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MS & MRI’s

Today I had my “annual” MRI to check on the status of my Multiple Sclerosis. I put annual in parentheses because  this is actually my first MRI since my initial diagnosis two years ago. I carried a baby as a surrogate for some lovely friends of mine and during that time I was not taking my Copaxone and I didn’t have any relapses during my pregnancy so my neurologist felt no real need to do one.

It has been almost a year since the pregnancy and still no relapse.  I’ve been back on Copaxone since then and I am still feeling stable. I scheduled the MRI because I do want to check to see where things are. Sometimes in a fantasy world I imagine my doctor telling me it was a mistake and I never had MS to begin with and I don’t have MS now, but considering I’ve had a second opinion and all I am pretty sure that wont happen, then I’d have to explain all the weird things that happen in my body.

Now I wait until I have my appointment with my neurologist. I am excited and looking forward to it. I’m hoping for good news, no new lesions, even better news, healed lesions.

 

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Not drinking enough…water

water

I am not drinking enough water and I am irritated with myself for it. I have no excuse good excuse for not drinking enough, in fact my excuse is pretty lame. Typically I will buy a 2.5 gallon container of water for my office, which I consume all in one week. For some reason I just can’t seem to remember to buy the water. Instead I have been getting my water from the kitchen at work. The problem with that is that I am a bit of a water snob and it doesn’t taste well, also it involves having to refill often, since I drink a lot, which means interrupting whatever I am doing on to go get water. This should be a good thing right, I should be getting up from my desk and moving. Still, I want my water more accessible.

I have found myself having only 3 or 4 cups a day, which is so much less that I am used to and what I think my body needs. I know there is that old guideline out there that says drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day. I don’t think that is universal for everyone, just my opinion. Some people need more, some people need less. I know I need more. I can tell when I am not drinking enough water. I start to get a headache, my skin feels dry and itchy and I actually feel lethargic.

Water has so many crucial benefits, if it is not already a priority in your life it should be. Drinking enough water helps the body maintain its fluid balance, which helps transport nutrients, regulate body temperature, digest food, stave off hunger and flush toxins from the body. It’s also important when hitting the gym because muscles lose water when they are worked, which causes them to become tired. Drinking plenty can help keep up the desired intensity of the workouts.

 

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New, new, new

I’ve recently moved and there is a gym that is close to my house. Close enough that I could walk or ride my bike, if it weren’t so cold! So far April has been colder than March here in Maine. I am going to the YMCA campus closest to my house instead of my regular YMCA location. There are pro’s and con’s to doing this.

The biggest plus is that I can finish my workout and go home and shower in my own warm bathroom (those locker rooms are always so cold!). The other upside is when it is warmer I look forward to riding my bike there.

Now for the downsides, bigger gym, more people. My old location usually had one or two other people I had to work around. We all pretty much knew each others routines and worked quietly around each other. Now I need to be prepared to change up my routine on the spot if I can’t get what I want. This gym also has different equipment, it is newer and nicer, which is great but I have to learn this equipment and again make some adjustments. They don’t have a lying leg curl machine so I’ll have to find an alternative to that one.

Overall, it is a great change. Making adjustments is sometimes necessary and welcome, not only in fitness and health, but life in general.

 

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Happy MS Anniversary

It is my two year MS Anniversary today – gosh where do I begin. I have come a long way.

Going in to meet with my neurologist for the first time two years ago, I already knew he was going to say that I have Multiple Sclerosis. It had been nearly two months since my first trip to the doctor. Many theories and tests later the MRI showed that I have lesions consistent with a demyelinating disease. That was followed up by a lumbar puncture , blood work and the appointment with the neurologist.

I remember feeling a HUGE sense of relief when he confirmed that I have MS. The theory (my own thought) that I had a brain tumor had already been ruled out, I had no idea what was wrong with me and I was beginning to think that I was crazy and that it was all in my head.

Then it all made sense! For years I had weird unexplained sensations that I just chalked up as nothing. I was told by doctors that my vertigo was caused by allergies, that the tingling in my arm was carpal tunnel, or a pinched nerve. The weird muscle twitches, the jabbing sensation in my back the extreme exhaustion, the numbness in my face, there is a reason…finally an answer.

Then I wanted to know why. What did I do to cause this? Something I ate? Something I drank, smoked? Is it genetic, do I need to worry about my kids having to deal with this? So many overwhelming thoughts in my head.

Over the next few months I read and researched and experimented. I experimented with supplements and I tried different diets, AIP and Paleo, which were too restrictive to me. I decided I just didn’t want to live like that. Instead I’ve opted to just live a healthy lifestyle as much as possible, while enjoying my quality of life. I’m not going to eliminate gluten, dairy, or wine (definitely not!) from my diet. I am going to eat healthy whole foods, the majority of the time and continue strength training. I do take several supplements and a disease modifying drug, it’s working until it doesn’t and then I’ll re-evaluate.

In many ways I am thankful for Multiple Sclerosis, as odd as it may seem to say. It has taught me a lot. I have learned that I am way stronger than I ever thought. Finding my strength has motivated me to help others find their strength. I’m going to live my best life and make choices for me. Yes, even if that means being a little selfish. Life is so short.

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Bodybuilding and de-loading

De-loading is a term that I’ve read a lot about in various bodybuilding and fitness magazines. De-loading is a planned reduction in volume or intensity of your workouts, usually for one week. The purpose is to allow the body to dissipate fatigue and allow you to recover. I’ve learned that de-loading is valuable tool to have in my routine because weight training also puts stress on the joints, ligaments, connective tissues, and the central nervous system (aka where my MS lives).

Incorporating this into your schedule can be done in different ways.

  • Continue with your normal routine and normal volume (sets & reps) but reduce the weight you use by about half of what you normally use.
  • Use the same weight as you normally would, but drop your total volume (less sets & reps).
  • Decrease your lifting and increase your cardio
  • Take a week off completely

Normally I just take a week off, usually planned around vacations. This week I am on an unplanned de-load. I had every intention of continuing with my training this week; however, I have a new schedule with my children and I haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate my training days into this schedule. I also haven’t actually taken a week off since maybe Christmas, or it could have been my vacation in September, I don’t remember.

I feel so much guilt for taking the week off. I feel like my muscles are slowly deteriorating, an exaggeration, yes.

I know that I need to take time and listen to my body and enjoy some rest and healing, from the physical stress I put my body through and the emotional and mental stresses of life.

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Survey Says

I just read an interesting article  regarding a survey of how MS patients warrior’s perceive diet, exercise and drug treatments. It shows weight training as the least cited exercise routine among MSers.

Exercise routine

At first I was really surprised by this statistic until I got to thinking about it a little more. Everyone’s MS is different and everyone has different abilities, yet I wonder how many think that it is impossible. I just KNOW there is a way to modify and substitute exercises to meet the abilities of each individual.

As the article states there are multiple benefits to weight training. Maintaining muscle tone will help reduce weakness, improve strength, decrease fatigue and depression.

A strong body is a strong mind.

I hope that bottom bar on that graph grows and I look forward to having a part in helping others find their abilities.

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Not so Fit Friday

I am not on top of my game this week. I’ve been in transition lately with moving to a new house and other things and my nutrition has suffered greatly. I am actually craving veggies and some normalcy back in my schedule, which is still yet to be fully determined.

I have been eating, what I would consider to be junk food all week, not getting enough protein and carbohydrates at the right times and not getting enough sleep. Let me tell you I noticed in the gym today. Everything felt heavier! I felt weak and tired.

In some ways this is a good lesson. Although the upheaval in my schedule is necessary this week, it reminds me just how important proper nutrition and sleep is for my physical and mental health as well as my level of fitness.

Next week I start fresh.

 

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Checking Your Form

I had a video that I wanted to share of yesterday’s Deadlift session; however, the lighting is really bad and the quality is low and well I’ve determined I need someone to follow me around the gym each day and video my lifts.

All kidding aside though, I don’t just take video because I enjoy watching myself, or because I want to share it on social media, I use it as a tool for checking and analyzing my form.

I’ve studied various bodybuilding and exercise videos over the past year and while I think I perform every exercise correctly, watching the videos is extremely helpful to see where I might need work.

Those who train with a partner have the benefit of getting on the spot critique on what they should be doing (hopefully the partner is aware of the actual mechanics) and they can help them get corrected right away. Proper form is very important when strength training for several reasons, one you reduce the chance for injury and two you want to ensure that you are actually working the desired muscle group.

My favorite website for studying proper form is bodybuilding.com. They have so many videos in their exercise database that are helpful when you are just starting out, or need to revisit when you discover your are not lifting properly.

Get detailed instructions on Barbell Deadlift. Learn correct technique with their Barbell Deadlift video, photos, tips and reviews.: Bodybuilding.com – Barbell Deadlift 

 

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Never Miss a Monday

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When I first started my fitness journey, I saw these memes all over the Internet and they made sense to me. I think they are actually really good  rules to live by  and promises I’ve made to myself, I try really hard to keep them. Sometimes, due to certain circumstances, they must be broken.

This morning I really didn’t feel like going to the gym when my alarm went off. That being said; I don’t feel like it, is not a good enough excuse for me.

Somehow, starting off my work week by pushing myself makes for a good day and a good week. This first day of spring is a snowy mess in Maine today, which can be a little de-motivating, but tomorrow will be better!

Get up, go get those endorphins!

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Knowledge is power

Last evening I attended my first educational MS event. I keep getting notices from the company that makes the drug that I am on and I’ve always overlooked them, for several reasons.

I wasn’t really interested in learning about the drug that I am already on, I didn’t want to hear the sales pitch. Also I often feel like I don’t fit in with other MSers that I have met. Many of them are older and their disease is more advanced and defined than mine. That leads me to many emotions. I feel guilty because I do not have mobility issues. I wonder if they will take me seriously and I also wonder if that will be me in the future. I know, only time will tell and I am going to continue to do everything in my power to avoid getting to that point. I consider myself lucky that there are many treatment options available to me; whereas, only twenty years ago there were none.

The event itself was good. The Neurologist presented facts about MRI, how it works, why it’s done and what exactly they are looking for. He was able to help me understand the difference between a pseudoexacerbation and a true relapse, which I never fully grasped before. A pseudoexacerbation is when you experience a flare up of symptoms that you’ve had before, often brought on by stress, extreme temperatures or a fever. This type of exacerbation usually resolves after rest or a few hours. A relapse on the other hand is new or worsening symptoms lasting longer than 24 hours. I really do not think that I have had a relapse since my diagnosis two years ago, but plenty of pseudoexacerbations. This makes  me think my medication must be working.

I was able to connect with a few people last night in my local community, which is important to me. I plan to attend more of these functions, meet more people and hopefully recruit people for my functional exercise program that I hope to implement in the near future.