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Friday, July 08, 2011

Not the most interesting blog post, but I am ants-in-my-pants excited today! I biked to and from the boxing gym (about 10 miles total), and my knee feels fine! After almost a year of not being able to bike, I'm back, baby!

I've never gotten a definitive diagnosis of what is wrong with my right knee, but it appears that an old running injury is to blame. I tripped and fell straight on my kneecaps while I was running about 3 years ago, and my right knee has been problematic ever since. The best guess is that I have a torn meniscus, but there has never been any imaging performed (like an MRI) to confirm this. Over the past 6 months, my knee got even worse, puffing up like a balloon and becoming almost completely locked. I also think I had developed a Baker's cyst (a cyst in the joint space in the back of the knee), making it even more difficult to bend it. I've done what I could--naproxen, icing, elevating, bracing...but it has been a long road. I have been getting regular ultrasound therapy on my knee over the past 6 weeks and that has made a world of difference in helping it heal. Yes, it is a little stiff and sore, but I have arthritis, so I'm used to that. I feel like I am at a point where it will be safe to start cycling again and isn't going to exacerbate the injury.

Cycling will also help build up some strength in my long-neglected quads, since I can't really do lower-body weight work right now (I think that's still a ways off). I am very happy to be able to bike again, as it is my 100% most favorite exercise EVER. Giving up running had been hard, too, but I realized the ache to go cycling revealed my favorite sport. I'm back in the saddle!

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GEMINIAN1 7/10/2011 9:09AM

    emoticon ants in your pants. Better get 'em out of there.
No but, seriously this is great news; great news.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
Here's to building quads ... emoticon

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MSDHARMA 7/8/2011 11:42PM

    Awesome!! I'm glad your knee is feeling better!

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FREECANDY 7/8/2011 8:21PM

    Great news! emoticon

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MNCYCLIST 7/8/2011 5:53PM

    That's great, glad to hear the good news!

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HIKINGSD 7/8/2011 5:08PM

    Good for you!

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GABENSEBSMOM 7/8/2011 4:10PM

    Woo hoo! That is fabulous news! emoticon

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MARVEEME 7/8/2011 4:04PM

    This is awesomely exciting for you, and most inspirational to everyone who reads it. Blessings, and smooth sailing from here, cowgirl!



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    Yay! Exciting news!

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SYZYGY922 7/8/2011 2:44PM

    Yay! That's so exciting! One of my dreams is to bike to the gym, but that would involve riding up a VERY steep hill that I can barely walk up with my knee. I do ride around my neighborhood, but it's hard. I'll probably ride a few miles on the bike trail this weekend though. Congrats!

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ARCHIMEDESII 7/8/2011 2:41PM

    emoticon emoticon

Believe me, I feel your knee pain !!! that why I'm thrilled for your successful ride today !


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Sorry, heavy bag, it's nothing personal.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I don't mean to take it out on you, but you make such a good punching bag. I know you had nothing to do with me getting in trouble with my mortgage company and having my loan go into default. I know you had nothing to do with the fact that I've been working nearly every single day for months trying to get caught up on my house payment. I mean, I know YOU weren't the one calling from my mortgage company today saying, “By the way, you still owe more than $1,000 in late fees you didn't know about before your loan will be out of default. Oops, did we forget to mention that? Our bad!” I know it isn't your fault that I can't get caught up on my bills despite working nearly every day. I don't mean to punch so hard when I think about almost never having a day off so I can get stuff done around the house, but it just comes out. That cross punch that made you go flying? I'm just working through how I'm going to pay off these student loans. That hook that left a dent in you? That's just some brainstorming about how I can get more done every day and keep up this house that I might be losing. It's not your fault, but I just can't help but punch as hard as I can. Hey, look at it this way, at least my knee is injured so I can't kick you right now. Aren't you grateful for that?

Yep, I gotta get to my boxing gym tomorrow morning to have a "little chat" with the heavy bag.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LINDAKAY228 7/7/2011 6:24PM

    I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I've been there before and did lose my home, but hopefully you won't have to. I struggle with money all the time. I'm 56, single, and have a fairly good job for our area but my 27 year old daughter has not been able to work or get disability for over a year and her and my 3 grandchildren have been living with me and I've been supporting all of them. I love my daughter but struggling all the time to make sure they have school supplies, clothes, birthday presents, Christmas, and most imporantly food on the table is really hard. At least they have Medicaid so there are no medical bills for any of them. But I truly feel for you and hope it all works out. We get through it one day at a time. Hang in there.

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CELEST 7/7/2011 4:51PM

    I have family going through exactly what you are. Pretty soon my house will be accommodating one more family...that will total 4 families in one house. That's the way things are these days. Money just doesn't go far enough anymore. You only need one really bad thing come along to drain your finances and that's may never recover.
Hopefully my last family in, will recover after being bond/rent free for 6 months. I hope you finally chip away at what you owe too.

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UTMIZ_2000 7/7/2011 12:44PM

    Sorry to hear about the stress. I filed bankruptcy over 10 years ago. I stressed over doing it but finally took the urging of my friends at church to do it.

Keep punching!

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GEMINIAN1 7/7/2011 10:23AM

    Jeeeezoman Erin; my heart goes out to you.
Hang in there.

I wish you could come by and we could heavy bag together.
I'm really, really, really glad that you have an outlet for stress; seriously.
My belief is that, that is doin' you *so* much good.

I hope that everything falls together for you; I really do.
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BRDGT262 7/6/2011 10:43PM

    OMG!!! Sorry to hear you are going through such a hard time! We went through that 2 years ago and finally had to file bankruptcy! On a good note we got to keep our house, and all debt is paid off. We are still struggling on groceries sometimes, but atleast the rest isn't stressing us out anymore! I hope that you can find something that will work for you! I am so proud of you though for finding a way to relieve your stress with the punching bag!!! You are such a strong person to be doing this journey and going through that struggle at the same time!!!! I will be praying for you!

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ANDREA409 7/6/2011 10:11PM

    Oh, I feel your pain. The mounting wonder when it's ever gonna ease up, when is something gonna give. Sometimes it takes awhile. It took me years to get to a stable financial place. And where I am now, I wouldn't call truly stable, but it's much, much better than it was. It will happen. Sounds cliche, but it's true. In the meantime, use this anger to fuel your workouts.
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EMRANA 7/6/2011 9:40PM


I'm sorry you're going through so much stress. My husband hasn't had a steady full time job in almost three years, and that's put us through a lot too. We have no debt but we live beyond simply so we can get by. I hear you, my friend.


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BIGGIRL2082010 7/6/2011 9:23PM

    Keep at it. I know it seems DARK right now, but really, there is light at the end of *every* tunnel. It's just not visible from where you are right now.

Have you read any of Dave Ramsey's books? I don't appreciate his lectures about deities, but he's spot on in terms of how to attack financial woes. One bite at a time, just like every other frog we've ever had to eat. :)

Hang in there. And keep punching that bag! :)


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OWENSAUNT1 7/6/2011 8:40PM

    Girl! I'm right there with you. Keep using your skills to work your financial stress to your advantage by helping you lose weight! I admire your courage to put it all out there. Somehow I have faith that we'll all muddle through and come out the other side of this beautiful, fit, and financially stable, right? Keep swinging girl, just keep swinging!

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How Much Does My Happiness Weigh?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”
-Hafiz of Persia

I returned to the University of Minnesota in 2008 and was so excited to go back to college to finish my Bachelor's degree. Never mind that I would be juggling a full-time job with my full-time class schedule, I was stoked. Then, I actually got started, and it was fun at first. After all, I was finishing a college degree, so shouldn't I have been ecstatic at all times? In reality, going to school brought on a mixed bag of emotions. Some days I was exalted to get 100% on a hard test, practically skipping across campus. Sometimes I downright hated school, waking up near tears, wondering how I would get through the day. Some days, I would be in an excellent mood for no reason. The ups and downs were intertwined into my real life; school could not be a separate entity. It was hard as hell, but I finished. Almost as fast as it had started, I was holding a Bachelor's degree in my hand, wondering, "What just happened?"

I had never mustered more hell-bent determination than I had when I finished my Bachelor's degree. I was very happy to be finishing, but I was not always enthusiastic about it. Ultimately, I learned that I am very capable of achieving my goals. Nothing I have ever worked hard to get makes me ecstatic all of the time, yet I have always expected that weight loss would make me happy. For the longest time, I thought that my happiness was based on my body size. I fathomed my problems would melt away as the excess fat shrunk. I imagined that as I lost weight, my happiness would be raised by an amount equal to the pounds lost. In real life, weight loss brings on a mixed bag of emotions. I have experienced some of my greatest happiness while heavier, and felt super-fat at major weight loss milestones. Then, I would beat myself up for being unhappy when I should have been happy. I set myself up for failure with my expectations of how weight loss should make me feel.

I've been soul-searching as of late, and I've been wondering why it is I know for sure that “this time” will be different, and what has caused me to feel happy despite the ups and downs of the journey. I came to the realization, in the midst of a 3-month long plateau, that I know I will lose the weight for good. I don't guess, hypothesize, postulate, think, conjecture, suspect, or hope this weight loss attempt will be different--I know it. It is set in stone. Of course, that feeling made the doubts bubble up to the surface, so I have been trying to pinpoint how it is that I know that, and I finally figured it out: I'm not enthusiastic about weight loss. I've traded constantly seeking the thrill of shrinking numbers to trying to simply get to know myself better along the way. So far, I'm happy with the woman I am getting to know.

Don't get me wrong, I celebrate losses and will party when I hit milestones, but not having a constant stream of “RAH RAH RAH!” going through my head has been freeing. I don't feel let down if I have an off day of eating, or skip a workout, or don't lose for a week (or 3 months). What if I had dropped out of school for getting a single bad grade on an assignment? That would have been pretty extreme. If I got 82% on a test, I was happy. I may work harder next time to do better, but I still learned something. Yet, I always expected no less than 100% from my weight loss effort. I made every effort to “keep up my enthusiasm,” which I equated to being happy and motivated.

I used to believe that enthusiasm and happiness were the same thing, but have since learned that they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I've gone from being a 6-month-old Pit Bull puppy (I can't think of a more chipper being) to being an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever; I'm content, but I'm not running in circles to exhaustion. Constant enthusiasm that didn't live up to its expectations lead to disappointment, and that disappointment lead to falling down. Sometimes, then, I didn't get up, at least not for a long time. Constant enthusiasm is unsustainable; happiness is attainable. Enthusiasm is like a drop of water hitting a hot's exciting when it fizzles (okay, perhaps I'm easily entertained), but quickly dissipates. Happiness is like the warmth of the pan--ultimately, that's what fries the tofu. Happiness is accepting my successes as well as my failures, and learning an equal amount from both.

Being enthusiastic about weight loss made me focus all of my energy on the task of losing weight. This time, I am not letting weight loss consume my days. Eating well and fitness are a part of my daily routine (most days), but I realized that I've been short-changing myself by not pursuing other dreams, like playing music and writing. Happiness has nestled itself into my soul, reminding me that I'm fine the way I am, and that I have a right to become whoever I want, right here, right now. The happiness is energizing, not exhausting, and feeds my motivation instead of sapping it.

But I have also decided to accept that on some days, I just may not give a damn. Some days, I may not give a damn to the point where I decide very consciously to skip my workout to watch People's Court instead (stop laughing, you know you love that show, too). I may decide to only track some of my food, or maybe none. I may decide to overeat, and still track every bite. The thing is, whatever happens, I'm not unhappy about it. Yeah, I might have the slight twang of, "Ooooh, Erin, you should have done X instead," but I shrug it off. Yeah, I probably shouldn't have eaten all of the Skinny Cow Chocolate Cones, but whaddya gonna do about it now? Real life involves off-days. They are normal; unpleasant sometimes, but not abnormal. I have learned that off-days are just that: just a day. I have the rest of my life afterward.

"I often lose motivation, but it's something I accept as normal."
- Bill Rodgers

I used to feel like I was "slipping" if I lost my enthusiasm, and then would start panicking about not being enthusiastic, and then--KABLOOEY!--I would give up (yes, KABLOOEY--that is the sound of my motivation falling face-first into a large pizza). The weight would start coming back, and it would be months or years before I would "start over" again. I would muster some more enthusiasm, get started, then crash and burn. Losing my enthusiasm meant that I'd lost my motivation, which was proof that I hadn't actually changed at all. So in the past, when I'd been looking for a way out, an excuse to eat whatever I want and do whatever I want, I could blame the fact that I had lost my “enthusiasm.” I have since realized that enthusiasm and motivation are not the same thing. Enthusiasm may give a temporary boost to get me through the day. Motivation allows me to own my choices, and if I make a poor one, to refocus on my goals. Motivation is the voice in my head saying, “Eh, you could have made a better choice, but you'll get back at it. RIGHT?”

So where's that magical feeling? At what weight is it going to unveil itself? I have learned that happiness is weightless, and that I just needed to reach up and grab it. I've decided to approach weight loss not from a place of frustration, dissatisfaction, and sadness, but from a place of self-respect and happiness. Yes, I need to lose weight. I want to be ripped. But I don't have to wait for my happiness. I own it now, on the good days and the bad days.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.”
-Bern Williams

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GEMINIAN1 7/7/2011 10:08AM

    emoticonon your degree ... emoticon
I totally agree with you in regards to problems not going anywhere just because the fat does.
Something I've found, when I am a thinner person, that I could easily misconstrue as "happiness" is that I, personally, have more energy. I don't think that's necessarily true for all.
At the same time, I agree with your next sentence; I, too, have experienced some of my happiest moments at my heaviest.
Great analogy with the whole, 'dropping out of school for one bad assignment'; that is so much *not* the way it "works".
I'm with you, constant enthusiasm is an unobtainable goal.
Just stay optimistic.
Again, love the quotes; love the blog.
You're the best; thanks for sharing and reminding us that happiness is looking for us ... :-)
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Edited to add: love the ending about self-respect and happiness.
That is fantastic.

Comment edited on: 7/7/2011 10:11:09 AM

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SMILINGTREE 7/7/2011 1:23AM

    I used to feel this way about a job. I thought if I could just find the right position, with a high enough salary to pay our bills and maybe take a vacation now and then, I would be happy. I imagined myself doing all sorts of work, went on hundreds of interviews and held more jobs than recruiters and hiring managers like to see on resumes.

Now, I work from home, for myself. Taking that terrifying leap did not make me magically happy and I still struggle sometimes with depression, or maybe simply unhappiness, but it did help. In a similar way, becoming fit helps me be happier because I'm taking care of me and getting stronger, but you are right - it is not the key.

It takes mental strength to strive for happiness and to recognize the goodness in yourself, even on those off days when you don't feel it. We talk a lot about our journeys here, but this post addresses my real journey. It isn't so much about a smaller body as it is about a more peaceful mind, which will hopefully be reflected in a healthier body.

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CHEEKY1000 7/6/2011 11:06PM

    I am so in awe of you, truly. You've attained the peace with yourself that I hope to get. Everything you used to feel is where I am right now. Thank you for so eloquently sharing. I look forward to feeling the peace. I always joke about living in my "bubble," but I realize that in reality, I've used my weight to isolate myself--and it's not a joking matter.

This is one of the most powerful blogs I've read on SP. Again, thank you.

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OWENSAUNT1 7/6/2011 8:45PM

    Holy cow! This is the best blog I've ever read on SP or elsewhere! Every word resonates with me! Thank you for putting it down in words.

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LINDAJ0621 7/6/2011 7:50PM

    Great blog!!! Thank you for taking the time to write such a well thought out blog. You have a gift.
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CAALAN23 7/6/2011 4:57PM

    THIS is one of the best blogs I've seen around Spark in a long while. I think you've hit the nail on the head, especially regarding that enthusiastic pit bull. ;)

I'm glad you are focusing on all aspects of your life, especially the writing as it seems we will benefit here at Spark.

Keep it up!

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ALISHAB3 7/6/2011 4:42PM

    Fraggle Rock: You had the magic all along.

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AK_MILLER 7/6/2011 11:40AM

    It's as if you read my thoughts for the last month, and put them to a blog - but far better than I could have organized. This is exactly what I have been wanting to say! I've been on a really great ride for the past few months and decided to relax a bit over the July 4th weekend - it's now Wednesday and I'm still feeling drained, tired (I'm getting old apparently) and sluggish but it's OK!! I don't always have to feel like a superstar to be successful. We had a great weekend, a well deserved break from the exercise and training I've been doing. But the old me would give up by now - instead, I'll ease back in to things and pick up where I left off. Why the change? Because we respect ourselves enough to care, both to relax a little when we feel like it, and get back in the swing of things when the time comes. Great job and a WONDERFUL blog!

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UTMIZ_2000 7/5/2011 4:06PM

    Poignant and humorous. Happiness comes from within, external things are not going to make you happy. I've just made friends with the fact I am overweight and OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE IT. All the baggy tops I've been wearing to disguise it were only fooling me.

I am not happy that I am overweight. But losing the weight will not make my life perfect. It will make me happier that I am healthy and I may feel sexier, but it isn't going to rid my life of all problems, disappointments, and jerks. Those are all different areas I can work on when or while I lose the weight.

Loved your message.

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MARVEEME 7/5/2011 3:28PM

    Without GRATITUDE, happiness will never be found, or stick around for long.

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FREECANDY 7/5/2011 1:46PM

    Excellent blog. I am the same way...I just know it's different this time. I can't pinpoint why, I just do. And yes, it is freeing and far less exhausting.

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ARCHIMEDESII 7/5/2011 1:21PM

    "Nothing I have ever worked hard to get makes me ecstatic all of the time, yet I have always expected that weight loss would make me happy."

Many people mistakenly believe that losing weight will make them happy and life will be beautiful as a result. Losing weight can change a whole lot of things in our life, but it won't necessarily make us happy. How many people did lose the weight only to discover that life didn't fall into our laps ? That was a rude realization.

The happiness buck stops here. If a person isn't happy or at least content now, there is no guarantee they'll be happy if and when they've lost the weight. A person can't tie their happiness to their weight. Because there is more to life (and health) than a number that stares at us from between our toes in the morning.

A long time ago, I read an article about a very successful woman lawyer who wrote a book about her weight loss. Her book was all about how she lost a lot of weight. Well, the thing that struck me was that she said the most important thing she'd done in her life was lose the weight. And that kind of threw me. Here's a woman who was at the top of her law class. She was editor of a famous legal review and a very successful lawyer. All these accomplishments and to her, losing weight was the most important.

That just strikes me as an odd placement of priorities. Yes, losing weight is an absolutely great accomplishment, BUT even more important, getting an education, having a successful career, having a successful marriage and family... Goodness, I hope that when I pass, I'll be remember more for what I did in life than just the weight I lost.

Your blog is spot on. Weight loss is merely one of many components that makes us a complete person.

As for enthusiasm, that's why I'm here. Whenever I teach an aerobics class, I'm the one who motivates the class. So, if you ever need a cheerleader, here I am !!!


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MSDHARMA 7/5/2011 1:16PM

    This entry was so well written and thought provoking. I definitely agree with you and love your metaphor of a Pit Bull versus a Labrador.

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Shock It To Rock It: Cathe Friedrich's Shock Training System

Monday, July 04, 2011

I am a workout video addict, and I have over 100 videos. My favorite and my go-to instructor, though, is Cathe Friedrich. She is experienced, motivating, and most importantly, not overly-chipper. Her no-nonsense approach to fitness has kept me going when I haven't felt like doing anything. I have all of her DVDs and use them frequently. Cathe does both aerobic workouts and strength training, and I have mainly used her strength training workouts.

A couple of years ago, Cathe came out with a revolutionary strength training series called Shock Training System (STS). I will be starting STS today. It consists of over 40 DVDs, and each workout has its own DVD. The program utilizes the concept of periodization, which essentially means that the program progresses with each workout. Because each workout is a little different from the previous one, the muscles are "shocked" into changing. Programs like P90X utilize this concept, too, but are set up a bit differently.

STS is also divided into 3 month-long mesocycles. A mesocycle is simply a specific phase in a periodized program that has a particular goal. Mesocycle 1 aims to build muscle endurance, Mesocycle 2 aims to increase muscle mass and definition, and Mesocycle 3 increases strength and power. Another example of a program that utilizes mesocycles would be Chalean Extreme.

STS can either be followed as a 3-month or 6-month rotation. Cathe has rotations set up on her website that can be plugged into her Workout Manager application (actually, the Workout Manager is great even if you aren't using Cathe's workouts; it's free!).

Another component of STS that may seem intimidating is that it is recommended to find out a 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for many of the exercises. A 1RM is simply the heaviest weight that can be lifted to perform 1 repetition of an exercise. This is used to figure out how much weight should be lifted for the exercises. I am not doing 1RM testing; I have a pretty good idea of how much I need to be lifting (plus, I'm lazy like that). The 1RM testing is not too bad to do, but it takes some planning prior to starting the program. The 1RM testing is technically optional, but I would say if someone is newer to strength training, it would be ideal to perform the 1RM testing. The 1RM values can be entered into the Workout Manager and the amount of weight that should be lifted will be calculated.

So here I go to embark on STS again! I did it when it came out and enjoyed it, but haven't used the workouts much since. I will only be doing the upper body workouts, as my injured right knee is not ready for challenging strength training. I love lifting, so this should be fun!

As with any exercise program, there are pros and cons to STS:


*Unique and challenging program from very reputable instructor
*Can be customized to suit an individual's specific training goals
*Very specific as to how much weight should be lifted to achieve desired results
*Lots of uses for the DVDs; can be used as stand-alone workouts even when not following the program in its entirety
*It's Cathe!


*Cost: at more than $250, most people balk at the cost. I still think it's a great value, but it's best to make sure the series actually gets used
*Need a lot of equipment at home: a full set of weights, a weight bench, a stability ball, and resistance band are required. A pull-up tower is recommended, but a band or a doorway pull-up bar could be used. There has been some talk of an iPod series being released, which would be nice because then the workouts could be done at the gym; not sure if that is going to happen.
*Not especially suitable for beginners: I think STS could be adapted to all levels if someone is already familiar with strength training, but an absolute beginner would not want to start out with STS.

Despite the cons, I would highly recommend STS for intermediate to advanced exercisers who are looking to take it to the next level, especially if someone already has a lot of equipment at home. There is also an STS Cardio Series to go along with the strength training, if desired, and is sold separately. If nothing else, it is worth checking out Cathe's other workouts!

Information about STS can be found at:

The Workout Manager App can be found here:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ALISHAB3 7/6/2011 4:34PM

    She smiles so sweetly but we all know that inside its: emoticon

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GEMINIAN1 7/5/2011 8:38AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
Over 100!!!! Wow; that's awesome.
... 'most importantly, not overly-chipper' emoticon
(I hear you.)
Her diet *has to* kick ace. Can you say protein? lol
I don't know if I'm more jealous of her physique or what she's got to be eating.

I hope you rocked your first day.
This looks like a killer workout.
(I'd like it, I'm sure.)
Keep us posted.
You're emoticon

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FREECANDY 7/4/2011 9:22PM

    This is really interesting, though a bit out of my price range.

You also left one thing out when you described Cathe: ripped. Wow.

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BERRY4 7/4/2011 4:20PM

    I always find a good detailed description of something helpful in deciding if this will work for me & my goals, direction, needs, etc.

Thanks for taking the time to spell out what is involved. -- Due to the cost, it probably isn't a good fit for me right now. Mostly because I do NOT have room to work out at home. I pretty much do most of my ST at the gym due to space, equipment, and ease of use.

Good luck in your program! Way to keep with the variety and goal-setting! emoticon

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Intentional Passion, Unintentional Inspiration

Sunday, July 03, 2011

My brother John and I after Twin Cities Marathon, 2008. He did the marathon, I did the 10-Miler. It was his first marathon.

My brother would kill me if he knew I was writing this. John doesn't like being an inspiration, so no one can ever tell him to his face. Well, I can't tell him to his face, but I can tell you about how my brother inspires me.

My brother has an unusual disorder in which he has dozens of benign bone tumors on numerous bones throughout his body. The mouthful of a diagnosis is multiple benign osteochondromas. He has had the same team of orthopedists working with him since he was 2 years old, when the tumors were first noticed. His doctors were not sure the course these tumors would take, as they had never seen anything quite like it. It is still not known exactly why he developed the tumors. His doctors concluded that the tumors were benign and decided to watch them closely for evidence of changes.

There are 3 major concerns with the tumors: nerve damage, internal organ damage, and the possibility for cancer. It took years to find out that he actually was experiencing fairly severe pain from the tumors pressing on nerves, as he was so used to it that he stoically accepted the pain as a normal part of his life. He had a baseball-size tumor removed from his right scapula when he was 10 years old, because it was expanding into his thoracic cavity and may have eventually grown into his lungs. That tumor was not cancerous, but it had grown at a very rapid rate. He is now missing most of his right shoulder blade and has limited range of motion in the right arm, but he had no damage to his lungs.

After having seen the rapid growth of the tumor on John's scapula, his doctors became even more vigilant about watching for changes. The tumors did not stop John from becoming athletic, though. I started doing triathlons several years ago, and one day he said, "Oh yeah, you're doing a triathlon? Well, I'm going to do a MARATHON." I had never seen him be especially competitive against me, so I smiled a little and said I thought that was a great idea. We sometimes ran together, but his idea of "slow" made me feel like I was going to fall over. He is a fairly fast runner. A 21 minute 5K is "okay," and he has been averaging 3 hours and 45 minutes at his marathons, shaving some time off which each race. He has done several marathons now and has a goal to run Twin Cities Marathon every year.

Suffice to say, running saved my brother's life. He was training for Twin Cities Marathon 3 years ago, and he was having a sharp pain in his left side during his long runs. He finally went in to be evaluated, and they found a tumor on one of his lower ribs on the left side. The tumor on his rib looked suspicious, so he had extensive testing to determine if it could be cancer. His doctor thought the tumor might be a chondrosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer as it is, let alone in a 27-year-old.

After several imaging tests, his doctors were almost positive that the tumor was a chondrosarcoma. The additional concern was that the tumor was starting to wrap around his left kidney, which was the cause of the discomfort when he was running. His orthopedist wanted to remove the tumor as soon as possible, within about a month. John asked about waiting until after Twin Cities Marathon, which was more than 6 months away. His doctor explained that although this was ultimately his decision, there was a much greater risk of losing his left kidney and for metastasis if he waited. John decided to do the surgery sooner rather than later.

He had his surgery in April, 2009, and was determined to run his second Twin Cities Marathon in October. The entire rib was amputated, and the pathology report showed that it was a chondrosarcoma. Fortunately, surgical removal was the only treatment needed. He returned to exercise as soon as he was able, and started training. Friends and family expressed concern for him pushing through pain to train. He said point blank, “I'm not going to stop running. If I can't run, then I may as well not even be here.” Being told "You can't/shouldn't do that" just made him train harder. His doctor told him not to beat himself up if he didn't run as fast as he has in previous marathons. He shaved 18 minutes off of his previous time, achieving a PR for himself.

I just wish that his battle was over and that he could run care-free for the rest of his life; unfortunately, it seems the tumors continue to progress. My brother has a prominent tumor on his right leg, directly below his knee, that has been of particular concern because it is compressing on nerves, causing pain and numbness. Over the past year or so, his leg occasionally becomes temporarily paralyzed when he's running. Now his doctors are concerned that the tumor may be a chondrosarcoma. The problem with the location of the tumor is that it cannot simply be removed if it is cancerous. His lower leg would have to be amputated.

One would think that this would be enough to stop running, but no, he signed up for his fourth Twin Cities Marathon instead. Although I knew he wouldn't have it, I couldn't *not* say anything:

“But you might have a spontaneous fracture.”

“Then I'll run until the f*****g thing falls off.”

The look on his face told me that he was serious about that. Running is his life; I wish he could run away from this affliction altogether. It has been frustrating to watch him struggle with the pain and the questions of what will happen. In the meantime, he will continue to fuel his passion and I know that nothing anyone says will stop him. He will run until he is physically incapable of doing so. I still hope he decides not to do Twin Cities Marathon this year, but if he does decide to do it, I will be there to cheer him on.

Sometimes I feel like an jerk if I bemoan doing a workout when I'm not in the mood, knowing that my brother, who should be backing down, refuses to do so. My worry for his well-being is mixed with sheer awe of his determination. He is not in denial; I know he is well aware of what the potential consequences of continuing to run--let alone training for a marathon--may be. He may face an emergency amputation if he has a spontaneous fracture from the bone in his leg being too weak. It appears likely that the leg will eventually have to be amputated either way, whether because of the structural damage or because of becoming cancerous. Knowing my brother, though, a little leg amputation would not stop him from running in the future.

My brother has taught me that if you want something, then just go get it. I can either focus on my problems, or I can choose to focus on my passions. A couple of years ago when my brother and I were getting ready to go for a run, I was whining about whatever was bugging me that day as we were tying our shoes and getting ready. He rolled his eyes and with a firm pull on his laces, he shrugged and said, “Who gives a s**t about all of that? Let's just run.”

And there it is. You want something? Forget about everything else and go get it.

"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero."
-Marc Brown

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 10/3/2011 9:45AM

    Blows me away. emoticonfor that amazing brother of yours.

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CRABADA 10/2/2011 4:56PM

    That's so awesome. And I love his response to your whatever-whining - "Who cares? Let's run!"

:) Courtney

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CANNIE50 7/13/2011 2:09PM

    You (and your super-heroic brother) made me cry. THANK YOU for sharing this (and I really do hope you share it with him). "Focus on your problems or focus on your passions." Wow. emoticon

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CARTONIFIED 7/11/2011 9:47AM

    Wow, I'm going to bookmark this blog and read it whenever I feel like wimping out on some exercise.

Your brother is truly awesome, to keep going through all of that. Such an inspiration, thank you for sharing this with us.

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HARLOW10 7/9/2011 5:26PM

    This is a beautiful blog. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

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CALLIKIA 7/9/2011 10:10AM

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing - and best of luck to your brother always!

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MRSSCHENCK 7/9/2011 8:01AM

    Wow, this blog left me speechless. I wish nothing but the best for your brother. He's truly an inspiration.

I hope he doesn't kill you for writing this blog. emoticon

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SUMMER_FOR_LIFE 7/8/2011 9:40PM

  I can't tell you how inspiring this is. Thank you sooo much, I love running and I couldn't imagine giving it up either. emoticon

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LUEYGIRL 7/8/2011 3:12PM

    Makes "Just do it!" have a whole new meaning. Thanks. emoticon

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DRB13_1 7/8/2011 12:36PM

    Thank you for sharing this tribute to your brother.
It's that "never say no" spirit that makes heroes.

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KAREN_NY 7/8/2011 12:01PM

    The beauty of the human spirit, for sure. Thanks for sharing, and G-d bless your family!

PS - One of SANDIEGOJOHN's old blogs has a fabulous picture of someone running a very muddy tough race...with a prosthetic leg. Every time I look at it, I think, "wth am I whining about??" :)

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AKAFIT 7/8/2011 10:28AM

    Thank you for sharing that. It does seem to put life in perspective. Sometimes we do pity ourselves over the least bit of resistance and here is your brother fighting through losing his leg. WOW, I feel like such a whiner in comparison.

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CARYNW 7/8/2011 9:26AM

    WOW! Thank you for sharing!

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DELERIOUS64 7/7/2011 7:32PM

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

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LINDAKAY228 7/7/2011 6:19PM

    You're brother is truly amazing and an inspiration! I don't think I would have his determination if faced with what he has faced all his life. We never know exactly what we will do until we're in a particular situation, but I really don't think I would be where he is. And you sound like such an awesome sister to him too!

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FITMAY 7/7/2011 3:33PM


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KRAWRS 7/7/2011 12:56PM

    Beautiful. Thanks for the inspiration, from you AND your brother.

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JANLEH 7/7/2011 12:24PM

    Wow! That's all I can think of to say. Wow!

Thank you for sharing your brother's story with us.

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SMARIE101483 7/7/2011 11:48AM

    Wow...good for him!

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MACEWOMAN 7/7/2011 10:50AM

    Your brother sounds like an amazing man. Even if he doesn't like it, he is an inspiration. All the best to him and you.

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BEST_LIFE_NOW 7/7/2011 10:10AM

  Wow! I'm in awe.

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MINNA72 7/7/2011 9:39AM

    What a touching blog post. Your brother sounds like an amazing man.
I wish him all the best in the future.

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TEMPEST272002 7/7/2011 9:33AM

    I've also lived with chronic pain since childhood - and I have your brother's attitude towards it. We might not be able to cure our disease, but our mental attitude has profound impact on our lives. Your brother is a superhero - a foul mouthed, get'er done, kind of superhero. lol Thanks for sharing his inspiration with the rest of us.

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KIJO0607 7/7/2011 9:30AM

    thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. Your brother sounds awesome and you are sure lucky to have him!

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STARLIGHT615 7/7/2011 9:01AM

    I was directed to your blog from a fellow sparker and boy I am glad I took the time to read it!! Your brother is a great inspiration to everyone!! I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers and hope all turns out for thebest for him!!

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MRSN1608 7/7/2011 8:52AM

    WOW! what an amazing person he is, so inspiring. I have saved this so I can look back over it as a reminder that we can all do great things and shouldn't let anything hold us back. I will think of you both everytime I go out on a run. You sound so proud and quite rightly so. He is an inspiration, so brave - amazing.

Thank you so much for sharing.

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HDHAWK 7/7/2011 8:31AM

    I can tell from your words how proud you are of your brother. Very inspiring. I have a feeling about you being right. He won't stop running no matter what the future brings. Thanks for sharing.

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    Wow--how lucky you are to have such an inspiration in your life. He is amazing.

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GAILSFITNESS 7/7/2011 7:17AM

  Thank you for sharing your brother's brave journey, he is an inspiration.

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SEABREEZE64 7/7/2011 6:54AM

I really love the line...."I can either focus on my problems, or I can choose to focus on my passions."

Thanks so much for sharing this. I am so sorry your brother has had to endure so much, but, you are right, - what an inspiration!


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CATHRINE2010 7/7/2011 6:50AM

    What a wonderful inspiration to us all,He should be so proud of himself.When you are a runner it is as much a part of you as breathing. I understand his compassion for it and your concern. Forget all the pain and live for the moment. YOu are a wonderful sister and friend.

Comment edited on: 7/7/2011 6:50:51 AM

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SHARON-MARIE 7/7/2011 2:01AM


What an awesome man!

What an awesome woman you are for the blog you have written.

And, what an incredibly awesome brother and sister.

THIS is, without a doubt, the best blog I have read today.

Be blessed,

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    Thank you so much for sharing your brother's story. He is a true inspiration and I will think of him every time that I tie my running shoes. I wish all the best to you and your brother.


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HOPERY 7/6/2011 10:59PM


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ERLYWA 7/6/2011 10:47PM

    Today I was told to lay off my running for a month or so while I go back to physical therapy for some hip pain. I will never whine about this again, after reading this story. My restriction is temporary and manageable, and clearly others remain positive through much more difficult situations than mine.

Your brother is a true inspiration. I will include him in my prayers. Thank you for sharing this story with us all!


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LOGOULD 7/6/2011 10:25PM

    WOW! If that doesn't makee me get up off my behind and get to the gym or do my run....nothing will. Your brother is amazing and an inspiration to all of us. Thanks for sharing his story!

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KATYMACK 7/6/2011 7:56PM

    Thank you so much for sharing such greatness. I was having my own little pity party for myself but that was very quickly silenced. Your brothers story has put something back into my own determination that was very seriously lacking. Hugs for both of you.

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REBECCAMA 7/6/2011 7:55PM


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LINDAJ0621 7/6/2011 7:39PM

    Thank you so much for sharing this inspirational story about your brother! I need to heed his advice "and just run".
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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JECKIE 7/6/2011 7:27PM

    Your brother is awesome, and it sounds like you're an awesome sister! I have my own version of "look at what he's accomplished, so stop whining and let's go", and there are days I curse him for taking away my excuse, but mostly he just inspires me. :)

Thank you for sharing!

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LAURIE-RN 7/6/2011 6:55PM

    You are lucky to have your brother, and he is very lucky to have you. Thank you for posting his story. He is definitely an inspiration.

Laurie emoticon

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STFRENCH 7/6/2011 4:52PM

    Your brother's story is indeed inspirational - thank you so much for sharing it with us xx

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CAALAN23 7/6/2011 4:50PM

    Those who truly inspire are the ones who never even meant to. I wish you and your brother all the best! Somehow I don't think he'll ever stop running and that's amazing.



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GETFIT2LIVE 7/6/2011 4:28PM

    Wow--thank you for sharing!

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FREES1 7/6/2011 4:16PM

    awesome story about an awesome guy... good to know that there are prostheses made for running should that day come... I know your brother won't let a little thing like that stop him... and it does give our own 'problems' new perspective

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MAMADWARF 7/6/2011 4:05PM

    wow. I am speechless. What a fantastic guy and you guys are lucky to have each other.

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JBJAKUBEK 7/6/2011 3:52PM

    Great post. Thanks for sharing

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INFLATED 7/6/2011 3:52PM

    What determination! SANDIEGOJOHN wrote about the last part of your blog. It gives me a great deal to think about when I want to pity myself. Thank you for writing this.

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CBAILEYC 7/6/2011 3:48PM

    I really appreciate this blog. Thanks for sharing your brother with us. He sounds like a heckuva guy! Let's just run, indeed!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SKYWATCHERRS 7/6/2011 3:46PM

    This one made me cry a little. Thank you for writing this out and sharing it - I'm soooo stealing the brother quote.

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