Our Self-Absorbed Society

Just as a car was going by, I crossed the street and leaped onto the curb. Louie (a poodle) was startled by the car and jerked his chain (which was attached to my water belt) in the opposite direction from which I was headed. The slight pull from Louie while I was airborne was enough to make me stumble several feet and eventually fall, smashing my hand into the sidewalk, dislocating my pinky, and fracturing the bones in my right (dominant) hand. The passing car continued on without hesitation.

I don’t know whether he/she saw me fall. I sat up and felt my hand, winced in pain, and thought, “Crap, I think it’s broken. And that pinky does not look right at all.” I called my husband, who didn’t answer his phone. I called my son, who didn’t answer his phone. I tried each of them 3 more times as I started my slow, painful walk back home. Fortunately, my hand was the only major injury. I ended up with a bruised temple, shoulder, and forearm, but nothing broken there. (However, months later, the pain from soft-tissue damage in my neck and shoulders has started to emerge.) About a block from home, my husband called. “Want me to come get you?” Kinda late for that.

I’ve fallen like this before, but didn’t break anything. When I was in college, I was hurrying to class, running across a wooded area with tree roots sticking up. I tripped over a tree root and somersaulted onto my shoulders. Others on their way to class rushed on past, oblivious to my discomfort. (No one even held up numbers, as in a sporting event, to rate my somersault!) Embarrassed, but not injured, I brushed myself off and went on to class.

In January 2013, I ran in the half marathon at Walt Disney World. Running along a busy road with one lane blocked off for the runners, we were all running down a “cattle run” of sorts, barely enough room to run because of so many people. I kept to the right side of the “trail” so as not to impede the faster runners. A woman came up behind me, trying to pass those of us who are slower (and running on the right side, I repeat), and stepped on the heel of my shoe. Keep in mind, we’re all running about 6 miles per hour (some faster, some slower), so the shoe was launched off of my foot and flew off to the side, in the part of the road where the cars were.

As you might expect, the suddenness of it scared me, I yelped and stumbled, and my son caught me. He then stood next to me and held my arm while I put my shoe back on, and then we continued on our run. Meanwhile, the tall, Olive Oil-esque blond girl, with a  huge, bright smile, having the time of her life, continued on her merry way to the next set of Disney characters to get her picture taken, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort. It was bad enough that she stomped on the back of my shoe–she should have stayed to the left side with the faster runners and not followed so closely behind me. But she could have stopped, apologized, and offered to help me put my shoe back on. I doubt it even registered in her mind what she’d done. In fact, I may not have been her only victim that day! For all I know, for her it was part of the fun to stomp on the back of slow people’s heels for “extra points”!

Remember, this was a DISNEY run. It’s supposed to be fun. You’re not going to qualify for Boston on this run. She was hurrying because 1) she could and 2) she wanted to get in line to get her picture taken with the Disney characters along the route, but still wanted to finish with an unembarrassing (for her) time. The reason she had fallen back to where the slow pokes like me were is that she’d stopped at every other photo spot before this one. She should have known that her time was going to suck if she did that. But she’s (apparently) not the sort to care about other people, only herself. She was in a hurry and I was in her way.

Lately, I’ve been noticing many people are not the sort to care. Yeah, I know in times of major disasters like the Boston Marathon bombing, the fires in Colorado and California, the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, and so on, people do “grow a conscience” and actually help each other. But in everyday life, it’s rare for someone to go out of their way to help their fellow humans. Many people will pick up a mangy, flea-bitten stray dog before they’ll help a stranger who falls on a sidewalk. I’m sure there are many reasons for this attitude (our litigious society, for one), but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Take a cue from my mistake: don’t hook your dog to your water belt! Even a 13-pound miniature poodle can knock you off balance when both of your feet are off the ground.

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Cholesterol is not the enemy!

“Fat is stored inside the fat cell in the form of triaglycerol. The fat is not burned right there in the fat cell, it must be liberated from the fat cell through somewhat complex hormonal/enzymatic pathways. When stimulated to do so, the fat cell simply releases its contents (triaglycerol) into the bloodstream as free fatty acids (FFAs), and they are transported through the blood to the tissues where the energy is needed.” — http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/what-happens-when-fat-is-burned.html

At a recent physical, it was pointed out by my doctor that my cholesterol is very high. She also did the “Berkley HeartLabs” blood test that tells us about my genetic markers for certain heart-related diseases. She had an expert in the Berkley HeartLabs tests come to her office to go over my results with me.

During our discussion, the expert pointed out, repeatedly, that my LDL cholesterol is too high (but my HDL is over 60, which is very good). I said that my cholesterol number has always been directly correlated with my weight. She insisted that my cholesterol was high because I eat too much saturated fat, and my genetic tests indicated that I don’t process fats well. I told her that I have been working out a lot more, running to 3-4 days per week, and reduced my calories by about half.

I said, “Doesn’t it make sense that because I’m burning fat, I would have more cholesterol in my blood stream?”

She said, “What?”

I said, “Well, the purpose of cholesterol is to transport fats in the blood stream, right? And because I’m burning more fat, there is more fat in my blood, and therefore more cholesterol to transport it where it needs to go.”

She said, impatiently, “It doesn’t go anywhere, it just gets burned up.”

I said, “It doesn’t just disappear! It goes into the blood stream to be transported to the muscles that need it, right?”

She said, “Well, that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. Let’s continue.”

She has likely spent most of her life (maybe the past 50 years?) working with patients who have heart disease and high cholesterol and can no longer see the forest for the trees. She’s convinced that mainstream medical thinking is correct, and she can no longer think critically about what actually might be going on. Like many of her generation, she doesn’t question what she’s told; the doctor is always right.

Just to placate her and my doctor, I did the recommended carotid artery ultrasound. That involved running the ultrasound device over each side of my neck to look for plaque buildup in my carotid arteries. Buildup in the carotid arteries can indicate buildup in the arteries that feed the heart, which can lead to heart problems. There was no buildup in either of my carotid arteries.

  • Cholesterol is necessary in our bodies. “Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which is produced by the liver. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its outer layer.” (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152.php)”
  • Cholesterol makes up the protective membrane surrounding each cell’s internal organelles … contributes as a building block for many of the essential hormones in your body.” (http://www.livestrong.com/article/25345-cholesterol/#ixzz2HDdm4rhS)
  • “Only about 25% of our blood cholesterol comes from our diet. Most of the cholesterol in our blood (about 75%) is produced by our bodies in the liver, intestines, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs. ” (http://solidbodyfit.com/2012/what-does-cholesterol-do/)
  • “When a long time has passed since the last meal, the concentration of fatty acids in the blood decreases, which triggers [fat cells] to release stored fatty acids into the blood as free fatty acids, in order to supply e.g. muscle cells with energy. … In response to low blood cholesterol, different cells of the body, mainly in the liver and intestines, start to synthesize cholesterol. This is then released into the blood. … Abnormally low levels of cholesterol are termed hypocholesterolemia. Research into the causes of this state is relatively limited, and while some studies suggest a link with depression, cancer and cerebral hemorrhage, it is unclear whether the low cholesterol levels are a cause for these conditions or an epiphenomenon.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_lipids)

I have not been able to find research that discusses a correlation between fat-burning exercise and cholesterol/triglycerides in the blood stream. I think it’s about time the medical establishment looked in that direction, stop making fat and cholesterol the villains, and stop trying to pump us full of liver-damaging statin drugs. Doing a study on “normal” weight men with “normal” cholesterol would not be helpful. Testing needs to focus on “average” overweight people (20-50 lbs, not severely obese) who are regularly exercising and reducing their calorie intake, not healthy athletes, and not only men.

For example, test people who are not exercising, haven’t for quite some time, and eat a “normal” American diet of breakfast pastries, fast-food lunch, and meats and starches for dinner, with very little fruits and vegetables. Then put these people on various diets (high carb, low carb, high fat, low fat, high protein, no animal protein…), and have them do an aerobic workout for at least an hour every day, testing their blood for cholesterol, triglycerides, and so on. Unfortunately for valid testing, you would have to isolate the subjects for 3-6 months to be sure that they are following the proper protocols, which will never happen.

Learning to run

My New Year’s Resolution for 2012 was to “get healthy.” But goals should be SMART, which stands for “specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, and time-limited.” So my goal became “be able to run for at least 30 minutes before the end of this year.” Last year, Bill (husband) asked me to run in the Austin10K (6.2 miles) with him, his niece, Kristin, and her husband, Justin. I couldn’t really run then and Kristin was pregnant, so he assured me there wouldn’t be much running. HA! Kristin ran a lot more than I’d expected, but she’d been running before her pregnancy, so Ava (the baby) was OK. There really wasn’t a lot of running, but enough that I was worn out and sore afterward. I expected the usual “run with me” experience, where I walk by myself while Bill runs ahead to get his “PR” (personal record). Surprisingly, we all stuck together.

In May of this year, Bill nagged me to run in the 5K (3.1 miles) at Horseshoe Bay Resort with him and our youngest son, Jake. “Run with me” this time meant I was by myself, Jake was way ahead of me, and Bill ran the 10K, finishing long before I was done. This time I was able to run a bit for a 15-minute average pace. Yes, barely running, but not bad for out-of-shape, overweight cube farmer. It helped that there was one other woman about my age who was running and walking as much as I was. (And also why I won first place in my age group!) We took turns running ahead. In the last block, I finally “sprinted” past her to the finish. She was only 10 seconds behind me.

Bill, me, and Jacob after the Sunset Wine Tour 5K and 10K. Bill got first place overall Master (40 and over his trophy is a wine stopper), 2nd place overall, and I got first place, female, in my age group.

My next races (unless Bill comes up with another one before then) are the 5K and half marathon at the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend in January 2013, so I have plenty of time to train (I think). Bill, Jake, Alex (our oldest son), and I are all running in the 5K on Friday and the half-marathon on Saturday. Then Bill is also running the full marathon on Sunday. (Yes, he has a little OCD.) Disney requires that you keep a 16-minute pace or faster for the half, so I need to keep my current pace or (preferably) get faster. If you lose sight of the 16-minute pace runner, a van will soon appear, and people will wrestle you into the van and drive you to the finish. They have a schedule, people! (Just kidding about the “wrestling” part, but I do wonder what happens if you refuse to get into the van!)

I’m trying to increase the time I’m running and not walking. I’m up to Stage 10 of the Run Your Butt Off training plan, which is walk for 2 minutes, run for 13 minutes, and repeat for a total of 30 minutes. (I go longer if I have time and feel like it.) Training is not convenient. It means getting up at 5 am-ish, putting on running attire, and forcing myself to “just do it” for 30-60 minutes. I’ve worked out at lunch time, but it’s in the upper 80s-90s, and we have no showers at work. (I change clothes, of course, and use cleansing wipes and alcohol-based toner to wash off the sweat. I need to buy/make some sort of portable shower!) At least it gets me outside during the day so I can make some vitamin D, and the rest of the work day seems to go a bit faster.

Cheapest Form of Exercise?

People say, “Running is the cheapest form of exercise. All you need is a good pair of running shoes!” That’s not exactly true.

NordicTrack Treadmill T7si For when it’s too hot, too cold, too dark, or raining.

$1300

Nike Air Pegasus + 28 running shoes These run a little small. (I wear a 9, but had to get a 9.5). You should buy two pair so you can alternate if you’re running every day. Put some baking soda in an old pair of socks and stuff the socks in the shoes to freshen them up. Or just sprinkle some in your shoes, leave it in until the next time you run, and shake it out into the sink before you put them on. You can wash it down the sink to freshen it, too.

$95

Insoles for your running style and weight You need a quality pair of insoles for the shoes. Do NOT use the ones that come with ANY running shoe. They’re meant to be disposed. Pay attention to the weight designation for the insoles. I had to buy men’s insoles!

$20

Power Sox Good quality socks to provide cushioning, sweat wicking, and blister prevention. (I haven’t had a blister yet with these socks, knock on wood.)

$12

Anita Extreme Control sports bra #5527 If you’re a large-busted woman like I am, you need the industrial-strength running bra, which does not come cheaply, and not usually sold in stores.

$67

Fila Women’s Toning Resistance (compression) shorts If you’re “plus sized” like I am (in workout wear, that means any body part larger than a 12), you also need to search the Internet to find running clothes that fit you (or you can wear men’s running clothes until you lose weight).

$35

Garmin FR70 Women’s black/pink If you’re obsessive like Bill, or if you’re related in any way to a guy like Bill, you need a Garmin sport watch to prove that you actually did run, how far/long you ran, what your heart rate was, what your pace is, etc. This is Garmin’s least expensive model and is also waterproof and comes with a heart monitor. (Garmin uses the ANT+ wireless protocol. I already had a Polar, which uses Bluetooth, and works with my phone. Why can’t we all just get along??)

$130

Garmin Foot Pod Tracks my pace when I walk on the treadmill. (Fits in the space under the left insole in Nike+ shoes.)

$70

MP3 player It’s much easier if you get music with a speedy BPM to keep you moving! And Bluetooth so you don’t have cords dangling all over the place. I’ve been using my son’s old iTouch with a cracked screen, but will replace it soon with a Creative ZEN Style M300 16 GB MP3 with additional 32 GB available through microSD card, and Bluetooth.

$90

Jabra Sport Bluetooth Headset Best Bluetooth headset I’ve tried (out of numerous). This one is “military grade” and water (sweat resistant). I have to have the MP3 player/phone on my right side; otherwise, it cuts in and out when I’m walking/running.

$80

Nathan Intensity Race Vest If you’re running further than a mile, you’ll need some sort of water delivery system. In races, they always have water stations, but when you’re training, you have to carry your own. Bill has a belt with water bottles attached, but I decided to try a “running vest” with a water pack in it. The vest has a zippered pocket in the front for keys, ID, Gu packs, etc, and another open pocket for your music player. There is a bigger pocket in the back where I suppose you could put some after-running things, but I’ve never used it.

$70

That’s a lot of money. And you probably want 2 pair of your running shoes, 2 bras, more than one set of workout clothes, etc., so, “cheap” I think not. And after you’ve added the price of races, transportation and lodging for out-of-town races, buying running stuff at the expo before the race, sight seeing at the place where you’re running (if it’s out of town), etc. that’s not cheap.

Of course, you can just put on your good ol’ sneakers and some comfortable clothes, grab the dog and his leash, and take a hike around your neighborhood. As long as you’re moving, that’s what counts.

New Year’s Resolutions

Update, September 23, 2012: 

I had a slow start, but since March of this year I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost, for a total, so far, of almost 20 pounds and 1.5 pants sizes. (Depending on the clothing designers; the high-end pants tend to be cut bigger than department store clothes.) I “run” M-W-F each week and am up to 4 miles at a 12-minute pace. My husband nagged encouraged me to sign up for the Disney World half marathon coming up in mid-January. I haven’t officially started training for that yet, but you have to walk before you can run, right? I’ve also run two 5K races this year. In the first one, I came in first–there was one other woman in the race in my age bracket. In the second one, there were a lot of women my age (the run benefited a high school track star who had died), so I didn’t even come close to first, but my time was better. My 5K time (on the treadmill) is faster now that it was then, so I can see that my efforts are paying off.

How have I done it?

About eighty percent of health/weight loss is what you eat. I was using myfitnesspal.com to track what I eat, which also tells me if I’m getting enough of essential nutrients. (I never seem to get enough potassium.) I still go back to it now and then to see how I’m doing, but I HATE tracking every morsel I put into my mouth. But if you’re eating without thought and you’re still the mayor of your couch, you’re not going to lose much, are you? So I wake up at 5:30-ish every day (which, yes, was very hard to do at first), even on days I don’t run, and then 3 days per week I get on the treadmill. I started out with the treadmill set on “2” and forced myself to do that for 30-45 minutes. I eventually eased the setting up to 3 and then 4 and now, on occasion, I sprint with it set on 5–without being sore the next day.

I think that’s one of the keys–don’t follow the “no pain, no gain” myth. It might take a little longer, but you’re less likely to have to take a month or two off to heal torn muscles, etc. Instead, throttle down the exercise so that you are in the fat-burning zone without hurting yourself. If that’s a casual walk around the block after dinner with the dogs, that’s still better that sitting in your “butt groove” on the couch, nursing a family-sized bag of pretzels! But don’t be afraid to challenge your body and your lungs by stepping it up a bit every other week or so. You won’t know for sure if you can do it if you don’t try. If you can’t do it this week, try again next week.

Give yourself a break!

Also, it’s important to give yourself a rest day. That’s why I only run every other day. Yesterday (Saturday), I rode my bike behind my husband as he went on his 13-mile “long run” for this week. (He’s training for a marathon.) Not only did my legs need a break from Friday’s run, but biking uses different muscles (or at least uses them differently). Plus the ground was wet and soft in some places and very rocky in others, making it harder to to pedal. AND I ran out of water! My husband actually PUSHED my bike in some places. My butt, arms, shoulders, and neck are sore, but legs seem OK today. The hardest part (besides pedaling!) was keeping the bike upright on the very bumpy, muddy ride–which is why my arms, shoulders, and neck are sore. Nope, a 2-hour mountain bike ride the day after a 4-mile run is not a good idea for my body. Not yet, anyway.


My 2012 New Year’s Resolution

Every year for the past 25-ish, my New Year’s Resolution has been to “get healthy.” Anyone who knows anything about making goals would say that “get healthy” is too broad of a goal. For you to have any chance at achieving a goal, it has to be broken down into smaller, manageable goals. So this year, my main goal/resolution is to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Which still is probably too broad. Maybe it should be, “Get out of bed every morning at 6 am, put on workout clothes and shoes, and get on the treadmill (in the winter, when it’s still dark at 6 am) or take the dogs for a walk.”

Why running?

My husband, Bill, started running 2 years ago. He weighed about 230 pounds. Now he weighs about 160. He did that by running. He used myfitnesspal.com to track his diet. He discovered that he never eats enough because he’s always running! He’s run 3 marathons and 14 half marathons, so he’s always training for something. I often follow along on my bike, but 8 mph isn’t much of an aerobic workout. (The muscles of my legs and butt get a workout peddling up hills, though. If you don’t believe me, try it. Park your bike at the bottom of a steep hill, then peddle up the hill.) Obviously, running has worked out well for him. Not only has he lost fat, he also lowered his total cholesterol, raised his “good” cholesterol, lowered his triglycerides, lowered his blood pressure, and so on. In other words, he “got healthy.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching what I eat (mostly), cutting simple carbs, eating more fruits, vegetables, salads, etc., and trying to exercise enough to actually raise my heart rate and burn some fat. But that’s not enough. After a woman gets to “a certain age,” her metabolism slows down, especially if she took a 25-year break from exercise and got a desk job! To get the metabolism started up again, I need to run.

Learning to run again

No one who hasn’t run for 25 years is going to run a marathon. Or even a 5K. First you have to walk. And walk. And walk. That takes time and is usually quite boring, unless you live near a nice state park or a beach board walk, which I don’t. Getting motivated to walk for 30 minutes at 6 am when I’d rather sleep for 30 more minutes is difficult. To help with that, I bought Run Your Butt Off! a book from the editors of Runner’s World magazine. In Run Your Butt Off!, Sarah Lorge Butler, Leslie Bonci, and Budd Coates take you from not running at all to running 30 minutes over 12 “stages.” (Not 12 weeks, because each stage might take you more or less than a week.)

In the first stage, you just walk non-stop for 30 minutes. If you can do that 3 or 4 times in a week, you’re ready for the next stage, which is walking for 4 minutes, then running for 1 minute, and repeating that four more times. In each subsequent stage, you walk less and run more (2 minutes, then 3, and so on), until the final stage in which you run non-stop for 30 minutes. They offer helpful advice for both weight loss and running, and “coach” you through each stage. Just reading the first few chapters is motivating and puts you in the “get healthy” mindset.

Finding the time to run

In the first chapter of Run Your Butt Off! they discuss the number one reason people don’t exercise regularly—no time! The author writes, “You don’t blow off going to work every morning, nor should you skip your exercise appointment.” That’s true—but I won’t get fired if I don’t exercise. (However, studies show that healthy, attractive people tend to get and keep jobs more than unhealthy and unattractive people. Not fair, but true.) The running coach in the book, Budd, comments that it drives him crazy when the parents at his son’s gym practice complain about not having time. He runs while his son is practicing and says, “If you’ve been sitting here for an hour, you have time to run!” He has the same mentality as my husband—“my run is more important than watching my son practice.” I never enjoyed sitting out in a field watching my sons’ soccer practice, but I know they appreciated my being there. Most moms can relate to this excuse, and instead we try to fit exercise into our time (as if we have any!), not our family’s time. And if that means getting up an hour earlier, then that’s what we have to do.

In conclusion…

I’m struggling with whether I want to post “before” pics and measurements—I wouldn’t want to gross you out and scare you off! Over the next 12 weeks, check in here with my blog now and then to see how I’m doing (and “Like” or “+1” me to up my stats!). Maybe I’ll post pics and measurements. Maybe I’ll post some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that might help you “get healthy,” too. Maybe in 2012 I’ll be running in the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon! (OK, maybe just the Family Fun Run.)