even stumbling is moving forward

I spent a good quarter of my time in university learning about how you shouldn’t make too many life changes at once. (I spent another quarter in anatomy or stressing out about anatomy, another quarter dropping classes possibly due to the unknown learning disability and ADHD, and the last quarter probably actually “focused”. This is not an accurate, nor mathematical, representation of university for me.) Yet, here I am, doing just that, because FULL SPEED AHEAD is the only way I know how to go.

So here I am. 13 days into logging with MyFitnessPal. That is nearly TWO WEEKS people, that’s an accomplishment.
I’ve opened up the Coach.Me app again last night and set up some goal in there—go for a walk twice a week, exercise three days a week, meditate daily, pray daily, and write a blog post [here] weekly (hi!). 

And today, I went for a walk. Just to the mailbox, to send a letter to my Member of Parliament. Have I mentioned I’ve gotten all politically engaged since we last spoke in depth? This is not actually a byproduct of that but still, could be why I was more interested in the Asthma Society’s Hill Day stuff in the end. Honestly, it’s a wonder to me that given the state of this world and our neighbours to the south, how the eff people can ignore this! I digress (but likely not forever, and would be happy to grab a [decaf] [not-]coffee with you and discuss. And also I am thinking about going back to school to do political science and no I don’t actually know what’s currently wrong with me.)

This is not significant. The walk, I mean. It was hot (27-feels-like-29 and heat and I are not friends—my lungs and my whole body) and slow and except whatever I GOT OUT THERE.

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Because here’s the thing. I have to start all over again. And so I am. I downloaded some bodyweight exercise app to my phone even. I’m LOOKING AT my Fitbit. Quantified self is one of those things that’s sort of engrained in my being one way or another so I need to USE that data. 

If a slow, 17 minute walk is all I get, guess what? It’s better than nothing.
If a three minute meditation before I go to sleep is all I do, guess what? I’ve started.
If prayer is a jumbled mess of words or a poem or “hey Jesus”? Yeah, my God knows where I’m at, even before I do.
If I don’t eat with any semblance of decency (or even if I’m closer than I usually am but still totally imperfect) but I am at least mindful of that, guess what? I’m one step closer.
If I start to write a blog post and I write “Listening to my body. Means. Going to sleep. Instead of writing.” and close my laptop, yes, I have figured something out. At least this time.
And if I admit all of this to you in a blog post? I’ve written the blog post. And hopefully, you’ll join me in stumbling towards those goals you think are too big, too hard, the things you think you’ll be imperfect at. Feel free to join me in the imperfection, learning the things they can’t teach in school.

Or at least watch along—because even stumbling is moving forward. 

9K training walk: lungs, legs and hydration = less than stellar.

Things are looking a bit different around here!  I won a copy of Standard Theme for WordPress by 8BIT from Chris from Canada, so thank you to both parties of that awesome partnership!  I am in LOVE with Standard Theme so far! Next on the round of thank-yous is my friend Andy Darnell (also a Standard Theme user) for pointing me in the direction of Pixlr so I could make that snazzy header up there. I’ve been without Photoshop since I got my Mac over a year ago, and was doing limited projects using trial versions (I am a student, read: I am cheap). So there we go! Site looks different thanks to a bunch of awesome people!

Yesterday Danielle and I did a long training walk in preparation for the Run for Diabetes on Monday. I will be completely honest and say that this was one of the hardest walks I have done, and I am hoping things go smoother on Monday. For the first two kilometers, I had some pretty bad pain in what i’m going to assume was my tibialis anterior on both the right and left shins and some of the flexors of my right foot. I’m really unsure what the deal was, and I am really hoping that it doesn’t resurface on race day. I stretched it out the best I could around the 2K mark, and it didn’t bug me too much more for the next 7K.  I obviously have some biomechanical oddities going on here with the discrepancy between my right and left legs, but it should really be nothing I haven’t adapted for by this point in my life.  Kilometres 3 through 5 were fine.

Kilometres 5-9 were brutal right up to the end, and I am hoping that there’s enough adrenaline coursing through me on Monday to have a slight beneficial effect. Once I hit 5-plus K/an hour-ish (slow? yes.) my lungs simply don’t feel okay anymore, and from kilometers 5-9 I felt like my breathing was just all screwed up [I even stopped at one point to see if that would help get things back in check]. This could be caused by a variety of things (more demand on my muscles = increased respiratory rate = increased inhalation of particulate matter in the air [aka “air crap”]; increased drying-out of the airways [obviously NOT helped by any degree of dehydration, which I was experiencing yesterday] . . . the list goes on). So, of course, I’m always trying to figure out what’s going on inside my lungs and how I can possibly mitigate it on Monday. I shot off a quick what gives! e-mail to my friend Steve, who’s a respiratory therapist who has severe asthma, and is an all around badass[matic], explaining the experience to him. Within this sentence conveys one of the many reasons this man is among my favourite people:

Hi Ms Lovely,

I think you’re having these problems because you’re an ASTHMATIC.

Damn it!

So, yeah, I just about killed myself laughing at his response. (And thanked him for the diagnosis.) He went on to say that it’s probably some degree of air-trapping caused by the prolonged exertion. [To get a better idea of what air-trapping is, take a deep breath and exhale only half of it. Inhale again on top of the air that’s stuck in your lungs. Repeat. That. Or go read Steve’s post about it.]

Anyways, so kilometers 5-9 included taking the inhaler multiple times to take the edge off of the dyspnea. It’s not preferable, and obviously I wasn’t stopping to take the Ventolin it’s not like I was giving my lungs a break to let it get in there and start working before continuing the assault. However, using the inhaler 3 times in 4 kilometers [six puffs — two of those right at the end] may have helped fend off any delayed stuff and certainly helped at least a bit during that last expanse of time on the trail.

So what am I going to do differently race day?

  • Pre-medicate with a neb treatment as opposed to 4 puffs of the inhaler. Getting the bronchodilators where they need to go is super important.
  • Somewhat prophylactically take the inhaler immediately when I start having issues breathing, not letting them escalate any. Will it help? Who knows.
  • Light warm up with some stretching pre-race time-dependent.
  • Carbs/protein, little if any fat to slow down the digestion thing. I’ve got some Gatorade Prime chews [and have fingers crossed for some free Gu!]
  • H-y-d-r-a-t-e.

The last one is important. I was definitely experiencing some dehydration during this walk, and that is obviously not performance enhancing.

And is likely the reason that the consumption of 1 litre (aka 32 ounces) of fluid followed within the next half hour at the Starbucks we ended up at, and then I didn’t feel awesome.

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Really, I couldn’t loose too much fluid in an two hours and fifteen minutes, right?

Apparently my body is not so cool with ingesting that much fluid at one time. But, I mean, it otherwise felt awesome to be drinking cold things [even after a refill in an en-route hotel bathroom, the water in the Dasani bottle was not cold. And also, screw the myth that cold water isn’t good for your body–about 12 seconds on Google with the more reputable sites will tell you otherwise.] [Also I got a wicked headache last night. Dehydration induced? Possibly. Things i only figure out in retrospect.] [Bracket ;).]

So I learned some stuff. Also I iced my legs for the first time ever [both anterior/posterior and some slight lateral], and they actually don’t hurt basically at all today, though they feel a little tired, so there is something to be said for that. Exciting. #kinwin. Etcetera.

Finally, THANK YOU to everybody who has chosen to give generously and support the Canadian Diabetes Association through my fundraising page! I set that $200 fundraising goal feeling ambitious, and many of my amazing friends stepped up to the plate right away. Whether the contributions were simply to support my efforts or from a deep passion for the amazing work the Canadian Diabetes Association does for Canadians with diabetes, I am thankful that the money goes to support research and care of people with diabetes in Canada. The fun I’ll have at the walk is a bonus.

how not to train + accountability

How not to train:

  1. Miss a month of workouts for no good reason. Sometimes there are reasons. Sometimes there are stupid reasons, but those are still reasons. Kind of. No reason at all, though, is the stupidest reason of all to miss an entire month of workouts. And, from July 18th to August 18th, I did just that.
  2. Register for a race. Forget to use that race as motivation. I go into so many races with the mindset that I am going to rock training for the race. That I am going to train to be able to do the race distance comfortably, rather than dragging myself across the finish line.
  3. Let previous goals slip.
    1. Nutrition is a goal that I’ve been trying to build on slowly, or else I know I overwhelm myself. Part of nutrition is not only ensuring I’m eating proper things, but now includes that damn iron supplement that makes me feel yucky. However, in order for me to be able to exercise properly, my body needs to be able to transport oxygen to my muscles. And what’s responsible for that? Hemoglobin. Iron. Boom.
    2. Asthma. I am good at taking care of my asthma when it needs to be taken care of. I’m good at the morning and evening inhalers. I am not so good at doing the evening inhalers on time on weekdays, or the morning inhalers on time on weekends. This is not a huge deal, but it DOES have an impact on how I feel in those spans of time. I am also not doing so well at taking my Atrovent regularly. I need to get it in my head that when I am exercising, i need to be taking my Atrovent four times a day so that I feel good and want to keep doing it.
    3. Regular training. I need to once again focus on the fact that anything is better than nothing. If take half an hour and slide a few kilometers in, if I take ten minutes and do some yoga, if I take 3 minutes and do some push-ups. It all adds up.
    4. Active choices. I got a new bike in the Spring. Part of the hope with the new bike was that I would ride to/from work. I didn’t think that goal through well, as it worked fine in the spring but when summer hit I realized getting to work all sweaty and gross would not be awesome. Once again, that is only an excuse, as
  4. Make a training plan–ignore it. I made a beautiful, colour coded, training plan for this race. Had I followed it, I would have built up to 10K slowly and easily over about six to eight weeks. Instead? I have a passionately-exercising binge for the last two weeks following the race. If nothing else, I hope this is getting me back in the groove for when school starts again.
  5. Be unaccountable. During the July/August exercise lapse, I probably told myself at least three times a week I am going to exercise today. I didn’t. I did not make the choice to hold myself accountable to my decision by putting that decision into action. The hardest part of exercise is often putting on my shoes and getting out the door/on the trampoline/to the gym.

I have an amazing, beautiful community of people around me to help keep me accountable. However, I have to rely on myself, and I have to let this amazing community know what my ambitions are so that they can hold me accountable. Even if I simply tweet my plans to work out, it is that much harder to back out of those plans because I know that somebody read it, and later that night somebody could shoot me an @ reply saying: “Hey, how was your workout today?” — “I didn’t work out” is an awkward answer. Making an excuse is an awkward answer. “It was awesome, I felt so much better after!” is not an awkward answer. Even if I am only going out for a ten minute walk, even if that does not spill into longer than ten minutes, I can almost guarantee that even if it is short, it will still be sweet, and I will still feel better after.

Race training has not gone well. That does not mean the race will not go well. So long as I don’t get as sick as I did following my last 10K, I am okay (two years ago I did my first 10K and I had a ridiculous asthma flare that evening, and had I not been fortunate to have a nebulizer at home would have required intervention, read: an ER visit. Put that in the awkward category!). Tuesday I did a 7K training walk, needed my inhaler at about 5.5K and again when I finished, but had few residual symptoms. I am hoping this is the case on race day pending I post-medicate as well. Mostly, though, I know I can handle the asthma. I just need a better idea of how I’ll handle the rest of the distance that I know my body is not adequately prepared for because of being a master in How Not to Train.

The ultimate in accountability though is having a training partner to get out on those long walks with. Because it’s not like you can get lazy and go home early when someone is out there slogging through that same distance with you. Tomorrow is practice 10K day, and I am going to accomplish that with Danielle.  One week until race day.

I’ve rocked the fundraising. I’ve kicked up the training in the last week. I’ve gotten my head in the game. Now I’ve just gotta get myself out there and make it happen.

exercise train back on the literal track: if you don’t push through the shit, you don’t grow

Last week I had a really awesome track workout.  Because of the awesomeness both Sam and I experienced, we decided to go back this morning before class.  Now, to be perfectly honest, because I’m in the gym at least one class a week, my exercise train has not derailed as much as it could have potentially during midterm madness [three exams in less than 36 hours is not fun], so Movement Ed, I am grateful for you, as am I for having a job where i can play around in the gym . . . and get paid for it [noodle hockey anybody?].

So this morning, I told my Twitter friends to have an intentional day, and went to school two and a half hours before my class started, and got the exercise train back on the literal track. And despite my breathing not being fantastic (mornings sometimes a little rough), I was determined to make the most of it and try to go kick my own ass out there.  Because “K-I-C-K-A-S-S, that’s the way we spell success.” (–Giant, Matthew Good).

Today’s workout? It was hard. I left it feeling more exhausted than energized, and basically forced myself around the track for 45 minutes. I was TRYING. I was trying to be like “Yeah! This is awesome!”. Except it wasn’t.  My cousin Dean was there too, along with Sam and I, and the kid just effortlessly basically runs straight out for half an hour (It blows my mind that people can still breathe when they do that, and then I remember that only 10% of us have screwed up lungs. And 50%~ of that 10% of us with asthma do not exercise. In Canada, that amounts to 1.5 million people.  And now I have gone and scared myself with statistics about exercise engagement and asthma and want to go change the world.

And you know why half of asthmatics probably don’t exercise?  The conclusion I came to on the track today while slogging through 5K:

A thing I hate about asthma? I feel like I can never have a consistent workout because there are about 8000 variables at play.

First it’s dependent on how I feel when I wake up. If I’m a little tight, or feeling a little “off”, I’ll still work out.  if it’s anything more than that, I’ll push it off till the middle of the day or evening, or defer it until the next day. How I feel when I wake up in the morning though is also dependent on about a million things: my environment, the weather, the season and my own body.  Identifiable variables today perhaps contributing to the not breathing my best: it snowed late this morning, hormones and a basically empty inhaler of Atrovent.  So ALL of these things contributed to both how I felt when I woke up, AND how I felt during my workout. During the workout? That’s dependent on how my warm-up goes, how I FEEL about how my warm-up went [if it sucked, I’m less apt to push myself harder], the air quality in the locker room or gym [ex. intense fragrance, how dry the gym air is, etc].  And of course, the stuff I put into my body. So, food, water, and medicine.  See the above point about the dead Atrovent, maybe didn’t give the Ventolin enough time to kick in, note that I didn’t eat before my workout, and realize that I forgot my water bottle in my locker? Less than perfect lungs, little fuel stores and probably some dehydration at play.  So consistency? Not going to happen. That changes day to day.  Once again, I’m sure most of you with any chronic disease can identify with this.

As I am winding myself around the track at the beginning of a sprint [running is a big deal, people. I used to only be able to do a quarter of the track, now I can do a whole lap with a long walking break between], and I’m fighting my lungs, fighting my legs, fighting my brain. Focusing on the breathing, focusing on ignoring the legs, focusing on telling my brain that it is the thing that wants me to BE INTENTIONAL about my choices.  And fighting to let the zen that should be running take over.

The realization comes at this point.

If you don’t push through the shit, you don’t grow.

I run.  I don’t run fast, I only complete that one lap, but . . .

I pushed through the shit.  Like a flower.

from rebellion to revved up: clare’s story.

When encouraging people towards living more active lives, I always try to stress that there is NO positive change that is “too small”!  I find people really minimize their accomplishments if they are starting slowly, and this is really unfortunate because small steps can lead to big change AND show others that anything is possible . . . and everybody has to start somewhere!

Today, my friend Clare from the UK [who uses all kinds of UKisms. I am a fan] shares her story of her journey with severe asthma and a downward spiral of negative choices with profound negative impact on her health . . . and her recovery.  Her recovery lead to the motivation she has found to keep moving forward with exercise following rehabilitation for steroid-induced myopathy [extreme muscle weakness/wasting]–her dog, Pip, and a marked improvement in her asthma!  Her journey began through walking: an activity that seems deceivingly simple . . . and has helped her go farther than she’d ever dreamed!

—–

clare%25201.jpgI have had asthma since I was small. I am now 27 and I’d love to say it hasn’t had an impact on my life at all but it’s basically dictated most of my life.

From a young age as well as asthma attacks I also had epileptic seizures frequently. I always had an inhaler on or around me and relatives also had inhalers kept at their houses for when I stayed. One of my earliest memories from childhood is not a happy one playing, it’s of me sitting in my buggy unable to breathe, my mum giving me ventolin syrup and yucky intal. Most memories seem to involve a time of fun times being cut short by an asthma attack or epileptic seizure. Apart from that I was quite a normal little girl!

I had lots of time off school. In my last year of primary school I had 6 months off school for repeated pneumonias and lung collapses that left me very ill in hospital. After that episode every cold or viral infection had me ending up in hospital. The attacks just got worse and worse, I began to need more and more drugs to control them and was often hooked up to IVS for a long time. At the age of 10 my consultant decided a home nebuliser was the only way forward. It didn’t help really just made me more reluctant to go to hospital. I could have nebulised steroids via it but that didn’t really help much. All through my teens it continued with me ending up in hospital every few weeks/months with a bad attack. My epileptic seizures had thankfully stopped so I was glad of a reprieve from them.

I just wanted to be like my friends and at the age of 15 rebelled big style. I tried smoking and would regularly get drunk on a school night and sometimes joined my friends in smoking weed staying out till all hours. I continued to have regular attacks, and in between my asthma never let up—I was constantly attached to my neb but hated to say I was feeling ill, so I’d wait until I could take no more before reluctantly asking my mum for help, I just hated the attention. One day just after I had started my last year in senior school I woke up having an attack, what was different was this one came on so quick, and within minutes of the ambulance crew arriving I was unconscious and had stopped breathing, my heart slowed down . . . if it wasn’t for the prompt action from the crew I’d probably gone into full cardiac arrest. When I woke up I was on a ventilator in ITU [editor’s note: this is what our friends across the pond call the intensive care unit].

I was in hospital for a month recovering, I was so scared at first to go home and that it would happen again that I kept making excuses not to go home, eventually they realised and I was able to talk through what had gone on and any worries I had. I wasn’t home long within 2 weeks I was back in hospital with a very bad attack that needed very high amounts of steroids, it lasted a long time and I was in bed for 2 weeks. That coupled with the high amount of steroids gave me steroid myopathy. I couldn’t walk at all it was quite scary, I went to get up after being in bed for so long and my legs just could not take my weight, they wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do. I had various neuro tests and finally an EMG revealed very weak and wasted muscles in my legs. I had intensive physio, at first I could only stand up straight using a special standing frame with the physio, we then after weeks of hard work moved on a rolator frame, basically a Zimmer frame. I couldn’t go home as we had too many stairs and I was too weak. I had missed so much school it was decided I’d fall back a year so whilst in hospital I started to attend a special school for people with problems. To cut a long story short I was in hospital for 6 months having physiotherapy. It was very strange being back home after so long! Due to the myopathy, for a while the doctors were reluctant to give me any oral steroids, if I needed them they would just hit me with tons of reliever and IV aminophylline.

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I finally left school aged 18, college wasn’t for me trying to be independent I moved out of home aged 19, I hated the fuss. I got a job as a care assistant, my long term goal was to become a nurse. I worked for 2 and a half years, struggling into work every day. I did have a bit of a reprieve from the life threatening attacks for about a year, no hospital admissions for a year! It didn’t last long, work understood when I was poorly I’d be off for quite some time. Then in February 2005 an attack that didn’t get better, all IV drugs failed I was getting worse they took me to ITU and I had to be put on a ventilator again. My family were told to prepare for the worst. After 10 days ventilated I pulled through, recovery was tough. I was in hospital for 6 weeks. I couldn’t return to work, just getting out of bed left me gasping for breath.

I got depressed not being able to work, I piled on the weight. The longer I was off the more scared I got, the more depressed I got, I lost all confidence and hated going out. I used a mobility scooter when I was brave enough to venture outside. Asthma did that to me! Still in and out of hospital the doctors didn’t know what to do with me. For 3 years I was a recluse, the safety of my flat was comforting. I stopped taking some of my medication, what was the point it didn’t seem to help. Around this time I also found Asthma UK, I thought I was alone in my suffering, suddenly I found all these people going through the same! In September 2008 I was in hospital on IV drugs so long and unable to get off them without getting poorly again, I was started on sub cutaneous Bricanyl. 4 months in hospital with 2 weeks at home. I was now attached to a syringe driver 24/7 but once I was home and had recovered for the first time in years I felt better!

My symptoms had improved; I could walk again without gasping for breath and needing a nebuliser. Feeling better I also sought help for my depression,

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finally revealing how down I felt. I was put on anti-depressants and within months I was slowly feeling like my normal happy self. I enrolled on an Open University course, went on a diet and started doing some gentle exercise. I got a dog and he helped me with my recovery. I had to go out to walk him! The walks got further and further, the weight was dropping off and I didn’t have a hospital admission for 9 months. Unfortunately a cold turned into a nasty attack whilst on holiday in Scotland, I was very poorly in ITU. I recovered quickly and was soon back to walking and losing weight.

2 years on I have lost 7 stone [editor’s note: 98 lbs! GO CLARE!] and have completed 2 open uni courses. It’s been over 6 years since I had to give up work and now I finally feel ready to get back out there! I’ve been told not to rush things, so I’m not. I am currently looking for work but have a voluntary job 2 days a week at my favourite charity, Asthma UK! I love it and am learning so much. It’s been a great way to ease me slowly back into the world of work. I exercise regularly now, I walk 3 miles every day and am constantly out and about doing something, a total opposite to my once reclusive self, who would sit and watch TV all day eating rubbish food hiding from the world. I don’t even have a TV any more—who needs one when there’s so much of the world to see and more interesting things going on! If I’m bored I’ll go for a walk. I love exercise now! I wouldn’t have said that a few years ago, I would do anything to avoid any form of it! I know my weight and lack of exercise didn’t help my asthma, I’m determined not to get like that again.

Thanks to the right treatment and regular exercise for the first time ever I feel like asthma is not dictating my life. I still require a large amount of medication and have daily symptoms my lung function is still only 60%, to some I might not appear controlled but for me this is the best I have ever felt. I have had some admissions but they are not as bad and I seem to recover more quickly. My last one was Christmas 2010. I had not been in hospital for 6 months and was on a roll, the week before Christmas I got a nasty chest infection and had to spend Christmas in hospital. Not the first time! And now I’m whole year out of hospital! A little lie there I had a brief admission to get off my subcut Bricanyl in August, which went very smoothly and I am now line free!

Who knows what the future holds but while I’m enjoying this spell of good health I’m determined to make the most of it!

—–

Thanks for sharing, Clare!

Clare’s story has also been featured in That’s Life! magazine.  Clare lives in the UK with her dog, Pip, and is studying Health and Social Care with the Open University.  She is a volunteer with Asthma UK, the UK’s leading non-profit benefiting people living with asthma.  Clare blogs at Clarebear’s World, sharing her story of getting back to work, fitness, school, asthma, fun stuff, and life!  You can also find her on Twitter.