The New Rule

I have a new rule regarding exercise & fitness that I made up based on my experiences today:

If you can’t Beyoncé, then Betty Page.

Look, I have fibromyalgia & because I can’t Beyoncé like I used to, I am a chubby girl. But I need to exercise & move because that actually makes fibro hurt less. I’d also like to weigh less so that my fibro muscles aren’t carting around so much chub. I have gone the Beyoncé route with a fabulous trainer who had me doing HIIT & I lost 30 lbs in 4 months. Ridiculous rapid weight loss. Amazing. I looked fantastic.

I was also constantly injured. This is not my trainer’s fault. This is me being a dumb ass & not expressing my limits. This was me not acknowledging limits. This was me going 7/11.

Today it began El Niñoing all over Los Angeles & rain is pretty much garbage juice for fibromyalgia. It’s the pressure change plus the cold & the damp. If you have any arthritis in you at all (& my hips are a mess; thanks, huge boobs!), it is triggered by the damp & that makes the fibro worse.

Thankfully my sister & her boyfriend got me a Hurry Cane for Christmas. This may seem like a ridiculous thing to get a person like me if you are one of those people who only sees me at parties or out dancing. I’d like to remind you that you only see me like twice a year. 

The Hurry Cane is amazing because I can bust it out for a few hours, take some of the stress off the affected muscle or connective tissue, & then I feel fine. I feel fine.

My new dilemma is that I was also gifted a Fitbit Flex for Christmas by my attorney, & I am a competitive asshole with a fitness instructor cousin in England who constantly invites me to step count challenges. I am intellectually incapable of resisting a challenge. If you challenge me to a thing, it will become my goal in life to 0wnz0r you, even if that goal is unrealistic or possibly dangerous. Challenge me to a duel & see what happens to you, which will probably end with you driving me to the hospital.

So here I am, hobbling about in the monsoon with my Hurry Cane, puttering around work, the Jiffy Lube, & the Ralph’s, & not wracking up many steps. THIS IS TORTURE. I am watching everyone blow by me & I haven’t even met my my modest step goal. I am seething with rage. It is cold & wet & flooded outside.

Then I remembered that I own, on DVD, Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away The Pounds. Let me preface this by saying that I was the girl who took kick boxing & did Tai Bo & did Susan Powter’s Stop The Insanity & religiously attended step aerobics all through college. I took 2 hour dance classes. I jogged. I worked out with a celebrity trainer & ran around with kettle bells.

But when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I could barely walk 2 minutes without curling into a ball in pain. So I got myself Walk Away the Pounds.

I put it in. I didn’t need the cane. I hit & then exceeded my step goal. I took a shower with my Philosophy Sparkle Holly Berry stuff (thanks, Mum) & got into bed. 

I could not Beyoncé, but I could Betty. Betty is better than nothing. Betty is better than a lot of things.

So if you can’t Beyoncé, Betty. And if you can’t Betty, eat a cake, light a cigarette, & call your ex. Now you’re Adele*.

*Don’t be Adele.

Today’s Work Out Music

I’m doing a new thing that is way more motivating, to me, than a set work out. I put on music & then do whatever exhuberant activity comes to mind until I need to stop. Today was the recumbent bike & some bicycle crunches, plus push ups & ring pulls. Sometimes it will be dancing around or going for a fast walk.

The important part is that the music makes you push.

If you’d like to do today’s 27 minute work out after talking to your doctor & making sure it’s ok, play the following:

Hollow Moon (4:27)

Hey Ya (3:54)
Start Me Up (3:40) 

I was gonna stop here (hence the cool down), but I wanted to keep going. So, I turned it up and…
The Walker (3:50)

I should have played something slower to cool down, but at that point I wasn’t peddling & was doing strength training, so I figured it was ok. I am not a doctor & you should not listen to me.

I am very glad I had a trainer for a couple months to teach me proper form so I can bust out moves at home! I recommend it even if you can only afford a couple of sessions.

Yes, my novel is finished & is awaiting some edits. This is not me procrastinating. Also I’m sick of being fat. So shut up. I can’t be 

Jesus Has Your Back, Yo

My friend is keeping a secret Lenten blog, & in it she discusses Jesus’ admonition to keep your piety to your damn self. This kind of flies in the face of me keeping a pretty open blog about what’s going on with my Give Ups/Give Ins, but I’m not here to tell you I’m an awesome super Christian. I’m here to tell you I totally suck at everything without The Lord.

I’ve spoken before about how God’s various commandments are not there to make us feel like crap about ourselves, but they’re there to help us avoid dumb shit He knows is bad for us because hello, He’s God. Let me share with you a modern parable that I give to my clients from time to time to illustrate why it’s better to listen to your Elders (Cthulu worshippers may identify):

If you’ve ever spent twenty minutes with a toddler, a cat, or a dog, you notice a couple of things. They spend a lot of time close to the ground, & they make a beeline for anything on that ground. Say you have vacuumed the absolute living crap out of your front room, but now there’s a toddler/cat/dog hanging out. They can see the cracker you dropped under your couch three months ago. It is now their utmost desire & goal to obtain that cracker.

They spend the better part of ten minutes staring at, stalking, & evaluating that cracker. They then spend another ten trying to get to that cracker. You, as guardian, may make remarks like “What’re you doing?” in a big goofy high pitched voice, but you’re not a jerk & you want to see what the tiny creature is up to. Eventually, they emerge from under the couch with the cracker in hand or mouth, beaming with pride, and they are about to bite…

What do you do? “Oh God NO!” you yell, whipping the dustmite-coated prize from the tiny creature. You know it’s totally gross & will make them sick. You are horrified that such a thing exists in your world. You feel like the world’s worst housekeeper. And now the child is screaming & crying. The dog is whining. And cat has already scratched you & run off with it & is chomping it down & will throw it up in your shoe later.

And now you know how God feels when He sees us striving for the low & disgusting things in our ground-level eye line. He’s like “Seriously? I have a fresh batch of cookies in the oven for you! Why in the hell are you using all your energy to get a dusty cracker? CAN’T YOU SMELL THE COOKIES?”

And Jesus is all “Forgive them, Father, for they can only see dusty crackers.”

And God’s like “Fine, whatever. Where’s the DustBuster?”

My dusty cracker has been The Wrong Man, sugar, stable but spirit-crushing work. “Look what I can do!” I say to The Lord. He sighs. “But I’ve imagined so much more for you. Oh well, come to Me when you’re fed up with dusty crackers. And would it kill you to stop puking in my shoes?”

What has this to do with Lent? Well, it’s forcing me to see beyond the dusty crackers. I was hungry after my tasty but meager dinner. The Voice whispered “Maybe now would be a good time to work out.” I said “Maybe I should check on my elven army” cos I was just made regent of my alliance & I’m responsible for the happiness of 67 Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth players. “Yeah, ok, that will help,” says the Voice, rolling His eyes.

But after I checked on my elves (they’ve mined a ton of ore!), I got on the recumbent bike. I did some arms. And God was right. I was no longer hungry, & I’d worked out for 20 minutes.

The dusty cracker of sloth is hella tempting. God dangled fitness cookies in front of me & I was like “Yeah, I’ll have one of those, though it feels like suffering” & Jesus was all “You think you know from suffering?” & I was like “Well, yeah” & then I felt like a stupid baby, but an empowered stupid baby.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Cos seriously if left to my own devices I’d weigh 900lbs, have one of those fetishist feeder boyfriends who controls me, & y’all would be carting me around in the back of a firetruck.

Jesus has my back, yo, even though I am a total idiot. He’s got yours, too. I won’t comment as to your level of idiocy.

Jun 10 2013 Workout

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting workouts. This is because I injured myself due to my own stubborn stupidity. I’ve been walking here & there when I can, but thanks to the miracle of fibromyalgia, it has taken me a loooooong time to recover.

But…I can now walk, bend, & prop myself up on my elbows with less pain than I’ve felt in a while. Although I’m having very unpleasant fibro symptoms today (weakness, lack of coordination, pain in my right arm), I decided to reboot my fitness routine based on a discussion I had a month or so ago with the highly informative Killpundit. I am now doing the same moves (with a couple extra carefully added & instructed new ones) in 15 minute intervals.

Yes, instead of the 30 minutes 3x a week schedule my trainer had me on, I’m going to do 15 minutes every other day. Fibromyalgia lengthens my recovery time significantly, but I still wanted a regular fitness schedule. It made sense to do the same intensity in half the time. Therefore I do less reps & half the exercises, but still have the 30 second cardio bursts in between. I have also added 30 second rest periods, which I was failing to do before. Without a trainer standing over me, I always forget.

Behold:

20130610-221518.jpg

As always, don’t do a damned thing without talking to your doctor & learning how to properly execute form first. How did I injure my chest & shoulders? By not heeding my own advice. “Oh, I can do bench dips!” I said, promptly tearing everything around my collar bones & then some. Two months & no pounds lost later, I can finally do stuff with em again.

And don’t even ask about my unfortunate “forgetting to count squats” incident & what that did to my chronic gluteal TRP. Yeah, there was no sexy walk for a while, unless you consider lurping about sexy. Weirdo.

Feb 21 2013 Workout

ALWAYS CONSULT A DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING AN EXERCISE PROGRAM. But never Dr. Nick.

I have been doing push ups, squats, & sit ups throughout the week, but as y’all know from my fibro blog, I’ve been flaring & have not been able to be consistent. I only intended to do 20 minutes today, but, well…30 minutes later, here we are:

20130221-190709.jpg

I did a “warm up” walking around the grocery store & The Vitamin Shoppe with a basket. The remaining minutes of weighted walking were with an 18 lb kettle bell in between each set because I wasn’t feeling joggy. As you can see, I did sets with more reps, except for my sit ups, as my failure was 20 today. That is sad. But you do what you can.

The bicep curls were done with me standing on my lightest resistance band. I figure that about equals 10 lbs, but that last set felt like 20lbs. It’ll probably take me a week to make up for fibroflare weakness.

The 2 minutes of yoga was downward dog, cat pose, & cobra for 20 breaths each. My muscles & connective tissues have been frightfully tight, so I needed it.

Feb 14 2013 Workout

ALWAYS CHECK WITH A DOCTOR FIRST. But not Dr. No. He charges $1,000,000.00 for everything.

20130214-204721.jpg

The jogging = 2 minutes warm up, then 30 seconds between every 2 strength sets as usual. If you hate to jog, do 25 jumping jacks (which hurt my plantar fascia) or 25 seal jacks or hop on your treadmill, elliptical, or recumbent bike for 30 secs. I guess you could also march in place or do the Humpty Dance.

As it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s your dance, here’s your chance (folks in committed relationships), to do the hump.

Yeah, sexy ladies!

Feb 8 2013 Workout

ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST. But not the one that teaches your Heroines of French Literature class.

Do a 5 minute cardio warm up (mine was on a recumbent bike) & then alternate every two sets with 30 seconds of running for a total of 8 quick runs in a 30 minute period. It took me 32, but who’s counting?

20130208-184134.jpg
Follow with a sense of smug self satisfaction, a protein shake, smaller jeans, and a good night’s sleep.

Work Out With Me!

Now that I’m trainerless for a couple of months, I figured I’d come up with a new way to be accountable. I’ve lost 23 pounds and 4″ off all my measurements so far, and ain’t nobody stopping this train! Its last stop is death, so let’s ride this steam driven bitch together.

I will post my work outs each time I do them. You can follow along, do them too (talk to a doctor first), ask questions…whatever! It’s like our own class, but with more swearing and whatever music you have at home.

My trainer Chris taught me some great ways to use my home equipment. I have an 18lb kettle bell, a 6lb medicine ball, & 3 resistance bands of varying toughness. Because MyFitnessPal doesn’t exactly account for all that, I’ve had to approximate some of my entries. MFP doesn’t calculate calories for strength training, so it doesn’t have to be exact. Enter the approximate move into your favourite tracker app.

My trainer likes timing stuff rather than counting reps. I am a counter because I like keeping track of what I can do. You pick whatever works for you, but you must do 30 continuous minutes. I get bored, so I do a lot of stuff. You can pick two or three exercises if you like to work specific areas each day.

Start with 5 minutes of cardio to warm up. I use a recumbent bike on a moderate setting. Then I did this:

20130205-172512.jpg

In between every two sets, do 30 seconds of intense cardio. This can translate to 25 jumping jacks or 30 seconds of running in place or marching in place if you’re worried about impact. I like to run.

Let me repeat that:

I like to run.

Yeah, I know, right??

The lunges are new to me so I do them wall assisted. I’ll let y’all know when I work up to the traveling kind. My balance is getting better, but it’s still pretty disabled-girl-ish.

Always stop if something hurts, if you feel weakness, or if you’ve dropped equipment on your face. Which I have done. This is not recommended.

What’s YOUR Excuse? Who Are You?

Nearly 7 years ago, I could barely walk.

I’m fed up with telling my fibromyalgia diagnosis story, which I’m sure can be found here somewhere, but I’ll tell you what happened after the year of blood tests and radiology. I started walking two and a half minutes out the door, and then two and a half minutes back. That was how I started. That was the limit of what I could do.

Fibromyalgia (among other neuromuscular disorders) is characterized by exercise intolerance. When normal people exercise, they feel fantastic afterward. They have energy and motivation for the rest of the day. I did not.

What many of you don’t know is why I started noticing problems in the first place. I began an aerobic training routine on my then-fiancé (now exbf’s) XBox. The “game” is called MyFitness, and it customizes workouts for you. I got up at 5:30AM to do that shit. Then I’d go to work feeling like I had the flu. Then I started randomly falling.

The falling is what got me in to the doctor, not the pain I’d had since I was six, not the cognitive hiccups where my brain confused words, not even the constant fatigue. That had been my life for so long, I figured that was just me. Falling for no reason while I was crossing the street, however? That was a wake up call.

My doctor initially thought I had MS at best, ALS at worst. A year of testing later, a neurologist confirmed I had fibromyalgia. She said “Yep, you guys have exercise intolerance, but exercise is the only thing that will start repairing your muscles. Start slow.”

So I did. I reported my progress to my online support group. You’d think I’d introduced television to Spanish Inquisition-era Europe. I was pretty much met with “Burn the witch!” and understand why. Most of the people in my FMS support group took even longer than my then 32 years to be diagnosed. They had tremendous damage and extremely sensitive pain receptors. Their doctors had put them on Fentanyl patches and disability payments.

I had asked my neurologist if this would be my fate. “God, no,” she said. “You’re pretty far gone, but you’re not dead and you won’t die from this. You just have to do some work. And here are some anti-seizure drugs and muscle relaxants. They help.”

Kinda. The work did more for my body and spirits than the drugs. I started walking 7 minutes a day. 10. 15. I bought myself a cheap ass recumbent bike on Amazon and got up to an hour three times a week of exercise.

My body was performing better, but the fatigue and pain and cognitive stuff continued to be an issue. I also wasn’t losing much weight despite working my ass off. A friend suggested I see an endocrinologist. Yes, I had low thyroid. More importantly, I had celiac disease.

The only “cure” is a gluten free diet. I lost 40lbs in a year without trying, simply because my body was now able to digest fat, and I stopped being hungry. I also got off every medication–all the medication–even the anti-depressant I’d been on more than half my life.

Then my “almost marriage” fell apart. I moved to LA, kind of exercised, mostly didn’t. I ate a bit better. I lost another 20 lbs. I gained back 10.

Four weeks ago, an extremely kind (and tactful) friend whose wisdom I trust above all recommended a personal trainer to me. I investigated this trainer. He seemed a little intimidating, and I couldn’t figure out what his experience with neuromuscular disorders was, but the evaluation was free, and I made the appointment. As you all know, he destroyed me the first day, and my pain threshold was challenged for the subsequent four days to a degree I had not felt for years.

My car had some fairly expensive trouble. Despite using crutches to get around, I was so convinced I could challenge and overcome this pain, I broke down in rare tears thinking I might not afford to start training. My generous and extremely thoughtful roommate helped me with some of that expense (and tire changing and ride giving and overall listening) so I could sign up for a month.

If you had told me three weeks ago that I’d be eating 1200 calories a day of protein and green veggies, and doing 60 bar push ups, 60 ring pulls, 45 deadlifts, and voluntary interval cardio, I’d have told you that you were high.

If you told me that nearly 7 years ago, I would have thought you cruel.

I no longer know who I am. People who read my old blog years ago read the exact same sentiment as I was going through my medical tests. I could no longer do anything. I was the girl who went out dancing; I was a happy cook and cheerful homemaker who could no longer lift a pan or push a vacuum. I had to redefine myself as a person who couldn’t.

I am now a person who not only can, but must. I enjoy the discipline of eating properly. I enjoy being challenged by my trainer to push the thresholds of pain and strength. And bitches, I enjoy this definition I’m starting to see. And the 15 lbs I’ve lost.

I don’t know who I am right now, but I enjoy meeting her. As I edit that old blog so I can publish it as an ebook, I see how that girl felt and I want to shake her. I want to slap her sometimes. She put up with so much crap. She succumbed to despair a lot. She used humour to drag herself out of it, and that is the one consistent thing we have in common. But I don’t know who she is. I don’t like her. No wonder she hated herself. She was a fighter, but she gave up in so many areas. She made excuses for others. She ate a lot of donuts.

I hope in a year to look back on this blog and say “I don’t know that girl any more. But I’m grateful for what she’s done for me. I’m grateful she surrounded herself with quality people. I’m glad she found friends who care about her enough to call her on her weaknesses.”

For once, I’m enjoying not knowing who I am. It’s like going to a party and finding myself talking to someone fun only to realize they’re super famous for doing something awesome that I never even heard of because I am a shy bookish introvert. I’m like “Who is this fierce bitch?! I dig her!”

Maybe in a year, I’ll know her. And she’ll take me places I’ve never before been. TAKE ME, FIERCE BITCH! Let’s go!