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I’m Not Superwoman

December 5, 2012

Hello, long time no post. I didn’t mean to go missing and I really did want to post some recaps of my time in America. I even wrote the first post, but never got around to putting it up … it’s on my to-do list for this week because I want a record for myself as much as for anyone else.

I lost my blogging mojo I suppose, along with my fitness mojo and most of my energy just generally. I’ve been low in energy for some time and I’m written about it here a few times. About a year or so ago I was diagnosed with an iron deficiency. I was prescribed iron supplements which I took for a month and then my iron levels returned back to normal. Everyone told me that I’d feel so much better, but I still felt tired and lethargic. I didn’t think too much of it and just accepted that I’m quite a low-energy person, I’ve never been one to be bouncing off the walls.

I managed to have a full-time job, travel at the weekends to see Peter and my family and workout 5-6 days a week without too many problems, although I found that I lacked concentration some of the time and needed naps in the afternoon.

However, over the past couple of months things have got worse. I moaned at length about how broken I felt after Bridlington Half Marathon and I haven’t really run since. I did a couple of short runs on the treadmill which were pretty grim and a couple of runs outside which were pleasant enough due to the bright sunny weather. In fact any sort of exercise has felt like a drag.

What finally made me go to see the doctor was the aching joints in my hands, wrists and elbows. It’s probably repetitive strain injury, but I’m glad I’m went because the blood tests picked up a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is needed to make red blood cells and to keep nerves healthy. The deficiency explains a lot of the symptoms that I’ve been suffering from over the past couple of years that I’d just disregarded as normal for me, including:

  • feeling tired
  • looking pale (I’m pale anyway, so it’s kind of hard to tell)
  • heart palpitations
  • tinnitus
  • poor concentration – “brain fog”
  • tingling in my hands and feet
  • sore mouth and tongue

Vitamin B12 is found in meat and other animal products and the only people who become deficient due to diet are long-term vegans who don’t supplement. I’m definitely not vegan, so there is another cause of the deficiency. The most common cause is pernicious anaemia, which is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the protein that enables the body to absorb B12. I tested negative for pernicious anaemia, but about 40% of people that have it test negative, so it’s still possible that I have it. Other causes include stomach surgery, some medicines and inflammatory bowel conditions.

In any case, the treatment is the same. I’m having B12 injections every other day for two weeks. I will then need to have injections once every three months for life. I’ve just had my second injection and I’m looking forward to starting to feel more like myself again. I’m lucky that it’s been found fairly early as it can make you very poorly and before a treatment was discovered about 100 years ago it was a fatal condition.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I have realised that I’m not superwoman and I don’t have to bust a gut working out every night, for some people that’s not what being healthy means. I’ve been practicing yoga or pilates most mornings, walking every lunchtime and taking lower impact classes like Urban Funk and Zumba a couple of times a week. This is much reduced from what I was doing, but it’s right for me now.

I’ve refocused my diet on including more iron and folic acid and they interact with B12. I’m also eating bananas until they’re coming out of my ears because potassium levels can drop after having the injections.

I’ve got loads of great information and advice from the Pernicious Anaemia Society website if you want to find out more information. B12 deficiency is fairy rare in younger people (1 in 10,000 across the general population of Northern Europe, but that includes 1 in 10 people over 75). It is under-diagnosed, especially in older people where it can lead to dementia and MS-like symptoms. It’s more likely if your a woman with pale skin, blue eyes and blood group A – hello, that’s me!

Hopefully in the New Year I can start rebuilding my exercise routine and I would love to keep running, but it might have to be at a more sedate pace.


Getting Funky

November 15, 2012

Hello – I’m back! Actually I’ve been back from my holidays since Sunday, but with jet lag and trying to settle back into normal life I haven’t got around to posting since. I had a fabulous time and I can’t wait to write more about it, but Peter has the camera with most of my photos on it, so that will have to wait until next week.

Part of getting back into normal life has been launching myself back into some sort of fitness routine. Before I left for America I was feeling sore and broken following Bridlington Half Marathon. The holiday was a perfect chance to try to rest and recuperate a little bit. I took loads of running gear with me, but none of it even made it out of the suitcase. I always fool myself that I’m going to exercise on holiday, but it rarely happens.

I did walk a ton though. I love seeing a place on foot and I ended most days with tired feet and aching legs. I especially walked a lot while I was in Chicago as there was so much to explore. I swear I had full-on DOMS the next day.

Now I don’t hurt in quite the same way as a couple of weeks ago, but I’m still sore and very tight, especially in my legs. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somehow I feel injured, or at the very least I have niggles. It’s my IT bands, feet (under my toes, heels and in the arches) and calves mainly that feel rough. That means that I’ve been taking it quite cautiously for the past week and I certainly haven’t felt up to a full-on session with my running club. I still love to move and I get grouchy if I don’t do some sort of exercise, but I’ve been taking it slow.

Monday – yoga class

Tuesday – workout at gym, including 5k on treadmill

Wednesday – 30 mins yoga, sports massage

Thursday – 20 mins yoga, Urban Funk

Friday (planned) – yoga, workout at gym

Saturday (planned) – rest

Sunday (planned) – short-ish run (depending on how I feel)

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of doing some yoga every morning to ease my aches and pains and work on my flexibility which seems at an all time low at the moment (I swear that I used to be able to touch my toes!)

This evening I decided to try Urban Funk at my Virgin Active gym. I’m privileged to have a trial membership their as part of their #beyourpersonalbest campaign, so I want to try as many new classes as I can. Urban Funk is inspired by hip-hop moves and the class was based on learning a short routine that we danced in full a few times at the end. It perhaps wasn’t a class that I would have normally chosen, but I thought that it would be fairly low impact which is just what I need in my slightly fragile state at the moment. I was especially sore and fragile after last night’s sports massage, but this class worked wonders at loosening me up again.

As well as the physical benefits, Urban Funk lifted my soul. I found it much easier to follow than Zumba (I am challenged in the booty-shaking department), although my body-popping still needs some work. I love hip-hop and R&B to dance to (but not necessarily to listen to if that makes sense) and this class reminded me of all the good times I had in an R&B club when I was at uni. I loved the teacher as well, she made it easy to understand the moves without shouting at us, in fact she hardly spoke at all apart from singing and expressing her love for a particular tune. I might even go back next week at the risk of not trying a different class because it feels like just what I need at the moment.

As for running … I’m easing myself back into it and testing out my body. I really don’t want to mess it up more than it already is. I’ll see how it goes, but it might be a case of keeping my fitness ticking over during the winter before training for a spring half marathon (I’m already registered for Chester)

Have a great weekend everyone and stay funky Smile

You Know It’s Going To Be One Of Those Days When …

October 25, 2012

I’ve finished work for 11 whole working days (imagine me dancing round the room like some kind of maniac). Despite my giddy happiness, this morning did not start out well. First of all, the front door handle snapped off in my hand – doh! It took me a couple of minutes to work out that I should probably go out of the back door, so I turned up to the bus stop bang on time, unfortunately this is the one morning the bus driver decides to be early. This bus is always five minutes late – grr!

I decided to walk up to the next bus stop to give myself something to do in the 25 minutes until the next bus was due. When that bus came it was full so the driver didn’t stop – bugger! By this time I was getting stressed so I decided not to waste more time and just walked to work. It’s about four miles and I normally don’t walk it because a) it takes time, and b) I turn up to work hot and sweaty with my hair like a bird’s nest. Today I didn’t care, I just needed to take out my frustration on the pavement.

By the time I got to work I was much calmer and also pleased that I got my daily exercise in first thing. I was thinking of going to the gym tonight, but I really need to pack and walking fits in better with my regime of taking it easy for a few weeks.

My legs are actually much better and I don’t think I’ve done anything serious. My IT band is very tight, but rest, stretching and more massage will hopefully improve that. I’ve had some foot pain too, so I’ve been wearing my trainers non-stop, damaging my persona of a stylish career woman (in my dreams … the stylish bit anyway). Both my legs and my feet stood up well to the walking, so I’m optimistic.

Last night I headed to the gym to do my first Body Balance class. It’s another Les Mills class, like Cambat, Pump and Attack. I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite like I expected. It was much faster than my usual yoga class, which is ashtanga-inspired. Yet, in some ways it was less challenging. In my regular yoga class we hold the poses for longer which really leaves me feeling stretched and worked out. I also wasn’t sure about it being choreographed to music because it took my mind off my breathing, which for me is one of the main benefits of yoga. The pilates sections were super-challenging though. I guess it’s because I don’t do pilates very much – my abs were sore afterwards! I will definitely do it again as an enjoyable fitness class, but it won’t replace yoga.

So, this is my last post for two weeks – see you when I get back (expect lots of photos for a change).

Fitness Ups and Downs

October 22, 2012

Hey! I hope you had lovely weekends. First of all, thank you for you comments on my last post about weight loss and maintenance. I was actually quite nervous about posting it because weight is such a personal issue and while I’m more comfortable talking about my successes in weight loss, the fact that I still struggle sometimes is more difficult to deal with. It seems like a lot of you can relate, so thanks for your support.

Today’s post is about all things fitness related. There are some good things and some not-so-good things to tell you about, but I think I’ll start with the good.

Rediscovering an old favourite

When Virgin Active approached me about their #beyourpersonalbest campaign one of the things I was most excited about was that they offer Body Combat classes. A few years ago I was obsessed with Body Combat and did it three or four times a week. Then I moved cities and my new local gym didn’t offer classes.

After work on Friday I finally managed to get to a 45 minute class and I wasn’t disappointed. I’d forgotten what hard work it was though! Within minutes I was warm and sweaty, but I had a huge smile on my face. I love how much fun the moves are and I like imagining that I’m beating someone up. I’m quite mild-mannered in real-life, so throwing some punches is like having a bad-ass alter-ego.

I find Combat fairly easy to follow, although it took a few times to get the hang of some of the moves again. It was certainly easier to follow than Zumba! It’s also incredibly aerobic, so I got a real buzz from getting my heart-rate up. Combat works your upper body as well as the lower body and I was certainly feeling some muscle soreness in my arms, back and obliques for a few days afterwards.

I’ll definitely be going back when I can, although that might be in a few weeks’ time (see below).

Bridlington Half Marathon

I wasn’t looking forward to this one if I’m honest. The buzz of the Great North Run had worn off, I hadn’t trained very much, and I felt tired and a bit sore. I hadn’t tapered properly either and could still feel the after-effects of Body Combat. So, do as I say and not as I do, and make sure you rest up before a race and definitely don’t try a new exercise class two days before.

Anyway, on Sunday morning things looked positive. The sun was shining in Leeds and I was about to take the bus with fifty other runners from my running club. However a little way down the motorway things got foggy, very foggy, and stayed that way all the way to the coast. It was so foggy in Bridlington that I could hardly see my hand in front of me.

The race started on time and I trotted off at what seemed like a reasonable pace. I felt tight and sore from the start and was mentally thinking about ways I could drop out. After a few miles I found my stride and things didn’t seem too bad, although it felt like I was going slowly. I’d been told that it was a “flat” course, but it was actually more-or-less uphill for the first 8 miles! At least I couldn’t see the hills coming because of the fog.

The last three miles were rough because my right side felt so sore, but I kept going and although I wanted to walk I didn’t give in. Apparently on a clear day you can see the finish from miles away, but I didn’t see the flag until I was 100m away. I think that was actually a good thing because I just trundled along without that “so near, yet so far” feeling.

I didn’t wear my Garmin, so I didn’t know what time I’d done, I just hoped that it was under two hours. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually ran it in 1:55:30. Three minutes slower than GNR, but I felt so rubbish yesterday compared to a month ago in Newcastle that three minutes isn’t bad.

I’ve been told that it’s a lovely scenic race, but I wouldn’t know! I couldn’t even see the sea and I was standing right next to it.

Now I hurt

My legs felt sore throughout the race and very sore straight afterwards. We stayed in Bridlington for a few hours, then took the bus back. I knew when I got off the bus that my right leg was suffering. I’m not exactly sure which bit is injured – it feels like hamstring, IT band and piriformis combined. It’s stiff and sore when I first get up, but a bit better once I’ve moved around a bit. I know that I need to let it recover though.

My plan is to rest for a couple of days, ice, take ibuprofen and then see how it is. If it’s a bit better I will try some yoga and gentle cross-training later in the week. I’m then on holiday for a couple of weeks (yay!), so I won’t be doing any serious exercise. I’m hoping that by the time I get back I will be able to start training again.

My legs have been tight for a while, so I know I need to try and change something to get them feeling better. I’ve had two sports massages so far and I’m trying to warm-up and cool-down better. More yoga and strengthening may also help, but hopefully a period of rest will get me off to a good start.

Apparently It’s That Time of Year Again

October 19, 2012

Happy Friday! It’s a very happy Friday for me because this time next week I will be off on my hols and I’m very excited. I have a few organisational things to do this weekend in preparation that will no doubt make me even more excitable. Just four more days at work to go …

I’m also over the worst of my cold thank goodness. For a while there I thought that the sofa was going to swallow me up. I worked out that I spent a solid 12 hours on Monday catching up on all my favourite TV programmes. Thank goodness it’s autumn, if I’d been relying on the summer TV schedules then I would have been in trouble. I know everyone gets colds multiple times a year, but it’s never pleasant when you have one.

I have a feeling that this post might end up a bit random, but it feels like time to once again address how problematic maintaining weight loss can be. First of all, being a glass half-full sort of person I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for managing to stay within a healthy weight range for three years now. I haven’t had to have a major wardrobe overhaul in that time, although jeans have over time become snugger, then looser, then snugger again. There have been some changes in my diet in the past three years, but overall I think I have got into the habit of eating a balanced diet that I think I can eat for the rest of my life.

Despite those positives, maintaining is still hard and can be incredibly frustrating. More or less this time last year I decided to jump on the scales. I wasn’t too shocked to discover that I was right at the top of the healthy BMI range (yes, BMI is flawed, but I won’t get into that now) and about ten pounds over my goal weight. I started tracked my calories and weighing in weekly, and by the time Christmas rolled around I was back to goal. Super.

I stopped tracking and weighing because life is too short and went back to my normal mostly healthy diet with the occasional indulgences. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that I hadn’t weighed myself for several months and curiosity got the better of me. I was just a little bit frustrated that I’m back where I was last October, just bordering on having an overweight BMI. I wasn’t too shocked, I have had a few indulgent weekends recently.

I decided to try to get back on track and weigh in weekly again. Within the first week I had gained three pounds – doh! That was the week of the wedding with the endless sweets and cake, so that probably explains it. The next week I stayed the same, so this week I’ve been tracking calories again. Things seem to be going better now. I’m still eating heartily, but tracking seems to help me to avoid the random snacking that really adds up.

Being the sort of person that over-analyses everything, all this got me thinking about maintenance. Maybe I’m just meant to be a slighter higher weight, seeing as that’s what I tend to bounce back to. On the other hand, it’s also the weight where my clothes start to feel uncomfortable and I decide to do something about it. If I didn’t get back on track would I continue to gain weight and end up obese again? That’s a real danger as it happened once before over a period of about three years after I lost weight as a teenager.

Also, should I be keeping a closer eye on my weight when I get to goal? Previously I’ve had the attitude that it’s a bit sad and controlling to weigh-in regularly, but it’s something that is advocated by a lot of people who successfully maintain. To some extent I think this is something that I have to experiment with to find what makes me happy and doesn’t make me insane.

The other issue is that weight is just one measure, although I think it’s an easy one to keep track of. As I’ve got older, and possibly as a result of running, my legs have got leaner, but the fat has redistributed to my tummy. This is annoying, but hopefully having a more rounded exercise routine might help with that.

So, if there are any conclusions to my twitterings, it’s that keeping a balance between eating well, maintaining a healthy weight and not letting the number on the scale dictate your life is tough. After three years I’m still fumbling my way through all this stuff and trying to find what works for me.

If you’re maintaining a weight loss what works for you?

Pleasure and Pain

October 15, 2012

I have to admit that at this precise moment I don’t feel my personal best. I’m lolling on the sofa surrounded by a mountain of tissues and feeling sorry for myself. Yes I have man flu a cold. There’s lots of different advice on whether it’s a good idea to exercise when you have a cold, but I tend to just go with my gut feeling and do what feels good without being hard on myself. Today I’ve felt really rough, so have taken a sick day from work,which is a very rare occurrence for me. I’m taking complete rest in the hope that I will feel better quicker and will be able to do some gentle exercise in the next day or so. It’s Bridlington Half Marathon on Sunday, so I definitely want to be right for then.

Despite starting this week incapacitated, last week was a good one when it comes to the Virgin Active #beyourpersonalbest challenge.

Monday – Level 1, 30 Day Shred DVD; Yoga class

Tuesday – running club (speed work)

Wednesday – Virgin Active gym programme

Thursday – rest

Friday – 3 mile run; Virgin Active gym programme

Saturday – Zumba

Sunday – 6 mile run/walk; Level 1, 30 Day Shred DVD

So, I did the gym programme that Adam designed for me twice last week and it went really well. It’s tough, which is good. In the past I’ve been disappointed that gym programmes haven’t been challenging enough. The idea is that they help to improve your fitness and strength, if that is your goal. The programme is for four weeks, but if it gets too easy or I get bored before then I can work with Adam to change it.

I’m rarely in Leeds at the weekend, but I found myself at a loose end on Saturday morning, so I decided to try out Zumba. I know that Zumba is amazingly popular, but it’s the first time that I’ve ever been to a class. It was a lot of fun and the class whizzed by, probably because I was so busy concentrating on not messing the steps up completely. I think I will probably get better with practice, but at the moment my booty shake leaves a lot to be desired!

My motivation has been challenged a couple of times though. On Friday I wanted to go to the gym after work, so I packed my kit and left it by the front door so that I wouldn’t forget it. Only I must have walked right over it because I did forget it! I had a busy day at work and finished later than I normally do. I could have easily given up on the gym, but instead I decided to to get changed and jog back into town.

On Sunday I made one of the basic running errors, I was very poorly dressed. I didn’t realise how cold it was outside until I’d been running 10 minutes or so and I wasn’t warming up.There was frost on the ground and I had capris and a thin jacket on, with no gloves or hat. The faster I ran the colder I got from the wind chill. In the end I power walked at least a mile. When I got home my arms were numb, so I did a fitness DVD to wake them up again!

The other thing I did this week was get a sports’ massage. I’ve wanted one for ages, but always thought it was a luxury. I was so tight on Wednesday that I rang up and made an appointment with a guy recommended by a running club mate. I have never given birth, so I can honestly say that it was the most painful thing I have ever done. I think that’s because my legs are super, super tight. The therapist was surprised that I was able to run at all.

Despite the pain, I can feel the benefits already and I’m going back for more this week! The one major thing that I took away from the appointment is that I need to warm-up better. I’ve started moving gently for 5-10 minutes to warm-up followed by dynamic stretching. We don’t do that at running club, so I’ll have to make time beforehand to make sure I’m loose and limber.

Have you tried any new activities or exercise classes lately?

Have you had a sports’ massage before?

Are you good at warming-up and cooling-down?


October 12, 2012

Two posts in fairly quick succession? There must be something the matter with me!

Actually an incident at work a few days ago prompted me to get your opinion on something. On Tuesday we had a bit of a buffet at lunch to celebrate some recent successes and say goodbye to a couple of people who are moving on. Our boss made some lovely quiches and brownies, one of my colleagues brought some homemade samosas, and the rest of us brought in various nibbles, cakes and biscuits. We all tucked in, except one person who said he was on a diet and wanted to eat the ham sandwich he had brought from home. There were some healthy options like hummus, crispbreads and cold meats, but fair enough.

Of course, there was far too much for us to eat, so we’ve ended up with quite a large pile of cakes on our desks. I’m ok with sweet stuff around the office and I just tend to leave it alone. However, the guy on the diet didn’t want it in his eye-line and kept moving it onto the desk of another colleague, who kept moving it back. Eventually the cakes ended up in a cupboard on the other side of the room and this childish behaviour turned into a full-blown argument. I just kept my eyes on the computer screen (I hate conflict remember).

I can sympathise with the person on a diet – it can be hard when there’s temptation in front of you, but by placing it on the other desk, and finally into the cupboard it wasn’t accessible to other people. It seemed to me like he was making a bigger deal out of it than necessary and it wasn’t how I would have acted. I try not to get in that ‘dieting’ mindset where I can’t have any tempting foods around me, instead I try to make healthy decisions about what I eat, although sometimes I slip up and eat my weight in old fashioned sweets (see yesterday’s post …) I have to add that this guy is by no means fat, although he’s probably ok losing a few pounds if he wants to.

A more general observation about the office is how many cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate are around, practically on every bank of desks. There are also a lot of quite overweight people and dieting/weight loss seems a common topic of conversation. When I first started working there I was tempted, but now I’m not bothered at all and never dip into the biscuit tin. The only exception is homemade cake which is just too good to refuse.

If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight are you bothered about having tempting foods around?

Are there lots of sweet treats around your workplace and can you find healthy alternatives?

I make sure that I have healthy snacks from home so that I don’t get hungry. If I am caught out I buy some crisps from the shop at work. It’s not ideal, but better than chocolate.