Sunday, January 31, 2016

Desperately Trying to Find the Zone

One of the ways I managed to lose 25 pounds last fall was to eat fewer calories than I expended through my ADLs and exercise. In fact, I increased my daily physical activity by 20%. Committed to keeping my weight at a healthier level, because of my risk for heart disease and diabetes, I am continuing to go to the gym at least twice during the workweek, and every Saturday and Sunday. At least during the winter months, when it is either too cold or too dark to safely exercise outside.

And OMG, do I think going to the gym is boring.

To mix up my routine, I decided to try (for the third time) the Couch25K program to train myself to run 3.1 miles without dying or embarrassing myself.

And guess what? I also think running is boring.

I started to struggle with boredom midway this morning's "run" (Week Four/Day 2 of C25K). The self-talk that goes through my head reminded me that serious runners talk about getting into "the zone". In fact, I've felt "the zone" while biking - the feeling that all I need to be doing right now is pedaling one leg at a time to keep myself moving forward. It is a wonderful, zen experience.

But I haven't hit "the zone" with my "running." I have, however, developed some strategies for keeping myself engaged in my workout. As a gift to you, I share them below:

  • Count every stride I take, and when I reach 60, check the clock to see how close the pace of my counting came to the actual pace of time. Make adjustments to syncopate my counting with real time. Repeat.
  • Look around the room for words or phrases that are static (e.g., the name of gym painted on the wall, the name of the workout machine I'm using, signs that might be nearby, etc.). Make as many new words out of these words as I possibly can. For example, how many words can YOU make out of "hydromassage"?
  • Silently imagine what I would say to the people within my field of vision about their exercise habits and general state of fitness. Things like, "You look unhealthy. You go girl for being at the gym! Rock it!" and "You do know that I can see you itching your butt as you crush it on that elliptical, right?" 
  • In the same vein, I also tell stories about the people within my field of vision. Just yesterday I saw a man within my age range with an incredible and HUGE head of hair wearing the tiniest, tightest running shorts I've seen in a while. He seriously looked like a bobble head. I then imagined that those were his favorite shorts from his collegiate field and track days. And while they clearly NO LONGER FIT HIM, it is also clear that he is unnaturally attached to the shorts, perhaps as a symbol of his younger glory days. And every time he wears them, his spouse yells at him to get rid of those ridiculous shorts because, the tiny shorts make him look ridiculous and sad and what if he runs into someone they know, and so on.  
  • Inspire myself  by repeating the following mantra over and over again, "No one gets better at anything if they quit. I can do this. I can do anything for (however long I have left in the workout or the interval) minutes." Then I start wondering about all the things I might not be able to do for xyz minutes left in my workout. Like endure water boarding at the hands of terrorist captors, or swim in an alligator-infested swamp, or tolerate Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as President. 

It's not my knees or my general state physical fitness that will end my running career. Instead, it is the boredom.

So I ask you, before I make yet another trip to the gym where I'll rearrange the letters in "Judgment Free Zone" (men, gene, jug, mug, dug, tug, zen..." to entertain myself:

  • Are you a runner who gets into the zone? 
  • What does it look like or feel like? 
  • How do you get to that place?
  • What advice do you have for a novice runner? 

Help me!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Standing at Attention

Within the span of one week, two young men from the tony seaside suburb where I live were strikingly affected by the global military industrial complex.

On January 16, 2016, 30 year-old Matthew Trevithick, who had been imprisoned by the Iranian government for undisclosed reasons, was released and returned home to America.

Two days earlier, on January 14, 2016, 23 year-old Marine Corporal Christopher Orlando was one of 12 people who were lost in a helicopter crash off the coast of Hawaii while in the midst of training exercises. The search for the bodies was suspended after five days and Cpl Orlando and his colleagues were presumed dead.

Our tiny town organizes welcome parades for military veterans when they return home, to say thank you and to help with the vet's re-entry into small town life. While Cpl Orlando was not returning home, our Veteran's Services Department and our local emergency responders asked the community to stand vigil as a show of respect for the family as they returned home from services and debriefing with the Marines in Hawaii.

For some reason, BMG and I decided to attend.

The family was scheduled to roll into town at approximately 7:00 PM. The route for their police escort was published by our local police department. So, at 6:40 PM we left our home and headed to the library to park and stand vigil.

Photo credit:
I was surprised by the thousands of people lining the five miles of Main Street, solemnly holding flags and thank you signs featuring the official Marine portrait of the now dead Marine. Surprised by the number of families - with children of all ages - who waited in the freezing temperatures for the convoy to roll through town. Surprised by the young parents with baby carriages who gently soothed their crying infants as the wind gently whipped past us.

Surprised and moved to tears.

We watched the police department's Twitter feed to keep apprised of the family's progress from the airport to home. It was there that we learned that emergency responders from across the state were lining bridges across the highway to pay their respects. We met up with some neighbors and, as the Twitter feed and occasional siren told us they were near our stretch of Main Street, we silenced our chatter and stood at attention.

Photo credit:
It wasn't until 8:00 PM that the family, escorted by nearly a dozen police vehicles, slowly drove past. As they did, I silently sobbed, imagining their anguish at the loss of their beloved son, the loss of potential, and, hopefully, their understanding that their community would support them through their grief.

Both BMG and I couldn't understand why we chose to join our community in this display of patriotism and pride. We don't know the family. We don't have children and wouldn't begin to pretend we understand what the parents and siblings are going through. And we aren't law and order people; standing up for the military isn't one of the community actions that make drives either one of us. But, I'm glad we paid attention to the impulse in our hearts and went. It feels like one of the most meaningful things I've done in a long time.

RIP Cpl Orlando, and Semper Fi.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What Makes an Ulcer a Good Thing?

**Warning! Graphic photos of the inside of my body are included in this blog post. Warning!**

I was diagnosed with an ulcer this morning.

My ulcer looks like a series of shiny, white canker sores on the lining of my throat, and happens to be located at the junction between my esophagus and my stomach.

We suspected there was a problem after nearly two weeks of crippling abdominal pain, which conveniently happened over Christmas 2015, and has extended through the start of 2016. After four weeks of medical appointments, including a trip to urgent care for IV fluids and a gastroscope, the ulcer was discovered.

The treatment? Daily Prilosec. That's it. No dietary change, aside from adjustments I make to manage pain. And I go back in three months for another picture of my insides.

So what makes this a good thing?

1. The symptoms I was experiencing are often confused with GERD/advanced heartburn, Celiac Disease, heart disease, and food allergies. All of these conditions are chronic and require lifetime lifestyle changes. I'm glad I don't need to manage this. (The symptoms are also similar to those experienced by people with stomach and esophageal cancer. My biopsy results will be back in about a month. I'm still just a TINY bit nervous I have cancer too, but it is highly unlikely because I have none of the typical risk factors. If I do, I promise I'll at least add a note in the comments here so you aren't left hanging.)

2. While many people think ulcers are caused by stress, they actually aren't. In fact, most ulcers are bacterial. So, this means, (a) the ulcer isn't my fault, and (b) I don't need to find a way to cut back on stress in my life. (I actually don't feel particularly stressed most of the time.)

3. I don't need to stop drinking my daily cup of coffee! Or the occasional glass of wine! When I asked my gastroenterologist if I needed to adjust my diet he said, "I'm not one of those people who thinks nutrition makes a big difference in these things." (See point #2 above.)

4. The severe abdominal pain (there were times when simply standing up was a burden on my system) helped me experience the type of pain BMG experiences as a result of his Crohn's Disease. This helps me better understand why he behaves like such a tool when he has a flare-up, deepening my empathy.

5. Conversely, BMG better understands the anxiety I feel when I ferry him to and from doctor appointments and tests, He got himself so worked up today about my test that he ended up vomiting. Seriously, he vomited this afternoon, for no reason other than being agitated, which caused him to drink too much caffeine and not eat enough food. (I'd like to add that his puking put a swift end to my post-anesthesia lazing about because I had to hop up to help him,)

So, no chronic disease to manage, no signs of blame or stress, all the coffee I could possibly want, better empathy between my husband and I on the impact of his chronic disease on our partnership. All in all, I'd say my ulcer is a good thing.