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Friday, May 16, 2014

But, but...I'm not ready!

Probably the most commonly used phrase by people contemplating changing their life. And to that I say *When, pray tell, do you think you WILL be ready?* If you wait until something happens, an accident, illness, warmer weather, cooler weather, insert-excuse-here, you will probably never start. And that isn't laziness, its a lack of self value.

If you are sitting there, feeling bad, unhealthy, weak, out of shape, etc thinking you really ought to do something about it...then by golly get off your a$$ and do it! NO ONE is too busy to take care of them self. If you take an HONEST look at your day, there are very few people who can say they truly don't have time. Most people have LOTS of time...we just fill it up with mindless things, aka waste it. I am certainly guilty of this. There are PLENTY of times I *should* be doing something else, or could be doing something else and instead, I would rather sit on my heiny and go on facebook, or read, or insert-distraction-from-life-here...well if you TAKE that time and give it to yourself to take care of you...IMAGINE! :) But what it really boils down to is a lack of self value. We put ourselves at the bottom of the list(women, especially mothers) behind everyone and everything else, including the dog (cat, ducks...)and that has to change. How are you supposed to do ALL that you do AND make time for you and do it all with the best of your ability if you are not putting yourself near the top of that list? You can't drive a car with no gas. You can't run a lawnmower with no gas. You can't do MANY things with no *gas* why are you living your life running on no *gas*?

There will never BE a *right time* so why not start now? Make today the first day of the rest of your life. Learn to eat better for your lifestyle. Find a fitness program you enjoy. Build some strength in that amazing body of yours. You will sleep better, feel better and you will not regret it. If you don't take care of you FIRST (or at LEAST put yourself in the top 5) then how are you supposed to care for anyone else? When you give to yourself first you WILL have that energy and strength to do all of those things you want to do for others. I do not have a ton of time to go to the gym and do all sorts of stuff there AND get my running in. Plus, for me, the gym is not somewhere I want to be for *my* workouts...I want to be outside, or home as then I am usually multi-tasking, lol...but that is why the program I most favor is the exact one I do myself. Its quick, gets the job done and gets results. Its the one I would go to first for ANYONE wanting to change their life and health because its easy and quick and shows you you DO have time to work out and you will see results. Its easy to fit into your life and your routine.

This goes for diet as well...too busy to cook for yourself? Nonsense. There are plenty of healthy options you can make/eat that take no time at all. And you DESERVE to put good food into your body! Most people actually don't eat enough food to fuel their lifestyle (and I mean ALL sized people) Well, again...if there isn't enough gas in the car, you aren't going to get far, are you? If you fill your tank, your car can go all day! Same goes with *your* tank. You need to fuel for your activities. When you fill your *tank* you will feel better and have more energy. When you fill your tank with GOOD *gas* you are unstoppable. This does not mean you cannot eat the foods you love anymore, it simply means you need to eat a balance of foods, and only what your body needs(calorie-wise). I say follow the 80/20 rule. For the average person looking to feel better and get fit, make sure 80% of those calories you need come from quality foods. Doesn't HAVE to be organic, you do the best you can. If you can eat organic, great. If you can't, you can still eat a healthy diet. (make sure you wash and/or peel those fruits and veggies though) 20% of your calories can be foods that may be less than stellar...but darn it you like them. Chocolate, some wine, ice cream...they aren't *bad* foods, but you don't want to run your engine on them. I find that for most people, if you tell them they can't have something or not to eat something and label it BAD, they will want it more. Then they eat that bad food, and ugh, I messed everything up so I may as well have the whole day thinking you failed and why bother...wash, rinse, repeat. Well, you won't get far that way...instead, if you want that slice of cake and you know you ate really well that day...have it. Need something sweet every day? Plan something into your day then. Like the vino? Plan for that glass or 2...getting fit does NOT have to be punishment OR complicated and hard, because you know what? If it is either of those things, you aren't going to do it, do it for long, or stick with it. If it is something comfortable, guilt free, easy...why WOULDN'T you do it?

This is what I really want to teach people. You simply start where you are and go from there. Make simple changes, tweaks and adjustments in your life and perspective and the results will come. You will be so happy you did it. You will then stick with it. And you ARE worth it. You are valuable. You deserve it. :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Running on Half-Full, aka Trying to be Healthy with AI DIsease

Something I have wanted to write about for a LONG time is being a runner with a chronic illness.
I am certainly NOT the only one, as in my circle of running friends I know several, and though we haven't gotten into the nitty-gritty of it all, I am willing to guess we all face similar battles in order to do the things we love to do. Every time I line up at a race, I am already at a deficit. My training may not be as consistent as other runners, my nutrition not as good, I struggle with hydration and eating enough because of my GI issues, I have trouble regulating my body temperature so if its too hot/cold or *I* get too hot/cold it could be an issue. I have to carry an epi pen and Benadryl because though I know what foods I can't eat, I also randomly react to things that normally I wouldn't and need to be able to treat that...or I have to carry all my own food/drink. For longer races I have to worry about bringing medications and making sure I remember to take xyz at the right times. Sometimes I am not recovered enough from a flare to run a race and I have to drop, or sometimes the pain I live with daily becomes too much during a race and I have to stop. Sometimes a flare is coming and I think I can squeak by...and then it hits me full on during a race and, well, that is the end of that. Other times, everything lines up absolutely perfectly and I go out and run and have a GRAND time and love every minute of it because I know every good/successful race is a blessing.

It doesn't really matter what illness one has, Autoimmune Illness follows a pretty similar path: pain, fatigue, feeling unwell, various neurological/GI/insert-annoying-symptom-here. Add any disease specific issues you face and there you go. Not fun. And it is a HUGE battle to fight. I think the hardest part is that most people with any sort of AI (Autoimmune Illness) *looks* fine...yet they feel like they are dying on the inside. This adds a extra layer or 10 to the journey of fitness and health. In an ideal world, you would talk to a Personal Trainer (hey, like the one writing this!) and discuss your goals, what you would like to accomplish, talk about your diet and the changes that can be made, set up a schedule and off you go. If you follow it, 6 weeks down the road you will see some changes, and by month 3 even more, and so on. If you are dealing with AI it may look something like this: Week 1 and 2 are great, week 3 you are slammed with fatigue so severe brushing your teeth is a chore AND now you can't eat eggs because for some reason your body is reacting to them and making those healthy meals is too much effort so you you decide that potato chips and a glass of chocolate milk would be a great meal...for the next 3 days...week 4 you are better, so you can do half of your intended workouts and eating a *little* bit better but now your stomach is acting up preventing you from getting enough calories...and you have insomnia so your energy and recovery are not the best...Week 5 finds you feeling better so back at it you go! Week 6 and 7 are good, then weeks 8-10 find you in another AI flare which continues on for a month...At that point you might say, *why should I even bother? This isn't going to work/worth it/I can't keep up. I'm here to tell you that you SHOULD bother because you are worth it.

If you find yourself in this situation, being a person with an AI who decides that getting healthy/fit/strong is something you want to accomplish, you need to find someone who GETS what you are dealing with. It is not impossible for you to make health and fitness goals and even accomplish them, you may simply need more time, support, and a plan you can follow that is tailored for YOU and your specific and unique needs. As someone with 2 different AI's I ABSOLUTELY understand all of this. There have been times I have been sailing right along, feeling good, running all the time, working out, eating pretty well, sleeping...all my ducks lined up quite nicely. Then, usually at a MOST inconvenient time, the symptoms creep in...a little extra fatigue. Recovery is not what I expect. Weights that I had been lifting fine, feel a bit heavier. Needing to take more *rest days*...cue up my other symptoms and BAM, back in a flare. I am fortunate that it doesn't happen as often, but it HAS happened and it can be a week, two weeks  or even months. There have been times I have had to give up exercise all together because I simply could. not. do. anything. It is hard, depressing, and makes you really think *why bother?*

The thing is, ANY sort of aerobic exercise and strength training, and it can be as simple as walking and a few body-weight exercises, is going to improve your health. In the many, MANY years of research I have done on AI's and their various *cures* just about every single one suggests daily exercise as tolerated. It has a myriad of benefits and I truly believe in my own case, the fact that I have been a runner most of my life and have run through most of my illness, I have not been sicker. And as bad as it has been at times, it COULD have been a whole lot worse. I have always tried to do SOMETHING whenever I felt well enough to do so. The increased oxygenation of your system, getting your heart pumping, fresh air(if you go outside) increased metabolism from exercise and strength training, and the MENTAL aspect...that alone has saved me as running IS my therapy.

That being said, it can be very frustrating to embark on an exercise and fitness program, start seeing results and thinking *Hey, look at me go!* only to fall back into a flare/relapse for xyz amount of time and think you have *lost all your gains*. The most important thing about that is, you simply cannot go there. You can't think *well why should I bother if I am just going to be sick again?* That is like someone who  is looking to lose weight saying *well, why bother doing all this, I will just gain all the weight back.* Um, well if you set your mind that way...yes. You are right. But, if you allow yourself the space to simply roll with things, and know that yes, right NOW you can't follow your program, but in a week/month when you are stronger you can get right back on that horse. Because as you move forward toward your fitness goals, you may find your relapses/flares to be less often/severe/long. You have to be able to accept and recognize that YOUR fitness and exercise goals and progress are not going to look the same as your *healthy* neighbor. You have to be able to allow for the bumps in the road, knowing that you may veer off course for a bit but that you can get back on that Path again just as easily. And there is no hard and fast rule as to how long it should take you to meet your goals. They are YOUR goals.

I can absolutely and with total honesty say that my running has saved me on more ways than one. Yes, there have been times that I had to take days/weeks/months off and I did worry about losing fitness/muscle/endurance etc. And you know what? Sometimes I did. Sometimes it felt like I was almost starting all over again. There have been times I DID have to start all over. But the very interesting thing is, the longer you commit to and follow an exercise routine, the more your body remembers it. That's right, your body is pretty smart. In the beginning, you may find it truly feels like starting over. That is why I say find something you LOVE to do because even if you DO have to start over, who cares, its still fun. :) But as your body becomes more and more accustomed to your routine, it will take less and less time to get back to the fitness level you had before getting sick/relapse/flare again. I have seen it first hand in myself. I was out for 6 weeks in the fall with some health issues. Lost a good deal of muscle, hadn't run...when I was finally able to run again, I went from 20m/wk to probably 50+ m/wk inside a month and had reclaimed the muscle I had lost in probably a month to 6 weeks. It requires some patience on your part, but it is simply have to accept that your particular Path may have a few extra bumps and side roads than most.

That is the hardest part of having a chronic AI or any chronic illness. Acceptance. Realizing that this is your lot in life and somehow you simply have to make the best of it, play the cards you were dealt. I think it is EXTREMELY important to work with someone who *gets* this. Another reason I became a PT was because I DO get it, and I understand that a program with someone with a chronic illness can and probably will need to be changed up pretty regularly to accommodate where the person is at. It is also why I became certified in Sports Nutrition as well. :)

Another piece of the puzzle is obviously diet. Anyone who has listened to me blather on knows what I think of all the diets out there. I am VERY passionate about finding an eating plan that works for individual people in their individual lives according to their individual needs. Add an AI/chronic illness to the mix and usually all bets are off. Food sensitivities/allergies, special diets, diets that have to change according to where the person is in their cycle...all things I have done a ridiculous amount of research on and have used in my own life and am VERY familiar with. I believe that no matter WHAT your restrictions are, there is a way to make up an eating plan that is easy, enjoyable, and fits into your life.

Basically, my goal is to offer the support I wish I had when I was struggling. I wish I could have gone to someone who could have said *Here's what we'll do, here's what you can eat and this is how we will get through this...* Well, if you can't find it, create it :) and that is what I am hoping to do. I don't want anyone to ever feel the way I did, I don't ever want someone to feel like they can't do what others are doing because they got a few extra cards to deal with. I realized early on that I did not want to *become* my illness, it was not going to define me. I was a person WITH an illness, but I am SO much more than that. I want to help others to find that place as well. Illness is simply a chapter(ok, maybe 2) in your book. But there are PLENTY of other chapters as well. You can make those chapters anything you like, so make them great. :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Its a revolution! Of sorts.

Many many years ago, I would have not pictured myself wanting to become a personal trainer. I had the stereo-typical notion that they were all *muscle heads* that worked in gyms and if you went to one you would become a muscle head too. :) Which is a-ok, if that is what you want...but I am guessing that is NOT what everyone wants. Part of what drew me in was watching what was going on around me in my very limited community of athletes, and my circle of acquaintances. I started thinking about how obsessed people were about diets and Paleo this, and fat-free that, and grain free, and vegan, and raw, and, and, and....and yet  people were NOT getting the results they really wanted, nor were they lasting because what they wanted and what was their reality were never going to be friends. I  had to learn this lesson. Yet, I was starting to see this swing in a new direction. A direction where people were doing their own thing. Playing by their own rules, in all shapes and sizes and were, gasp, happy with the results. Now,  I will tell you a little story about me....

 Once upon a time I was anorexic. In high school. I was actually quite overweight, despite running quite often. I was the *fat girl*. I was the *good listener* and the *good friend* know how that goes. Well, one summer I decided to become a vegetarian. I was not a big fan of meat, and when I started reading about it I thought hey, that is pretty cool! Told my mother I wanted to do it and she said it was ok as long as I did the research and was eating a healthy diet. I was 15. By becoming vegetarian, it changed the way I ate more than simply cutting out meat. I had a better awareness of what I was putting into my body so instead of mindlessly eating whatever to dull some emotions(which is how I got to be overweight in the first place) I was AWARE of what I ate. And, I also lost weight. A good deal actually. I was running more, losing weight and people noticed. At the time, that was what flipped the switch in me, followed up by various other life issues, and I was hooked. I became obsessed with running and what I ate. I would bet I was not consuming more than 800 calories a day IF that. I wish I could find a picture of myself from that time because it actually makes me uncomfortable to look at. Thing was, I was not 80lbs anorexic, just based on my genetics and bone structure, I was more like 115lb anorexic. Which, many people would say, "5'6" and 115? That's great!" Um, no. It isn't great. The thing was, it was not a NATURAL weight for me. I was STARVING myself to get to that weight. I was running twice a day EVERY SINGLE DAY to stay at that weight. And nobody knew how bad it was. I never told anyone.

Even though there were many layers to that whole time in my life, what I used to tell myself, in my half-starved state is I was doing this because that was *what runners looked like* ... um...ok. Much of my identity for YEARS, and to a certain extent still is, was wrapped up in me being a runner. I ran. A lot. Its what I did, its who I was. Well, by golly, I was going to look the part. And the only role models I had at the time, were the tiny little elite marathon runners featured in Runner's World. Several problems with this...1)I was not an elite marathoner. 2)They were generally around 5'2" and 100lbs soaking wet NATURALLY.  3) Genetics. Yet, I had it in my head I wanted to look the part and if that meant  not be it. Problem with that is if you don't put gas in the car, it ain't gonna run...and my running career came to a screeching(albeit temporary)halt my Sophomore year in college after my SECOND stress fracture. Of course I did NOT put 2 and 2 together so not much changed. Over the years my weight went up and down, I ran more, I ran less but when I was running more, I immediately went to the place of needing to *look the part*.  Here's the thing though...I do NOT look like a stereotypical runner. I am not built that way. Its not in my genetics. I come from a sturdy line of Bulldogs, not sleek Greyhounds and no matter what I do, this bulldog will never be a greyhound. :) But, again, as much as I am a reasonably aware and grounded individual, I am not without failings and one of which is I STILL, in the recesses of my mind, think I need to *look the part*. I laugh at the absurdity because REALLY Julie? Have you learned ANYTHING??? Fortunately, I have. But, I am human and certainly not a perfect one at that.

So, here's what I DO know. I know that fitness and health comes in ALL sorts of packages. BMI charts and the like are garbage and NOT an accurate reflection of true wellness, fitness, strength, endurance, etc. I know that personally, I can run farther, and longer now than I EVER could at 115lbs. I know that the better I eat, the better I feel. I know that even though I don't *look* like a runner, I can run up a mountain without stopping. More than once. I can do a 50k with very little notice, bang out a hilly 20 miler and the next day do it again. I also know that strength training will cure almost anything that ails you ;) that all *they* say about the benefits of lifting weights and adding some sort of strength training regimen is true. And I want to share that with everyone. And with that, I started to look around and realized...people are actually starting to *get it*...I noticed that at road races there are every shape and sized runner you can think of. At ultras, which are races LONGER than a marathon again, ALL shapes and sizes. I started looking at other events that you would think would have a very stereotypical body type and... wait for it...ALL shapes and sizes! What do you know!

THIS is why I became a Personal Trainer. Because I wanted to find people where they are right that second and help them find their way from there. I wanted to show people that you don't HAVE to look like anyone other than who you are, and who you become. I wanted to introduce people to the fact that they actually CAN eat the foods they love, because its all about the balance. I want to help people find an activity they love and help them *train* for that activity because if you train for what you enjoy, you will enjoy the training. I want to tach people that strength training isn't *just* for your body, but it changes your mind as well, as when you start to gain strength and feel physically stronger, the mind follows. I want to teach people that the journey is JUST as important as the destination...more important, in fact. Its a marathon, not a sprint, so you might as well enjoy it along the way.