A few weeks ago I was writing about feeling out of whack and hormonally out of balance and trying to find my normal again. I was certain something was off and trying desperately to figure it out. I was meeting with different doctors and explaining feeling a little out of balance and dealing with bouts of high blood pressure and certain that my hormones were off somewhere and once I had them figured out it would be so much. Over the last few weeks I have been feeling better, still a bit less of patients but not teetering on the edge of life most days.
I went and had a full lab panel done. My results came back as fabulous as they could come back. My doctor wrote me a note saying if I’m out of balance it isn’t showing in any of my labs. All my numbers were incredible and I have been getting daily normal blood pressure readings as well so perhaps this is mental for me. I definitely feel stronger today than I did even a few weeks ago. As I’m running my sprints I chant to myself that my body is strong and I truly believe it.
When I’m in Bikram and the humidity is high and the room is hot, I thank my body for what it is enduring for me. Mentally I’m very strong in that Bikram studio and in life I feel mentally and physically strong so I’m still on the search to find out where my feeling of lack of balance is coming from. Perhaps I feel pulled in too many directions and need to tighten up the reigns of life and pick and choose more carefully as to not out stretch myself. I need to focus on doing things I truly love and let some other things go and not worry about them. My husband is a good gauge for me when I’m over doing it but I tend to not want to hear it. I have decided I do want to hear it and gave him permission to tell me so. The trick is to be kind when he does tell me because I asked for it even I don’t believe it.
Many blogs ago I wrote about HIIT which is “High Intensity Interval Training” and that when things got crazy and something had to give this was the first to go in my routine. I didn’t really enjoy doing it and I wasn’t sure if I was really doing it correctly and not sure what equipment to use for my HIIT, therefore, it was easy to let this slide in my routine and just do it when I could.
Things have changed and in a good way. I have committed to 3 solid sessions of weight training using my “Gain Fitness” app and that thing keeps me on track which reminders, whistles, don’t give up and cues to get moving. With every session it remembers what I did last time and has me working the appropriate muscles for any given weight training session as well as when to increase weight and keeps me honest with my commitment to 30 minutes of weight training 3 times a week. What does this have to do with HIIT? Believe it or not a lot, because I have less time for traditional cardio and learning that I really don’t dig cardio unless it is simple walking for stress relief so before my weight training sessions I put in 15 minutes of hard HIIT to warm up before I hit the weights.
I have been using the treadmill, elliptical and even row machine for my HIIT training. I know I only have 15 minutes to devote to it so I have to get it done fast and hard. My rhythms have increased, my speed has increased and my strength has even increased which allows me to lift heavier weights after the HIIT as well. My body is fully heated and my mind feels as though it can do pretty much anything so I push myself harder each time. I think to myself I can do anything for 15 minutes but it isn’t even hard for 15 minutes really only extremely hard for 30-60 seconds depending on how I feel once I start my sprint. 4 or 5 rounds of sprinting with slower intervals makes the 15 minutes go by very quickly. As soon as I feel my form slip even a bit I stop the sprint and go back to a slower pace that is why I say 30-60 plus with every rotation I increase the intensity each time which makes it harder to sustain the full minute later in my training.
Once my 15 minutes are up I’m off to the weights for 30 minutes, feeling very strong and accomplished and then take 10-15 minutes just to walk and get myself back to balance before heading back to work or home depending on when my session was. Yesterday I had my cross fit in the morning and it was all cardio based so I used that as my HIIT and later in the day went back to focus just on weight training so I was able to do 45 minutes of weights. After doing 45 minutes I realize that I don’t need longer durations right now I really need to focus on 30 minutes of heavy lifting. Between the walking when I can to de-stress, my new found strength, and my balance of Bikram I’m really starting to feel like a normal person again. I also have a doctor’s appointment coming up to make sure everything else is in balance. Balance is one piece missing in this whole equation but I’m getting there day by day.
You might be thinking what is DOMS? Or, why would a blog post be tagged DOMS? In this case it follows up nicely to my last blog post about weight training. So, what is DOMS? It stands for “delayed onset muscle soreness” and how does this pertain to me and my last blog post? Simply, I’m living with DOMS as we speak. I actually thought it was good idea to continue my cross fit session and use my new app thru Gain Fitness yesterday. “No Pain, No Gain” is not true for me but the pain I feel is a reminder that I have muscles that clearly don’t get used as much as other ones.
My cross fit session was incredible. I had a new instructor, a male this time, and he wasn’t letting us off the hook for anything. Does that mean that our other female instructors will take it easy on us? Sure, sometimes they do and I bet with more time spent with this young guy he would too. They have to figure out where everyone is but the only real way is to push us to our limits and if he doesn’t really know us he can push a bit harder just to see. We were using big ropes, boxes, kettle –bells, and dumbbells. This was such a great work for me. I like the metcon workouts also, but sometimes I want the strength and resistance training so I can really see where I’m progressing.
I did my cross fit session in the morning and walked outside at lunch time. But, during the day my “reminder” dinged reminding me I had committed to a 30 min strength training session that evening. This app is really slick. I was using weights for squats and other leg exercises. Using boxes for a bit of cardio built in. Machines out on the gym floor were used for some exercise as a way to mix things up. Finally I was using my body weight on a mat for other exercises. It was a full body workout that took exactly 30 minutes using their cues and staying on track. Resting is part of the program and since I don’t normally rest I really don’t know what to do so I walked around but I will get use to just sitting quiet at some point in my life.
Needless to say after those 2 workouts I woke up this morning remembering some for those dormant muscles were still there. I’m sure I will probably be sore again tomorrow but I have read to keep moving forward through my committed workouts and push through the discomfort. Clearly if it is really bad I won’t but I doubt that will happen. The DOMS should subside in a few sessions and I won’t have any remnants of it again I try something else out of the box. I believe with this new cross fit trainer and my new app that I truly have enough to keep my body guessing. Believe it or not my body has gotten use to Burpees; I didn’t say my brain however. Every time I hear the word Burpee I think “oh no, not again” but my body is fine doing them. The ropes were so tough, but I felt really strong being able to wave those things down and back and in and out. No joke when I feel like I’m not making much progress and then I get thrown a routine like that, I totally get to see and feel the progress I have made.
I won’t kid anyone; I was terrified jumping on the boxes. Not the front jump or the Burpee up on the box but when we had to straddle the box and jump both feet into the middle that is when I wasn’t confident in myself. He coached me through it and rounds 2 and 3 I was way more confident. I also learned the proper way to use kettle-bells and it isn’t willy nilly throwing them around the way it looks when I have seen kettle-bell classes going on.
Tomorrow night I’m back in the gym for another round of weight training but no cross fit in the morning so I should be able to knock it out pretty hard. DOMS be damned I’m doing this and pushing this body a little harder every committed workout.
Which are better, free weights or weight machines? Ask any number of people and you’ll probably get a split right down the middle. At least that has been my experience and I have asked many people. Therefore, I chalk it up to personal preference and the theories behind what people think. The free weights work for people that able to use them with good form since you need to use your core and muscles throughout your body to assist in many of the exercises you have to have a good balance and stability. The weight machines target specific muscle groups therefore the machine is your stability and your form is going to be naturally better with less free form available. The exercises will target one muscle group at a time versus using many muscles with the free weights.
Perhaps a combination of the two is a good way to go. Free form for a few exercises and hit the machines for targeting the specific muscle you are working on at any given time. I found an app that incorporates both free weights and machines into your weight training workout. It is the “Gain Fitness” app and yes it is free. You set the time duration of your allot workout, where you are going to work out either home, gym, on the go, and the days in which you are committed to weight training and it forms a schedule for you. Someone like me enjoys a schedule, I am all for being flexible in life but I do better if I have a schedule to follow and reminders. This has it all, literally. I get instructions of the exercises, cues as to when to do them and coaching along the way to make sure I’m staying on track in my allotted amount of time I said I could commit. I used it for the first time last night after hearing about it on yes you guessed it, a podcast. I have been listening to Keifer at Dangerously Hardcore for a while now and find the process he uses very interesting. The system he uses in carb back loading where you stuff your face with any food you want after extreme resistance training sessions. Ladies, don’t get too excited, this doesn’t always work as well for us with our hormones and our cortisol levels. However if you are interested there are modified versions to fit a woman’s needs but you have to eat cleaner than the gentlemen. Now there are women out there training hard and yes I’m sure this will work but the majority of the readers of this blog are on medications, diet restrictions and just trying to keep balance on a day to day level dealing with MCTD. I just happen to love reading, researching and learning everything I can. Not that I’m implementing a carb back loading night but it does allow me a little freedom to train hard and splurge when needed. Well now I’m just off track from my original thought which is weight training.
I have been incorporating more weight training sessions into my week because my cross fit classes are great for the cardio portion but I was feeling as though my strength has stalled. I don’t want to over train but I would like to continue to see results so between a few true weight training sessions, 2 cross fit sessions, lots of walking and 5 days of Bikram I’m hoping to be bathing suit ready in a few weeks. Remember I’m in Maine and we just pulled out the sandals, although I know many of you are enjoying warm, sunny days at the lake, beach or wherever you like to go to soak in your vitamin D.
Today as I’m writing in my journal I realize it has been 90 days since my last flare. I smiled as I read my journal entry because there was a time when I was trying so hard to reach 90 days and falling short. Over the course of the last year my durations between flares have increased and now my new goal is 200 days but I have to reach 90 first which I did.
The more time that goes by between flares part of me thinks one is probably right around the corner, and the other part says this will be the time when I reach my 200 day goal. Either way I’m aware of what is happening, keep track of my days and enjoy each and every day that allows me to be flare-up free.
Am I off the edge or dangling by a fingertip? Can the answer be both? It sounds strange but my overwhelming feeling about life in general is quieting down, my body is feeling good and over all I’m finding calm. Here is where I dangle, in 40 years of being alive I have not always been the healthiest I could be, I managed to fit MCTD into my life, but I have never ever had high blood pressure. I first started to notice it last fall but with as active as I am and my food choices I didn’t want any medications and pleaded with my doctors to give me time to figure this out on own. Yesterday while I’m sitting in the holistic doctor’s office I don’t feel stressed, I didn’t rush over there, I wasn’t waiting for my appointment but when they took my blood pressure it was as high as I have ever seen. It is in the danger zone especially for someone with my body and frame my heart is working way too hard to keep going every day. I don’t know when it raised this high and how long it has been working that hard but it was a huge wake up call to me. DASH diets are not going to work in my case because there is not an excess of sodium or hidden sugars and yes I have weird out of control cravings but that would not cause this and my cravings have really decreased in the last several days.
My blood pressure did not get this high overnight and it certainly won’t go back to normal overnight but the thought of taking another medication has me dangling over the edge by my pinky fingernail. I want off my medications not add to my already impressive list of medications that are probably killing faster than the MCTD ever will. I had 3 very straight forward heart to heart talks with people in the last 24 hours. First of course is the holistic doctor because she is in front of me and I’m scared to death and honestly don’t know if I can figure this out on my own. The next was with my husband who is incredibly supportive but said you have to figure this out and my mother who is always honest me and gave me some sound advice. The bottom line is I’m not sure what I do from here, nor do I think I have a lot of time to weigh my options, my body and strength have never felt better and body composition testing showed me that as well. I wouldn’t say I love the food I’m eating, nor do I really believe my food choices are doing this to me but could there be a correlation?
I always hear the success stories of people living the Paleo lifestyle and how after 6 months, a year or 5 years they are off all their medications, they are fit, strong and more vibrant than when they were in their twenties. Am I just that complex that I need more than the lifestyle? I like waking up with no stiffness in my joints, I like taking it easy with my exercise days when I truly don’t feel like working out hard, I like incorporating huge amounts of walking into my life, I like the fact that my HDL is so high and I like listening to the success stories, I just wish I was truly success story myself. I am going to stick with the Paleo lifestyle but I will modify it and do more of my vegetarian dishes a few days a week. I’m not going back to soy and legumes but I’m also not going to eat meat 3 times a day anymore either. I have found my strength but somehow lost my balance and I need both. I haven’t made any decisions on taking medications or not and don’t know when I will make that decision but it won’t be today.
Today I’m focusing on eating truly clean and walking miles upon miles for hormones. I am incorporating more yoga but not intense yoga as I need the downtime and I will force myself to meditate. My husband says that forcing and meditation should never be in the same sentence but I don’t think I have choice here. I have to force this mind, body and spirit to quiet down, relax, and stop working so hard on the inside. Now I also realize that high blood pressure is a symptom of MCTD for many people so not everyone that has it is in the dangerous zone, but mine came on quickly and has stayed and raised like a bad night sitting too long at a poker table. I’m ready for it to fold and get back to normal
After writing my “woe is me” blog yesterday I was hit with a really nice moment of perspective as well as reality this morning. You can find the comment under “Aliens have taken over my body” where a reader wrote a lovely post for me indicating that she ran her 2nd 5k but during the race she was hit with terrible pain in her hip and had to walk. Despite crossing the finish line last in the race, she crossed the finish line. Here is my moment of perspective, I don’t feel great mentally, emotionally and yes even physically. However, I can still do whatever I want as long as I don’t let my mental anguish stop me. My body is working very well; in fact I am feeling incredible strong on most days and can perform any task. I am not having flare-ups and I’m certainly not stuck at home in bed. After reading Jennifer’s post I had to literally say to myself “buck up cupcake” and mean it with real terms of endearment. I’m not saying it to be negative to myself or to push myself farther into a black hole; I’m saying it because this body can do incredible things.
I am seeing myself and not liking what I see but at the same time I need to remember that when this body doesn’t feel good what that really means. I’m doing regular Bikram practices, I’m walking every day and I’m still cross fit training 2 days a week. Sure I bonk a bit in some of my workouts but I’m doing them. I might not be feeling 100% every moment of every day but I’m doing more than functioning in this thing I call life. Mentally I don’t have the capacity to take on to much without feeling overwhelmed right now so why not just take on less? It seems like an easy solution and one I can commit to. I don’t need to over extend myself, but what I need to do are the necessities and spend more time taking care of the mental me.
When moments of negativity take over it is so sobering to get hit with moments of reality and be able to except that good things are happening. I would probably come up with this on my own eventually but thank you Jennifer for getting me their quicker. Every day is a mystery as to how we will feel but if I have nearly 3 months of flare-up free days behind me I can be content with what this body is going through from a hormonal point of view. Yes I need to make better choices but I also need to forgive the bad choices I do and will make also. For 10 years my bad choices forgave me and didn’t cause me grieve now they are so I need to practice forgiveness of myself and get my body back into balance with help and then things will fall into place nicely.
For an update, I’m not a doctor so I hesitate to write too much about things I’m taking but I also think it is important for others to be able to have conversations with their doctors and start the lines of communication. I started taking Rhodiola about 5 days ago and last night I was actually able to sleep, woke up this morning early but more rested then other days and was able to weight train harder than I have felt like doing in a while. Now, for those of you that weight train hard these numbers will not be impressive to you but they were for me and apparently rushed enough serotonin to my brain to make me feel good about it. I loaded up a dumbbell with 50lbs and did my back squat, dead lift and dropped to 40lbs for my chest press. I had to drop again to 30lbs for my overhead press and increased to 65lbs for my back pulls. I now have these numbers in my book so I can watch my increases as they happen.
So, what is Rhodiola and what does it do? It is a supplement that lowers cortisol levels while decreasing fatigue, leveling out mood swings and giving you a natural feeling of calm. High levels of cortisol is what is giving me that overwhelmed feeling along with being high strung and unable to quiet my brain body to get a good night’s sleep. This is not my final answer and I’m still working on many things but receiving posts like Jennifer’s help along with taking supplements to back me away from the edge and get real with what is happening with my life and body