Back in January I submitted my Curvy 7 Interview with Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga fame and it’s now my turn to be featured on her blog! First of all, thank you so much, Anna, for doing this! Second, I love the work Anna is doing by encouraging body acceptance for all shapes and sizes. Curvy Yoga is just one of several much needed movements within yoga to make it more diverse and reclaim it from the stereotypical thin, white, yuppies gracing the covers of Yoga Journal. Yoga IS for every BODY, whether you’re big or little and regardless of your skin color, age, sexual orientation, or gender classification. And Curvy Yoga is spreading that word like wildfire. Kudos to you & thanks again!
It’s been too long since I’ve put up a proper post. Sorry about that. My hiatus can best be explained as follows:
April 1-7: Week leading up to the half marathon. Not a great week. It took a lot of energy to actually get myself motivated to look forward to the race. Perks of this week included all of the encouragement from my coach, my yoga teacher, and from my friends at church.
April 7: The half marathon. See recap below.
April 8-14: Recovering from the half marathon. See recap below.
April 15-present: Getting back in the swing of things. Busy with PIET work and the final push to Shiloh’s graduation.
2013 Knoxville Half Marathon Review
On Sunday, April 7th, I completed my first half marathon. The week before the event, I wasn’t nearly as excited as my coach and other runners. In the fall, I was looking toward this event as my goal, but training on my own was getting me injured; and I didn’t actually start training with my coach until February, which isn’t enough time to train properly. But, at this stage of my regular training plan, building a base running ability, I was scheduled to do almost 13 miles for my long run anyway. It was perfect timing to do a practice race, too.
Before this event, I’d only ever run 9 miles total; and I was mostly nervous about essentially adding on an additional hour of running without working up to it. Then, when I returned to Facebook and saw everything my husband had done in developing an “entourage,” I started to freak out a little. (My beloved refers to these moments as “onion” moments because I’m apparently layered like an onion. Thanks, babe.) But then my yoga teacher gave me a small dose of common sense. I focused on the running only, and didn’t think about any of the rest.
Of course the first time you do anything, it sets a record, but I set a few personal records at this event, too. For people not in the running world, my time is not impressive at all. For reference, a 91-year old man finished about 10 minutes before I did. He set a world record.(Side note: If I even make it to 91, I’ll want a medal.) What IS impressive is that I did it. I did it with ovarian cyst pain. I did it overweight. I did it as a former asthmatic. I did it as someone who used to be so crippled by depression and anxiety that I’d only ever leave my home to work (and sometimes not even then). So yeah, that’s pretty impressive to me.
3/20/13 Time: 14:28 Ran my first complete mile.
4/6/13 Time: 28:20 Two miles that included walking breaks. Faster than my 1 mile of consistent running.
4/7/13 Half Marathon Records set:
Overall time: 3:18:48
Fastest mile: 13:00 (First mile)
Time: 39:40 Fastest 5K (3.1 miles/First 3 miles)
Time: 14:47 Fastest Finishing mile; I finished way stronger than I thought I could.
Overall, I finished about 20 minutes faster than I anticipated based on my previous long-run performance. I’m pretty proud of that. But I’m also looking to knock at least 30 minutes off my time before my next half marathon, so I’m focusing on ways to improve.
I’d already seen my recovery week plan, so I knew it was going to be a light week. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be so exhausted for so long, and that I’d hurt for as long as I did. When I came home from work almost every night that week, I did restorative yoga and went to bed at least 2 or 3 hours before my regular bedtime. Even though I’ve been getting enough rest, since the race I’ve been waking up exhausted and feeling incredibly run down. My coach told me that it’s typical to have an immunity zap after endurance events; and I’m confident that’s true, but all the pollen doesn’t help either.
As far as pain goes, I know it’s just something that has to work itself out. I know I’m not injured, and I know that I mostly just have to learn how to tolerate a different kind of pain. I can help things along by eating right/frequently enough, drinking enough, sleeping enough, and being mindful while exercising. The week immediately after the race, I was scheduled to log 10 miles, but I only did 2, and I walked it at that. I didn’t stick to my plan because I knew my body was telling me to be gentler than the plan had detailed. So I did restorative yoga and foam rolled like a boss.
Back on Track
The thing about taking time “off” from running is that it sucks coming back. I’ve been “coming back” for the last 10 days. I remember posting something like “2 miles today seems like nothing compared to 13.1 tomorrow” the day before the race. And now, it’s everything I can do to complete a 4-mile run. My body is still kind of recovering, and I know I can push through this; but I have to keep moving to do it. If I take two rest days in a row, I’m such a wimp on the next run. So now I’m back to working the plan. It’s harder because I have a different kind of pain to deal with in the process, but it’s still worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, this event was a training run for my goal event. As you’ve noticed my race countdown in the margin, I was set to participate in the first ever Mountain Mommas ½ Marathon in Sevierville, TN on Mother’s Day (May 12th). Unfortunately, the race was canceled due to low registration, which is certainly a wrench in my plan. I asked my coach if we should focus on 5Ks and 10Ks over the summer and set another goal for the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Johnson City on September 22nd. That’s exactly what he wants to do. We’re going to continue to build a base running fitness and start working on speed. First step, reduce the walking breaks to 30 seconds, and walk more briskly & upright.
In the meantime, I’m updating my countdown for the September event because that’s my goal, but I’ll actually be participating in several smaller events before then. If you’re local and want to hang, here’s my schedule:
Saturday, April 27th Dogwood 5K
Saturday, May 11th Run for Clean Air 5K
Saturday, May 25th KTC Expo 10K
Saturday, June 1st, Run for the Rose 5K
Wednesday, July 3rd, Pilot Fireball Classic 5k
Saturday, August 10th, Color Me Rad 5K
Room for Improvement
Clearly, I expect to improve my performance over time; and to do that I’m sticking to the training plan because it works well. But I need to focus on at least two other areas, too: diet and yoga. Since February, I’ve significantly increased my cardio work as well as general fitness (pushups, core work, leg strengthening). The result has been a change in my metabolism, which affects my hormones and my ovarian cysts. These changes are good in the long-run, but any changes with hormones are difficult to endure even if the end result is positive. I’ve been advised to focus on a diet of low-glycemic foods to help regulate my metabolism, so that’s where I’ll start.
With yoga, I just need to do more of it. So far I’ve been focused on running and strength training geared specifically for running. I’ve done yoga, but it’s mostly restorative. I’m not knocking it because clearly my body needs it; but my mental health balance needs regular, moderately challenging yoga. I’m noticing the twinges of easy irritability and difficulty with meditation. I’m noticing more resistance to change and less mindfulness of the moment. Yoga has been the best thing for me in conquering these challenges. Like being thirsty though, once you recognize it, you’re already dehydrated. While I’m also working my way back into running, I also want to focus more on working back into a challenging yoga practice.
Realistic Goal Setting & Scheduling
So far I’ve mentioned three areas of focus (running, dieting, and yoga), and putting time and attention into this many things is a lot for someone who also works full time and volunteers part time. I’ve learned through reading Zen Habits that making lifestyle changes requires focus and action on small, frequent habits as opposed to large goals. Fortunately, my running plan is something my coach puts together. I don’t have to think about it; I just do it. I’ve also already got an awesome yoga practice; I just need to do it, too. Putting together a detailed diet plan takes several hours of research, planning, shopping, and meal prepping. If that’s the only thing I need to do on my own, it doesn’t seem like much; but the challenge lies in finding the time to do it all.
Because it’s starting to get hot, I’ll be returning to early morning practices. I hate waking up so early, but it’s the only way I can feasibly see myself running through the summer. It’s more of an environmental constraint than anything, and I just have to accept it. With early morning practices, I can focus on doing my restorative yoga on those afternoons/evenings. On cross training days, I’ll do the elliptical and yoga instead of either/or. I’ll be building the near-daily habit of exercising early every morning (cardio/endurance) and every evening (yoga). I’ll still take my weekly rest day, too.
So, I need help with the diet. Do any of you pay attention to glycemic index? Have you researched it? I’ve done the cursory Google search, but I’d like more than that. If you have any low glycemic index meals, please share the recipes! I’ll spend some time researching/planning on my next rest day, and I’ll check back here for any tips you want to leave.
Thanks for reading and come back for more on my Knoxville Half Marathon experience in The Friends Who Waited.
Easter has come (and gone), and Lent is over, which means I can now return to checking Facebook; and I did yesterday. It was weird. Apparently, they’ve rolled out more changes so my profile looks different. I totally missed out on everyone changing their profile pictures for marriage equality; though I’ve changed mine now (better late than never, right?). I’ve responded to messages that were weeks old as well as to things that were specifically on my profile, but I didn’t want to waste time going back to see whatever I’d missed.
Truth be told, aside from the regular posts by my dear mentor, Ruth, about being a newlywed while transitioning into retirement, I don’t think I missed much. Ruth’s posts usually make my day brighter, and even though we don’t see each other nearly enough, I still feel connected enough to her through Facebook to rejoice along with her.
I’m sorry if my other Facebook friends read this and feel left out because I didn’t “miss” your posts. But in all honesty, look at your activity. If you’re anything like I was before the hiatus, many of you are probably liking, sharing, and commenting with reckless abandon. How much of that goes deeper than engaging in virtual comment wars, and entertainment or gossip related communication? Do we really need to see photos of every single morsel of food you consume? And I can’t tell you how many dirty mirrors people are taking photos of themselves in. The nation is obviously in need of reduced Windex and Bounty prices to take care of the dirty mirror epidemic in our overly narcissistic culture.
This may come across as judgmental, and that’s not my intention. Before my hiatus, I was doing all of these things. I was using Facebook multiple times a day, convincing myself that I was “connected” to my “friends” by my activity on the site. But when I took a few steps back and had to put both time and thoughtful attention to letter writing, I realized how meaningless my Facebook activity was. And though I know several of my Facebook friends have my phone number, no one seemed to have a deep need to call me and share their meals or cute outfits. As someone who literally despises talking on the phone, I certainly didn’t feel the urge to do the same either.
These reflections have absolutely motivated me to change the way I participate in social media. While I’m technically back on Facebook, I’ll be changing a few things. Before I left Facebook, I used Runtastic for fitness tracking, and that was set to share all my fitness activities to my Facebook feed. And almost immediately before I left Facebook, I created a Goodreads profile. While I was away, I added more to Goodreads, and I switched from Runtastic to Daily Mile for fitness tracking.
Goodreads and Daily Mile are more positive uses of social media than Facebook because Goodreads encourages reading and discussion of books, and Daily Mile is an incredibly user-friendly and motivating way to track fitness activities I will definitely continue to use those forms of social media because they are much more positive influences on my personal development. As for cross-posting those activities to Facebook, I think I’ll refrain. First, I have links to both profiles conveniently located in the margins of this blog, and curious followers & readers are only one click away from checking my reading list or running stats. Secondly and more importantly, just as I was bent out of shape (i.e., painfully envious) of several friends’ pregnancy updates, I don’t want to create the same feelings in my friends who may not have the time or energy to read/exercise as much as I am right now. It’s there for the interested, and it’s still just as public as Facebook; but it won’t be flaunted about the same way.
As for my activity on Facebook, I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to go, and I don’t have any specific goals in mind. I don’t know if I’ll check it every day (though that is tempting). I’m certain I’ll keep my current setting of not receiving notifications and messages via my cell phone; so Facebook may not be the best way to reach me with time-sensitive requests. I will definitely continue to cross-post updates from this blog. I’m also sure I’ll post status updates, though I’m not exactly sure with what or how frequently, given my current thoughts on the issue.
Essentially I’ve come to realize that Facebook is virtual graffiti of our current culture. As such, it plays a significant role in understanding who we are as humans in this specific time and place of existence. But I would rather my Facebook feed be more than the self-absorption and consumption already overwhelmingly present from millions of others on the site. I want to offer more than that to anthropologists and virtual archaeologists who may dig through it all in 4,000 C.E. I want to make meaningful contributions to posterity with both my actual life and my virtual one. I think all of that may still be just as narcissistic as a self portrait in a dirty mirror; but my hope is that my Facebook feed will have more substance than what I was contributing before Lent.
How did your Lent go?
In a comment on my most recent post, Comfortably Numb asked for more information about ovarian cysts, and because that was my first post dealing with that topic, this post is my attempt at providing her with more information. This is much more personal than I ever envisioned being on my blog, but I think women should be as informed as possible about their reproductive health.
My Personal History of Reproductive UNhealth
My struggles with reproductive health have existed since I was 11 years old. To give you some perspective, my “first” period was waking up with severe abdominal pain while being covered/soaked in so much blood that my mom thought I’d been stabbed. I’ve always had pain and been irregular (e.g., three months straight of menstruating to the point of anemia from that initial experience). I also had considerable weight gain and hormonal imbalance. At 11 years old, my doctor put me on Premarin (a hormone treatment for menopausal women) to shock my system with hormone therapy, and that was disastrous after only three days on the drug. My only other option at 11 years old was a surgery that could have potentially left me sterile, and my parents left it up to me to make the decision on whether to go through with it or not. I chose to take my chances with the pain and did not have the surgery. Since then, I’ve been on more birth control pills than I can remember, changing each time to address my body’s changing hormones. I’ve missed school and work because I’ve been crippled with painful menstrual cycles. I’ve had to spend entire summer breaks mostly confined to bed or limited movement also due to the pain. I lived like this for 17 years. Inescapable pain is a prison.
When I started having digestive issues a few years ago, I kept complaining of either sharp, stabbing pain or dull, soreness in my lower right abdomen. Thinking it was related to the digestive issues because of the unbelievable nausea that accompanied it, I went to expensive extremes to resolve it. Some of my nausea and stomach pain actually was related to digestive stuff, but my doctor referred me to a reproductive specialist in my city, and she found a string of cysts, some of them measuring 3.5 cm in diameter around my right ovary with an ultrasound.
In my case, the cysts dissolve on their own, though it may take several weeks. I have noticed reduced frequency of cyst-related pain since I started practicing yoga & added running, and because I now eat foods that are less processed with less sugars. I actually started taking yoga in October 2010 as an alternative to the physical therapy my doctor prescribed to me for the cyst pain, and it’s been the catalyst for the lifestyle overhaul I’m living in right now. However, even with reduced frequency, the pain level hasn’t changed when I do get them. It’s severe, and it wipes me out.
Because repeated, multiple cysts are typically linked to a hormone or insulin-related imbalance, it is treated as a precursor to diabetes, and many doctors prescribe medicine like Metformin, (which is traditionally used for Type II diabetics) to help cyst sufferers lose weight and manage cyst formation. I have NOT been prescribed Metformin because my cysts do eventually dissolve on their own and because I have been losing weight with diet and exercise, though it’s an unbelievably slow and arduous process. I have, however, had to change birth control several times to address the hormonal aspect of my condition.
Symptoms & Dangers of Ovarian Cysts
Symptoms that are red flags for me are (in the order they tend to appear): bloating and more density in my lower abdomen especially, soreness (like cramps), and severe sharp pain (like being stabbed) with nausea. For me it either happens the week before or after my cycle, and sometimes it can make my cycle much worse, even considering that I’m on birth control. Additional complications of ovarian cysts include urinary incontinence and frequent urinary tract infections as well as pain during sex or even during sexual arousal.
Dangers of repeated and multiple ovarian cysts include: cyst rupture, which can cause the ovary to rupture along with it, consequently resulting in internal bleeding and a necessary trip to the ER; twisting the ovary, which can essentially “kill” your ovary; and infertility (because the eggs that are released are too hormonally imbalanced to be fertilized).
When to See the Doctor & What to Bring
If you are experiencing frequent, sharp lower abdominal pain, usually (but not exclusively) limited to one side, I’d start making a log of it, especially in relation to your cycle. I’d also include in this log what you’re eating and drinking. Be specific: Does the pain interfere with your daily life? If so, how long does it last? Do your cycles change (get heavier or lighter, skip or last longer)?
Take the log to your reproductive health doctor and discuss it. He or she will most likely conduct a pelvic exam and a trans-vaginal ultrasound, both of which can be painful with ovarian cysts present, but these exams are necessary because a regular abdominal ultrasound doesn’t always pick them up clearly. If ovarian cysts are present, your doctor will then determine what kind they are and make a plan accordingly. Some people require laparoscopic surgery to burn the cysts off and clean up any scar tissue that may have developed on the ovaries or fallopian tubes; others in danger of becoming diabetic may need to take Metformin; or people like me need to switch up their birth control to manage the hormone imbalances.
Fertility & Ovarian Cysts
Issues like this have made trying to conceive quite challenging. If I have to stay on birth control just to manage my hormonal imbalances, then what happens when I go off it to conceive? Well, I personally have a three-month window off birth control before my symptoms get too severe for daily life. If I can’t conceive within three months, then I have to go back on my pills to prevent cyst/hormone overload on my ovaries. This back-and-forth with hormonal birth control is enough to make me think I’ve lost my mind, and it kills my husband to watch me go through this without being able to do anything about it.
With hormonal imbalances, unavoidable and hard-to-lose weight, crippling pain, and embarrassing facial hair, issues of infertility seem (to me) to be icing on top of the torture cake. While I have suffered beyond measure for almost two decades, I have to face my culture’s pressure to have children (which I absolutely want), and I have to see all my friends and family members fill up mini-vans and SUVs with their ever-expanding families. I have to face questions about why we continue to wait as we are, as well as horror stories of waiting too late to have children. At one point I had 14 friends on Facebook who were simultaneously pregnant and sharing their “baby trackers” online, and I had to unfriend them because I just couldn’t take the frequent updates without feeling sorry for myself. These issues are usually silent struggles shared between couples behind closed doors and in exam rooms, and I would typically say a person’s health issues (reproductive or otherwise) shouldn’t be a matter for such public conversation as this. But clearly people don’t feel they are crossing a line when they repeatedly ask me these questions in public; so I’ve been quite (embarrassingly) forthcoming with this post.
Aside from birth control, laparoscopic surgery is also an option for me (though an unaffordable one right now thanks to the medical debt from troubleshooting these issues). Within three months of having laparoscopic surgery, I’ve been told I’ll be a “fertile Myrtle” very much able to conceive, but the danger then lies in increased complications with pregnancy and increased likelihood of miscarriage. Because being off birth control is obviously necessary while pregnant, the cysts can return while pregnant and cause complications. Pregnant women who are prone to repeated and multiple ovarian cysts are also likely to develop gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
We’ve also considered adoption, and you wouldn’t believe the expensive hoops we have to jump through just to be qualified. It’s as expensive as IVF, and as heartbreaking if surrogate parents decide to change their minds or if adoption boards don’t approve of any number of things on our adoption application.
I’m doing everything in my power to make my body both fit and strong enough to handle the ovarian cysts and to get & stay pregnant. Every ounce of my energy is going into working (to pay off medical debt and pay for preventative healthcare), exercising to lose weight, and observing a healthy diet to help regulate my hormones all so we can have children, whether biologically, with medical help, or through adoption. I’m well aware that I am approaching 30 and still childless. I do not need public reminders or questions of why we’re still choosing to wait. And I do my best to share in the happiness of my friends and family members who are having kids, but I have to admit it is a bittersweet joy.
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