guest post by Sima Tamaddon
Exercise was always something that brought balance to my life. For years, I tried to practice the “healthy mind=healthy body” lifestyle. In 1999, my balance was disrupted when I was injured in a severe car accident. Confronted with the diagnosis that I may never walk without assistance, I was determined to prove the doctors wrong. Through my recovery, I discovered yoga, and through dedicated practice, overcame the physical and emotional trauma.
The accident left me in a wheelchair for a little over a month. I had an external Fixator in my right leg for two months and two screws in my left knee. I eventually opted to have them taken out as I wanted to be without them as I finished healing.
I became very dependent on my parents. At times it was difficult to ask for help – since I was a adult and felt I should be able to go to the bathroom or clean up after myself on my own. At the same time, this dependency and accident brought me closer to them. It was as if I was getting to know them all over again, but on a totally different level. Although, I hated depending on them, it allowed me to really get to know them at an age most kids can’t wait to get away. I remember laughing with my mom while watching way too many movies and talking to my dad about who knows what.
On a personal level, I had to examine my habits and stop comparing myself to others, especially my old self. I used to think about the long runs I would take, the way I used to run down the stairs without thinking. The new Sima had to watch every step with careful consideration. It was hard. I also had to literally stop working out. I had to heal. My working out became resting. With much rest and gradual strength training – of not only my body, but my mind and spirit – I experienced an amazing recovery.
Using my newly found passion and strength, I decided I wanted to help others through the power of yoga, and I opened a yoga practice, Soul Surgery. Through one-on-one sessions and personalized instruction, I strove to teach others how to live in the moment: with a full heart, open mind and generous spirit. Clients, friends and family members appreciated the positive impact I was having in their lives and encouraged me to open my own business.
Throughout the entire transformation, I learned a lot. I have stopped getting overly competitive. I began to take a much more holistic approach to fitness. It was no longer about running a certain amount of miles – it was about being healthy. Before the accident I was stuck on how I looked. Now I spend much more time focusing on how I feel which comes from the combination of intense exercise balanced with the inner-soul searching of yoga.
Every day I get up I realize that is is a blessing. When I think I cannot finish a ride or a class I know that it is not how you finish just that you finish…. same with staying on track–it becomes you. There is no program, it just is…
Sima Tamaddon, Alexandria, Virginia
My head was full of thoughts, yet none of them interesting or suitable for a site about health and exercise. Too distracted, I guess. By the fact that my sister’s beloved father-in-law is living his last few days; that my elder son is leaving town for two weeks and my younger son for 4 or 5 days; that my mom needs a realistic plan for her future as she ages; by the distance or circumstances that can separate us from those we love; that I won’t see my beloved niece for a long time; and by the chores and bills that always seem to be just a bit more than I can keep up with.
Then it came to me that I am good at coping and being responsible. Cranky sometimes and impatient, yet good overall. Just like you! And being healthy and fit helps me stay optimistic and energetic. So here’s my list of things I can do because I have good health and am fit:
* stay up past 1:00 a.m. then wake up at 6:30 to make waffles for my kids
* have push-up contests with my teen boys and impress them (I even win sometimes)
* wear the same clothes I’ve owned for years as my size is consistent
* feel attractive and sexy (okay, not every day) even though I’m a mom of teens, not a 30-year-old hottie
* teach strength training and cardio to university students, then smile to myself when they realize I have way more energy and stamina than they do
* go for long walks with my sister and not worry about making it back to the car
* eat Rocky Road ice cream on occasion and not stress out about it
* volunteer at my place of worship
* clean the kitchen every dang day, even though I’m not always the one who messed it
* meet up with friends I haven’t seen in years and not worry that they’ll be thinking “What happened to her?”
* stick up for myself, because no-one messes with me
* plan for a really long future (you know – travel, visit my kids and overstay my welcome, watch the grandkids and give them back when they need changing or get fussy, get a call from the President on my 100th birthday – that kind of future)
* be independent (or at least have the illusion, considering I have two
* feel successful
* run like heck or fight back if someone tries to grab my purse
* wake up every single day ready to do it all over again
What things can you do, thanks to your good health? What can
Brown Fitness do for you?
Photo credits: Creative Commons (cultivatechi.com)
guest post by Jerry and Ginny
Jerry: Then in December of 2009 I experienced a Hemorraghic stroke. My principal deficit from the stroke was extreme mental and physical exhaustion. My energy level varied drastically during the day making it difficult to be productive. I literally crashed after eating and sometimes could not sustain concentration beyond 20 minutes without stopping to rest.
I wanted to take an active role in my recovery and healing so decided to join Club 14 Fitness, a locally owned gym on Amelia Island. Ginny went along to encourage me. We were assigned a trainer and enjoyed working out together. I really benefited from the structured workouts The exercise helped raise my energy level and spirits making me feel more “normal”. Specifically, the exercise helped my circulation, and the sauna afterward relieves arthritic pain.
After the initial 16 weeks of structured exercise I regained the strength and energy I had lost from the stroke and am now a third of the way toward my weight loss goal.
Ginny: I am so glad I went along to the club with Jerry! I definitely gained weight during his recovery from being home more, being less physically active, being stressed, and eating more. Finally I broke through procrastination and had the opportunity to see the results of working out three times a week.
I have dropped two dress sizes and feel amazing. Both Jerry and I are fitting into clothes we have not worn in over 20 years. We have also altered our diet, limiting starches and adding more veggies. Now the gym is a habit and we no longer allow other priorities to interfere with our health and Jerry’s recovery.
Our Advice: No matter how difficult life gets after an unexpected health problem, find a way to exercise. It is good for the body, mind and spirit of the patient and the caretaker!
Readers: What would it take to motivate you to work out more consistently and purposefully?
guest post from Sharon Rosenblatt
I know that people always say that exercising improves your life because of all the health benefits and endorphin boosters but I’m one of those rare cases–exercise has literally saved my life. I wasn’t particularly active when I was younger. I did what I had to in order to stay thin. I participated, but didn’t excel in high school softball and track. Actually, I didn’t really come close to coming close to excelling. After all, I am the height of a standard hurdle. I’m not built for being active—I’m built more to be an armrest for my over 5 feet tall friends. High school sports were mostly just a way to beef up my college resume and make new friends.
College didn’t really change that. I was terrified of the freshman 15 so I started making the gym part of my daily routine along with trying to eat more than two different vegetables a day. Nothing special. I treated the trudge to the gym on the opposite side of campus as a viable escape from the library although I’d always try to take the stairs to the obscure 6th floor to study. Suffice it to say, working out was definitely a small component of my life but nothing I identified with. When I was close to finishing up my sophomore year in college, I went through some tough personal issues that landed me home for a semester on the strict recommendations of everyone but me. I was frustrated, for lack of a better word publishable word. I had doctors give me enough prescriptions to wallpaper a small bedroom and I was in an outpatient therapy program three times a week. After some time, I was getting better in the clinical sense, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I was getting praised for sharing feelings and speaking up in group but I missed that sense of challenge for something larger; something I couldn’t describe.
One of my friends who went to school not too far from my home suggested that we train for a road race. She gave me the details–a Thanksgiving run that was almost five miles. It didn’t have that hokey name of ‘Turkey Trot’ so I didn’t write it off immediately. I hadn’t run five continuous miles, ever. Even when I did track in high school, the most I could muster was a mile. The distance sounded like a marathon. But I was determined because I needed something good to look forward to besides CSI marathons on TV. So I joined a gym near my house. I went at those random hours of the day when it was less crowded and people couldn’t see just how much a tiny girl could sweat. I jogged a mile on the treadmill a day for two weeks. A 12 minute mile. Then I bumped it to two. I pushed myself to work out every day, even weekends. Suddenly, I wasn’t just running, I was running to something–a real goal that wasn’t thrust on me by a medical textbook and diagnosticians. I experienced self-motivation. I hadn’t believed in myself for over a year and seeing myself run my first 5k on a treadmill made me hunger for more miles. I started buying running clothes to make me look forward to working out more. I even bought one of those shoulder iPod holders.
Yet, the worst part of the process for me was dealing with my bodily limitations. I had never pushed myself at the gym before and I had to teach motivation again. I wish I could say that I was pumped from the get go and did two-a-days at the gym. There were some days where I would look at the gym as this foreign place where my kind didn’t go. A five miler was a morning workout for some of my fellow gym goers, and I was huffing through two. It was almost as though I had to learn how to walk again since I had no endurance. I did it without a personal trainer and only the advice from a few web pages. I recall being embarrassed that I couldn’t make myself run that far when people who looked to be less in shape than me could. Yet, I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to break out from the doldrums of group therapy and repeated trips to the mall.
One way I remedied this was to make fun playlists for my workouts. I picked music that I related to and got me going. That made my workouts seem more like a dance party. However, this became embarrassing because I have the habit of raising my hands when a song tells me to do so. The song ‘Shots’ by LMFAO is especially problematic with the lyrics ‘If you’re feeling drunk, put your hands in the air’ and I’d start waving my hands like a maniac in the middle of the line of treadmills at the gym. I’m still occasionally guilty of this.
Even though I had to walk the uphill portions on race day in November, I still finished. And now, two years later, I’ve completed over a dozen road races (including two half marathons!). I’m running that Thanksgiving race again for my fourth time next year. I had to change my mindset that all runs are a race because I learned that in high school track. I used to get hung up over my mile times and trying to reduce by seconds became a mathematical and psychological nightmare. Since I’m bad at remainders from division and I have short legs, I’ve learned to live with my deficiencies and just run for me—not against me or anyone else.
Over the few years, I’ve found that running recreationally with others, even if it is at different speeds, is the best motivator. I treated running like group therapy—you always have something to learn by watching others. I’ve run with running clubs associated with athletic stores, college groups and just friends. Each and every time, I’ve had fun talking about the meaning of life related to the run. I’ve found runners to be the most grounded, yet philosophical people I’ve ever met. I also try to avoid fitness ruts as much as possible. I’ve experienced treadmill running to be boring after a while. Even if you have to run inside in winter months, at least pick a different position inside the gym or switch up the TV from ESPN to “The Price is Right.” Once the weather got nicer, I’d always try to explore new areas around familiar places. Suddenly, my friendly neighborhood hills seemed challenging when I’d approach them from a different side street.
Running, especially outside, gave me that push that drugs and therapy couldn’t always do. I’m not the fastest or have the best form but I do it because I always know that when I finish a jog or a 10 miler, the euphoria of the finish is always better than where I started.
Silver Spring, MD, USA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams
Alexandra: Hi Tina, I remember you from one of our very first posts. Welcome back!
Kymberly: Do both activities, as our post on the “Best Cardio Workout” discusses. You want to be as conditioned as possible and all of one thing starts reducing the upward adaptation. “Why?” you ask. Lookee at our other post on adaptation and fitness progression. Both the elliptical and treadmill will boost your foundational, general, aerobic capacity. For specific training, you need to actually walk and run–on a track, outside, wherever you can. You are smart to start now for the gig in half a year.
A: I have a quick question for you…what are you doing during the other half of the marathon? Anyway, our colleague Jason Karp is a specialist in running, so here’s one of his many articles that will help you prep for the race. It’s a bit technical, but you are very smart. And since all that running will make you even smarter, maybe you should read it while on your beloved elliptical. Or treadmill. Or both – one foot on each.
K: Do you have any joint issues? If so, spend more time or any sore time on the elliptical which, cuts impact. Ultimately though, to perform best in an activity you need to do that activity, i.e. running. I’d suggest spending your initial two months on the treadmill and elliptical about half and half. And do some intervals to get your aerobic threshold up— not always steady state yet. Get on a cardio bike as well to reduce impact and joint stress as you increase miles and time. Spend months three and four moving among elliptical, treadmill, running, and power walking. By month five spend the majority of time actually running and on the treadmill; reduce the elliptical and walking. By late in months five and six, go on the elliptical only if your joints need a break or you need a mental break. Otherwise — outside with ya’ you running stud!
A: See that fit, trim redhead to the right? She’s happy because it’s her job to do treadmill reviews! So before you hop on that particular machine, check out the best treadmill reviews so you know you’re getting lemonade, not a lemon (although that machine looks more like a chili pepper)!
Readers: How do you train for half marathons? What about 2/3 or ¾ or 7/8 marathons?
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Disclosure: We were paid a fee to share the treadmill link with you!
Guest post from Mary McManus
I experienced paralytic polio at the age of 5. I despised my body, not only because of polio but as a survivor of childhood abuse. I pursued academics with a fervor and avoided, like the plague, anything to do with physical activity. This disconnection from my body caught up with me, when at the age of 53, I was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neurological disease. I realized I needed to pay attention to my earthly home known as my body and make some serious lifestyle changes.
After I was discharged from outpatient rehab, I realized my body needed something more than the exercises I was prescribed. I hired a personal trainer. It was grueling to say the least to embark on a health and fitness program in my 50s. Feeling muscles that I never knew existed was a huge adjustment for me. Going way outside of my comfort zone to learn new skills was challenging. But there was an inner voice nudging me forward. In February 2008, when asked what my next health and fitness goals were I said …I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital where I took the first steps on my healing journey.
My trainer was nonplussed and said I needed to trade in my polio shoes for a pair of running shoes. Not only did I have to learn how to run but I needed to overcome the feelings about my self image that lingered from polio. I had to make a mental shift from being a disabled polio survivor to seeing myself as an athlete. It didn’t matter that I finished last in most of the road races I competed in. I celebrated the fact I was out on the roads transforming my life and running my own race.
The road to the Boston Marathon was paved not only with pain, but with some incredibly humorous moments as well. During one of our first long training runs, I was feeling so frustrated and felt literally and figuratively lost. All of a sudden I felt the velcro from my sports bra strap give way. There was my strap hanging out from under my running shirt and … well you can imagine the rest. My daughter and husband who trained for and ran the marathon with me couldn’t imagine why I had stopped running and was laughing hysterically. They joined in when they saw what happened and all the tension of the day melted away.
I crossed the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon in 7 hours and 49 minutes. What a thrill to have the BAA finisher medal for the 113th Boston Marathon placed around my neck. It was also a new starting line in my health and fitness journey. In October 2009, symptoms of post polio returned but not nearly as intense as in December 2006. I went back into outpatient rehab and realized I needed to build a foundation that had not been built prior to running the Marathon. In June of 2010 I returned to road races and in January of this year, I have added yoga to my health and fitness journey.
I had a lot of physical and mental habits from years of inertia that I needed to change. In addition to changing diet (I cut out caffeine, limit refined sugars, cut out red meat and try to do as much of a plant based diet as possible), I had to change my relationship with my body. I had to make taking care of myself a number one priority instead of one that wasn’t even on my to do list. I had to connect with my body in a whole new way. I shifted from pushing and fighting with my body and seeing it as a burden, to finding balance and harmony within and loving myself whole. By joining a running club, being a part of the vibrant Boston yoga community, and sharing my daily workouts/runs in two on line communities, Daily Mile and Just Finish, I am able to stay on track with my exercise/fitness program. I am healthier and happier at 57 years old than I have ever been in my life. My body is a beautiful musical instrument. With daily practice, a sense of humor and not taking myself too seriously, constant fine tuning and connecting with physically active people, I know I will be humming along for years to come.
Chestnut Hill, MA
Kymberly: Not liking to stab in the dark–poke, poke, scream of pain!– I will say I must guess into the wilderness as to the reasons for the different effects. One guess as to what happened was you powered your downstroke of the bike with your quads and your upstroke with your glutes and hamstrings. Most likely you also had your toes closer to your body than your heel (flexed foot or dorsiflexion), especially on the downstroke. That means your calf was not involved that much as it was in slight extension. Your friend most likely had her toes pointed away from her (plantarflexion) throughout the work, which is very common, though not ideal. Therefore her calf was in slight contraction. Is one way wrong? Depends on your goal. But generally it is considered good form and far more powerful to work as you did and NOT to put the load into the calf.
Alexandra: I’m not sure if you’re saying it was a recumbent bike or if you just like to lower the heck out of your seat on the indoor cycle, but we’ll start at recumbent;
Was your friend’s seat farther back than yours, relative to leg length? Because if her seat was way back, she might have had to point her toes a lot (back to plantarflexion) to reach the pedals, which would put her into a calf contraction – and not the kind that leads to cute little baby moos.
If you were on an upright bike with a really low seat, that could also contribute to the different results, depending on whether your toes were up or down.
Were you a good witch or a bad witch? But then, if your seat was too low, your knees will hurt soon anyway, so who cares about the calf ache?
What has been your experience with indoor cycles and your muscles? How pointy are your toes when you cycle?
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Guest post from Tricia Downing
Imagine a moment so dramatic that it defines you for the rest of your days; that it changes what you do, how you do it, and calls into question every dream you’ve ever dared to chase. What happens when you arrive back at square one?
For me, that day was September 17, 2000. At the time I was a competitive cyclist and my enthusiasm for the sport could not have been greater. All I wanted to do was ride, race, and ride some more. I loved it. During the summer of 2000, I packed my car and set off across the country to compete in as many races as I could. When I returned home five weeks later I was more excited than ever to pursue the sport with everything I had.
But on a beautiful fall day, while riding with an out-of-state friend, I was hit head-on by a car. The impact sent me soaring off my bike, over the front windshield of the car, and to the ground. I was paralyzed instantly.
In the first moments, days and weeks I dealt with pain, confusion and uncertainty. But after the initial shock wore off, I was struck by the realization that a wheelchair would now be my mode of transportation and I was terrified by the thought of having to live my life on the sidelines. Fortunately, my team of rehab specialists (doctors, nurses, physical therapist, occupational therapist and recreation therapist) had different ideas for me. On one particularly difficult day in therapy, my physical therapist said, “Trish, you have a long road ahead of you, but I assure you that you’ll still be able to do all the same things you’ve ever done. You’ll just have to learn to do them in new ways.”
I didn’t realize at first how I could possibly do the same things I did before my injury, but as I write this ten years later, I realize that I AM, in fact, doing the things I did before. I am working a full-time job, spending time with friends and family, owning my own home, driving all the places I need to go and competing in sports.
Being able to get back to sports has been one of the most important things in my life. I have always been an athlete. It is my love and passion and the fact that I was able to find activities that were adaptable to my new situation was one of the greatest discoveries of my life. It wasn’t easy to build my arms and shoulders to be able to handle riding a handcycle or pushing a racing chair. And re-learning to swim was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But again, it was advice from one of my therapists that stuck with me. She told me if I worked hard, did a little more every day, stayed patient and didn’t give up, that I could build on my skills and achieve in direct correlation to my motivation.
I started small, just riding the handcycle and pushing my racing chair around the neighborhood with friends. I’d swim a few laps every week, but just as my therapist said, I did a little more each time. I remember the first time I rode ten miles on the handcycle. It was like the biggest accomplishment in the world. If you would have told me that four years after that day, I would compete in my first Ironman triathlon, I would never have believed it. But working hard and doing a little more each day paid off. In 2005, I competed in the Redman Ironman in Oklahoma City, OK. Sure enough I had worked hard enough to be able to complete 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles handcycling and 26.2 miles in the racing chair. It took me 18 hours and three minutes, but when I crossed the finish line I realized that I was much more powerful than I ever thought.
My accident had definitely derailed me but it hadn’t stopped me. It taught me to look inside myself for strength and to not give up on my dreams and goals. The thing is that life is a lot like an endurance event and it doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or not. We all have races to run and finish lines to cross. And how you do depends on your willingness to get in the game, give it all you’ve got, and follow though to the very end.