On Saturday October 26th I turned 41 which mean I’m really in my 40’s now. Somehow I thought being 40 just kept me on the cusp now I am really in it. How do I feel about it? Some days I feel my age and more. I wake up with a body that is rebellion against everything I’m about to put it through. Other days I bounce out of bed forgetting exactly how old I am and think of myself in my 30’s. My husband doesn’t look a day over 35 and I often fall in line with knowing he is 5 years older therefore I must be early 30’s. The reality is that on any given day I can feel, look and act 40+ years or I can feel, look and act way younger. The choice is mine to make each and every day.
For 11 years I have forced myself up at the crack of dawn to do some sort of exercise, and can literally count on one hand how many times I have stayed in bed and not worked out first thing. This is not an exaggeration, but more a realization that sounds insane even as I write it. I have entrenched myself in the Paleo community with books, podcasts, articles, and magazines and the message is always the same. They are passionate about not doing too much working out and especially cardio but more weight lifting and tons of resting. I was able to jump on board because I would just walk and do yoga and thought that was enough for me physically and I could still participate in Paleo in my own life. Two things became really clear to me; first, it isn’t enough for me to just walk and do yoga. I love weight training and I feel really strong when I’m doing it but I don’t see my body changing the way I keep reading about. I use exercise as my outlet and although walking is a great stress reliever it doesn’t make me sweat the way I need or want to sweat. I forced myself to cut back on my Bikram because of flares and I won’t jeopardize my MCTD symptoms for the mere fact of exercise. With that said I did take up running. I really enjoy running but I felt guilty this morning because as I was running this morning I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts that I tune into weekly and again they were talking about how this is not healthy and I felt like they were talking to me.
Some days I wake up and I’m pushing this body out the door or down to the basement and forcing a workout upon myself. When the body feels good there is no stopping me but when it doesn’t I struggle like everyone else. The problem for me is that when I feel good I take full advantage of it knowing that there are days when I don’t feel my best, but I have many more years left to enjoy life so I don’t want to leave it all on the mat right now but at the same I’m so afraid if I don’t give it my all every single day I will fall prey to the lazy side of me and that I don’t want. Not now, not a decade from now or even 3 decades from now.
The second thing that has become really clear to me is that there may come a real day in my life that I will wake up and everything would have changed. My body may not cooperate with me anymore and it might hurt more than I can bear. I might need more medications, or worse might find myself disabled. These have always been a concern for me but as I get older and my body doesn’t bounce back as quickly it becomes a real worry and concern. What I’m doing today very well may be effecting what will happen later but all I have is today. If I don’t utilize all the benefits of today I can’t be sure what tomorrow looks like for me. Many days I agree with the world around me and think I’m doing too much but then the little voice changes and tells me I need to do this. My body needs this, my mind needs this, and my soul needs this so I do it. I am not a gold star member of the Paleo community but I like what they stand for and I have incorporated so much of the lifestyle into my life and my husband’s life except for the exercise part. There will come a day when I’m forced to rest and it may come sooner than I like but for now I’m pushing through.
After completing my first week of running my mind is feeling many things but my body is feeling nothing but pleasure. The idea behind the couch to 5k is to run 3 days a week with a rest day in between. I picked 3 days to lace up my running shoes and complete my 30 minute sessions. Day one, I felt very energized and my body felt good so I was excited about it. My 30 minute session is 2 minutes of running with 3 minutes of walking. I did another 30 minute session that was 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking. After 60 minutes I was feeling very accomplished. Day 2 of running, I woke up and the little voice in my head was pretty loud reminding me I could just work out at lunch time and don’t worry about. I put that voice in the back of my head and talked myself into just going for a walk. Once I was up and around my body was feeling good so I was able to do day 2 of my couch to 5k. After my 60 minutes I was feeling good and the voices were gone. Day 3 was a run before Bikram class so after I accomplished 60 minutes of couch to 5k I did 90 minutes of Bikram and while lying in the hot, humid studio of Bikram I took a real moment to thank this body. No matter how loud the voice gets in my head I know my body can do it.
The brain will always give up before the body and I have to remind myself of that every time the voice gets a little to loud. My hips, knees, and ankles are strong and I don’t ever think my cardiovascular system cannot handle something so really there is nothing standing in my way. This week I will accomplish week 2 of couch to 5k and although I’m not sure how the running schedule looks yet I’m also not going to worry about it. I know the running will increase while the walking will decrease but they also make this program suitable for the masses, therefore, I can do it. I just have to keep running and enjoy each run I am able to accomplish.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m a fair weather walker. Once the weather changes I take myself back into the gym or to my basement and get out of the cold. This body does not do well in the cold and even if I’m layering, wearing gloves and what would seem like wearing warm clothes to others is just not enough for me. If the temperature is warm then I’m warm, but if the temperature is cold, well unfortunately then I’m cold. I don’t like being cold and try to make sure my body runs warm. If I’m too cold my Raynaud’s becomes severe and painful and I can put myself into flare-up if I’m too cold, so I try like hell to not get to that point. This fair weather walker has taken herself inside and now I’m doing all my workouts in the indoor arenas and will keep the outside for apple picking during the afternoon when it warmer.
I have been thinking more and more about running again now that I’m starting to feel stronger and I’m able to do more. My fatigue is not nearly as bad as it has been the last several months and my weight training is feeling really good so I thought a winter time sport of running might be fun. I ran a few years ago and did several 5K and only one 10K but it was fun and the running community is quite friendly. Training for 5K races is easy to do indoors and then if I pick spring and summer races I’ll be ready. Therefore, I took myself to the gym and got on the treadmill and started running as though it would be “just like riding a bike” and my body would remember how to run. I was so wrong. I am literally starting at the beginning of this process so I went to the experts at couch to 5K or the free version of C25K.com. There are podcasts that can instruct your running routines or an app that you can download so you get the cues but can play your own music.
Today was my first day of C25K and for my first session I used the podcast version where there is a lot more talking. I did a 5 minute warm up, running 2 minutes, walking 3 minutes, cool down for 5 minutes and done in 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I felt really good so I decided to see how different the app was so I started up the app and it has a ring alert with very few words, but still starts with a 5 minute warm up, running 1 minute, walking 2 minutes, cool down for 5 minutes and again over in 30 minutes. The app was a little harder but it was also my 2nd 30 minute workout. After 60 minutes of a mixture of walking and running it was very fun and it made the time go by fast. They suggest doing the sessions 3 days a week so going forward I’ll probably use a mixture of podcasts and the app for 30 minutes only. I like the podcast because the speaker gives tips and just checks in periodically. The ring alert on the app is fine but not quite as motivating except I can listen to my own music which can be motivating.
I have 2 more sessions this week and looking forward to them but they suggest a day in between with rest so I will take that seriously and when I’m not running I’ll be working out with my weights.
Today is 100 days of being flare-up free and although my long term goal is to get to 200 days this certainly feels good. Sometimes flares sneak up on me and I’m not sure why or what happened and other times I’m able to go long periods of time without having to deal with a flare up. I’m in the mode of no flares and when I go these long periods of time I start to feel very strong and with that comes a sense of accomplishment. I have decreased my Bikram practice to only 2-3 times per week and spending the rest of the time strength training and lots of walking. The heat was starting to cause me some trouble when I was doing it 5 days a week or more so I cut way back and have really been able to see the change. I miss it a lot though. I miss the people, I miss the practice, and with the change in seasons I miss the heat. The problem was that when I was going more often my body was becoming fatigued and I was starting to feel flare like symptoms in the studio but fortunately they weren’t turning into true flares. As soon as I would leave the heat the symptoms would end. Also, after a Bikram practice was exhausted for the rest of the day and it was making it difficult to get anything else accomplished. Now, I feel like I have more energy during the day to keep me going.
I have also moved my exercise to my basement, so I’m not leaving the house early. This is also allowing me to sleep in longer than I normally was and still able to get a good workout for at least an hour sometimes 90 minutes but doing it all in the comfort of my basement. I have been regularly lifting weights now for 3 weeks and although that doesn’t sound like a long time I can already feel my strength returning. I know I was in a hormonal funk and getting some balance back has really helped put other things back in balance also. I like having more energy, I love feeling stronger, and I really enjoy the times I do get at the Bikram studio even if I wish it were more. As my strength increases and my body continues to balance out I might be able to add more Bikram but I am on a good role right now and don’t want to jeopardize that.
The longest period of time I have gone without a flare has been 197 days, I’m hoping to reach 200 days this time around and stay on a healthy path to more and more flare-up free days.