Running

I did some running when I was in my 20’s. I wasn’t very fast, but I enjoyed it and it was good exercise.

I took a break from running when my children were young and then started again when they began running cross country. I found out some things had changed over that break, most notably, my knees. X-rays confirmed arthritis in both knees, and I was advised to give up running. I learned from a chiropractor that strengthening the muscles in my legs would help to support my knees, but I filed that information in the back of my mind and settled for occasional walks.

Fast forward to three years ago. Osteopenia finally woke me up to the need to exercise and I began a regimen of weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Even though I had given up running, I walked in some 5K races in the area. My goal was twofold but simple: to finish in under an hour and not to be the last person to cross the finish line! My time was usually between 55 and 59 minutes, and I usually spent the rest of the day with legs elevated, icing my inflamed knees.

But every now and then, I dreamed that I was running. In my dreams, I had found a way to run without touching the ground! I described those dreams to a Trak Shak salesperson who recommended a Hoka running shoe for me.  Walking in Hokas has been the next best thing to running without touching the ground.

With three years of exercise behind me and Hoka shoes to support me, I started running again. In June, I walked/ran 3.1 miles (5K) in my neighborhood and finished in 47 minutes- not great, but almost nine minutes faster than my fastest walking 5K.

Is it possible that my recently improved diet could already be strengthening my muscles and joints? I’m able to run almost a mile without pain now, and my current 5K PR in the neighborhood is 44:33. I’m still slow compared to almost everyone else I encounter on the trail, but I have a new twofold goal now: to run as much as I can without causing injury and to run without concern about others being faster.

What about you? Do you run for exercise? What are your goals? Tell me what motivates you to keep moving. And tell me about your shoes!

Melissa and Morgan, Smith Family Resources
Morgan is my post-run encourager!

About those Baby Steps…

Seven years of baby steps… A lot of progress can be made in seven years, but my steps have been small, and I find myself very near where I started. I’ll have my first session with health coach Rebecca Mills-Anderson tomorrow, and I’m ready to learn take some bigger steps with diet and nutrition. I’m eager to move closer to the goal of better health.

So, about those baby steps… In preparation for the health coaching to come, I’m reflecting on the progress- however small- that I’ve made thus far.

  1. I eliminated caffeine. I took this step as a young adult when I realized that my daily Diet Coke and ever-present glass of sweet tea were creating problems for me. That first step could have been a bigger step if I had known to replace the offenders with water, but I simply replaced them with decaffeinated sweet tea. Still, it was a baby step in the right direction!
  2. I began taking a daily multivitamin. SuperMom was the first vitamin I’d ever taken that actually made a noticeable difference in the way I felt.
  3. I eliminated fried foods. Gall bladder pain prompted this step, and it was not hard at all. Pain is a powerful motivator!
  4. I increased my water intake. If you follow this blog, you’re probably tired of hearing about drinking water! But, this has been huge for me. I went from drinking almost no water at all to half of my body weight in ounces. This big step is probably the main reason I’ve remained reasonably healthy in spite of the deficiencies of my diet.
  5. I began exercising regularly. I started for my bones but am gradually realizing the benefits of exercise for the whole body.
  6. I eliminated high fructose corn syrup from my diet, and I cut way back on processed foods.
  7. I realized that I was relying on supplementation and elimination to get me to better health. I’ve added some things- vitamins, water, exercise- and I’ve taken out some things- caffeine, fried food, high fructose corn syrup. But I’m just now facing the fact that my diet doesn’t include all the nutrients and vitamins I need to be truly healthy.

Okay, #7 may not be a true step. But that realization is already making a difference. In the last few weeks, I’ve made a conscious effort to eat three healthy meals every day, no matter how busy I am, and I’ve eaten a fruit or vegetable at almost every meal.

And that’s where I am today. On to bigger steps tomorrow!

Of Pain and Torture, AKA Physical Therapy

bromelain and iceIf a picture paints a thousand words, what story does this picture tell?  I’ll give you a hint:  PT.  Physical Therapy, otherwise known as Pain and Torture.

⇦These are the things my physical therapist told me to do four times a day:  exercise, ice and anti-inflammatory.

My anti-inflammatory of choice is Bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found in pineapples.  These protein-digesting enzymes block the body’s production of compounds that cause swelling and pain.  The suggested dosage of Bromelain as a digestive aid is 500 mg per day, taken with a meal.  But for an injury or for arthritis, up to 2000 mg on an empty stomach is recommended.

I began taking 500 mg of Bromelain a day and didn’t notice much improvement.  But when I bumped up to 2,000 mg, my pain level was remarkably reduced, and my inflammation began to lessen at a much more noticeable rate.

Even though I started this post with a PT insult, to be fair and completely honest, I’m extremely pleased with the therapy I’ve received.  If you need a physical therapist in the Birmingham area, I can recommend an excellent one!  And if you’re looking for a natural anti-inflammatory, you just found it!

Important:  Because bromelain breaks down fibrin, a blood-clotting protein that can impede blood circulation, individuals on blood-thinning medication or with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease should contact their healthcare provider before taking bromelain.  Bromelain should not be taken with tetracycline or by individuals who are allergic to pineapple.  Bromelain and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) should be discontinued 1 to 2 weeks before any surgical procedure to reduce the risk of post-operative bleeding.

Are You Smarter than a 7th Grader?

7th grade Life Science questions: 

  • Are bones alive?
  • What two substances comprise the bone matrix?
  • True or False:   Bones increase or decrease their mass as needed.

Are you smarter than a 7th grader?

If you’ve studied the 7th grade Apologia textbook, Exploring Creation with General Science, you know the answers to these questions!

IMG_2153[1]

Are bones alive?  Yes, your bones are composed of living cells.  Bone continually changes to meet your body’s needs.

What two substances comprise the bone matrix?  Collagen and minerals.  Collagen is a flexible substance that belongs to a class of chemicals known as proteins.  Minerals are substances found naturally in the earth.  Collagen and minerals work together to make bones both strong and flexible.  The collagen gives bones their flexibility; the minerals give bones their hardness.

True or False:  Bones increase or decrease their mass as needed.  True.  Bones that bear weight must be firm.  So, if you exercise, your bones will be stressed and will respond by increasing their mass to become more firm.  If you are inactive, bone tissue will be taken away.

General Science

Now!  We’re all at least as smart as the 7th graders who’ve studied this book!

I’m getting the exercise my bones need now, but I still have a lot to learn about the minerals.  Calcium is only one of the minerals my bones need.

What have you learned?  Care to share?  I’d love to hear from you.  Email or comment and tell me what you’ve added to your diet to help your bones.  Thanks!

Weight-Bearing and Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

I’ve heard from several of you who have also been working in the bone density department.  Thanks for your encouragement!

I thought you might like to see more detail of what my friend Kristin shared with me.  The “Exercise for Strong Bones” pages include information from the National Osteoporosis Foundation, modified slightly for me.   If you can’t read it, click on the images to enlarge.Exercise for Strong Bones, National Osteoporosis FoundationExercise page 2I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t understand the connection between exercise and bone health.  I was hoping I could just take a supplement and forego the exercise, but that’s just not how the body was designed.  I’ve learned some fascinating things about bones and muscles, so check back here later for more of my discoveries.

Please share what you’ve learned about building bone density!  I love to hear from you!

Exercise for Strong Bones

Those were the words at the top of the page my friend Kristin sent me.

Exercise for Strong BonesExercise…

Up until this point, my entire exercise life could be summarized in a few words:  housework and an occasional walk.  And, as the technician had said, “Whatever you’ve been doing, it hasn’t been enough.”

So, Kristin came over and helped me get started with an exercise routine.  I began with 6-pound weights, a list of exercises, and Kristin’s encouragement to work out for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds.

I found a free app to help me with the intervals, and I think the fun of that app kept me going those first few days.  I found it at pushpress.com, and it has a great feature called Audio Assist.  I have no idea who these people are, but their encouraging voices tell me when to start and when to rest.  I chose the voice of Elyse Umeda, simply because hers was the most like Kristin’s of all the choices. 🙂  When I get all the way through my workout, that voice says, “Time!  Great job!”  Ah!  Music to my ears and to my tired muscles!!

pushpress app

This is how my routine looks now after working up just a bit.  I work for 40 seconds and rest 20, and my whole workout takes about 27 minutes.  I now work with 8-pound weights for my first cycle and then switch back to the 6-pounders, and I also wear 3-pound ankle weights.

My plan includes three days of this workout, three days of other exercise (once a week it’s 30 minutes of intense housework, sometimes it’s a vigorous walk, and occasionally it’s my regular workout exercises except without the weights), and one day of rest.

I feel my muscles.  I sure hope it’s helping my bones!!

weights