deal. I plan on having the hubby coach on standby, of course, but as far as the pain, well, it’s just pain. I don’t mind suffering in the short term if, in the long term, I’ll actually get better.

So, sports fans, the race is back on.


Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) wielding a Wei...

Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) wielding a Weirding Module in David Lynch’s Dune (1984) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the classic sci-fi “Dune,” the protagonist, Paul Atreides, brings the desert-dwelling, still-suit wearing, water-conservationist inhabitants, the Fremen, of Arrakis to a standstill by shedding tears. It’s rare for them, and they all look at him differently after he’s cried, but not with disdain. Quite the opposite.

The scene came to mind after I had a crying spell during the time I’ve been offline. Not weeping, which was really all Paul was doing; you know, stoically grim-faced with the single tear running down your face. Nope, I was in full-blown sobbing like a bellow. The kind where the only thing that stops it (or at least forces you to take a break) is that you can’t breathe any longer because you’ve produced more mucus than a kindergarten class during cold season.

But, Fremen, it’s more than a waste of water. It actually alleviates the built-up tension. And, you may ask, what did I have to be so blasted tense about?

Failure.

Isn’t that what haunts us whenever we set ourselves high goals?  The fear that we will fail. And I felt myself falling down the hill I’d been climbing. (Or maybe skiing down it on my face, which is how I recall my decades-old experience on the slopes.)

At first, I kept thinking it would get better in a day or so. Then we went to the doctor, and she said “No exercise for at least a week.” Gary then asked about upper body exercise, and she said that would be okay, but if it wasn’t better after a week or so, then call her to schedule an MRI.

Other than that, it was ice and Naproxen. And I’d ice the hell out of that puppy. Used to be you couldn’t make me ice any injury because I thought the ice was worse than the pain, but we’ve got these ACE bandage wraps for the ice gel now, so it’s not a choice between frostbite or so much insulation that you might as well not bother.

The Naproxen, though, messed me up. I believe I’ve mentioned before that the drugs I take to avoid migraines could probably make a hippo high. (Hippo: Wow, man, look, my sweat is red/Hippo’s friend: Dude, chill. It’s always red.) I went through months of slowly inching it up and figuring out the timing so I don’t faceplant at awkward times. But the Naproxen was enough, shockingly, to make me all kinds of a drooling zombie. It took a couple of weeks to figure out how to get that timed so that I wasn’t getting pie-eyed at awkward times.

But we kept trying to get in the upper body workouts when the  knee calmed down. And each time, the damn knee would get worse after. So I began, in Gary’s words, to “eat for entertainment,” a very bad habit, particularly when I wanted carbs to dance for me. As far as I’m concerned, a pole dance is not enticing, but give me a bagel with just a small cover of Philly, and I’m putty.

But it felt like a thousand failures rolling up on me. The same thing I’ve felt every time I quit something (diets in particular, but not just them) because some force majeure popped up to say “boo!” Yes, injuries and illnesses put you back.

Which brings us to the point when I cried myself blotchy and snotty. Luckily Gary was home, and he’s a wise enough man to let me cry rather than to try to get me to stop. He just provides shoulder and kleenexes until I’ve gotten the emotional balance back that comes after the storm passes.

I realize now that it was that point that the decision was made. We talked about how I was feeling, how pissed off I was that my clothes were feeling a little tighter (hence no EOM weigh-in and measurement; I didn’t want to check my stats because I was afraid that would be the death blow), how I’d started avoiding doing the things that were helping me stay on track (including this blog) and why I was now doomed to fail.

And, somehow, during that discussion, I decided I wasn’t going to fail. I started getting my eating back under control, but I took the longest break from working out I’ve had since I started.  Last night, just before I started writing this post, I did an all upper body workout. I’ve been symptom free for four days now.

The workout was a bitch. And so was I, mostly because I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to do things as well as I had before I took the break. No, not all the way down to where I was when I started, but definitely lower capacity. I was frustrated, but not particularly surprised, because in the back of my head I kept wondering how long before I started actually losing the muscle I’d built.

Sure, I’ve now got a setback, but I felt the best about myself and the odds of getting fit than I have since somewhere around the beginning of July. Then, sitting down to the ‘puter,  I read a post by Adam Bornstein, the link to which had been sitting in my inbox for almost two weeks, which was entitled “Is this your health downfall?”  I wished I’d read it sooner when I realized that here this guy, much younger and healthier than I (or at least I’m convinced that’s the case), was going through the same thing I was:

During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been faced with a constant reminder of my own limitations. A recent back injury slowed my normally active lifestyle to a halt. Among the biggest frustrations: My inability to exercise left me with no way to counterbalance the frustrations of long work days, the stress of wedding planning, and my insatiable love of almond butter.

As I struggled with the incapacitating pain of my injury, I found that my physical abilities weren’t all that was affected. I lost my patience faster, became frustrated easier, and generally morphed into something that wasn’t representative of who I wanted to be. I was left with a simple question: When you can’t do what you want, must everything else also suffer?

We live in a world where excuses are prominent and real. But if you’re not careful, temporary excuses can become a permanent way of life. I’ve experienced it myself. I was once an overweight kid and rationalized that I had bad genes and could never be fit. Clearly, my self-perception became the world I created for myself, rather than the far-reaching potential that lives within us all.

Adam clearly learned the lesson much earlier than I did: that you can’t give up on yourself completely because of a valid reason to partially back off. I am still working into the mindset, being an old dog learning a new trick, that the choice isn’t either I’m the paragon of weight loss and fitness pursuit or I’m doomed to be the deconditioned lump of a person I’ve been.

And both my husband and my daughter have taken great pains to remind me of the mental journey I’ve taken: It’s rather astonishing that I, the lifetime hater when it came to working out, am agonizing over the fact that I can’t workout at the level I want to, rather than being secretly relieved I have a legit excuse to quit.

So I finish this post in the wee hours of the night, having awakened with  the same damn knee hot and hurting. I’m going to get the ice pack. I may have to miss some more workouts. Hell, I may have to get surgery for a torn meniscus if  the damn thing doesn’t finally go away. I have injured myself.

But I know, remembering that crying session, that I’ve already made my decision. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to go back to the way I was.

My husband, once again, is a role model for me. He injured his right shoulder and went through what I’ve been doing: It would get better, then he’d reinjure it, and it kept spiraling down. Finally he went to the doctor and get the MRI, and the orthopedic surgeon told him, yes, it could eventually get better, but there was as good a chance that it would not. Gary waited far longer than he should have to get the surgery (many of the reasons for that were valid), but he didn’t stop working out during the period he was waiting to get the shoulder fixed. He stuck it out, modifying his workouts to things he could do, and treating the shoulder like I am now: ice and Naproxen.

He did get the surgery, and the tear was worse than it appeared in the MRI. And now he’s worked his way back up to the point that no one who wasn’t there would realize he’d ever had shoulder surgery. And, as he  pointed out, DeJuan Blair goes out and kicks ass on the basketball court, and the reason we (meaning the San Antonio Spurs) got him is that the teams with higher draft picks thought the man’s lack of ACLs would be a problem. Doesn’t seem that way to me (despite the embarrassing end-of-season Spurs faceplant).

So the injury, even if it’s the worst case scenario, doesn’t mean I’m done. Yeah, I’m not in as good a shape as my husband (and clearly nowhere near as in shape as a young professional basketball player), but the principle is the same. Just on a different scale. And I don’t have to give up all the things I’ve been doing to stay in the right frame of  mind and to be healthy just because I can’t do a squat right now.

Scaling. That’s what I said to begin with and I’m bloody well going to do it now. I’ve shaken my head at people being foolish enough not to scale down when needed, and now it seems I’ve been playing the fool.

So my crying game will have a happy ending, damn it. Even if I am going back to bed with an ice pack on my knee, oh, Susannah. But don’t you cry for me.

P.S. [Possible spoiler alert] No, I’m not a tranny. I just like stealing titles from more gifted writers than myself.


I write about change and motivation a lot because I know I need to change my attitudes as much as I do my actions, as all actions originate in thought.

So I thought I’d talk about the progress I’ve made, since today I realized I’d made some in the upstairs department.

As you may know, the past month has been a struggle. I’ve had setbacks because of health issues: injuries, illness and minor surgery. I’ve felt my time has been more limited due to some additional responsibilities, and was discouraged that my record-keeping and blogging had suffered as a result.

I had a two-day migraine for my weekend activity, but today I finally felt better. And I realized that, although I was not happy I hadn’t been able to work out the past two days, I hadn’t doubted (for a change) that I would start back as soon as I could. And today, when I woke up enough to realize I really did feel better, I was not just ready to exercise, but juiced about it. My husband had to dial me back a notch.

I set up the items I needed in the garage and went back in to do my treadmill warm-up. Put on Pandora and got two songs I liked and can add to the repertoire (The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and Duran Duran “Hungry Like the Wolf).

It’s amazing how fast the garage can heat up in less than 20 minutes during August. Oy. Note to self (and anyone else with GERD): When working out in the heat, make sure you’ve taken your Nexium enough ahead of a workout or you’re gonna get reflux.  And start hydrating sooner.

And yet I was still pumped to work out. I think perhaps that it’s because, although I generally am in denial about it, I have a competitive streak, and even more to my chagrin, I only like to compete when I think I’ve got a chance of making some sort of showing. The fact that I’m only competing against myself makes it easier to win, at least as long as I stick with it.

I’m sure there will still be days when I’m dragging myself by the hair to go work out, but it’s rather a shock to me, who abhorred the thought of exercise, that I can, on occasion, actually work out with pleasure.


Is the will the strongest force in the universe? Perhaps, if it could be leashed.

But most of us have difficulty leashing our will enough to offer the last cookie to everyone before gulping it down. I’m apparently not the only one wondering about our collective will. Adam Bornstein, reflecting on the USA women’s soccer team’s performance against Brazil at the World Cup, mused about it in his blog post, “The 3 biggest fitness lies“:

I found myself wondering if an entire country could channel the same relentless will to succeed.

I’ve often thought that if I’d ever gone back to school and gone into psychology, I would want to explore will (aka volition, self-control, self-discipline, self-regulation) among outliers. You see, my late grandfather is an outlier. His parents were alcoholics, the family lived hand to mouth, moving place to place in Oklahoma within the Choctaw nation. Of his nine siblings, only he and the eldest of his sisters escaped the poverty and alcoholism of that crowd. My grandfather retired with a respectable income (from two retirements) and a nice little nest egg. He began smoking when he was nine. He gave it up cold turkey in his early 70s after watching his brother-in-law die of emphysema. That’s willpower.

I think of him and wonder what it was that made him and his sister different. What was it that made them two of the few to overcome their conditioning, their childhood disadvantages to escape the trajectory anyone would have predicted for them?

In today’s attempt to find answers about how to harness willpower, I turned to some academic journals. Most of the articles are written in the context of rehabilitation, whether from addiction, heart attacks or strokes, but they still have some applicability for those of us trying to change a lifetime of bad habits into a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise (whether CrossFit or something else) and weight loss.

Generally, we start with goal-setting: I want to lose 100 pounds, for example. That’s a big goal; I’m trying to slice it into easier chunks,  like diarying what I eat with MyPlate and trying to make eating healthy within limits as a daily practice rather than obsessing over the scale (which,  I confess, is a struggle). And I try to CrossFit as much as I can; as I said in my last post, this month has been challenging because some of my health issues are trying to resurface (but I did my WOD today, thank you very much; I feel shaky, nauseated and headachey, but at least I accomplished something).

But even goal-setting can be troublesome.  Dr. Richard J. Siegert,  Dr. Kathryn M. McPherson and Dr. William J. Taylor note in a paper published in Disability and Rehabilitation, a professional journal, that

The goal-setting process for many patients (and clinicians) is marked by frustration, difficulty and perceived failure.

Why? Because, they say, that the people setting the goals are largely the professionals, and the patients don’t really take an active role in deciding what their goals are.  If you do not set the goal yourself, you are not emotionally vested in it.

Shocked? No, not me. As long as it was other people telling me what I should do and how I should do it, or when I set goals that were really more about trying to please others, I never achieved them.  I had to set my own goals based on my own desires, and it wasn’t about “knowing” what I should do. Most of us “know” what to do to fix our weight and fitness problems: exercise more, eat less (and better).

It’s kind of like the neurologist who idiotically told me that I was “too intelligent to commit suicide” when he put me on a drug that made me think about it all the time. Or the numskull who sat in my car and said “Only stupid people must be drug addicts.” No, no, no! It’s not about intelligence; it’s about pain (at least in those two cases). Suicides and drug addicts are generally trying to escape their pain. And relatively recent studies have demonstrated that emotional pain is perceived by the brain in the same place as physical pain. In fact, emotional pain may even be worse.

Food often plays the same role in fatties’ lives; we eat our emotions away. In fact, that’s one of the reasons prospective lap band surgery patients are given psychiatric evaluations first; profound depression can kick in after the surgery because the patients no longer have food available as a way to comfort themselves.

So doctors Siegert, McPherson and Taylor suggest that not only should the goals be set by the patients, but that the emotional impact of goal-setting be included in deciding on goals. They look at it through the lenses of self-regulation, which seems to indicate that people have hierarchical goals that emanate from their sense of self. In other words, if you see yourself as a kind person, you will set specific goals that are consistent with kindness. And the bigger the gap between the goals and your sense of self, the more emotional interference you’ll have with reaching your goals.

So, if you see yourself as undisciplined (or, as I would say about myself, in a more positive light, spontaneous and easy-going), then goals that interfere with your sense of self can be tough. I do see myself as spontaneous (and wildly independent), so making myself settle into any routine has been tough. But I’m reframing the idea of routine as “inflexible” by allowing myself flexibility (to some extent) in timing and, more importantly, in seeing that healthy routines make it more possible for me to do things I’d like spontaneously. It’s been the unhealthy lifestyle that has chained me to limited activities, not a healthy routine.

So, for success, you have to fit your goals into your self-image. And then, you must make sure you don’t sabotage yourself with goals that are unattainable or delayed (back to the “slice it up” scenario). Quoth said docs:

[A] wide range of emotional reactions occurred after brain injury or stroke, with the four most common responses being frustration, sadness, fear and worry … For example, frustration arises when goals that were quickly and easily achieved previously, now require an immense effort and are achieved very slowly or not at all. Similarly, sadness arises when goals that were considered important for maintaining an ideal self-image now seem unattainable.

So, if you’re frustrated or sad in the pursuit of your goals, perhaps you need to evaluate whether they are realistic (for example, in the CrossFit world, have you scaled down the WODs sufficiently) or consistent with your view of yourself.

Another possibility is that you don’t believe in free will.  Kathleen D. Vohs and Roy F. Baumeister assert in an editorial called “Addiction and Free Will,” published in Addiction Research and Theory, that if you believe you have no control over your actions, you have difficulty changing them:

Belief in addiction is often tantamount to a disbelief in free will, at least within the circumscribed behavioral sphere involving the addiction. Our recent research has suggested that such a belief can cause problems.

The idea that people are not fully in control of their own behavior stretches back into antique notions of demonic possession, divine command, and other supernatural volition. In modern life, people often claim reduced responsibility for their own actions by citing social factors, societal oppression, emotional distress, external provocation, mental illness, drugs, and other factors.

In a curious parallel to ideas of demonic possession, modern science has promoted the view that people are not free to choose or control their actions …

Addiction is a particularly potent form of the belief that people cannot control and are not responsible for their actions.

[Researchers]  found that making people disbelieve in free will caused them to cheat more than others on a test, especially when they could make money by cheating. Further work has confirmed the antisocial effects of disbelieving in free will. These effects include increased aggression toward other innocent persons and reduced helpfulness toward needy strangers … Disbelief in free will seems to make people less likely to think for themselves, as reflected in greater conformity to other people’s judgments … and lesser willingness to articulate personal lessons from their own guilty misbehaviors.

Now, see, I used to think “free will” versus “predestination” was largely a theological discussion with little practical point; from our point of view, we make choices, so why does it matter if they’re predetermined or not? Apparently it does matter. If you don’t believe that you have control over what you’re doing, you won’t exercise your will to change when change is painful.

Of course, we aren’t in control of everything. I have a genetic defect that makes it harder for my body to make enough serotonin, setting me up for a cascade of problems that manifest physically and psychologically. Recognizing this reality, Vohs and Baumeister come up with a rather brilliant solution:

Our view is that the debate about free will in addiction, like the broader debate about free will in all human behavior, is unlikely to be won by either extreme view … Self-control is an important form of what people understand as free will, and the capacity for self-control is real but limited – thus neither complete nor completely lacking. The traditional notion of willpower may be useful here, especially if one understands willpower as a kind of psychological energy that fluctuates as people use it up and then re-charge it … Free will is a partial, sometime thing.

So, yes, Green Lantern, you’ve got a powerful force there. But it’s not as stable as your mythos would have it. You do have days when imposing your will is easier and other times when doing what you know is the right thing for your body is tough. But it is there. It is strong. And it can change your life.


So, it’s been a tough month so far. It actually started the last week of June. I alluded to the problems I’ve been having in “Why 20:42 is my best time ever, ” but now I’m going to come out and deal with it head on.

What prompted this? I was lying in my self-made sensory deprivation chamber (okay, it’s just me in bed with my CPAP mask; a stellar sleep mask my wonderful daughter-in-law, Laura, gave me; ear plugs; my head sandwiched between two huge pillows and the covers pulled up over the whole shebang), and I realized I was alternating clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth.

This was not good, because the reason I’m lying in there is that I have a migraine, and the tense muscles in my jaw and neck don’t help. I’ve taken all my rescue medicine, and the light hurts us, precious. And the sound. And pretty much everything. And the reason I have a migraine today is because I’ve been sleep-deprived because of problems with my CPAP (which were finally solved last night, but the cumulative effect caught up with me at the same time).

But I realized that I was allowing all the things that I’ve set as goals for myself become  masters rather than servants. The fact I’ve been blogging more irregularly bothers me; I’d set a goal to do it every day. I’m behind where I think I should be in the part time job I started three weeks ago, even though the hours are flexible and I telecommute. I’ve missed some work on a volunteer gig, and I feel like I’m letting them down. There were dishes piled in the sink and laundry I hadn’t dealt with.

And CrossFit? Well, I’ve been doing more like one day on and two days off lately, all because of the multiple health issues. And so I feel guilty and stressed about that. And, because I’m not feeling great, I’ve slacked off being as careful about logging what I eat and when I’ve exercised and all the other stuff I’m supposed to log.

So here I am, trying to do a little to get all those worries off my back. Took care of most of the dishes and laundry, checked email from work and vol stuff, and am blogging, well, now.

And my head is now worse, and I’m doubtful CrossFit will happen today.

What am I trying to say here? I’m trying to convince myself that I really can do the things I’m trying to do and that the fact that I’m struggling right now only means that: I’m struggling right now. That it isn’t some sort of premonition of failure.

So I just remembered something I’d read about a while back: The Imposter Syndrome. Caltech (yes, the home of  really smart people, including physicists and engineers like those on The Big Bang Theory) Counseling Center puts it like this:

Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.

It is basically feeling that you are not really a successful, competent, and smart student [of course, you can substitute "student" with whatever role you want~jgm], that you are only [pretending to be one.] … The impostor syndrome is associated with highly achieving, highly successful people.   This makes impostor feelings somewhat different from the concept of “low self-esteem” because there is a discrepancy between the actual achievement and the person’s feelings about the achievement that may not be present in low self-esteem. People in different professions such as teachers, people in the social sciences, people in academia, actresses and actors, may all have impostor feelings. It was originally associated with women but recent research indicated that men suffer in similar numbers.

One such highly successful person who appears to suffer from this syndrome is Jodie Foster. Since we share the same first name (even if she spells it wrong) and are close to contemporaries, she’s someone I’ve always compared myself to, so it was kind of a relief to see that she, too, is plagued with the need to do in order not to be caught out as an impostor, as reported by the blog “Women and Talent“:

Years ago, [Jodie Foster] was also experiencing these feelings, saying in a tv interview [CBS, 1995] that before her Oscar-winning performance in “The Accused” she felt “like an impostor, faking it, that someday they’d find out I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t. I still don’t.”

Wow. And here I am, feeling like a CrossFit imposter. But I am doing it, even if not as often as I’d like of late, and even if not today.

Mary Ellen Bates, blogging at “Librarian of Fortune,” has some good suggestions in her post on “Fighting the Imposter Syndrome“:

• Imagine talking with someone who has your qualifications, skills and abilities. Would you really call her incompetent?

• Learn to appreciate your own accomplishments and successes. The ability to reward yourself rather than waiting for external feedback is a critical skill for any info-entrepreneur.

• Let go of the need to know everything about everything. Our clients hire us because we know how to apply our skills to their need.

Go, girl.  I’d add “Let go of the need to be everything you can be right now. Take it one day at a time, and appreciate what you’re doing in the now. If it’s not your best, remember that one day is not your whole life.”

And now I’m going back to my sensory deprivation chamber. Maybe now I can relax and let go of the headache, too.