Tag Archives: physical health

Happy Birthday Shoulder

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
           -William Shakespeare

I spent my one year surgery anniversary knocking back rum and cokes, plowing through chocolate eggs, and not exercising. So far off the rails it pains me to put it into print.

All these comebacks sure are tiring. I won’t let health go unappreciated again.

This has been a week of resetting, refocusing, and pushing back. I should be prepping for a 5k race that is four days away and somehow I have ended up exhausting the exercise database in my brain for ways to avoid getting fat. Today a trainer smacked my leg to tell me to activate the muscles to which I stopped and screamed, “Stop jiggling my fat!!!”

Each workout since the infamous doctor-says-no-lower-body-exercise fiasco of three weeks ago increases in creativity. I’ve said this before, but I think it needs to be restated: my clients do not get hurt, I give great advice but I don’t take it. The other trainers just laugh when I walk by carrying a 10lb body bar saying, “This counts as body weight, right?”… People pay me to push them, and this gets difficult to turn off, I guess.

Today I did the Stair Master, single leg Romanian dead lifts (10lbs what up!), single leg hip bridges, and modified knee extensions. My knee felt tired but not painful, so I did some Peterson step ups but three later, I had to stop. It felt like I had just pogo-sticked up Kilimanjaro on one leg. The best part of it all was that a celebrity’s bodyguard was beside me bench pressing about twice his body weight and I was working substantially harder. I tried to play it cool but the sweat stains and muffled crying sounds probably blew my cover.

As with all situations, there is a silver lining. Each time your feet are taken out from under you, the world is opening a door of opportunity to rebuild your physical and mental strength, and develop consistency, resilience, and pride. In my case it was technically only one leg that went out from under me, but my point remains. I would rather be hurt from exercise than develop issues from being sedentary, a hundred times over. Injuries allow us to learn so much about ourselves, and offer us the chance to improve in much more than just a physical way. We can all admit that starting anything is easier with a kick in the butt.

Sure, some things haven’t gone the way I had them playing out in my head. I did, however, spend my one year surgery anniversary surrounded by friends and family, laughing loud and eating well. Compared to a year ago, my shoulder is significantly better, my overall health is definitely better, and I have lots of zig-zagged footsteps behind me. Maybe I need to think less about how I thought things would be and focus on all the greatness that is now.

I can hardly wait to work up a sweat again tomorrow.

(Throwback to my shoulder a year ago…)

shoulder

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

First Things First

Sometimes one commitment has to overrule another. So for a few reasons there will be no triathlon for me in the near future. An overestimated range of motion in my bad shoulder, and a lack of ability to train my best for two different upcoming events are main factors.

In April I will race 5km but the triathlon will have to wait. Maybe later this season or maybe next year. Right now my priority is to do one thing (well) at a time. As much as I am disappointed in having to scale back, I can recognize how much I love to get carried away. My workout today was full of dropping weights to perfect my form before I add weight back. Maybe the feeling of progress just gets addictive or maybe we give ourselves too much credit thinking that our reflection has better form than we do. Regardless of how we get there, a lot of us seem to end up pushing more than we can at some point.

One of my clients set a new personal best pushing 8 plates (360lbs) on the decline leg press yesterday because he put half the plates on the wrongs pegs- he thought he was taking them off and not loading them. So for some of us, it is accidental.

My running has been going slowly but now I am officially registered to race and what is better motivation than the realization of approaching deadlines. The hardest part of running right now is the weather. If I didn’t have a job I probably wouldn’t leave my apartment… seriously. It is spring and it is snowing in Toronto. Motivation seems like an idea only for those who don’t live in layers of bundled clothing.

I am looking for a sub 24 minute run on April 27th and hoping for an injury free journey there. My plan is to run 5k outside this weekend and then I will base my next month of training off my time. Here we go again!!

dreamers

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Fixed with a Flex

Today my weight was down half a pound. Not really a big deal, but that in combination with having a week that made me zombie-esque tired, I took the day off from working out. Things are still going well considering my weight is still up from the start of this week but I need to pack down some more calories before I start lifting heavy things against gravity again.

If you had told me a year ago that I would excitedly be sharing my weight gains with strangers, I would have thought that was crazy. I do like to affectionately call my blog followers my imaginary friends, so maybe I do have a little streak of weird.

I am now tracking my weight and workouts to a degree that some may have described as “obsessive”, to which I give a big thumbs up and then I flex. Next you can listen to me list a million things worse that I could be obsessed with.

While working out yesterday, D and I were getting all sorts of looks. Some were rude, and some were confused, but all felt like a really big compliment to the effort we were putting in. He said he felt like barfing, and I was holding on to machines to stay upright between my last sets while the gym- goers surrounding us were using the machines as theatre chairs, probably betting on me to go down first. I have found that in some cases, there is no bigger compliment than a dirty look. Take it in stride, and keep going. Then flex at them. After all, you don’t have success if you don’t have critics.

Ah, yes… reading that last paragraph back I now understand the obsessed descriptor.

Also, don’t bet against me.

Let me add in a very important point here: pushing to failure is a phase. When done right, these workouts are very draining, especially on the Central Nervous System and I don’t encourage this as a permanent method of training. As long as that is clear, I would like to add that there are few feelings that match the rush of knowing you worked as hard as you could, without peeing your pants.

exhaustedfromsuccess

Tomorrow is a new day, another workout, and a chance to reach a new high. If you haven’t ever had the borderline-wet-your-pants-in-the-gym feeling then I strongly urge you to go for it, but in a safe way. Not safe like wearing Depends, but safe like working out properly. Get yourself a trainer or shoot me a message. Let’s squat and trot together, friends.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ugly Pretty Face

True friends don’t tell you about your problems, they just help you resolve them.

Instead of D telling me that he thinks I can lift heavier (okay, so he did say this once) he offered to put me through a leg workout today. Despite being a little sleep deprived and on an overly full stomach I thought this was a great idea. I learn something new each time we work out together so I have ultimately learned to never miss a team workout.

First up was barbell squats. 3 sets of 12,10,8 reps increasing the weight with each set. I knew I was in trouble when he added 20lbs for my warm up… I mean, the barbell already weighs 45lbs, my legs will pick up on what is happening. My last set was at 25lbs a side and my last rep was spent mostly at the bottom of the squat trying to figure out how gravity suddenly increased exponentially. It was pure heart pounding pain and absolutely worth it for the feeling at the top. After my last rep of unintentional super slow motion, another trainer walked over to comment on my intensity/ express sympathy for what was to come… this was the first exercise of four.

Next up was deadlifts with the trap bar. 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps increasing weight each set. One rep in and my legs were burning. The highlight of this was dropping the 95lbs on my last rep of my last set. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I had lifted something heavy… I say that as if I didn’t already attract attention as a noisy mess of sweat.

Olympic barbell stiff leg deadlifts. I like to think if my gym had trading cards that this would be listed as my specialty. So, gratefully, I didn’t feel quite as terrible through these. I find my grip fatigues before everything else which gets frustrating. My hands are left in a gripped shape like your mittens after handing out cups at a water stop in freezing cold weather. The hardest part was seeing how much my legs were shaking in the last set. That is why when I run I gradually increase my music volume- so I can’t hear my breathing get heavier. Purely mental but definitely applicable. When you see the shake, you can’t deny the fatigue.

The grand finale was high rep low weight lunges. 30lbs, 3 sets of 20 a side, no break between, and my legs’ ability to support me standing is already questionable. Luckily for me (so I thought) D had a client show up so he couldn’t experience the pain with me. With one set left, I sat for a brief second to which I immediately heard yelling from across the gym to get back up. This guy is good. I propelled myself through the last set with loud grunts and the fear of attracting everyone’s attention yet again.

I do not consider myself to be vain but I live in what I would expect to be the vanity hotspot of Toronto, so it is all relative. After my 26 years of living, I have spent many hours looking at myself in the mirror and only today I realised that I think I look best in the last rep of my last set of my workout.

Whoever came up with the “over the shoulder glance” never lifted like this.

That face that spans pain to joy, and strength to weakness. Tyra Banks invited an “ugly pretty face” but let me tell you-  THIS is the real thing. My attraction to this feeling is that it is purely unmatched. You just cannot reproduce this face until you are deep into your workout, often with over half your body weight on your back or in your hands.

You can learn a lot about yourself in a gym. When someone with minimal body fat is telling you to not stop but everything hurts. When your knees are visibly wobble and your grip is slipping. Still with reps to go. I learned I love that place.

When the going gets tough, the tough get ugly.

deadliftquietly-470x260

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mountain Climber

My workouts are really coming together. I’m less obviously holding up other people, I get less “what is that girl doing?” looks, and dare I say that in the right lighting- I have some muscular definition.

It seems like things always get worse before they get better. We have to break things down before we can rebuild them and that is never an easy or stress-free process. It is the crucial first step to the process, nevertheless. If we put ourselves through a struggle to get what we want then the reward is always worth it.

This time last year, I hated the way my body looked and I hated that I couldn’t control what was happening to it. I hated that I never felt good about myself and the painkillers made that even harder to deal with. It was hard to train clients who were more mobile, stronger, and more motivated than I was. To be honest, I got so low that I set myself up for an even bigger comeback, which allowed for many more small victories on the way. I am progressing, feeling strong, and I don’t have a limit on how far I will climb.

The last few days at work, the guys have commented on how I am louder, I dance around the gym (again), and even the way I dress is different. No more “basketball shorts” or “homeless man” outfits. Their words, not mine. Following these comments, I like to take the opportunity to flex my tiny arms and make them admit they see muscle. It is one thing to notice change in yourself, but to hear it from those you spend the most time with is a million times better. I hadn’t noticed that I neglected certain pieces of clothing or that I was sparing the workplace from my fantastic dance moves. I guess that is how you know you have a great support system though; they will make sure you see everything you missed.

I have been doing my research on triathlons, and I am finding what I got myself into. Yikes. I have so many questions but I am also really excited because this is far from any other competition I have voluntarily sought to compete in. When I told my family that I had been considering a triathlon, it brought back fond memories of dog paddling/ crying my way through a Learn to Swim class to get my Kinesiology degree. I’m not sure why I think this will be less terrifying but I will have to address one fear at a time. I will probably be more scared of getting back on my bike again, but I’ll save that topic for when it gets here. Once I clean off my helmet, get the SUV hood marks and road rash off my bike then I’ll probably just need a pep talk (or a hundred). This will get interesting.

So what next?!

Now that I’m starting to get the hang of climbing, I’ll need to start learning to swim.

cliffhanger_-630x342

Tagged , , , , , , ,

‘Twas The Night Before…

As the race approaches, stress increases, and blog posting accelerates! If you love cheesy puns and motivational sayings then keep refreshing this page!

I picked up my race kit today so I am officially ready to go according to my post it note checklist. When I got there, my name was on the registration list twice and my age was wrong (on both). Smooth sailing so far! The weather forecast for tomorrow is cold, wet, extra windy, and extra terrible. Feels like -1 degree Celsius, 90% chance of rain, and winds 45-69km/h. The course is an out and back route, and according to these forecasts the gale force winds will be against us in the second half. I thought I was challenging myself enough but the world wants me to know that it is still the one in charge. You don’t have to be an athlete to realise that these conditions are far from ideal to set a personal best, but stranger things have happened. Or so I keep trying to convince myself.

Today I was a stressed out disaster, accepting all well wishes with a shudder and a wave of nausea. Why did I tell people that I was racing?! I know myself and I know that I will ask this over and over again until I finish tomorrow. Then perhaps continue to wonder. And I probably will never come up with an answer. Us runners are a strange breed.

This is just the beginning, though. Being one race in means big things to come. This is the baseline to my fresh start (again) and I am confident I can get to the finish line even in if it is an army crawl of partial consciousness. That would be more aerodynamic anyways. Some of my parts may be gimpy but I know how to work them like the tricks you learn to keep your parents’ minivan idling without overheating.

Okay.

No more talk of mental strategy or disfigured body parts.

No more weather based (or unrelated) excuses because the race hasn’t started yet.

My game face is on.

And so are my pajamas.

photo

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

25 Minutes

4 days to race day.

I have run twice in the past two days and my back is tighter than skinny jeans on an emo kid. It radiates up my neck into my brain and prevents the “stop making it worse” messages from reaching my body. My neck is so immovable I will have no choice but to be Frankenstein for Hallowe’en. Oh wait I am a 20- something female in Toronto… I meant to say “sexy” Frankenstein.

My goal keeps changing depending on the stability of my mental state, which I wish I could blame entirely on muscle tension. So I will put it in writing one last time before I race. My goal is to run under 25 minutes.

I work long days and I work hard. So what is 25 minutes?! I can do anything for 25 minutes. I’ve done this before, I can do it again. This is no crazy standard I have set for myself. It is just a time I have picked that will make me feel like I am getting back to normal. If this race doesn’t go as planned, then I am no further behind; the only difference is that the internet has documentation that I had a bad day. And my friends have Facebook so the internet has already seen me when I’m not at my best. Nothing new to see here, folks.

Whatever time the clock reaches before I catch it, I will be setting a personal best for my new self. No one will know what time I expected or if I have ever even run before. No one knows what it took to get me to the start line or what I will do beyond the finish. I will be running for myself, and I will be running for 25 minutes.

Forget about times, injuries, and training runs. Leave behind the disappointment and frustration of uncontrollable obstacles.

This is my first race back and that is unbeatable.

stopwatch2

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Baby Got Back

I like to consider myself inquisitive; second guessing or over analyzing may also apply.

Whatever the case may be, I can’t help but question my race preparation. Maybe I’ve done this enough times to just let it happen, and I am more ready than I let myself think. Or maybe I’m off the trail without a GPS. In my opinion, a big part of preparation is motivation. As much as my posts may be demonstrating brain waves that seem to zig zag and curve at will, I have the firm stance that motivation and “grit” (for lack of a better word) can trump inherited athleticism. Not always, but always possible. Maintaining that drive is race preparation.

I have pictures, mottos, quotes, sayings; motivational images of all sorts saved to my computer. I see where I want to be, I get motivated, I get excited, and I get my shoes on. When I need that pump up I am running alone, and what never comes to mind is some image I flipped by on my laptop.

Is motivation justified by getting out and running? Or does it mean we have to post about it on our social media, fill our closets with bright and flashy shoes, and finish runs with a slow motion water bottle chug? If you’re reposting images of others exercising behind a Starbucks latte and a snuggie, I struggle to tie that to motivation. That is promotion.

Does being driven and invested only manifest itself in a way that would mean living by the standards of carbo loading, electrolyte refueling, and IT band massaging? It can be an internal conflict to maintain motivation, but isn’t that normal because sport can be a painful passion after all. At this point, I will trust in my comfort zone and my ‘fly by the seat of my running shorts’ training style and see where my feet take me. Hopefully the end point is out of my comfort zone as that is the most encompassing way I can define success right now.

I have to admit that I feel a level of preparedness in the chaos that is my body trying to navigate the world. Maybe once you accept that your strategy is mayhem, you can relax and brush off all these events that don’t seem to support the end goal. This is a strategy, I swear. I am still moving therefore I am still progressing.

After my Canadian Thanksgiving with the family, today was my first day back to the gym after my back attack. Once again, there was so much genuine concern for me that I think I will just start sitting out front and ringing a bell with a  donation box. I started my new (and it darn well better be) improved rehab program. I am working towards square one and I will get there when I get there. On paper, this workout would have appeared that it was for someone who had lost their left arm and left leg and was hitting the gym for the first time. Let me tell you that this, coupled with my nicknames like Hop-along, and Limp Biscuit, are not ideal ways to sell myself as a trainer. Live and learn.

My fantastic nickname- creating co-workers do help me out, though. They all had ideas to contribute for how to best fix my back but my small and weak muscles fatigued before I could accept all their help. I am hopeful that it won’t take too long to regain some balance but it is hard to activate half my back throughout the day. When the weak side fatigues, exercise becomes detrimental because I’m jacking up the jacked side. Keep in mind I teach exercise for a living. Having experienced one potential outcome of a muscle imbalance, I am pretty eager to avoid that road again. Deep tissue massages and I will be best friends forever.

At this point, I have no strategy. I do, however, know what shoes I will wear. And I feel like that might be enough because I know I can get myself to the start line (with shoes on). And once we are all lined up in wait, we are all equal, and it is anybody’s day. Who worked the hardest to get to the start line, who can translate that into energy in the race… and then who can carry me home…?

96561f7739c8a2f3ccb13c72b7d5888a

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not Back(ing) Out

On Thursday I woke up to my 430am alarm as usual and hopped out of bed. No crying, no swearing, and no pillow punching. I should have known something was wrong. My 3 kilometer walk to work was normal; a half asleep attempt at speed walking in the morning darkness. It wasn’t until I reached work that I realised how achy my back was. But as far as my normal goes, that is pretty much normal.

Time turned this ache into a soreness, then a stiffness, then immobility. And pain. And constriction. And an inability to do anything except lean awkwardly on whatever sturdy object was close by. A few (long) hours later, I was wincing in pain, seeing spots, and experiencing shooting pains in my spine. It felt like morphing into Larry King’s posture with the fluidity of a creaky robot. And not the good kind of robot like on the dance floor.

By the time I got home, I couldn’t get my shoes off or change my clothes so I just laid down on the floor. Not as graceful or simple as I made that sound, either. Picture it like I was being magnetically drawn to the floor but resisting it the whole way. Or one of those dancing inflatable attractions being deflated in slow motion. That is as best as I can describe it considering I had my eyes closed and was trying to hit the floor with my necessities as close to me as possible.

So living alone has its pros and cons. Con: My text response time was drastically reduced. My phone mocked me as it lay 6″ from my fingers. Pro: It wasn’t awkward when I did my ugly cry in a pile of cramped muscle on the floor.

Luckily for everyone involved, the desire to not pee my pants was the motivation I needed to get me vertical. I had spent nearly 6 hours on my back like a turtle that had flipped over, and to express the seriousness of the situation, I did not voluntarily or involuntarily nap at all. My love for sleep is borderline narcolepsy so that is saying a lot. My attempts to stand mimicked a professional women’s tennis match where each muscle contraction was a high pitched, over- enthused scream. I hope my neighbours thought it was tennis anyways.

I actually could not figure what caused this, and trust me I had a lot of time to think. Could it have been my back workout from the previous day? Or could it have been something I did in my sleep? It is sad when you can’t differentiate the two in intensity. I got in to see an RMT the next morning who was surprised I was still walking. I’ve heard that enough times that it is essentially meaningless to me now and my reflex response is something like a mindless,  “oh thanks, you too”. Basically, my asymmetries had built up so much that the muscles doing all the hard work cramped up, and once one seized, all the other ones joined the party. My “quick fix” is three sessions of deep tissue massage and a slap across the face to my rehab program. Not quick at all.

I was told this was bound to happen at some point considering what shape I was in, but may I suggest to everyone not to get injured right before a long weekend. It is really terrible timing if you would like medical treatment. I did singlehandedly make a large contribution to the company that makes Rub A535, as I spent several days in a cocoon of muscle relaxant which really helped. The amount of rum and cokes I had could also be an argument for my recovery too. Since I can’t be sure, I will keep up with both.

This was another setback to my journey, but what is a comeback if there is no challenge?! This was a learning experience for me anyways: being an RMT is now a requirement to date me, and I probably enjoy the smell of Rub A535 too much. I have so much sympathy and respect for anyone with chronic back pain but that being said, I don’t want to be one of them.

So here we go again. I have added another medical professional to my team and I’m back in business.

Cheesy puns come standard.

Larry-King-1

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eyes on the Prize

This strategy of listening to my body seems to be paying off for me. I have spent most of my time with weights in the gym, doing my shoulder exercises, and foam rolling until I’m nauseous and what do you know; I just ran a 25:05 on a 5km route.

Previous runs have been faster, less physically and mentally painful, and much more effortless. But this feels so much more rewarding. Today is a victory for me… despite the fact I’m going to miss all of Sunday football. Again.

This is what I needed. My goals keep changing and my body keeps changing and I keep moving towards wherever I am going. I don’t think of myself as inconsistent or not committed, but I have changed so much in the past year that I am just adapting as my standards and ideals change. I am consistent because I listen and respond to my body.

Post- race will be another big re-evaluation for me because I haven’t completely stressed myself out with life changing decisions yet. Close but not quite. Running will never be abandoned as it always steps up in my life when I need it but I can be unbiased enough to recognize that my body responds best to other forms of training. After my run today I was rewarded with sharp knee pains and overwhelming tightness in odd places showing me a flash forward to my future as a crippled old woman. In a wheelchair. With all my trophies piled on my lap.

To earn today’s pops, cracks, and twinges I ran a time I’m actually happy with. I said I would be happy if I go under 25 flat when I race and I’m pretty darn close. What makes me happiest is how close I came to quitting and how hard I worked to keep going. Few experiences match the high of a solitary maximal effort. No one knows where my route ends and no one will make me run until I barf, except me. I did what I set out to do (and I kept everything down).

I have to admit: this is the first time I have run a full 5km since… probably over a year ago? And yes I am racing a 5km in 3 weeks; it is a weird training style absolutely. But my body didn’t feel like it could do it before, so I didn’t make it. This could have backfired and (knock on wood) could still work against me. But how can some pre-planned workout schedule know how my legs will feel, what my terrible schedule will allow, or adjust to where my head will be at. I don’t know even know these things. My body won’t advance in regularly timed intervals so neither will my program.

After my run, I texted one of my good friends who I used to sell running shoes with (think dream team style). He is a fantastic athlete and all of his times blow mine out of the water, yet he has this amazing enthusiasm for my modified distances and increased times. Sure enough, he follows up to my run time with a link to a race in support of a donkey sanctuary, where my time would have placed me as the first female. A donkey shaped trophy would really add to my apartment but running and being supported is rewarding enough.

Maintaining commitment to anything is worthy of reward but committing to something, working hard, and seeing progress is a reward in itself and I can’t promote that enough. That is probably why I work in fitness? Or maybe it is because I just like a career that lets me spend the day in stretchy pants.

Feeling rewarded, motivated, and supported; the countdown to race day is on.

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”   -Theodore Roosevelt

18

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: