Wednesday, February 24, 2010
It's official: one year post dx, all tests normal and I'm healthy!
Big sigh of relief. (Didn't entirely realize how much worry I've been ignoring, more or less successfully!)
And big thanks to all SP friends who have been so kind and so supportive.
One year ago I had received the bad news, was scared, waiting for surgery, wondering what would happen next, and stress eating to the point of adding 20 pounds in a matter of about eight weeks. Once I'd recovered from the surgery, I signed up for SparkPeople in May, started tracking my food diligently and rebuilding my fitness with cardio and weights.
Here I am: the twenty pity party pounds peeled off again (since July), completely recovered from radiation therapy (including fatigure) and in week 6 of 9 in the podrunner intervals training, steadily working my way back to a 5 k steady run.
There are pink and yellow tulips on the kitchen table. Despite fresh snow in the back yard the days getting longer and spring is around the corner.
Life is good, I'm feeling good, and did I mention how grateful?
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I've been thinking quite a bit about a recent FRACTALMYTH blog on focus, the necessity of deciding what to do and moving ahead etc. etc. This seems to me to be a perpetual problem for women in particular.
We women are told, unceasingly, that "we can have it all". And that apparent opportunity to have it all then becomes translated into "we MUST do it all". With incredible pressure to be superb at everything all of the time: be a wonderful daughter, sister, wife and mother; look like a model; be the "hostess with the mostest", entertaining beautifully in an immaculately decorated and maintained "home"; hold down a significant and "meaningful" job; contribute to the community and its charities; be spiritually engaged; and on, and on, and on.
So as I listen to my podrunner intervals and "hummingbird" my way lighly around the track at the gym working my way back towards a continuous 5 k, I've been thinking about these demands. External and internal. And how impossible it is to fulfill all of them. And how crazy we make ourselves trying. Or permitting others to require us to try to do them all. That is, all at once.
I've probably been thinking about this because the wooden track -- quite beautiful, actually -- is suspended above the gym. And I've been working out at this YMCA since 1975, when I was (ahem) quite a bit younger than I am now, oddly enough. Which means that as I jog around watching teens shooting hoops or kids tumbling on the mats or adults sweating through fitness classes they all remind me that this place -- this gym -- is layered with my own prior ages and stages. Points at which I did all of these things . . . but never all at once.
Back in 1975, I had just started work as a college teacher, was commuting to Toronto and exercised mostly during my lunch hours. I was married but (although I didn't know it) that was coming to an end. H1 and I had had no kids, which was a good thing. The teaching gig was my first "serious" job and I was getting up at about 5 am, doing a little yoga and hitting the road from Toronto. I had taken the job, then got my driver's licence on a stickshift VW without a heater or a defroster, then started commuting -- soon driving through raging white-out snowstorms -- and teaching lots of stuff I knew absolutely nothing about. It was a pretty stressful time. The gym workouts commenced because my stress eating resulted in me rapidly outgrowing my two new "young professonal" suits. I cetainly could not afford to replace them!!
Forward a few years: I'd jettisoned that early marriage (not without significant pain); was a newly single woman again and taking a few Jane Fonda style aerobics classes in that gym, legwarmers and all! Also swimming in the pool. And I signed up for an evening course in weightlifting -- at that point, one of the very few women venturing into what was clearly dsignated to be an "all male" territory. But I loved that cramped, dark and smelly little weights room, loved feeling strong, needed to feel strong, and somehow stuck it out.
A few more years: I had remarried, and could be seen angling through the gym towards the squash courts for early morning games with H2. (Yup, I call him that occasionally, just to keep him on his toes 30+ years later. And he doesn't seem too worried, actually).
Add a few more years: there's a young mum just like me back when my own two small children were zooming around at tot time gym. Little people trying out the low balance beam, bounding tentatively on the trampoline and crawling through the tunnels. During my young mum incarnation I was serving on the Board of Directors. I'd also become a certified fitness instructor myself, leading the early morning group class one day a week generally with a jazz tape playing in the background. We volunteer fitness instructors were a bunch of happy amateurs and enjoyed a wonderful social life too, meeting monthly for a potluck breakfast at someone's home. Now other much better qualified instructors lead those classes who are certainly way more professional but (when I happen to catch sight of one of the classes) I'm not sure they're having as much fun as we did!
Those long-ago fitness classes got me running, at first just around the gym and then small loops outside the gym around the Y grounds, but gradually further and further, building up to 10 k departing from the gym and returning to it, until I was no longer participating in the group classes at all. I overdid it for sure, and forgot about keeping up the strength and core work -- but I loved the running.
There were a few years I was absent from this gym while I went back to school; working out at the university gym after rolling off the commuter bus didn't keep my weight from soaring up to 230 pounds. But what I was learning at law school inspired me to initiate a human rights complaint. Why was our Y back home continuing to offer better facilities for men than for women? a private men's fitness facility with whirlpool and steam room? There was a glorious new weights room open to men and women, but surely it was time to redress that other historic inequity. It took eight years but it happened; the women at my gym now have an equivalent facility and the "damages" I was awarded went to my law school to fund a small human rights scholarship.
Called to the bar, practising law for the first time -- so much to learn that school had left out -- and back to the gym. Now I had young teens still at home who needed me to get them off to school in the morning and be available for homework help in the evenings: the only time slot in the day for my workout was right after work on my way home. I'd put my gym bag in the front seat of the car so I couldn't miss it, my husband worked out at noon hours, and we made that arrangement function for a few years. I wasn't running but instead using the elliptical cross trainer and the weights room. I had 80 law school pounds to peel off. That happened, too.
And very soon our children were off to university. Once again H2 and I could go to the gym together first thing in the morning, as we'd done in the pre-kid years of our marriage; then home for breakfast before heading off to work together.
Hit some health bumps. Found twenty pounds. Peeled those off again. A few more blips, a few more adventures -- and here I am back on the track floating above these years of memories. The people below in the gym are living out their own independent lives, of course: but in my glimpses of their lives I can't help but be reminded of my own experiences over the past 35 years.
And of course because it's a Y and not just a fitness club for the young and gorgeous, I also see people in their sixties and seventies and older. Still healthy and looking happy. Grandparents with grandbabies too. What I confidently expect and hope will lie ahead for me if I keep doing this. Keep on being fit. That is what I'm planning. That is what I'm preparing for.
Have I had it all? Not yet. Thank goodness, not yet. Because there are still good times to come! I'm vividly grateful for that. And I'm grateful also for the support from husband and kids over all of the years I've spent at my gym to be a wife, mother, born-again student, and born-again worker.
So one thing I'm pretty sure about: the answer to "Can we do it all at once?" is "No". Not simultaneously. Not well.
But life is long. There is time to try on many roles. We can take our time. Have more fun. Experience more depth. Can we do it all? Who knows. But we can do enough.
We can do enough, have enough, be enough. Sequentially.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
OK, this should be self-evident by now, right? But apparently it isn't. I have to keep reminding myself. Or the scales will remind me otherwise very quickly!
I am exercising more and experimenting with a return to running which I am very much enjoying. But: getting back into running is something it's safe for me to try because my weight is down . Not something that can justify me stopping nutrition tracking or stopping my weight tracking. Completely the reverse. If I want to run, I've got to stay light.
When I was running 10 km 5-6 days a week 16 years ago, always outdoors and in all kinds of weather, I was probably 20 pounds heavier than I am now. Not fat -- not at all, about a size 12 -- and I generally felt healthy and happy because of the endorphin rush from running. If you could bottle that sensation and sell it you'd be rich: and if it were universally added to the drinking water, you'd probably achieve world peace. Really. Or at least that's what I think.
But I was relying upon the then-new technology in running shoes (cushioned soles, air pumps, etc.) to pound along with a lengthy stride, landing on the heel, jarring all the way up my leg through my knee to the hip. I didn't think of it that way, of course. My mental image was a kind of gazelle-like motion, soaring and bouncing (maybe from a viewer's perspective not so much). Because I simply didn't get it -- that the effect of even a few extra pounds is multiplied about seven-fold by the thump thump thump thump thump. Gazelles, of course, ARE light.
I loved running then: my town has beautiful running trails all around the lake and many other picturesque street routes. Loved running with a group of friends from the gym. Loved participating in 5 km races from time to time. And truly believed that running as much as I did meant that I could eat whatever I wanted. So I did eat whatever I wanted, more or less: mostly more. Never tracked, never counted calories, just kept on running.
Thought also that running was the only exercise I needed. Well, maybe a little stretching AFTER the run -- if I felt like it -- but no need for strength training, or abs to strengthen the core: running did the entire job, running was everything.
Shoulda known that my knee and hip joints would eventually rebel. Eventually I had to stop running altogether. And I've missed it ever since. (Also went back to school, commuting three plus hours a day by bus, reading reading reading, getting insufficient sleep, marinating myself in stress and got my weight up to 230 while I was doing that --which is an entirely different story!!).
Last summer when I saw how much some new SP friends were enjoying their running adventures, it all came back to me: I celebrated for them, yes I did, but also admit to feeling envious. But the more I followed the running postings, the more I got the sense that running has changed -- that there are new approaches and new techniques. And that maybe if I tried these new approaches myself I could run again too. Did try it: and so far, so good. I'm having provisional success using some of the resources I found on the Rookie Runners Team site plus specific suggestions from some SP friends (JOPAPGH, thanks again).
As I've blogged before, the main tech tool has been podrunner intervals (downloaded free) which is a 9 week programme gradually increasing from mostly walking to all running of a continuous 5 km. With considerable self-control (would like to be doing this every day) I've been permitting myself podrunner just three days a week with rest days in between, never two days consecutive. At first I used podrunner on the treadmill but quite soon switched to the track at the gym (wooden, cantilevered, very forgiving) which is where I'll remain until we have at least slightly less snowy streets. Again, outside would be my preference but I don't want to slip and twist my knees right at the beginning of this process.
Progress has not been continuous. I'm now only in week five. There was some delay due to right knee and right hip pain (I slowed it down, took extra time before increasing the running) plus a lingering bout of flu which set me back. But no matter, I knew that the flu at least was only temporary and I was determined to accommodate the knees and hips.
Shoes this time: retro Adidas type with very thin soles -- I'm using navy blue Terry Fox specials, actually. And I'm thinking about trying running socks, eventually; they look totally cool!!
In addition I'm using the POSE technique of running; vertical posture, short stride, rapid cadence, landing as lightly as possible on the mid-foot. This took me quite a while to get used to and feels somewhat like running barefoot -- also, at first, somewhat like just running on the spot! Had to resist the impulse to speed up whenever I was lapped on the track (we triple type-As don't like being lapped, not at all!) but stuck with it. And now that the technique is more instinctive, the speed is coming back too at least a little.
But I've discovered that even a small amount of extension of foot in advance of the knee makes my right knee, in particular, quite uncomfortable. I get a locking/clicking/grinding kind of response that seizes the joint and almost immediately radiates pain up into the hip joint and the sacroiliac too. A warning, and I'm paying attention. There is lots of osteoarthritis in my hands (no, I'm not old enough for that, not at all -- but there it is, hereditary). I've had painful left hand surgery which did no good and required intensive physio just to regain the former level of diminished hand function, so I've gotta assume, osteo in hands likely means osteo in many of the other body joints. DO NOT want knee or hip surgery.
The erect posture for verticality means in addition I need to make sure to keep the core strong, with regular abs at the gym. Plus this time I'm keeping up my strength training programme of upper body and lower body weights alternate days: and a special focus on the hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings to keep the knee and hip joints as stable and secure as possible. To increase the resilience and shock absorption of the forefoot I've added foot exercises, pressing the balls of the foot alternately into the floor and lifting the toes, and also raising onto the toes and lowering to the heels. Plus lots of post run calf, quad, and hip flexor stretching.
A cautious old lady runner? Maybe so, but I absolutely refuse to think of it that way. The gazelle may have gone, but my preferred new mental image is the humming bird moving lightly from flower to flower: I focus on barely touching the earth with each step.
Supposing it takes 20 weeks instead of 9 to get to 5 km? That's OK with me; I don't mind if it takes me even longer. I'll pace the progress as slowly as necessary to control the pain.
Supposing I can never run more than 5 km? Ditto.
Supposing I can only run 5 km once a week and have to revert to the elliptical for the rest of my cardio? Ditto ditto.
The best (running every day; running 10 km instead of 5; blasting ahead by signing up for races again) for me would almost certainly be the enemy of the good.
Because this is good. Already I've had some of that euphoric joy of running again. And I'm optimistic that so long as I keep moderation in mind, back off and rest if I experience problems, and then resume again only very slowly if I have to, that this time I will be able to continue running.
Now: about the food part. Today being Valentine's day, my husband made his marvellous double boiler scrambled eggs with sharp cheddar and buttered whole wheat toast for breakfast: an amazing treat, but not low calorie! And then I made an early dinner for him and our son (daughter is away in Australia at school): cheese pastry appetizers; herbed lemon salmon with a couple of giant shrimp on each portion; steamed carrots and broccoli; heart-shaped red peppers decorating the plates; a glass of good chardonnay; a generous wedge of bittersweet chocolate mousse torte for dessert; and really good coffee. (Because I don't cook very often, it's quite appreciated when I do: and reassuring to everyone. me included, that I haven't completely forgotten how!)
Yes I tracked it all -- and that WILL be all for today -- and of course I'm well over the day's maximums in calories, fat, carbs. Which is fine. The first time I've been over since Christmas Day, and it won't happen again for quite a while. Not feeling stuffed either -- just self-indulgent and celebratory.
But: I can never ever exercise enough to eat whatever I want. Tomorrow it's back to the track at the gym with podrunner week five session two, lower body weights, abs, stretches.
AND it's back to nutrition tracking WITHIN my calorie range to make sure I stay in my 150-154 lb maintenance zone.
Nothing tastes as good as running feels!
Saturday, February 06, 2010
I love it when my SP friend Ambudman posts her wonderful videos of beloved Weaver -- one of the cutest dogs ever. And: she has a new Weaver blog today!!
My husband had posted this blog of our Charlie (yup, that's me in my golden retriever coloured coat as well: doesn't show the floating fur as much) on you tube: hope you all enjoy it!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Right now I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "Committed", which is a kind of cross-cultural and historic survey of marriage. And I'm finding it really interesting, both from a personal perspective (we're in year 31, but I did have a diastrous first marriage) and from a work perspective (I do a fair bit of divorce law).
Gilbert is, of course the author of the best-selling "Eat, Pray, Love". "Committed" arose from her compulsion to marry the new partner she met on that earlier odyssey (both of them profoundly reluctant, after their own disastrous divorces) in order to satisfy the requirements of US immigration. It took about a year of constant travel in exile to get the necessary documentation lined up and she spent that year researching and reassuring herself that marrying the man she loved would not be a huge mistake.
The book is witty; it's thoughtful; it's silly; and it's profound. Gilbert considers the relative stability and contentment of the traditional arranged marriages among the Hmong isolated mountain villages in northern Vietnam which commence with kidnapping: the concept of individual choice and romantic love is completely hilarious to these Hmong women. But, Gilbert points out, romantic love would likely have been an equally irrelevant concept within the pragmatic unions of early American agricultural communities.
She contemplates infatuation in the context of watching teenage Buddhist monks flirting in Laos; describes candidly the process of negotiating her own prenuptial agreement (she and Felipe have very different attitudes about money); and reviews all the most recent statistical data with respect to marital resilience and divorce proneness for various demographic groups. And she considers the history of her parents' marriage -- the painful compromises her mother made to provide her with a stable childhood, sacrificing her own career to do so; but equally, her father's willingness to tolerate a huge degree of control by his wife over almost every aspect of his life also in the cause of marital harmony.
What does it take to make a marriage work? What does it mean to say that a marriage is "working" and why is it (at least some days) so much work? And why do we do it: why is marriage still so important to most of us?
Here at SparkPeople many of us are exploring commitment to health, to well-being, to ourselves as individuals, and to community. We know how tough commitment is, and how hard to sustain. Gilbert's new book offers a fascinating and very entertaining account of commitment in marriage specifically, but it also helps illuminate what commitment is about in any endeavour. And commitment, she suggests, is in its essence and paradoxically a most evanescent construct! Possibly one of the reasons we seek to achieve a committed relationship with one other person is because when we begin to understand the nature of commitment within marriage we also begin to understand what commitment means in all areas of our lives.
"Maybe creating a big enough space within your consciousness to hold and accept someone's contradictions -- someone's idiocies, even -- is a kind of divine act. Perhaps transcendence can be found not only on solitary mountaintops or in monastic settings, but also at your own kitchen table, in the daily acceptance of your partner's most tiresome, irritating faults", writes Gilbert.
Romantic enough for ya?? Maybe not, but this is certainly a compelling read: and I recommend it!
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