For a friend

If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that to live is to fight. Each of us has their own private battle to fight and most of us silently carry on that fight every single day. The primary reason that I started writing this blog was to break that silence. I needed to get out of my own head; I honestly didn’t care if anyone else ever read my story, I just needed to get it out there.

I quickly discovered that my words were not just reaching other people, but were actually helping them as well. Through comments and e-mails, I have learned that I am not alone in my struggle and that by breaking my silence, I have inspired others to seek help or make changes in their own lives. Sometimes, simply knowing that you’re not alone in your fight makes it easier to bear.

On that note, there are a few more walls that I would like to begin breaking down. My hope is that sharing this part of my journey will help others see their own paths more clearly.

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the effects exercise and weight loss have had on my battle with fibromyalgia. This blog was never meant to be about the weight loss itself, but about how losing the weight helped my condition. I have no intentions of changing that, however, a recent conversation with a very dear friend has made it obvious to me that I have left out some details that are important to my story.

I have been overweight my entire life. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was constantly teased and ridiculed about my weight. I hid my self consciousness behind a wall of books, which did nothing to help the problem. When I was diagnosed with poly cystic ovarian syndrome, at the age of 16, my doctor told me it was due to my being overweight and that it was possible I might be in the early stages of type 2 diabetes. In the course of an afternoon, my weight went from a minor inconvenience to a major issue.

My parents did everything they could to help me. My mother somehow managed to show her concern about my weight without ever once making me feel embarrassed about it, (which is a truly amazing feat when dealing with a teenager). We went to nutrition counseling, the whole family went to the gym together, we started riding bikes together… Nothing helped.

I ended up going to an endocrinologist who prescribed a variety of prescriptions to help control my insulin levels, but he seemed more concerned that I would develop “abnormal facial hair” than anything else. I guess his choices in drugs helped, as I never did develop the mustache he always asked about.

My weight stayed basically the same until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What my rheumatologist failed to mention when he began prescribing medication to treat the fibro was that nearly every drug they used at the time had a side effect of weight gain. I gained about 60 pounds over the course of a year, putting me more than 100 pounds over what is considered a “healthy” weight for my frame. Suddenly my endocrinologist started using words like “morbidly obese” and prescribing actual weight loss drugs.

The weight loss drugs had very little impact on my weight. I was at a loss. I tried Weight Watchers, diet supplements, going to the gym and various other diet plans, all to no avail. To be honest, I just sort of gave up. By making changes in my eating habits, I was able to beat the insulin resistance and eventually my endocrinologist actually said “unless you’re interested in weight loss surgery, there’s nothing else I can do for you”.

I left the doctor’s office that day feeling angry and completely hopeless. I was already battling fibromyalgia and I felt like I was doing everything I could to lose weight. Looking back on it now, I can see that while I was trying to lose the weight, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was trying to lose weight because everyone was telling me I needed to, not because it was what I wanted. I’m not saying that I wanted to be fat, I didn’t, but I wasn’t ready to put forth the amount of effort required to do anything about it.

Skip ahead about a year or so, to 2007. I finally found a combination of medicines to help me manage the symptoms without putting on extra pounds. In fact, the new meds actually helped me drop around 35 pounds, but only because they literally killed my appetite. In truth, it got to the point that I had to be reminded to eat. There were several occasions where I nearly fainted from not eating, simply because I was never hungry. It took some time, but I did eventually get things ironed out so that I could manage my symptoms without inadvertently starving myself.

Through sheer luck, I managed to keep my weight stable over the next few years, even after the fibro forced me to stop working altogether. In early 2012, my husband and I decided we’d had enough of being overweight and went on a joint diet. If I’m completely honest, I only started the diet in an effort to support him; I had already resigned myself to being overweight and firmly believed that there was nothing I could do about it.

We changed our eating habits by monitoring portion sizes, choosing healthy alternatives to junk food and counting our calorie intake. We tried to become more active, but that was where I fell off the wagon. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was also battling depression, which kept me from being the partner I should have been. Over the next 4 months or so, I lost a grand total of 15 pounds; not bad, considering I was in full blown slug mode. At this point, I hit one of those plateaus dreaded by all dieters, and I just didn’t have the energy to cross it. Thankfully, due to our diet changes, I was able to keep the weight off.

Fast forward to my very first blog post in May 2013: I finally found the drive I needed to pull myself out of slug mode.

I truly wish I could explain how it happened. All I can say is that something in my head shifted and suddenly I just knew that I could become a better me. I woke up one morning and simply decided that I was going to change things. I decided to lose weight in order to feel better, not because someone else told me I needed to or because I wanted to look good in a swim suit.

For me, that was the key. I needed to consciously decide that it was what *I* wanted. Once I did that, the determination, the will, to make it happen was just there. I didn’t have to struggle to get started, I just did it. Yes, some days are harder than others and some days I have to fight to keep going, but I know in my heart that I’m doing it for me, and that is what gives me the strength to carry on.

For those of you out there who are struggling to lose weight, take a second to think about why you’re doing it. Are you doing it to please someone else or is it what YOU want? The mind is a powerful thing, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you decide to do it.

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The Plan, update #8

Here’s a random, completely unnecessary fact about me: I LOVE making playlists. Seriously, I can amuse myself for hours putting together a playlist for something. That being said, it should come as no surprise that I have at least 5 different workout themed playlists. It’s quite possible that making new running playlists is my favorite part about running. ūüôā I decided today that it was time to make a new playlist, geared towards running a nine minute mile. There’s an awesome website, www.jog.fm, that creates playlists based on your desired pace, which for me has made finding new music amazingly easy. New or at least fresh music is incredibly important for me, since it’s one of the ways I amuse myself while doing something that I have no natural desire to do.

While looking over the list of suggested songs, I came across several songs that aren’t actually “new”, they’re just new to me. My favorite so far is “Not Afraid” by Eminem. I know that a lot of people find his music offensive, but I love it. I can’t say that I love everything he’s ever written, but I do like most of his stuff, and “Not Afraid” is definitely at the top of that list. Why? Because the song rings true for me, here’s one of my favorite parts:

“And I just can’t keep living this way
So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, I’ma face my demons
I’m manning up, I’ma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now!”

Admittedly, the song is a bit fast for a 9 minute mile, but it gets my head in the right place, so I’m willing to over look that little fact.

Another song that made it in to my new playlist is “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor feat. Styles of Beyond. Like “Not Afraid”, this song is technically too fast, but it helps me focus and again, I can relate to it:

“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!”

If I were to use these lyrics to describe my own journey, it would read more like this:

This is five percent luck, five percent skill
Thirty-five percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain

The lyrics don’t flow quite as well that way, but that’s ok, it’s not like I have any aspirations to be a song writer; I’m just an ordinary person, trying the best I can to describe the way I see things. For all the doubters out there, this song, (“Remember the Name”), is a reminder that yes, there is pain involved in this endeavor of mine, but the results are worth it. I am not ignoring the pain factor, nor am I suggesting that anyone who has a similar condition ignore theirs; you have to be able to look at the pain and ask yourself this question: “Is this a pain I can work through, or do I need to slow things down?”

When the answer is “yes, I can work through/around this pain”, that’s where the “thirty-five percent concentrated power of will” part¬†comes in. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t exactly LIKE exercising, (“five percent pleasure”), but I have learned that it is necessary. If I want to have something that even resembles a “normal” life, I am going to have to work for it, which in this case means working out, or at the very least staying active. I will not be a prisoner to my pain, even if it means getting up and doing things I am not particularly fond of. Of course, it also means paying close attention to what my body is trying to tell me.

Even when someone is as intimately familiar with pain as those of us who deal with it on a daily basis, it can be damn near impossible to tell the difference between “serious, something is wrong pain” and “normal, fibro pain”. Do I get it wrong sometimes? Yep. Being as stubborn as I am, I usually tend to push through when I really should take a break;¬†more often than not, it takes someone else pointing out that I need to rest to get me to actually do it.¬† No, I am not exaggerating, I am actually that hard-headed. Thankfully, I have someone in my life who loves me enough to say “hey, dummy, you need to take a break”.

I truly wish that I could sit here and say that all the hard work has totally paid off and that I am completely pain-free. I can’t.

Before I started “THE Plan”, I spent EVERY SINGLE DAY in near constant pain, often rating¬†8 or higher on a scale of 10. Some days, I dealt with an incessant¬†“hum” of pain at about a level of 5 or so, with crippling spikes of 8 to 10. Every day was a “bad” day and I nearly lost myself in the misery. Then, one day, I woke up. I realized that no one was going to “fix” me and that if *I* didn’t do something, I was going to end up wasting my entire life.

There is no cure or even any definite treatment for fibromyalgia. There isn’t even a common consensus on what causes it. From the looks of things, it will be a very long time before researchers even begin to understand the disease. The only thing that anyone seemed to agree on was that regular¬†exercise seems to help with the symptoms. I took that idea to heart and thus, “THE” Plan was born.

It’s been eight months, 35 pounds, and over 1000 miles.¬†¬†I am exercising a minimum of 4, usually 5 days a week, for at least 30 minutes a day.

I am not pain free, but now the “good days” out number the “bad” days by about 5 to 1. I am no longer in constant pain and while¬†I still experience some kind of pain on a daily basis,¬†my average pain level is 5 or under, with occasional spikes of 8 to 10.¬†Fatigue, insomnia and “fibro fog” are all still major problems, but most of those symptoms can be at least¬†partially managed by medication. I¬†am well aware that I¬†am not “cured” and I know that as soon as I stop working at it, things will go right¬†back to the way they were before. Nothing that is worth having comes without a fight and since as far as anyone knows, you only get one life, I’d say that’s definitely worth fighting for.

“I’m not afraid
To take a stand
Everybody
Come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that you’re not alone
Follow if you feel like you’ve been down the same road”

— Eminem, “Not Afraid”

Please excuse me for a moment…

cat-fukken-win-5990-1I sincerely apologize to anyone who might be offended by the language used in this picture, I only used it because it was absolutely necessary… ūüôā

Why am I posting this particular picture? Two reasons: #1: this picture makes me laugh out loud every time I see it; #2: it is an exact representation of how I feel right now.

Not only did I manage to jog a full 1.5 miles (in one go, no stopping!), I FINALLY achieved my goal of a 12 minute mile. I came in at 11 minutes, 53 seconds, to be exact. So, yeah, I’m feeling pretty awesome. When the little voice came through my headphones to tell me what my mile time was, I actually (half) shouted “hell yeah!”. Yes, I was in the middle of a park, and I should probably also apologize to the elderly couple who I startled with my little victory cry; I am terribly sorry for scaring you half to death, I just got a bit carried away.

In other news, I have decided to try my hand (or maybe I should I say “feet”?), at an 8k race. In just over four months, I will be participating in the 8k portion of¬† the 2014 Shamrock Marathon. I haven’t decided on a plan of attack just yet, but ultimately, I would like to finish it in 45 minutes or less. That would put my pace at about 9 minutes/mile… Don’t worry, I’m already questioning my sanity, so no need to call the men in white coats just yet.

Right now, my biggest concern is whether or not to join a gym. Why? It’s too darn cold. I know, it’s only November and it’s not even “cold” yet, but without my protective layer of blubber, 50 degrees is just too cold. I barely even broke a sweat after jogging 1.5 miles and once I cooled down from the workout, it literally took me hours to warm back up. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll get a very good workout if I’m dressed like Randy from “A Christmas Story”, so I’m thinking maybe joining a gym for the winter months is the way to go.

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My only concern is that running on a treadmill is going to bore me to tears. How on Earth am I supposed to entertain myself if I’m trapped in one spot? Trust me, trying to watch a movie or TV while running is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. I DO NOT have the attention span for that kind of multi-tasking. I enjoy jogging outside because even if I take the same path every time, there’s always something new to look at. It also gives me the perfect opportunity to spy on my neighbors and come up with bizarre stories to go along with my observations.

For example, the other day, I noticed that two of my neighbors were home extremely early. It seemed awfully suspicious that they pulled into their respective driveways (right across from each other) at the exact same time… Sure, it could have been pure coincidence, but what if they planned to come home early that day to perfect their zombie apocalypse plans? Perhaps they belong to a secret cult of cat worshippers and had to get ready for some kind of gathering? This is exactly¬†the kind of thing that keeps exercising interesting!

Unfortunately, since the cold always has a negative effect on the fibro, I’ll probably end up spending the winter on a treadmill. Maybe I’ll take a few tours and choose a gym based on its people watching potential!

Race Day!

You guys have read about my goals for my first 5k for months now, and I am thrilled to announce that Sunday afternoon, I crossed the finish line over a minute under my goal time!

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You may remember that back in June, I had managed to do the full 5k in just under 50 minutes, and set a new goal of 40 minutes for the actual race. As of¬†October 20,¬†I completed 5k in 38 minutes and 58 seconds! I wasn’t able to jog the whole thing, but I hadn’t expected to; my main goal was¬†simply to¬†cross the finish line with the best time I possibly could. Considering that about six months ago,¬†I was literally a couch potato and could barely walk a 20 minute¬†mile without feeling miserable, completing this challenge is an amazing feeling.

It wasn’t easy, especially with the road blocks put in my way by my own body. The fibro didn’t want me to do this and to be honest, there were many times that I doubted myself. I know that to a lot of people a 5k seems like a small thing, it is after all, only about 3 miles, and I imagine that most people in fair health could do it if they wanted to. Those of us with fibromyalgia know that even if we’re in otherwise perfect health (which we’re usually not), physical activity of any sort is an iffy venture, at best. We can never really gauge how we are going to feel on any given day, so setting up an actual training routine is nearly impossible. It took me six months to get myself ready for this race.

The first few weeks of training were incredibly difficult; I don’t think I can adequately describe what it was like to someone who doesn’t have a chronic pain condition. My body did not want to cooperate, it was perfectly happy to sit on the couch and do nothing. Not only did I have to fight against my own self doubt, I had to fight my body’s insistence that I was hurting myself. Getting past the “payback pain” was an arduous process, but I will tell you now, I would do it all over again. The results are worth it. It took about 6 weeks, but I did finally reach a point where I began to feel better after a workout, rather than worse.

The thing you have to keep in mind is that: I do not work out because I feel better, I work out to make myself feel better. I don’t¬†just¬†exercise on the days that I feel good;¬†even on my worst days, I will force myself to go do something, even if it’s just a short walk around the neighborhood, because I now know that afterwards, I will feel better. I cannot put enough emphasis on how important that realization was to me. Those days where all you want to do is curl up with a bowl of ice cream and cry are the days that where you need to find a way to be active, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. I promise you that you will feel better. Your mental state will improve almost immediately¬†because now you can be proud of yourself for not giving up, and eventually your body will realize that the activity actually does feel better than doing nothing.

Alright, enough of the “get active” propaganda :).

I would like to say how very, extremely proud I am of my best friend, Heather. Like me, she has been struggling to get and stay active. She has been a constant source of support and motivation for me, I can only hope that I have managed to do the same. I will tell you right now, that without her to kick me in the behind every now and then, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did in the race. She has been there for me from the get go and has stuck by me even when I was whining about not wanting to do anything. She’s also had a rough time over the last 6-8 months, but she still managed to be there with me at the starting line and even with a bum ankle, she crossed the finish line well under our original goal of 1 hour. We’re already looking forward to our next race. ūüôā

Another person that I’d like to mention is another very dear friend of mine, Aaron. Even though he had absolutely no reason to get up and go out to the race this last weekend, he was there to cheer both Heather and I on, and was even nice enough to hold on to our stuff for us. I can’t even tell you guys how much it meant to me to have two of my very favorite people there to support me on a day that a year ago I would’ve said would never happen. Even before the fibro, I would have never thought that I’d voluntarily participate in a race; after the fibro, I would have said it would be impossible for me to do at all. I’m so very glad that I was able to prove myself wrong.

After race

Struggling

Have you ever used a visualization to help you get through something difficult?

For instance, over the last few months, when I’ve found myself struggling with training for the 5k, I’ve been visualizing myself crossing the finish line as a way to motivate myself to keep going. When I felt like I simply couldn’t jog another step, that image of myself crossing the finish line with my loved ones there waiting for me kept me going. It’s helped me get myself out of the house and even helped me get out of bed some mornings. I’ve found this simple tactic to be amazingly helpful and have even been using other visualizations to help me with other goals.

There is, however a downside. The 5k I’ve been training for is next weekend and just yesterday, that image that I’ve had running through my head for the last 5 months got ripped apart. I’m still going to cross the finish line, but someone very important to me will not be there to see it, and not because they’re unable to.¬†I know that in the grand scheme of things this truly isn’t a big deal, but it’s just one more dream that’s been flushed down the toilet. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even want to do the 5k anymore. I’ve been holding on to my little vision for so long that I don’t even know how to continue without it. It doesn’t help that I’m absolutely exhausted; the fatigue issues I wrote about last week seem to have gotten worse.

Nothing that I have tried has helped. I’ve adjusted my sleep schedule, tried taking my night-time meds earlier, changed my diet, adjusted the vitamins I take, cut back on my workouts… I’m at a loss. Not only do I not have the energy to run this thing, I feel like my motivation is gone as well. The pain was a cake walk compared to this. I can work around pain, but how do you work around being completely exhausted all the time? It takes energy to work, to fight, and I’m running seriously low at this point. Caffeine/energy drinks don’t work, naps are no help at all and what little sleep I do manage to¬†get is ineffective.

I’m really not trying to have a pity party, I just feel so lost right now and I figure writing about it is better than hiding in bed. I’ve tried talking about it, but unless someone has actually dealt with this kind of problem before, they just can’t understand. I’m¬†sick of people telling me to “go take a nap” or to “drink some coffee”, so I just stopped talking about it altogether.

I usually try to end my posts on a positive note, but I’m having a hard time finding one right now. The best I can say is that despite my current feelings, I will be doing the 5k next Sunday, even if I have to walk the entire thing. I won’t let one person screw up all of my hard work and I’m betting that my bestie will kick my butt if I try to back out, (I love you, Heather! I really do!).

The Plan, update #7

So far, all of my updates about The Plan have been about positive things that I have noticed or goal I’ve achieved. This update is a bit different, because I have hit a wall. A big, fat, solid, wall.

I don’t know if this is just the fibromyalgia making things difficult or if something has changed, but the last few weeks have been a bit rough. Simply put, I am exhausted. Absolutely, utterly drained. In August, I was able to up my walks to 3-4 miles, 4 or 5 days a week. On top of that, for most of the month, I was able to do one of the Jillian Michaels’ workouts at least 4 days a week. Let me tell you, I was pretty impressed with myself!

I carried this pace all the way through to about mid September, when out of nowhere, my energy levels plummeted. I figured that maybe I was getting run down and took a few days off from the Jillian Michaels workouts, (but kept up with my walking routine), planning to get back into it the following week.

Epic fail. I made it about a third of the way through the workout before my body just refused to cooperate. After that, I began to pay a bit more attention to how I was feeling throughout the day. I noticed that not only has it been harder to wake up in the mornings, (it literally feels like I’m dredging my consciousness up through deep, dark water every morning), but I’ve reverted to feeling like I need a nap in the late afternoons. I haven’t actually gone so far as to take said naps, but I have thought long and hard about it more than a few times.

I don’t feel sick, my pain levels haven’t changed, I’m not having any extra trouble falling asleep and I haven’t made any changes to my diet… I’m kind of at a loss on this one. I’ve even talked to my doctor about it, but all I got was the typical shoulder shrug that comes with the fibro territory.

I absolutely refuse to give up my walking. I will zombie drag myself down the street if I have to, but I am not going to give up on this. If I was feeling otherwise run down or had any other symptoms of illness, I’d take a break for a few days, even I’m not that stubborn. ūüôā The thing is, I’m mostly convinced that this is just the fibro trying to trick me into giving up, and I know what happens if I do. I have been down that road and I know where it leads: misery.

I may not have the energy to cook dinner every night and its possible the laundry may sit around a little bit longer, but I am going to keep moving. Over the last five months, I have been happier, my mood has been lighter and I have simply felt better than I have in years. I knew that this was going to get harder at some point; I’ve already fought my way through several massive pain flare ups. The pain couldn’t stop me, neither will this.

The Plan, update #6

It’s taken four months and 316 miles (yes, I have walked 316 miles over the last four months!!), but I have officially reached the halfway point of my weight loss goal! A full 25 pounds, gone! YAY!!!

As part of my celebration, I decided to do a google search for things that weigh 25 pounds, so I could get a visual of what I am no longer carting around:

  • an average 2 yr old
  • a 25 lb barbell plate
  • 25 one lb¬† full butter boxes
  • a small dog
  • 10 ft metal chain
  • 5 bags sugar
  • 25 foot balls
  • a 19 inch flat screen T.V.
  • 3 one gallon jugs of water

I have to say, the image of carrying these things around with me is pretty strange… no wonder I’m always so tired!

It’s important to remember, however, that the weight loss is just a fabulous side effect of what I’m actually trying to accomplish. My original goal with all this dieting and exercise was to fight my fibro with fire. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and after 12 years of just living with the disease, I decided to fight back. I decided to take my life back from this invisible menace and I DID. I stopped sitting around feeling sorry for myself, waiting for some miracle cure and started taking care of myself.

It was not easy. My biggest obstacle was myself, I had to fight not only against¬†my own feelings of doubt and¬†depression, but also against my own body. When my body was screaming at me to stop, I had to quite literally force myself to keep moving. It took a long time for me to get past the initial pain of making myself exercise, but I didn’t give up.

I’ll be honest, I was in a very dark place when I discovered the strength to fight this; I didn’t just wake up one happy morning and decide to do it. It wasn’t until I found myself considering suicide that I realized things had to change, that I had to change things. In truth, I am thankful for the events that led me to that dark place, because without them, I would still be wallowing in the misery that I had allowed the fibro to create.

I am not saying that I am cured. The fibromyalgia is something that I will have to battle every day for the rest of my life, I have accepted that, but I know now that it IS possible for me to live a fairly normal life. I know now that my struggles with this disease have made me a stronger person and I have discovered how to put that strength to good use. Yes, the fibro puts limitations on my life, but I have learned that there are ways to work around those limits.

Some days are harder than others, but in the end, I know that fighting through those days is what makes days like today so awesome. ūüôā

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The Yoga Verdict

About a month ago, in “The Plan, update #4”, I made a big deal about wanting to change my workout routine and giving yoga a try. I’m rather ashamed to admit it, but after publishing that post, I kind of ignored it. Ok, I seriously ignored it. The DVD arrived, I popped it in the player and bored¬†myself to tears in about 5 minutes. So, I turned it off and didn’t give it a second glance until today. I could take the easy way out, say that the DVD was just too boring for me to suffer through and that it was a waste of money, but that’s not true. Yes, I was bored by the slow pace of the exercises, but that’s because at the time, I was looking for something more vigorous. I moved onto Jillian Michaels’ Thirty Day Shred and found it infinitely more satisfying.

The problem is, being in the middle of a nasty fibro flare makes Jillian considerably more difficult. I’m still trying to stick to my routine, but I’m finding it harder and harder to recover. When I woke up this morning, I was so stiff I could barely move. I started having flashbacks to The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and the scarecrow meet the tin man… If I had thought that spraying myself with WD-40 would have helped, I’d have done it in a heartbeat. Which brings me back to the previously¬†discarded yoga DVD.

One of the most important things that I have learned since starting my get healthy plan is that once I get moving, I feel better. My mood improves and the pain doesn’t seem as a bad. The hard part, of course, is getting myself to move in the first place. Let’s be serious here, when we’re in pain, the last thing we want to do is move. Unless of course that movement results in a comfy pillow and some chocolate. Thankfully, I have a new carrot dangling in front of my face: a little bit of movement = guaranteed relief. With that in mind, I finished my morning cup of tea (green tea!) and faced Ms. Barbara Benagh once again.

I started out with her 20 minute Sun Salutations routine, and let me say right now, this time it was not boring. The slow, gentle pace was exactly what my muscles needed. By the end of the routine, I was feeling energized and <gasp!> limber. It actually took effort not to start squealing like a four-year old who’s just been let loose in Candyland. No, I’m not exaggerating. ūüôā As a matter of fact, I felt so awesome that I decided to try a second twenty minute routine, Strength & Balance. Both routines challenged my strength, flexibility and endurance, but gently. I didn’t feel rushed and throughout the routines, the¬†instructor offers helpful¬†(non patronizing!)¬†advice on how to modify the poses if you need to.

At this point, I feel positively amazing. Part of that is because I’m just proud of myself for doing it and even more proud that I was able to follow both routines the whole way through, something I wouldn’t have been able to do a few months ago. The cherry on top is that I physically feel better; my muscles are limber again and while they are still a bit sore, it’s at a much more manageable level.

Of course, as with any new exercise, the real test is still to come: how will I feel tomorrow and will I be able to get the same results consistently? I certainly hope so, but I’ll keep updating as I go along.

THE Plan and the flare up

I have good news and bad news. Since asking which one you’d like to read first is pointless, I’ll start with the bad news that way we can end on a high note!

Ok, the bad:

As predicted in my last post, I am in the middle of a fibro flare. I was really hoping that it was just a fluke or a rough patch, but since it’s gone well past the week mark and shows no sign of stopping, I’m officially calling it a flare up. My trigger points are seriously unhappy lately, to the point that some of them are actually visible to the untrained eye. They look (and feel) like marbles under my skin. Thankfully, they tend to come and go, so they’re not constantly exposed, but they are unpredictable.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with trigger points, here’s an overview.

Trigger points (some times called tender points)¬†are one of the main ways doctors diagnose fibromyalgia; they stand you up and literally poke specific spots on your body to see if they cause an unusual amount of pain. There are 18¬†points¬†doctors look for and if 11 or more them cause pain, congratulations, you have fibro. Here’s a picture to show the official 18 points they check:

The number of spots that actually hurt can vary widely from person to person and time to time. For me personally, I generally have 16 out the 18 active at any given time. Usually, these trigger points are only painful when you touch them, if you’re really lucky, only when you apply a bit of pressure.

During a flare up, all bets are off. Like I said earlier, my trigger points become inflamed and actually stick up out of my skin, when they’re particularly pissed off, even wearing a t-shirt can be extremely painful. It feels as though I’m being stabbed in the back with a white-hot poker, complete with that radiating pain you get from a nasty burn.

The only thing that I’ve found thus far that helps with trigger point pain like this is having trigger point injections. Basically, a doctor jabs a needle into the offending spot injecting a tiny amount of anesthetic. Even with the anesthetic, it’s a breathtakingly painful experience, so it’s only something I do as a last resort. Let’s just say that right now, I’m seriously considering it. ūüė¶

Along with my trigger points being angry, my sleep is all kinds of messed up. The issue is that I’m having trouble falling asleep and when I do finally pass out, I tend to sleep so heavily that I don’t move and wake up feeling stiff and disoriented. It’s also taking¬†a lot longer to shake the morning fog. Usually, I wake up, take my morning¬†meds and I’m good to go in about 20-30 minutes; lately, however, it’s taking 45 minutes to an hour, even after taking my meds with a full glass of cool water. For the record, I’m not complaining. I’ve suffered through days at a time with no sleep whatsoever, so I’ll happily take the sleep I can get even if it’s not great.

On the plus side, I’m still breathing! ūüôā That is always a good thing, because it means there’s still hope for things to get better.¬†(I know, sometimes I’m so optimistic I make my own teeth hurt.)

I did take a few days off¬†from exercising, but since it made¬†absolutely no difference in my pain levels, I started up again.¬†Before the flare up, I had started doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred every other day. I’ve thus far done 10 days of¬†level one, and I am amazed at the results. Not because I’ve lost any weight, but because of how¬†quickly my endurance has been improving.¬†Last week,¬†I astounded myself by jogging 2/3 of a mile. Yesterday, I jogged a full mile, 1.1 miles, to be exact. Again, I didn’t jog all of it at once, I broke it up into segments of about 1/4 mile¬†at a time. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, all the jogging brought my 5k time down¬†by¬†about 5¬†minutes! Back in June, I was thrilled because I walked 5k in 50 minutes, now, just over a month later, I can do it in 45:05. I’ve met my interim goal, now on to the next phase: 5k in 40 minutes.

Do I feel terrible? Yes. Does that mean I give up on my goals? No. Absolutely not.

 

THE Plan, update #5

Toot! Toot!

Yeah, that’s me, tooting my own horn, again. ūüôā I’m afraid that I have to brag for a minute or two- yesterday, I actually jogged for 2/3 of a mile. Not all in one go, I did 1/3, walked for a bit and managed to do another 1/3. I know that there are tons of people out there who run 5 or miles in a shot, so I’m sure to some, my 2/3mi isn’t all that impressive. It’s impressive to me though!

If you had actually known me before I started on this fitness kick, you would know that movement of any sort was just not something I did. To put it bluntly, I was a lazy slug. I made it a point not to do anything more that I absolutely had to. I’m not proud of that, as a matter of fact, it’s down right embarrassing for me to admit. However, I am incredibly proud that over the course of three months, I went from being a lazy slug to being able to walk three miles a day just because I can.

All that walking has also helped me lose weight. I’ve dropped another 4lbs, bringing my total to 20lbs lost over the last three months. Woo hoo! ūüôā

I am having to re-evaluate my program a bit, since I’ve hit a minor plateau over the last few weeks. Part of that plateau is due to the fact that I sort of tell off of my diet wagon for a bit, but I’m back on it. No more cheating!

I’m also pushing myself to work out a bit harder; instead of a 30 minute walk, I’ve upped it to 45 minutes or an hour if I feel up to it. I wasn’t kidding about doing a 5k in October. I’m really going to do it, and I’d really like to do it in a reasonable amount of time. Jogging for a full 2/3 of a mile, (in 90+ degree heat!), is a pretty good start. I’ve got about 2 months left to work up to it. Do I really think I’ll be able to jog the full 5k..? No, I don’t. I hope that I’ll be able to, but realistically, I don’t think I’ll be able to jog the whole thing. That’s ok, maybe I can jog the next one!

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