Thursday, February 28, 2013

Holding it in

This morning I find myself fighting the urge to whine - about everything. I'm cranky as hell.

I got up at the usual (stupid) time, loaded a Spinervals DVD into my laptop drive and climbed on the spin bike. It was one of those days where I immediately started doing battle with the negative voice in my head.

After fifteen minutes of struggling to get any kind of speed happening, even at low resistance, I realised that my legs honestly did not have the juice to give my workout a decent bash, so I climbed off and went and made breakfast instead. Commence sulking...

Of course, sulking never gets you anywhere, so eventually I shushed my inner toddler and thought about what was going on. My weight was up a fraction this morning with no obvious explanation...I'm irritable...have no physical energy...feel generally blah....and all I want to do is crawl back into bed. Hmm, what could be the problem?

Image source
Light bulb moment... trying to train with intensity for seven to nine hours a week when you're only averaging five or six hours' sleep a night is not all that smart. *sigh*

I immediately declared today a rest day from training and by hook or by crook, I WILL manage eight hours of shut-eye tonight. Meanwhile, I'll zip my lip, keep my head down and try not to speak to a soul at the office today. I'm also avoiding Twitter, apart from the single tweet below. If anyone annoys me, it could get a bit ugly.

Hands up who else is cranky today?


Monday, February 25, 2013

Super fuel for super bodies

The other day I joked on Facebook and Twitter that I must have accidentally put my undies on the outside when I got dressed that morning, because I was feeling bulletproof. Amazingly, the feeling has persisted. I feel strong, capable, energetic (well, most of the time), and almost exclusively POSITIVE.  Not that I've was exactly dragging my butt around in a miserable funk prior to this or anything, but there is a noticeable change for the better.

I've been thinking about the reasons why and here's what I've come up with:

  • I'm doing more exercise than I've done for a long while.
  • I'm exercising consistently. None of that "Ouch, my back/shoulder/whatever hurts. Poor me, I'll have to skip training".
  • I haven't had a single glass of wine since the 28th January. I know, sainthood is practically guaranteed, right?
  • I've been monitoring my coffee intake and am sticking to two cups a day, with the odd third cup on a weekend. No "Oops, that was my seventh cup. How did that happen?"
  • My meals have been packed full of veggies and fruit and 99% free of any packaged, processed stuff for about four weeks now.* 
  • My injury treatment has shifted more towards strengthening weak muscles with some Pilates Reformer work than hands-on hurty stuff - and I like it!
There are psychological benefits from all of this, of course; the satisfaction that comes from honouring your commitments to yourself, as well as the ego-stoking pleasure of discovering that you're not the broken-down weakling you thought you were, definitely helps. But I honestly think that most of the effect is physical - my body does not like being flooded with caffeine, alcohol and nasty foods that either have no real value or that I'm intolerant to (yes, flour and sugar, I'm looking at you!). The response to eating nutrient-rich foods and moving my body regularly is almost miraculous.

There's a big bonus from being in such a good place physically: it makes it so much easier to develop some mental strength as well. Every time that voice in my head says "I can't" when faced with an exercise activity, I tell it to shut up and give it a try anyway. Most of the time, it's wrong. I'm sick of listening to that whiney biatch. I'm stomping on the negative thoughts and telling myself something positive instead, yeah!

Yesterday I even stepped into the squat rack for the first time in months. I got through one set of standard barbell squats, but holding the bar in place was really too painful for my shoulders. Not to worry; I just changed to front squats instead. I even did some arm training - my physio has cleared me to train biceps and even triceps, as long as I pick my exercises carefully. Today I'm having some slight difficulty straightening my arms. Happy face ->  :o)

I've always known that the foods we choose to eat have a huge effect on our bodies and minds, but I've never before noticed such a startling result in such a short time. Has anyone else experienced anything similar when cleaning up their nutrition?

*Yes, I fell right off the Gorgeous Skin wagon, but I'm back on it again. Shut up.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HeartActive: Help for high cholesterol

When you live a healthy lifestyle, staying active, eating your veggies and maintaining a healthy bodyweight, you tend to expect that you will automatically be blessed with good health. Well, I do anyway….  So I’m pretty miffed that my cholesterol levels have started to creep upwards over the past couple of years.

Yep, age and heredity seem to have caught up with me, and the last test I had showed a slightly alarming 7.0. Yikes. In case you’re wondering: that’s officially classed as “high cholesterol”. According to the government’s Australian Institute of Health & Welfare:

Total blood cholesterol levels above 5.5 mmol/L are an indication of a greatly increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Levels above 6.5 mmol/L are considered to indicate extremely high risk.

Uh-oh. The Australian recommended ideal cholesterol level is below 4.5, and I’m not even close. Luckily my HDL cholesterol is high and my triglycerides are low, so it isn’t all bad news, but it’s still time for action. Being a nutrition nut, I’ve done my research into cholesterol-lowering foods, and one of the nutritional strategies most recommended by the Heart Foundation and other health organisations is the consumption of two to three serves daily of foods fortified with plant sterols. 

Enter my new “super food” to the rescue: HeartActive milk.

HeartActive is a 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in as little as three weeks. It’s available in 1 litre cartons as fresh white milk – so you’ll find it in the refrigerator at the supermarket – but it has an extended shelf life of forty days from production. Of course, it’s a good source of calcium and all the other goodies that usually come in milk too.

I did a little research into plant sterols and discovered that they occur naturally in all plants (clever plants!).  I also found a long-winded sciencey explanation of what they actually are, but it had complicated diagrams and made my head hurt. 

Anyway, the important thing I discovered from my research (a.k.a. “Asking Dr Google”) is that the Heart Foundation recommends 2-3g of sterols be consumed per day from plant sterol-enriched foods. That converts to 2-3 cups of HeartActive milk.

I’ve been a low fat or skim milk drinker for the past thirty-odd years, and (hurrah!) this stuff is 99% fat free, so I’ve already switched. I sploshed it into my porridge this morning and couldn’t tell the difference, to be honest.

With HeartActive in my tool kit as well as a couple of other dietary tweaks, I’m on a mission to crush my high cholesterol into submission.  I’m looking forward to watching that number go down.

Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion only and is not intended as medical advice. If you have high cholesterol or any other medical issue, please consult a qualified medical practitioner.


Friday, February 15, 2013

My (not so) lovely lady lumps

He thinks HE'S got it bad! Image source.

Ageing is so much fun (Note the sarcastic tone). Your once abundant locks become thin and cling to your scalp like scant strands of wet seaweed, whilst on your freaking CHIN the hair follicles are having a party. Your eyesight fades to the point that going out without a capacious handbag is not an option because you can't read a menu or decipher your text messages without your reading glasses. Things wear out and other strange, new things appear...

Last year I noticed an almond-sized lump in my left upper arm, sort of to one side of my triceps. An ultrasound showed that one to be a lipoma - a mass of fatty tissue that your body just decides on a whim to deposit somewhere it has no business to be. They're harmless and no treatment is required unless they become painful or restrict movement. And by "treatment", I mean surgical removal. That's not required in my case, thankfully.

Then a few weeks back I realised that I had a tender spot in the palm of my left hand. "Dr Mum" diagnosed that one for me as a ganglion cyst. Our family is famous for them. They have nothing to do with nerves, so the "ganglion" part is a misnomer, but they tend to grow on tendons or joints. Mine is right on the tendon that works my little finger (so it isn't from overuse of my MIDDLE finger, before anyone gets smart...) and it's a painful nuisance when I grip the steering wheel or my bike handlebars. I foresee a "procedure" in my future for that one.

That should be enough bizarre growths for any one human body, but nooooo. It seems I'm not done growing odd stuff just yet. I now also have a lump on the sole of my right foot, which the podiatrist thinks is most likely a fibroma. I'll find out for sure after I get it scanned tomorrow.

I'm a bit over it, frankly. Medicare is great and all, but the gaps for radiology services are outrageous and my wallet is hurting. And all of this lump business makes me wonder what the hell is next? A giant growth in the middle of my nose? An extra butt cheek? Sheesh.

Tell me about your strange lumps and bumps to make me feel better, would you?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

In the groove

Funky new trainers, yeah!

After two years of battling the voices in my head, I seem to have finally overcome my deep-down belief that anything not involving heavy lifting isn't "real" weight training. After all, all the "experts" tell you that you have to lift hard and heavy to get results. Don't even think about picking up those pink dumbbells; get yourself into the weights room with the serious folks. So being told "strictly no lifting of heavy weights" by your team of medical professionals doesn't sit well with me.

I can tell myself till I'm blue in the face that doing what's right for my injured body isn't the same as being a wimp, but believing it is a whole other thing. Cue negative self-talk, attempts to do things I shouldn't (which always end badly), and regular bouts of chucking in the towel, because: this sucks, and what's the POINT anyway?

It's taken some work, but over the past few weeks I've managed to make peace with myself and - not surprisingly - I'm enjoying training once again. That's been a long time coming. I still wasn't totally convinced that my strange leg workouts involving bodyweight exercises, some light-ish dumbells and a stability ball would really be effective. But I find myself sweating, my muscles burn and shake and the next day I'm hit with some pretty nasty DOMS, so I'd say that's evidence enough that they're doing the job.

Of course, there's a flow-on effect. When I'm feeling the lerve in my training sessions, I get a momentum going and never miss one. And that makes me far less likely to eat any old crap, because my whole mindset shifts and besides, I just don't get those impulses that spur me on to forage in the pantry and shovel in any old thing. Or if I do, they're easy to dismiss.

The upshot of all this is a much happier Kek - and also a little bit less of me. It's nice to see the scale numbers moving downwards again. I've been carrying that extra 5kg of excess baggage for way too long.

This morning's gym workout was a particularly good one. I got onto the treadmill to warm up and had an inexplicable urge to crank out a Body-for-LIFE HIIT cardio session. I know! Am I crazy? Quite possibly....but I did it anyway. And then I moved onto my leg workout. Only a couple of weeks ago, I was self-conscious and awkward about my squats holding a plate or dumbbell, my super-light Romanian deadlifts and so on, but today? I didn't care. I just focused on what I was doing and got lost in the moment. I *may* have got so engrossed in what I was doing that I forgot where I was and sang out loud along with my iPod (it was Lady Gaga; come on!), but I'm sure the other gym patrons enjoyed it. ;o)

And by the way, I might not be capable of deadlifting more than my own bodyweight, but I can still rock a plank with my feet on a medicine ball. It's a small victory, but I'll take it.


Friday, February 08, 2013

The drama llama pays a visit

I find it difficult to motivate myself to do cardio on a good day. Unless it's a bike ride of course, in which case that's just plain fun. Anything else? Meh.

So when I woke up (late) this morning after a horrendous night of interrupted sleep, with severe pain down my right shoulder blade, I was secretly glad that I couldn't get on the spin bike. Not only did I not have enough time before the school run, there was no way I could endure more than a couple of minutes on the bike with my shoulder in that state.

My excuses were pretty well water-tight. Never mind that Bike Boy is home today and offered to drive the kid to school, I was in full-blown martyr mode. *Grump* I'm tired. *Grump* I overslept. *Grump*  This pain SUCKS. *Grump* I've broken a nail right through about halfway down (under my fake acrylic nails) which is mighty painful and I need the damn things removed, stat. *Grump* I have to pick up my new reading glasses, get to a podiatrist appointment, attend a meeting at the school and in between do my washing and get over to my mum's place to help her out, as she has her arm in a sling following surgery a couple of weeks ago. *Grump* I have soooo much to doooo today, I'll never fit it all in...poor, poor me.

On top of all that, the coffee machine decided to be contrary and it took me twenty minutes of fiddling to get my first long black out of it, which only added to my lovely mood. You really wouldn't have wanted to be here at 7:00am, trust me.

I drove The Baby to school, called at the shops to grab some things I needed, then checked the time and it was only 8:30. My shoulder had stopped hurting, the nail salon wasn't even open for another half hour and my two coffees had started working. Grumpy Kek started to quieten down and the voice of reason kicked in. I realised that that bloody drama llama had followed me home again - the nails could wait till this afternoon or even tomorrow morning; I didn't have to be at the podiatrist until 11:00 and would then have plenty of time to pick up my glasses before launching into the million other things on my list.

I headed home, broke my rule and had a third coffee (tsk!), got changed and jumped on the bike. 30 minutes later, cardio was done and I had time to hang out the washing and tackle my email before heading out on my long list of errands.

Sometimes you just need to take a breath, step back and ask yourself: are things really as bad as they seem, or are you making something out of nothing much?

Does the drama llama ever drop in on anyone else, or is it just me...?