Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Potential superhero????

One of the symptoms of my arthritis is a condition called dactylitis, also known as 'sausage digits', basically meaning swollen fingers and toes. I've got a couple of misshapen toes after a 'run' of dactylitis, and now the first finger (left index finger) has joined the party.

From Drop Box

With all these bodily swellings going on, and after seeing a cartoon featuring the Hulk on ABC3 last night, I started to ponder - maybe there's a superhero inside me trying to get out, lol?!?!? It's just taking a *really* long time!!!! *Sigh*, I wish that were so, but my body's recent misbehaviours means a trip back to the GP on Friday, and more assessments. And it also means no running, for now anyway :-(

This would be another reason why I am *so* grateful to have a Thermomix in my house, it's really reduced the amount of food prep I have to do, saving my poor hands at the moment. And it's still all Thermomixing, all the time around here!!!

July 29th
- almond cake (gluten free)

July 30th
- Jude Blereua's 'Echidnas'
- Butter Chicken and rice (from 'Everyday Cooking')
- chocolate custard

July 31st
- coffee (latte - cup of milk, scoop of ground coffee, 7 minutes at 70deg on speed 4)

August 1st
- coffee
- rice for leftover Butter Chicken

August 2nd
- coffee
- mashed potatoes (soooooo gooood!!!!)

August 3rd
- coffee

Friday, July 29, 2011


Sometimes, I think I just can't win, no matter what I do.

From Drop Box

Heels aren't supposed to look like that, only apparently my body has decided mine does. This is part and parcel of my arthritis, as I wrote about in my previous post. There's no rhyme or reason to what happens in the course of the disease, or when, and at the moment I'm in a flare, which has put paid to my running for however long it takes for things to settle. I can cope with a few swollen joints and keep running, but being in a flare is the physiological equivalent of feeling being hit by a truck, and given I'm hobbling more than walking at the moment, running would not be entirely sensible!!!

Frustrating as it is, I have to keep focusing on being otherwise healthy and active, because it's all too easy to fall into the cloud of pain and darkness that chronic pain can bring. It's National Pain Week this week, presented by Chronic Pain Australia. Pain is a often misunderstood fact of life, particularly chronic pain, and a topic I'm very interested in, both personally and professionally. The aim of National Pain Week is to 'create awareness and shine a spotlight on the dilemma of people living with pain, and work towards creating a hopeful message about living with pain', and Chronic Pain Australia 'are dedicated to reducing the social and other barriers to living with chronic pain'.

As part of learning to live with chronic pain, I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of what I eat, and am aiming to have a diet that consists mainly of whole foods and to greatly reduce the amount of junk I eat. Working full-time has certainly impacted on the quality of the meals I cook for the kids and I, I often joke that scrambled eggs on toast is a gourmet meal in our house!! So we have a new 'family member' to help :-) Meet Thermie!!!

Thermomix, the world's smallest, smartest kitchen.

The Thermomix is an amazing appliance that does nearly everything except bake, roast and fry. It mills, grinds, pulverises, grates, kneads, minces, chops, stirs, cooks, whips, beats, crushes, steams and so much more!! Since Thermie was delivered over a week ago, I have cooked more dishes more regularly than I have for months, and *everything* has been from scratch. The funny thing is, the time I've spent cooking has been greatly reduced, including the washing up :-) So far, I've cooked (and we've all loved!!):

20th July
- chocolate mousse
- coleslaw
- custard
- mayonnaise

21st July
- chicken and mushroom pasta
- foccaccia
- dukkah

22nd July
- wholemeal bread
- almond cake (gluten free)
- chocolate devil's food cupcakes

23rd July (my first demo!!)
- fruit sorbet
- bread
- hommus
- beetroot salad
- mushroom risotto
- custard

24th July
- porridge
- bread
- pumpkin soup

25th July
- porridge
- hommus
- bolognese sauce

26th July
- porridge
- veggie concentrate stock
- chicken cacciatore risotto

27th July
- foccaccia

28th July
- steamed couscous
- hot chocolate

All soooooo good!!! I love the Thermomix so much that I've decided to be come a consultant, and am really looking forward to demonstrating this fabulous 'pair of helping hands' in in people's kitchens :-) I'm loving finding new recipes to try, and have come across a plethora of Thermomix and healthy living blogs, I'll be sharing recipes and links as our Thermomixing adventure continues!!

The only problem now is making sure I don't put back on all the weight I've lost, especially while I'm not running!! If you've got some great links and recipes, please post them in the comments :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Well, that didn't exactly go as planned....

Four months between posts wasn't in the plan, but neither was a couple of month's hiatus from The Program due to getting sick again. 'Getting sick' for me is when my arthritis flares, as I'd posted back in March. My foot and my knee flared, making walking somewhat of an everyday challenge, let alone running. Once my knee settled after a couple of months, I got back running again. Then, I got gastro and was out of action for a couple of weeks. Following that, I dropped a piece of firewood on my left foot (just under my little toe), and it's still bruised three weeks or so later.

When it comes to running, my feet are my great asset and my biggest liability. My feet take me from A to B easily when I'm well, but when they don't 'work' properly, every step is painful and takes energy and effort. I'm used to pain now, and managing it has become a part of my daily life, but funnily enough, it's when I'm running that I don't notice it. Maybe it's the ultimate distraction therapy, be it at the gym on the treadmill or out on the road, for whatever reason, I'm too focused on something else to notice the pain that's always there. That in itself is a good reason to stick to The Program. However, when I've finished a run, I'm hobbled for while, but it's worth it for what I've achieved :-)

I'm 'in training' for the City to Bay 12K fun run in Adelaide on Sept 18th. For me, having a defined goal has really shifted my mindset in this whole running gig. I've got a training plan to follow, and each session I finish is another step closer to my goal, and another step along my path to becoming a runner. I've been reading Hot (Sweaty) Mamas and Mile Markers, and in one of those books I read that it takes the human body about 3 months to become 'exercise conditioned' (or something like that), meaning that after 3 months of regular exercise, this becomes the 'norm' for your body, and you start to miss it if you don't do it. I want to be like that. I want to *want* to run, to walk, to do resistance training.

I went on my awesome run today because of what I read in Hot (Sweaty) Mamas last night, about excuses. That chapter could have been written about me, and it was still in my head today as I was contemplating if I was going to run, and if so, where (outside or gym). It was about 10degC, windy, and raining, and I laced up and headed off. And it was glorious - I've never run in the rain, or into a headwind, and I couldn't believe I actually liked it. If I'd listened to myself, I would have missed out on that experience, and now I know I have no excuse not to run, as cold and wet as it can be. I ran (and walked, baby steps) for nearly 5K, the longest in ages, and even now, 9 hours later, it still feels good, even if I am still hobbling :-)

So The Program starts again. Week 3 of training, and this week I'll introduce some resistance training as well. But it's not just about 'starting a program' this time. As I've posted before, it's about a lifestyle change, about changing my mind set and habits, and fighting those excuses that come all-too-easily. Changes I plan to make 'stick', for the times, they are a-changing :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Awesomeness defined

I think I found my secret weapon today.

Let me back up. Long weekend here in SA, and I had plans that I was determined to at least partially achieve, including getting to the gym. By this afternoon, I thought the gym was a write off, and therefore achieving any fitness goals as well. The kids and I had worked away at the jobs in the house and yard, and I had knocked off more jobs than I had anticipated, so I was feeling pretty satisfied about that. For the first time in months, the backyard looks half decent - there are only a couple of patches left to weed and mulch (thanks to the stellar efforts of a dear friend's husband who donated some of his holiday time to my jungle this week!!), and anyone who knows my backyard knows what a huge achievement that is!!!! I cleaned the shed out, washed and hung out more loads of washing than I care to count, sorted out my bedroom, cleaned out the car, cooked meals and washed dishes over and over, refereed far too many disputes between kids, took them to the pool and had movie night with nachos and Forrest Gump, and even got in a bit of craft work. All in all, a great weekend.

However, my plans to end the weekend with a trip to the gym were sidelined by a very welcome visit from a friend, and I just resigned myself to missing a session, which wasn't really all that hard as missing a session meant talking knitting and books instead :-) I had told the kids that when we finished the last job in the back yard, we would take the dog for a walk. I knew if I told the kids that was my plan that they would hold me to it, and I was right. I had tried bargaining with myself to get out of it - again - but the kids were laced up and ready to go with the dog on the lead, so I had no choice.

We set off at a brisk pace, and then one of the kids asked if we could run. When the next kid agreed, how could I say no? So we ran. And ran. And ran.

I haven't run outdoors for nearly 4 years, and I've only been running on the treadmill again for about 6 weeks. I wasn't planning on trying out the pavement for a few more weeks yet, and certainly not until the elements all lined up. This afternoon was warm, we were running into the wind, there were hills, I wasn't hydrated, I hadn't warmed up, and now as I'm typing this, my back is protesting loudly. But it was perfect. I've never run with my kids before, and they made it so easy. I had to pull them back to my pace, lol, but it was just so easy. Whilst DS would have run full pelt the whole way, DD is like me and needed to pace herself, but I was surprised that I had to stop to wait for her to catch up, when I could have kept running. It was simply awesome, running with and for the kids, encouraging them and being so encouraged by them. It was like I had discovered a secret weapon that I didn't realise I had, and I knew that it was the first of many runs to come.

But then it got even better :-) We live on top of a hill, which means having to get up to the top of a hill to get home. I've never run up a hill in my life, even before I hurt my back. When we rounded the corner of our street, DS took off with the dog, and DD was walking behind me. I turned around and challenged her, to see if she could run more steps up the hill than I could. She took off, and I wasn't far behind. And before I knew it, I was at our driveway. I had run up the hill.

I ran up a hill.

I. Ran. Up. A. Hill.

This is huge for me. *Really* huge. I constantly underestimate myself when it comes to my physical abilities, and I constantly surprise myself when I achieve something I wasn't sure I could do. I didn't set out to do what I did today, and I did it anyway. And the best part? When DD asked me 'Mum, when can we do that again?' :-)

Life is like a box of chocolates - you really never do know what you're going to get :-)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Exceed Your Expectations

I went to the gym yesterday, after missing a session during the week due to my arthritis flaring up. I'm still trying to work out where my chronic health issues fit into this fitness gig - if my back's hurting, I ignore it, because I can't make my injury worse with increased activity (in fact, it only makes it better, even if it does hurt more for a while afterwards, if that makes sense!!) The arthritis, however, is a different story, because I'm still trying to get it under control with medication and diet, and re-introducing regular fitness is only a recent focus of my life. When I woke up the other morning in a flare up - which this time affected mainly my right foot - I didn't know if running would exacerbate it further. Usually when I'm in a flare, the pain and swelling is worse in the morning, and is usually more settled by the afternoon. Of course, because I wanted to do something that involved my feet, that didn't happen, and it was several days before I was game enough to try running on my sore foot.

When I woke up, I tried to justify to myself why I didn't have to go to the gym, the strong contender being 'I don't want to hurt myself more', but really, I knew I was just making excuses. Even driving to the gym, I tried to bargain with myself 'ok, I'll do either weights or treadmill today, and come back and do the other tomorrow'. Once I was there, I bit the bullet and decided to do my normal thing - weights and treadmill - and resolved not to let my body's physical shortcomings to become an obstacle in my journey if I could help it.

As I started my intervals on the treadmill, I happened to look over at the wall, on which there is a super-sized picture and quote. I've been going to the gym for 2 months, and it wasn't until then that I noticed what the quite said:

'Exceed your expectations..........Because you can'

It was one of those moments where life jumps up and smacks you between the eyes. Of course I can run. Of course I can run with an imperfect body. Of course I can run, even if my self-doubts and attempts at self-sabotage try to convince me otherwise. The activity of running is simply putting one foot in front of the other, and picking up the pace. It's making the decision to run that takes us through the process of consideration and evaluating all factors involved - do I feel like it? Can I do it? Do I want to do it? I'm tired/sore/busy/unfit/not good enough. It's this decision making process that determines what the outcome will be, and for me, my natural leaning is not to attempt something that I can't guarantee the outcome of. It takes a lot of mental energy for me to override the part of my brain that says 'I can't' and make the choice to say 'I will', regardless of whether I think I can or not. This applies to pretty much all areas of my life, not just running, or fitness in general.

When I hurt my back, I never thought I'd run again. When I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, that was just another nail in the coffin, so to speak. So to be where I am now - week 4 of the Couch-to-5K program - I've already exceeded my expectations, in regards to running. My job is not something I ever thought I would be doing, so I've already exceeded my expectations. When I stop and look around at the incredibly blessed life I get to live, I can see so many examples of where I have exceeded my expectations, and yet I constantly feel like I'm not living up to some expectation, that I'm constantly trying to do better, to be better, to make up for past mistakes and not let them happen again. Which is an exercise in futility, because of course I'm going to make mistakes, of course I'm going to fall short of someone's expectations - including my own - and that's simply because I'm an imperfect human being.

I had a conversation with a dear friend yesterday that made me rethink the quote I saw at the gym. She was telling me about being open to God doing big things in her life, and I immediately thought of the quote, but in the light of what God can do and certainly does in our lives:

Expect Him to exceed your expectations............Because He can

In our own strength, and on our own steam, we will always fall short, and fail to live up to the expectations put on us, but in God's strength, and by being open to God's will, we can achieve the goals set before us, we can face the challenges that life throws at us and know that whatever happens, He is bigger than us and can exceed anything we expect of Him. Someone please remind me of that next time you see me throwing myself a pity party???

I posted this verse only the other day, but it came to me again whilst I was writing this, but in it's entirety

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

He has set the path before me, and in Him, I can throw off everything that tries to stop me from getting to where I'm going. In the context of the scripture, the 'end goal' is eternal life in Christ, and life is the race marked out for us. The scripture reminds me that whatever goal I'm pursuing in life, I can run towards it in God's strength, and that includes something as simple as literally running. God has put the desire in my heart to run again, and I will exceed my own expectations, not because I can, but because He can.

I saw this advertising campaign from Asics in a magazine recently, and then followed a link to the television advertisement. I love it, it really shows how running can help you leave everything behind, and focus on the journey ahead. Running doesn't do this for everyone - obviously, not everyone runs - but I believe we all have something that takes us away from the weight of life, even if we have discovered what that is yet :-) Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reality Bites

I know we all have them - those time when life just bites you on the bum, sometimes harder than others, and I know right now if I'm not careful, I could let life take a big chunk out of my ample rear.
Nothing's 'happened', there are no great dramas or earth-shattering events looming on the horizon (for once), but this last week I've definitely felt a shift in my committment to my health + fitness. And I'm probably about right on target for history repeating itself. I am definitely one of those people who's a bit all-or-nothing when it comes to diet and exercise - I do it all 'properly', eating well every meal and following a regular schedule of activity, or pretty much nothing, and end up giving up. I've never found that ideal balance, I've never actually truly come to enjoy having to exercise and keep fit, and I am often somewhat resentful that I can't just eat what I want, when I want, and not have to deal with the repercussions. A totally hedonistic, self-gratifying state of being, I know.
This year, the light did go on in regard to what I *really* need to do to live the best life I can (I'm sorry - I cringe writing that, but seriously, it's the most fitting statement I could think of). How I feel is defined by what goes in and what comes out - what food goes in, and what activity comes out. This isn't a temporary fix - this is a required overhaul, and if I don't adhere to the terms and conditions that a healthy life requires, I'll be out of the running. And I mean that metaphorically and literally - if I don't fill my body with healthy food, I won't have the quality fuel I need to live well, and I certainly won't have the fuel I need to literally run.
Case in point: the kids and I went 'home' to my Mum's home town on the weekend for a family event, and there is always food galore wherever we go. Whilst I did temper my indulgences from what I would normally consume, it was the type of food I ate that did me in - bakery goodies, pastry goodies (pies, pasties, sausage rolls), fried foods, white bread, bacon and eggs, cake - you get the drift. I cam home on Sunday and went to the gym for my scheduled work out, and it felt like I'd become the lawn mower that just won't start, no matter how many times you pull the start cord. I completed my work out, including my Week 3 session of the Couch-to-5K, but man, it was *hard* work, and I know that it was because I was running on very poor quality fuel.
I could have prepared myself for the weekend, loaded the car up with plenty of fruit and healthy snack, and still indulged a bit in the other food on offer. But it came down to not being prepared, and that toxic 'can't be bothered' attitude that is so familiar. And you would think I had learned my lesson after that experience. Nup. I've kind of stayed in that 'can't be bothered' mode, even until this morning. After my weight gain at WW last week, I had realised that I really need to be dong some form of activity every day, not just the gym 3 x week, but I just couldn't be bothered. I know I need to be eating better, and being even more mindful about what I'm putting in my body, but I just can't be bothered. And yes, I realise how pathetic and whiny I sound. That's why I'm posting this morning, to record this state of being and be held accountable - to whom, I'm not entirely sure - but things need to change (again), and I need a good kick up the bum.
I did lose at WW last night - a whole 600g - and so what did I do? What any sensible person would do of course - headed straight for the fish and chip shop to drown my sorrows in a schnitzel burger and chips. Yep. And then my scheduled trip to the gym this morning? I wouldn't be sitting here typing this if I was where I'm supposed to be. Not the brightest crayon in the box at the moment, I know. In the interest's of not completely beating myself up, I did wake up this morning with a flare up of my arthritis, which makes it kind of hard to walk until after lunchtime, so I am intending to head to the gym after work. But the point is I'm finding it way to easy to make excuses and put things off again, and I'm familiar enough with my own self-sabotage to realise that I'm at a critical junction - I can carry on asand usual, and end up as I usually do, or make a U-turn and head back to where I was going. There is no end destination, rather a life-long journey of health and wellbeing, inside and out, and I know that I'm the only one who can make that choice, and travel that path.
To help me along the way, I'm going to record this journey in pictures, as well. In my previous weight loss attempts, I haven't taken pictures of myself in the process, maybe putting myself out there on the big wide web will be enough incentive to keep going when staying in bed feels like a far better option!

January 1 2011

February 12 2011

January 1 2011

February 12 2011

So onwards and upwards from here on in, I know it's not going to be a walk in the park, and I know I'll hit the proverbial wall again many times. But that's the beauty of life - each new day is a fresh start, full of opportunity, it's up to each of us what we do with it. And if I can encourage someone along the way with my ramblings, even better. Enjoy :-)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So there was this girl.....

...who once upon a time thought running was just plain stupid. Running hurt - in this girl's case, a lot.
Yep, no points for guessing said girl is me. Even as a kid, I had a *very* strong dislike of running, and avoided it at all costs, because it caused me pain (I've had problems with my feet my whole life), and I just plain didn't enjoy it.
In 2006, a couple of friends ran the Adelaide City to Bay Fun Run and whilst at dinner with them one night, I was congratulating them on their achievement, and one friend said to me 'you should do it next year'. I laughed and said 'I don't run'. He said 'why not?'. I said 'I don't *do* running'. He said again 'why not?', and I just didn't have an answer - 'it hurts' seemed completely lame and inadequate. This friend (at at later dates I would have used the term loosely!!!) challenged me to run the City to Bay the following year, and I accepted, then wondered what had just happened.
Long story short, and fast forward 9 months to September 2007, I ran the 6km leg of that race, and wondered why it had taken me so long to embrace something that I had actually come to enjoy - I had become a runner.
Well, I thought I had. I didn't run again after the race, and intended to start again after that summer, as heat + exercise + me don't mix well. Just as I planned to lace up again, I got hurt at work and sustained a permanent back injury. I thought I would never be able to run again, and all of a sudden I really, really missed it. And I thought that was it, all over red rover, forever.
But now it's been nearly 3 years since my injury, and I'm up and running again :-) Literally, and metaphorically. I can't explain why I felt such a *need* to run again, when I knew it would cause me pain. But I did, and I knew I had to try.
Starting again as seen a change in lifestyle and mind set, in ways I couldn't have anticipated. After my injury, I gained about 10 kg, and I went back to Weight Watchers. At the same time, I began experiencing some other issues with my health that were eventually diagnosed as psoriatic arthritis (a 'cousin' of rheumatoid arthritis), which initially presented in my feet. I could barely walk, let alone run, so trying to exercise to lose weight was virtually impossible, but somehow I managed to lose 12kg over 6 months. Then I stopped going to WW, and gained a few kgs back over the next few months.
December last year, and I had started a new job - going from part-time to full-time - and had had a year of being sick, and I knew I had to do *something* about my body, from a holistic perspective. I started thinking about running again after reading the awesome Run Like A Mother, and wondered if I could do it. I went back to WW again, and wasn't particularly successful, nor was I motivated to get moving. I joined the new gym in town, but didn't go, citing not being able to due to having the kids full time for the holidays. Then once they went to their dad's for the rest of the holidays, I knew the excuses had run out, and things had to change. I signed up for personal training at the gym, started tracking properly for WW, started really started thinking about what I was putting into my body, and was inspired and encouraged by Cathy Zielske's Eat Less, Move More challenge. And voila, things started changing. Funny about that :-)
I go to the gym every 3rd day, and do my weights program, then a session on the treadmill. I'm doing the Couch-to-5K program, and so far it's all going along swimmingly (boom boom). My thinking has changed, my priorities have changed, and I'm seeing results. I've set my goal to run the Adelaide City to Bay again, only this time I'm aiming for the 12km. I know I can do it, pain or not, but the funny thing so far is that my back is holding up well. No increased pain as I had anticipated and prepared myself for, and my arthritis is pretty under control at the moment, so so far, so good. And I know that's the only way I can do this, one day at a time, and deal with each day as it comes, with whatever it brings.
I still can't get over how my thinking has changed in such a short time, how getting to the gym has become as important as going to work and providing for my kids, because I know what I do now will set the foundations for the rest of my life. How being mindful of what I put into my body is making me more conscious about eating what I need to be healthy, and not just eating what I want because it will give me about .02 seconds of pleasure, and leave me feeling icky. How setting goals and working towards them permeates other areas of my life and gives me cause to stop and look at the effect my actions have on myself and others. This (to date short) journey has already taught me more than I could have anticipated, and I am feeling freedom in the discipline I'm trying to embrace. I know this change in my life can only be good - for me and for my kids.
The sub-title of this blog came from a conversation I had with my butcher - I was talking with a friend as I was waiting to be served, and she commented that I'd lost weight, and asked how I was doing it. I told her I've gone back to the gym and started running again, and the butcher asked 'how do you do that?', and I found myself saying 'you just put one foot in front of the other and pick up the pace'. In thinking about our exchange later, I thought about how that philosophy applies to so much of my life. Sometimes that's all you can do, put one foot in front of the other, and sometimes you've got to pick up the pace. But I also know the truth is that life is a race set before me, that I need to keep my eyes fixed on the race God has set me on, and that He is the ultimate goal I am running towards

'Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.'
(Hebrews 12:1)

Oh, and the 'stitch' part of 'The Running Stitch'? I make stitches - in knitting, in fabric, on paper and at work (not that nurses can stitch people up, but we can help 'stitch' them back together :-) ). I haven't blogged for a long while, but I want to record this new chapter in the story of my life - I hope it's going to be a good one :-)