Posts Tagged ‘excuses for not exercising’


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.


It’s like this.

This is the Tune Belt I use. Love it, but read the post for the warning!

Quick version: I’m an idiot.1

Longer version: I was in Tampa visiting my mother and went to her condo’s well appointed workout room, including industrial strength treadmills. No one there but me. View out the window of the pool and a very pretty tree2. I’ve got my Tune Belt on my arm, my earbuds in and my exercise mix playing with the volume turned up to the point just before it inflicts pain.

Now my treadmill in my home is nice, but it wouldn’t stand up to constant running and has a very laid back traction surface, one that doesn’t seem to be all that interested in doing its job. It also is a little narrower than the bad boy I was using that oh-so-fateful day. So if I do stupid stuff on my home treadmill, I usually brush some portion of the side of my body against the arms and can correct.

This kind of rasp. One for horse hooves.

This monster treadmill I was using was great — like getting to drive an old car with far more cylinders than you’re used to. “This is bad ass,” I thought, perhaps not consciously, but I was pretty pleased with myself. I’d been consistent with my exercise routine during this entire visit. And now I’m working out in what would be my fantasy home gym, all by myself.

What I didn’t take note of was that the embrace of this bad boy was several inches wider than the one I had at home, and the tread on the sucker looked like a rasp. If treadmills had bouncers, this treadmill would have its arms crossed outside the trendiest treadmill bar in town.

And then the fateful moment occurred: “ABC” came up on my mix.3

Maybe it’s because the Jackson Five’s tune hit the top of the charts in 1970. I was nine. When we got back to the states4, one of the last cartoons I gave up was the Jackson 5ive5, and it was the theme song.  For those of you who didn’t know Michael Jackson was born a poor black child, here is a video from back in the day, purportedly from the Ed Sullivan Show:

Whatever the deal is, I cannot seem to keep from dancing (badly) whenever that song comes on. It goes from audio processing in the brain straight to the movement center without consulting the part of my brain that says, “Whoa, fella, slow down.” So I started dancing within the wide arms of the treadmill and caught some part of my foot on the non-moving portion of the dance floor, sending me to my knees.

Mostly my left knee. The bad one. It’s probably a good thing I had on my yoga pants; even so, I ended up scraped by the bite the treadmill’s surface gave me, holding me down a few seconds while I processed what had happened and how the hell to get my knee detached from rotating blades6.

It didn’t bother me all that much at first; I iced it and by the next day had a big C-shaped bruise circling my knee. Bruise? No big. But when I went to see Stephanie, queen of the physical therapists, she said it was a lot looser than it had been and that I may have sprained my ACL. It’s not gotten much better since I saw her a couple of weeks ago and I’m guessing she’s going to tell me to get it evaluated by the doc when I see her next week.

I’ve been through a scaled down grief cycle and am back at acceptance. Every setback makes you want to throw up your hands and say “Why bother?” But not doing it means there’s no chance; you can’t win if you don’t play. So after enough of a pity party, and a couple of workouts I cried through, I’m back on the upswing, even though icing my knee is the order of the day and I’m going to have to rebuild it.

Too bad you can’t order bionic parts off Amazon.

1. If you’re familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, think a zero for bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
2. Think it was an oak, but my knowledge of Gulf Coast Florida’s flora is limited.
3. Just finding it on YouTube has me dancing at the keyboard.
4. I’m a military brat. Our family lived in Japan at that time.
5. It was cancelled about the same time I gave up Saturday Morning Cartoons. Yes, boys and girls, there was a day when cartoons were restricted to just after school and Saturday mornings.
6. Shocked by the exaggeration? I’m from Texas;  hyperbole is practically mandatory.
 
 

 


Crystal Mayhue, a 35-year-old massage therapist and SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mom), balancing her part-time business with raising two young sons and  hanging out with her husband as well as CrossFitting, contacted me about her CrossFit experience. I loved what she had to say, and want to pass it along to you.  Crystal, you now have the floor (or screen…whatever):

From Crystal’s Pinterest board

I started CrossFit recently and I am so addicted. I refer to myself as “Chunky Girl Works Out.”

I started referring to myself as “chunky” after my first pregnancy. I’d developed a serious B12 deficiency which triggered a case of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) of epic proportions. The baby came and the RLS never went away. Baby number two was also a fan of B12. Lets just say RLS is here to stay.

As a result, I am constantly sleep-deprived which has resulted in weight gain. I would never have called myself an athelete, but I spent years weight training and doing cardio. As long as I kept an eye on what I ate and made sure I was physically active, my curvaceous body was kept in check. The minute the RLS hit and sleep was something I could not accomplish, the curves turned to “CHUNK”! I even have a Pinterest board (http://pinterest.com/massagemomma/chunky-girl-works-out) named for it.

I waited two years to get into CrossFit for many reasons. I found out about CrossFit by way of Facebook, of course. I had reconnected to an old high school friend and she was always talking about going to “CrossFit.” I asked her about it.

I have what I lovingly refer to as “Exercise A.D.D”. I get bored so easily. I find running boring so I started doing mud runs like the Warrior Dash and the Merrell Down & Dirty. I got bored weight training on my own so I started taking BodyPump.

So, when my friend tried her best to explain the beast that is CrossFit, I was very intrigued. I turned to Google to find out more. Thirty minutes into my research I knew that sooner or later I was going to start CrossFit! The idea that it was mix of cardio and weight training and could happen indoor or outdoor and then you throw in kettle bells and a garage type atmosphere … I was in Exercise A.D.D heaven!!

One of the reasons for delaying my first CrossFit experience was “Super Fit Girls + Super Ripped Guys= WTF stares at Chunky Girl Works Out.” I had the itch to try it so bad I even had thoughts of setting up a backyard CrossFit.

I turned to my dear friend Google and his girlfriend Pinterest to see what it would take to create a “box” in my own backyard. I found I could do it on the cheap. But, honestly, I still didn’t totally grasp the whole of what CrossFit was and felt like I needed more instruction. And, quite frankly, I run a house and family and I am constantly in charge and making decisions. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do and how to do it so I don’t have to think about it. I know, sounds lazy. But I’m a Mom, a wife, and I have a part-time Massage Therapy business. I don’t want to have to come up with my own workouts. I want someone to tell me what to do for once.

I have two boys. Very. Busy. Boys! My oldest will be seven in November and is in the first grade. My youngest is four and now attends all day PreK at the same elementary school as my oldest. I was overwhelmed at what the heck I was going to do all day. The idea that my baby was going to start school totally knocked me down. I knew that I was going to have to find something to do that would excite me or I was going down for the count.

We are a “traditional” family, I guess you could say. My husband works and I, for the most part, stay at home with my kiddos. The idea that I was no longer going to have my little buddy to take care of all day still brings me to tears. So, I set my sights on CrossFit. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see if it was as awesome as I had made it out in my mind to be.

So, I found a CrossFit box and signed up.

Finding a CrossFit box in my area wasn’t easy. When I first looked into CrossFit, there was nothing close to me. One day, I happened to be talking to a nurse in my doctors office  and she mentioned she did CrossFit. She raved about her box. She said the coaches were awesome and the members were like family and that she was in the best shape of her life. So, I went to the official CrossFit website and looked it up. Two CF boxes had opened in a somewhat close proximity to my home.  I only visited one of them. My nurse was so passionate in talking about her CF box, CrossFit of Locust Grove (Georgia), that I never doubted that it was the one for me. When I met the owner, Todd Springer, I was impressed with how he continually talked about CFLG being a family.

I started on a Monday morning. There were about twelve people in the class. There were men and women ranging in age from early twenties to late forties in a spectrum of fitness levels.

The first day I almost puked because I knew these people were going to die when they saw Chunky Butt walk in. But, you know. I have never met people more eager to help and guide and cheer a person on. I have belonged to many gyms…Gold’s, local athletic clubs, YMCA…. never have I ever had people so willing to help me catch on and want me to succeed.

The first person to speak to me, other than Todd the owner/coach, was a very fit, thirty-something woman. During each part of the WOD she made sure I knew where the equipment was, showed me what to do, and gave me encouragement. I was shocked. I tell you, I spent hours at my local Y before anyone ever even spoke a word to me. But, during a WOD that consisted of way too many push ups and box jumps, I had people that I had only laid eyes on that day telling me not to stop, to push through and that I could indeed finish the last round.

Since that first day I have attended morning, afternoon and evening classes. Each person I come in contact has been as helpful as the first. We have a Facebook group for members. People are always posting about getting together to go to events, or telling another member how great they did during the day’s WOD or just posting life stuff. They are family. We are family.

I have been apart of CrossFit of Locust Grove for two months. And, when my Dad was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, the outpouring of understanding and compassion from my CrossFit family rivaled that of my church family. Sometimes when you are mad at the world and feel like you have no control over anything—you just need to drag a tire across pavement, do a hundred burpees and seventy-five squat jumps and then hear someone tell you just how beastly you are because you finished.

CrossFitters, for the most part, really seem to have a passion for athleticism and really want for others to feel the same euphoria they do when finished with a WOD.  But, believe me, I know the fear of walking into a crowd of super fits….YIKES!!…..but I strongly urge everyone that is curious about CrossFit to visit their local box. The outpouring of support and  camaraderie that you get being apart of a CrossFit family far out weighs the nervousness you feel when walking into your first CrossFit class.

You can contact Crystal Mayhue by email at massage_momma (at) att (dot) net.


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.

 


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.


Even though the human brain averages a mere 445 square inches, the mind contained within it encompasses an immeasurable amount of space. You can time travel to the past or future, explore parallel realities (all the “what ifs” we regularly contemplate) and imagine the future. But this mind space is full of black holes.

When you’re full of energy and motion, hurtling through your days by physical and emotional momentum, you can avoid the pull of those black holes (for the most part). But when you hit the skids, whether emotionally or physically, you can find yourself pulled into the gravitational well of those lurking black holes.

Let me give you an example. I’m currently lowering dosages of various drugs that help prevent migraines (aka prophylactics) because of their side effects. As the most recent neurologist I’ve visited (still trying to find a successor to Dr. Nett, headache specialist and doctor par excellence) explained, there are the three basic groups of go-to drugs for migraine prevention.

  1. Calcium channel blockers, which are commonly prescribed as  for high blood pressure
  2. Antidepressants, also prescribed for depression (yes, I’m stating the obvious), perimenopausal symptoms, ADHD, OCD
  3. Anticonvulsants, primarily developed for epilepsy and other seizure disorders

All of these interact with the way your brain reads, transmits and builds neurotransmitters, the chemical components that are the equivalent to computer commands. So, as these drugs are going out of my body, I hit all kinds of funky withdrawal effects. (By the way, when it’s a prescription drug, docs tend not to like the term “withdrawal” because of its association with street drugs, but it pretty much amounts to the same thing. The pc term is “discontinuation effects.”) The discontinuation effects can be reoccurences of whatever the drug was supposed to prevent as well as any side effects potentials that were risks of taking the drug to begin with.

The best everyday analogy I can draw is the effect the hormones can have on you. Everyone knows about the nice hand that PMS can deal you.

So after being chronically ill, fairly isolated, and fighting the damn withdrawal symptoms, which have ranged from a day visiting the world of Alzheimer’s (really, I sounded like my grandfather did in the early stages of the disease, asking the same questions several times within an hour), I’ve been emotionally hydroplaning, which feels like this:

So I start drifting into some really old black holes that lurk in various corners of my mind space.

A basic one that keeps grabbing me is the “invisible woman” black hole. This one, like all black holes, is based on something I believe about myself, true or false. Ed Smith, E.Ed., has a ministry based on t he idea that most of our problems stem from lies we believe about ourselves. He says, essentially, that if you were Satan, why bother messing with someone’s head their whole life when you can just plant a few good lies in childhood, a gift that keeps on giving.

Whether you buy into the religious aspect of the theory is irrelevant to whether the underlying premise holds true. I think there’s merit to the principle. As a child, you believe the world revolves around you, and, thus, your actions affect all of your environment, a condition known as “magical thinking.” (Of course, some people never develop past this way of thinking.)

Some of these ideas become embedded into your thought-process to the point you are not aware of them. Cognitive therapy is based, at least in part, that if you identify and articulate these ideas, you can begin to recognize and change your patterns of thought. Meditation and prayer can also help you self-identify the lies you believe about yourself. Once identified, you can use reframing or self-talk to try to recondition yourself. Theophostic Ministries advocates going back to your first memory of believing the lie about yourself, and praying to recognize the truth of the matter (more accurately, asking Jesus to show you the true perspective).

However you get there, the truth is what will set you free. However, for it to do so, you need to begin integrating and internalizing the truth. Sometimes that is as simple as telling yourself the truth every time the lie begins to affect you.

So, for me, a precocious only child who didn’t understand the social rules of my peer group, I experienced a world in which other children didn’t get me, and therefore pretty much ignored me, and adults would be kind and tolerant, but (understandably) only interested in talking to a child for a short period.  In my childhood’s mostly adult-centered world, I felt seen and not heard (although my dad called me “Yak-Yak the Monkey,” so obviously I was making noise). Despite the fact that now I’m a very large woman, with, sadly, a very loud but not pretty voice (my entire family has mastered a “turn the volume down” gesture) which learned the trick of making statements sound authoritative, when I’m down, I feel invisible.

The consequence of sliding into the gravitational field of that particular black hole is that I begin to feel like nothing I do or say has any significance or meaning. As the gravitational pull becomes stronger, it sucks out motivation.

How do you escape that pull? Maybe you can do it yourself by identifying the kind of black hole you’re falling into. Often you need help, though. I’m a very fortunate woman. Regardless of the pain and weirdnesses of my discontinuation, I have caring family to pull me out of the gravitational field by telling me how I’m wrong (and giving me help when I can’t make myself ask for it), and helping me reframe the situation so that I can stay motivated.

Moral of the story: When you start feeling sucked into your own black hole, send out an SOS to those who love and support you. It’ll keep you on the path to overcoming whatever obstacles you need to overcome to reach your goals, be they fitness, diet, health, addictions, or fill-in-the-blank-here. And never rule out the possibility of seeking out a health care professional (including mental health care folks).


Reflecting on the pressures I feel while navigating through the challenges of escaping my poor health/fitness condition, I wondered if it was anything like what a 600 lb. octopus felt when squeezing through a hole the size of a quarter.

The ability of the octopus to compress like that could reasonably be considered a survival mechanism, although I can’t seem to locate any authority that states the reason for the behavior. Makes sense, though: Why else would you scoot through an unreasonably small opening, if not to get away to live another day? Or, to twist the question into the shape I’d like it to take, why else would you put yourself through all this pressure and/or pain except to stay healthy?

The other question I can’t find an answer for is whether this is painful for the octopus. Granted, it’s hard to ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10, but their physiology should suggest whether it would be possible for the compression to cause pain.

This all came to me when I was joking about meeting the four horsemen of the apocalyptic workout–the day that makes you want to end all exercise forever.

I’d had a workout that left me sobbing in pain and frustration: changing my dosage and timing on one of the medications to prevent migraines had made me light-headed and light-sensitive, so I was doing my workout in the shade in sunglasses…and with my eyes closed whenever possible. Every squeak of the equipment and sound of the timer going off put my teeth on edge. I had flash migraines, where it felt like someone had shot me in the left eye with an arrow, but only for a few seconds at a go. I was cranky, because the changes had disrupted my sleep schedule.

Unrelated to the medication change, I was cramping in my left quad and gastroc. My body seemed to be screaming at me to quit, assaulting me on all fronts. I felt rather like the one time I’d had sunstroke, just before I passed out. And then, the crowning blow was a simple hamstring stretch.  This is usually the “ahh” moment, as I’m almost done and everything left to do is on my back on a nice foam mat.

Pain exploded in my right quad, radiating to my hip. That’s when I started crying. As I said before, pain for a purpose, to achieve a goal, is one thing, but there’s no sense in suffering needlessly. And, as often occurs, I began doubting whether I would ever progress.

The same thing happened for the next three workouts. I felt like I was squeezing my fat ass through a teeny hope, pressured by pain and fear. My husband felt a big knot in my quad. I set up for an early appointment with Stephanie the phenomenal PT, but, in this case, early meant five days away rather than three weeks.

In the meantime, Gary was rolling the knot. Foam rolling is the best way to do this for yourself, but it’s really difficult for me to get the balance right for most of these, so we’ve taken to using a rolling pin over the area. As I’ve mentioned before, muscle knotting is common in people with fibromyalgia. Usually neither Gary nor I can find the knots, although massage and/or physical therapists seem to put their fingers on them immediately. This one was big enough for him to find.

So we looked up how to deal with knots in muscles. The instructions basically said (in all the sources we could find) to stretch the knot away from the contraction. Since we had no idea how to figure out which way it was contracted, Gary and I decided to go with rolling along the same direction as the muscle fibers. Turns out that was the right idea, and that, yes, until you’ve had a lot of hands-on training, figuring out which direction it should be stretched isn’t that easy for most people.

So he put some pressure on the rolling pin and ran it up and down the knot, the IT band and the hip. I concentrated on breathing like I was in a Lamaze class (although when applied to childbirth, I gave up and asked for the epidural) so the crying incident would not be repeated.

The rolling (and some anti-inflammatory OTC meds) helped, but I dreaded the hamstring stretch each and every day after the first time my quad screamed. On something like the fourth workout after this ghastly newcomer showed up, I had finished the hamstring stretch and was into the piriformis stretch (which you do by pulling your knee toward the opposite shoulder) and there was something like a pop where the knot had been, a burning sensation, and then an immediate reduction in the pain.

Ahh. Is that what the octopus feels once it’s out of the hole?


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.


So, in my continuing streak of poorly timed illnesses and injuries, I decided to throw in some oral surgery.

I cracked a molar badly enough (probably from my bad habit of grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw during intensive problem-solving … and sleep (extremist enough for you?)) to end up having to have it pulled about … oh, 2006 or 2007. I was told then that I should get an implant. I’ve obviously procrastinated, but I have had a few intervening problems.

Anyway, the time had arrived that I could postpone no more. This sumbitch is over $4K, and my husband’s dental insurance will end when he retires, and he’s seriously talking about doing it at the end of this year or beginning of next. And the entire process takes over three months if everything goes according to plan. So I’ve pushed it about as long as I should.

Last Tuesday I went and had the half-hour procedure, which consists mostly of the surgeon taking a plug out of your gum and sticking a titanium stick in there that they can attach a crown to after the thing heals sufficiently. Let me tell you kids this: I now see why Halcyon is a frequently abused prescription drug. Wow. I got a short vacation from myself, and could truly relate to the “All is Groovy” lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel. (Yeah, I never tried anything illegal, not even pot, although friends assure me I’d really like it.)

Anyway, I was pretty zoned out that day. And the next, which surprised me, because usually Tylenol 3 does nothing more for me than regular Tylenol. Of course, the last time I took it, I wasn’t taking enough muscle relaxant to down a baby rhino. So I was buzzed enough that when my son asked me if I were going to work out, my reply was “I can’t lift heavy machinery.” His reply: “Well, then, you’re fine, ’cause we won’t be doing that.”

So that knocks out Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I was able to function without the Tylenol 3, and spent most of the day putting out fires from work. By early afternoon, I was completely exhausted. So I took off a third day, but told my husband after we’d watched the latest Netflix delivery of “Foyle’s War” that I would start up CrossFit the next day.

Friday am, more work. I really regret not working out this morning, because it was friggin’ hot out there tonight. Yes, I live in one of the multiple locations with record-breaking heat. The electrical folks have been telling us they’re going to start rolling blackouts because the electrical usage is high, even for us A/C lovin’ South Texans.

I walk out and see “15 minute AMRAP.” Oh, I think to myself, just 15 minutes. Apparently I have short-term memory loss, as the last AMRAP about killed me. But, no, I’m focusing on the 15 minutes, forgetting that first I’ll have to warm up, and then the damn AMRAP will eat my lunch. When my husband said “10 minutes,” I thought he meant 10 to go, not 10 finished, and I thought I’d probably pass out from heat exhaustion before it was over.

I learned two things tonight:

  1. Wall ball sucks when there’s steaming animal poo somewhere in the yard around you and you can’t find it. You just have to breath it in whilst tossing a medicine ball at the house’s siding and catching it. And check your shoes every time you walk back in the garage, ’cause you’re certain it’s following you.
  2. Pouring water on your head when you are overheating and not sweating enough to cool down is a good idea. Pouring it onto your bangs before the aforementioned wall ball makes it slide into your eyes with the salt that’s on your forehead (even if you had no discernible sweat).

I also observed that working out at high temperatures when tired makes you not want to talk to anyone. I think I mostly grunted or simply yelled “Round.”

Let’s see if this teaches me to fear the AMRAP. Maybe not avoid it, but certainly to not think “Oh, it’s only X minutes.”