Giving It All without Ending Up with Nothing

When I couldn’t lift the toothbrush high enough to touch my teeth, I knew I had damaged my shoulder. The cause of the injury was the usual suspect: doing too much, too fast. My newest love in the fitness world, Crossfit, made me feel like I was suffering from a bad relationship: it hurt, but I loved it too much to let go.

With me, exercise is all or nothing. I’m either sweating and pounding my body into exhaustion or I’m laying on the couch with a carton of ice cream resting conveniently on my chest. I’m either letting my BMI creep up to an unhealthy level or I’m giving it everything I have to bring it back down. So when I was introduced to Crossfit workouts through CaliFit Mamas, my first thought was, “There’s no way in heck I could do that.” (Obviously, that was the ice cream talking.) My next thought was, “I’m going to do that.”

Crossfit is intense. Each morning, I’ll read the workout of the day (WOD), and I’ll think, “5 rounds for time of 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, 20 deadlifts, 20 burpees, and 20 knees to elbows? Sounds easy enough.” And fourteen minutes later, I’m bent over, trying not to pass out as sweat drips from my face to my shoes like a leaky faucet. Whether it was during a billion reps of burpees or power snatches, somehow I damaged my shoulder last week. Sure, my whole body is sore and achy, but it all hurts so good–except for this wonky shoulder. Between my husband begging me, “Do NOT workout today,” and not being able to lift my arm high enough to apply deodorant, I decided to skip last Thursday’s WOD.

My all-or-nothing mentality was ready to abandon Crossfit. “It just isn’t for me,” I thought. “I’m not tough enough.” But I was so in love with the high that those intense workouts gave me, that I decided to do something rather unheard of for me: I went to the doctor. I felt pretty embarrassed to be there for “exercising too hard.” Surely they had people with real health problems to attend to. However, the doctor reassured me that it was smart to get it checked, and she gave me the simple advice that I needed to hear: keep doing it, just don’t overdo it.

I’m learning to find a balance between all and nothing. I’m backing off on the areas that need a little time to heal without neglecting the rest of my body. I might have to take a rest day, modify the exercise, or reduce the intensity, but I’m not breaking up with Crossfit. And the strength I’m gaining in the process is evident inside and out.

20130611-112439.jpgPictured: My two favorite workout buddies 😉


My Fitness Inspirations

I am SORE today. Ow! You know that feeling where you rediscover muscles that you forgot were there, or perhaps you didn’t realize they were there in the first place? That’s the way I’m feeling today. Ow.

Okay, so enough of the whining. The truth is, I actually like that sore feeling after a good workout. It’s just a physical reminder that I worked my butt off yesterday with a strength and aerobic exercise. It’s been so hot here in the midwest (100+ temps for multiple days on end!) and with two children at home with me all day, it’s hard to find the time to start exercising again. However, I know how important exercise is and the countless benefits that it has for my body, so I came to the conclusion that I was never going to simply “find” this time, but I would have to MAKE the time to work out. I’m sometimes the person that needs a little bit of a push to get myself to work out, so I thought I would share some of my biggest inspirations that get me going!

  1. Myself. I know this sounds cheesy and perhaps selfish, but I care about my body. The way it feels. The way it looks. The way it functions. And I know that exercise benefits my body in all of those ways tremendously. So I have to be a bit selfish, taking those thirty minutes to an hour away from my family and other things that I could do with that time in order to benefit myself. No one else can do it for me!
  2. My family. My husband and my boys mean so much to me. I would just kick myself if years down the road, my choice to not exercise now had any effect on my health in the future. I want to stay fit, active, and healthy so that I can be involved in their lives for as long as possible.
  3. My mom. My mom was in her forties when she ran her first marathon. She has run two marathons, and a few half marathons, all past the age of 40. My whole life, I can remember her being active, whether she was running, biking, hiking, swimming, or doing aerobic and strength training workout videos; she was always on the go. Yesterday was my first time working out (besides a few short walks to the park and playing basketball or soccer with my son), and I happened to do it to my mom’s favorite video series: Gilad’s Bodies in Motion. I can remember being a young girl and working out with my mom to these videos, and thinking what a strong, tough woman she was to be able to keep up with Gilad! It may not be Insanity or P90X, but it’s certainly a good start to building up some muscle tone that I lost while pregnant, as my abs are aching a bit just from sitting up straight in our desk chair! (Yes, I know, I’m a bit of a wimp. I’ll get stronger!)
  4. Fitness blogs. One of my favorite fitness blogs is Kristen over at The Concrete Runner. I love following her adventures in running, strength training, and motherhood! She also has a love for delicious food (namely, desserts!) and I love her ability to balance that and stay so fit! She rocks!
  5. CFers. People who have cystic fibrosis need to keep an active lifestyle as part of their treatment plan. They run because it clears their lungs and helps to lengthen their lifespan. But it’s difficult. Like I said, I am a wimp when it comes to exercise, but when I am in good shape, I can pretty easily run a mile (or more) without even losing my breath. This is so much harder for CFers, but they do it anyway, because they know that without exercise, they are shortening their chance at life. It makes me feel a bit ashamed of myself to think that I have a perfectly healthy set of lungs, and I barely push them past their capacity to go up and down a flight of stairs.

With so much inspiration, I can tell you one thing. I’m getting my butt into gear, and I’m not just going to exercise to lose the “baby fat” (although that’s definitely on my mind!), but I really want to push myself. I want to feel my lungs burn. I want to feel those muscles ache. I want to feel like I’m going to die after a good workout, which is all really just my body telling me how very alive I am.

No excuses.


My son and the battle that lasts a lifetime…

As previously mentioned, our new little guy was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis several weeks ago. Today, I want to share with you a little about this chronic disease because…

1) I recognized the name of the disease, but had no idea what it actually was prior to finding out about his diagnosis, and

2) I believe that awareness is vital for any disease.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the basic definition of cystic fibrosis (CF) is:

“Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:

  • clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and
  • obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.

In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.”

“Beyond” is the key word for our son, as far as I’m concerned. Once I got past the initial shock and devastation of his diagnosis, I moved into a state of determination. Like anyone who is faced with a difficult challenge (and aren’t we all in some way?), I truly believe that hope and optimism are imperative to conquering that challenge. No doubt, we have a long and bumpy, sometimes emotional and frustrating road ahead of us, but we are taking it one day at a time and using the knowledge of our wonderful team of CF doctors to keep our boy healthy and happy.

Some answers to frequent questions that I have been asked (or that I have asked myself!) so far include:

  • We found out that he had CF through his newborn screening. I’m not sure if every state now tests for CF this way, but they absolutely should! As hard as it was to learn the bad news right away, it is MUCH better to find out ASAP than to let a child get behind on gaining weight. Good weight gain means stronger lungs, so the earlier the diagnosis the better!
  • Since our son has CF, that means that my husband and I are both carriers of the disease. Every conception that we have together, there is a 1 in 4 chance of having a child with CF, a 1 in 4 chance of having a “normal” child, and a 2 in 4 chance of having a child who is a carrier like us. The only way to know if you are a carrier of CF is to be tested, as there are no symptoms. There is no history of CF in either of our families, so neither of us knew that we were a carrier prior to his diagnosis. Our oldest son was recently tested and was negative for CF, so he can be tested to see if he is a carrier when he is older.
  • He does not need to be a “kept in a bubble,” but he and everyone he is close to should use good hand-washing and hygiene etiquette, since he is more prone to lung infections. If you have a cold, admire his cute little face from a few feet away please!
  • Exercise is vital for improvement of lung quality for our son and others with CF, so we will be starting at a young age with lots of physical activity. Good thing we are a family who loves sports! I have found a wonderful blog entitled Run Sickboy Run by Ronnie and Mandi Sharpe. Ronnie is truly inspiring as a CF husband, father, and an advocate for the disease. He has an infectious positive outlook on CF and life in general.
  • There are many medications that our son will need in his lifetime. Currently, he takes enzymes before he eats anything (just breast milk for now!), and since an infant can’t swallow a pill, we pour the enzymes from inside the capsules onto a spoon of applesauce. He takes it surprisingly well, although he does occasionally gag. He will have to take enzymes before he eats, every time he eats, for his whole life, so he I’m glad we are starting early so that he won’t know any different! He already associates that applesauce=Mommy’s milk, and he gets very excited (and stops crying) as soon as he sees us with the spoon. Thanks, “Pavlov’s dog!” Since his body has difficulty digesting fat and protein, and certain vitamins need these nutrients to be absorbed, he also takes a special multi-vitamin that is water-soluble. Also, we give him 1/8 tsp of table salt per day, to make up for the extra salt that he loses. We divide it between two breast milk bottles, and he doesn’t seem to know it’s in there!

    These are his current meds.

  • Finally (for now), he also gets a treatment for his lungs called CPT (chest percussion therapy) or “pounding” twice per day. This is to help break up the mucus that gets trapped in the airways of CFers. It takes us about 15 minutes to complete each session, and most of the time it puts him to sleep.

    He doesn’t mind that he’s getting “pounded.” 🙂

So far, we are doing great with all of this. His big brother is a huge help to us, and he loves his little brother so much! While we are embracing his CF, and we never want him to feel ashamed of it, we also want him to feel normal. First, he is our son, a brother, a normal boy with hopes and dreams and fears like the rest of us. Second, he has CF, and that just means that his body requires extra care and attention to function properly.

I will update occasionally with CF topics and to let you all know how he is doing. If you or someone you know has CF, please feel free to follow our journey and let us follow yours! One thing I have learned quickly is that the community of those with CF and their families is a strong one with a wonderful, supportive, and optimistic bond. I’ve never known anything like it, and for that part of this disease, I am grateful, because not all diseases have such amazing support, research, and hope for a cure that appears extremely obtainable.

Feel free to comment with any additional questions or information! Keep in mind that I am new to this, and cystic fibrosis is an extremely complex disease with a lot to learn about it. As with any disease, you should always consult your own healthcare professionals for the best advice! A stay-at-home mama can only know so much! Thanks for taking interest in our journey!

 

 


Funnel Ball + Park = Fun AND Education!

It has been one week since we came home from the hospital after the birth of our second son, and things are going smoothly! The postpartum recovery time has been much easier for me this time than it was with my first son. I had a vaginal delivery with no stitches required, and I think that made all of the difference! My husband was a huge help to have at home last week, taking care of me, our two boys, and our home. But he returned to work this week, and I have felt good enough to be up and moving, doing some easy chores and light lifting. Since I have felt so great, I decided that today was a beautiful day to take my first trip to the park with both boys on my own! It was nice to get out of the house and get a little bit of exercise for myself. Our baby boy got to ride in the stroller for the first time, and he was awake and seemed to really enjoy the light breeze and fresh air!

That being said, the purpose of our walk to the park was more for the benefit of my five-year-old than for myself or our baby. He will be at home with me for the rest of the summer until he begins Kindergarten in August, and I want to keep him stimulated and learning in age-appropriate ways during the summer months. Going to the park is a simple way to interact with your child and explore your environment. There are so many ways to do this, and you are only limited by the imagination of yourself and your child! Today, I want to share with you our favorite thing to do at the park: funnel ball!

We bring a small ball with us to the park, and we play funnel ball similarly to the way that you would basketball, except there are four different holes that the ball can come out of, labeled with numbers one through four. It’s also easier for young children, because it’s much lower to the ground than a basketball hoop, so my small preschooler doesn’t get discouraged from playing. We get a decent amount of exercise playing this game as it requires running, dribbling, stealing, blocking, rebounding, and shooting. But at the same time, it’s a great workout for my son’s little brain! We play the game by shooting the ball into the funnel, and whichever hole (one, two, three, or four) it comes out of is how many points that person gets. Today, we played three games of first-one-to-thirty-points-wins. Whether it was my shot or my son’s shot, I left the adding of the points up to him, asking, “You had four points, and you scored two more. How many points do you have now?” It’s a simple addition word problem, and a great way to boost his quick-thinking math skills without knowing that he’s learning. To him, it was just a fun game that he played with Mom at the park! In addition, this game is fast-paced, and it requires paying attention and using your memory to keep track of each person’s score. I think his memory was even sharper than mine today! I’m blaming that on the fact that I’m still recovering. 😉

Of course, the most important part of the experience to me was just spending some one-on-one time with my little boy. With a new baby in the home, it’s easy for older siblings to feel left out at times. The park was the perfect opportunity for our newborn to relax contentedly in the shade while I connected with my older son. The rest of the funnel ball benefits just make me feel good about playing an active part in my son’s learning experiences. The preschool teacher in me is always looking for teachable moments!

What are some fun ways that you have “snuck in” a little education to your child’s playtime?


The Reason for My Blogging Hiatus: Getting Gestational Diabetes Under Control

It has been over a month since I last published a new post to my blog, and I’m ready to write about the reason for such a long, unplanned break from blogging. On Good Friday, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Before that day, I would have considered myself a fairly healthy person. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been somewhat lazy about exercising during this pregnancy, but I also take care of four infants by myself during the day, (although we just recently enrolled a fifth infant, which means I have an assistant again!) so I’m very active while at work, and then I tend to put my feet up and relax once I get to the comfort of my home. My diet has always been decent, and this pregnancy has been no different. In fact, pregnancy causes me to think about what kinds of food I put into my system even more than usual. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, and I love to find new recipes that are both delicious and nutritious. While I do have a sweet tooth, I grew up with a father who was diabetic and a mother who taught me that everything is okay in moderation, so I rarely overindulge on the sugary, fried, or greasy foods. Chocolate and ice cream are my biggest junk food weaknesses, but I satisfy those cravings with an occasional handful of chocolate candy or a small Blizzard from Dairy Queen. I’ve always stayed within the normal weight range for my age and height, and while I don’t count calories or diet often, I keep my weight under control through occasional exercise and portion control. To sum it up best, I took a health questionnaire for our health insurance just a week or two before Good Friday, and after calculating my results, I received an on-screen message to “keep up the good work!”

And then came the phone call from my OB’s nurse, stating that I had failed the three-hour glucose test, which meant that I did in fact have gestational diabetes. I was shocked. I was upset. And as the words sank in, so did all the questions and guilt:

“Why is this happening to me?”

“What did I do wrong?”

“I didn’t do enough to take care of myself and my baby boy.”

When we got home, I cried and cried. I felt like a failure.

And after my one person pity-party was over, the next question came: “What do I need to do now?”

I Googled it, and read about ten different sources worth of information on the subject. I changed my eating habits immediately. This was hard to do, especially over Easter weekend! Filling my five-year-old’s plastic eggs with some of my favorite candy felt like torture! Not being able to talk to the specialist until my appointment the following Thursday meant I was on my own for nearly a week, not knowing exactly what this disease meant for myself and my baby, but I was determined to try my best to fix the problem immediately. So I cut back my carbs. A lot. By the time I got to the doctor’s office for my appointment with the diabetes educator, the dietician, and the specialist doctor, I had lost three pounds, and I was spilling ketones in my urine. Thankfully, I have a great team of medical staff who all set me straight on the best diet, exercise, and blood sugar testing schedule for my situation. Instead of eating three large meals each day like I used to, I now eat six small meals about three hours apart, and I include appropriate amounts of protein and carbohydrates at every meal and snack. I also take my blood sugar by sticking my finger with a nearly painless One Touch, four times per day. I also incorporate a fifteen minute walk every day, usually after supper. And I am very happy to say that the diet change and exercise are working well for me! I may have a high reading here or there (146 has been the highest so far, when it should be 130 or less when I test one hour after eating), but for the most part, my blood sugar is staying very stable, and I do not need to take insulin to control it. Phew! An ultrasound last week showed my baby boy to be developing and growing at a normal rate, which is the main goal of managing gestational diabetes.

According to statistics, both women who have had gestational diabetes and their children are at a high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Although diabetes is in my genes and therefore also in my children’s genes, all is not lost. By maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program post-pregnancy, I can help my family avoid this disease. I don’t plan to take all sugar away, but I will make sure that all of our diets essentially follow a diabetic meal plan similar to the one I am on now. I will continue to occasionally splurge on a sugary treat, but the visits to Dairy Queen will be less frequent, and adding more protein into our diet is a must. We will also maintain a very active lifestyle, because exercise does wonders for maintaining blood sugar levels, in addition to many other benefits for the body!

I grew up watching my father struggle with diabetes. Watching him take insulin shots. Watching him check his blood sugar. Watching him go through low blood sugar reactions, where he sounded insane. Watching his kidneys fail and have to go on dialysis. Watching him go through two kidney transplants (because the first one was rejected by his body) and one pancreas transplant, two hip replacement surgeries, eye surgery, and countless doctor appointments, lengthy periods of hospitalization, and medications. I am so happy to say that today, he is healthy, and because of the successful transplants, he is diabetes-free. But it took a couple of decades for him to get to that point, and it’s something that I never want my children to have to witness their parent go through, let alone to have to go through themselves.

Throughout this whole situation, my husband and son have been unbelievably supportive. My husband and I explained in an appropriate, easy-to-understand way about diabetes to our son, and he knows the types of foods that I can’t have. We go on evening walks after supper as a family. We buy, prepare, and eat foods that “Mommy can eat.” They remind me to take my blood sugar when I get busy and forget. They clap and cheer for me when I have no-high-blood-sugar-reading days. They have been simply wonderful, and going through this with them and their love and support has made me appreciate the family that I have even more than I already did. And for me, that’s the silver lining behind what I originally thought of as such a dark cloud over my head: that we are learning to be healthier as a family, and that instead of alienating myself with a wall of self-pity, my family and I are getting stronger and closer together through this each day.


Making Those First Connections

My family loves to bond with the baby boy growing inside of me. My husband likes to talk to him, using his big, booming Daddy voice, so the baby will know who is in charge when he makes his arrival! My five-year-old whispers into my abdomen, “Baby… It’s your brother…” And as soon as I remind him that he has to speak loudly for the baby to hear him, he then yells, “Wake up, Baby!!” Silly child! And we all love touching my belly, patiently waiting for a kick or a jab. All of these are some of the fun, wonderful ways that families bond with their unborn children. But we all know that the most significant bond during this stage of a baby’s life is that of the baby and the mother, since their bodies are literally connected!

From the moment I took the pregnancy test that told me there was a tiny little human developing somewhere in my uterus, I have felt a wonderful mixture of love, joy, and concern for the baby’s well-being. I do my best to make sure that I eat properly, take my prenatal vitamin daily, read up on and apply pregnancy knowledge, and simply take care of myself while pregnant. However, the one area I have to admit that I have slacked in is exercise. It’s not that I don’t enjoy exercising, because I’ve honestly always loved that feeling after completing a decent workout. This time of year, with Spring just around the corner and Summer (swimsuit season!) immediately to follow, I typically begin a diet focused on portion control, along with a workout regime based on running outdoors (The Concrete Runner is a great blogging inspiration for you fitness mamas!) and a variety of aerobic workout videos. However, I have to admit that during my pregnancy, I’ve definitely become l-a-z-y.

While recently browsing the What to Expect website, my go-to source for most of my information on pregnancy, I came across several articles on the importance of exercise during pregnancy. The one article that spoke to me the loudest stated that not only will it benefit my own body and make it a bit easier to carry the extra weight, but it is also beneficial for the baby! Research shows that babies of moms who exercised  during pregnancy score higher on general intelligence tests by age five. That was the one piece of information that I needed to motivate myself!

I found a Yoga for Pregnancy workout DVD that I had used during my first pregnancy (and my son is pretty smart, now that I think about it…), and I finally put it to use! At 28 weeks pregnant, it’s better late than never. Typically when I exercise, I tend to do the kind of workout that really kicks my butt. I like to be sweating, breathing hard, lungs burning, and heart-rate soaring post-workout! But when you’re pregnant, this kind of activity is not recommended, so I have to change my mind about what “exercise” means to me. Yoga is a great activity that promotes stretching, good posture, and more efficient breathing. When I finish the DVD program, I feel like I have more room in my body for myself and the baby. But what I really love about it is that it gives me time to really relax and focus completely on my baby. It provides me with a rare opportunity–other than when I can’t sleep at night–that I am alone with my baby and my thoughts, so that I can feel a deeper sense of connection with my little one. Bonding with my children is important, and usually, so is exercise, and yoga for pregnancy helps me fulfill both of those needs at the same time!

I plan to continue doing yoga a couple of times each week, while my husband gets that time to bond with our other son one-on-one (which will also be great practice for post-birth, when I will need time to recover, rest, and nurse with our baby). It’s a win-win situation!

 

What kind of exercise did you or are you enjoying during your pregnancy?