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Wellness at Work

My job requires me to be at my desk all day. I am grateful that my workplace values wellness and has equipped every office with desks that raise to standing height, so I spend much of my day standing.

I found a way to keep myself entertained at work while trying to stay active. I grabbed  four of reams of copy paper and stacked them two up, side-by-side. I am using them for calf raises and for step ups.

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It could be a tad higher for step ups but I risk the paper shifting and me falling down, which would likely be frowned upon by HR in the instance of a workplace injury. I’ve decided I need to purchase a fitness stepper for my office. I have purchased some resistance bands that I intend on using, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Over the next two months I am going to really try to improve the strength in my legs and my cardio capacity for a hiking trip that I have planned in August. I am looking forward to climbing the tallest mountain in Maine, something I have always wanted to do. Once I got my MS diagnosis I knew I needed to make it a priority, while I am doing fine now, the uncertainty of this condition is always at the back of my minds.

 

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Whatever it is, it is working

Today I met with my neurologist to go over my MRI results from a couple of weeks ago. The exam was brief, he poked me in the face with a broken tongue depressor like he normally does, yep still numb, he took some vitals and then we reviewed my scans, which I requested a copy of and I am excited for them to come in.

I truly think the human body and health technology is fascinating. I think about how someone could have discovered the use of a magnet to look at the insides of things and what they were doing when they discovered it, was it by accident, were they trying to do something else, like so many interventions and medicines that have been developed. I’ll have to look it up to satisfy my thirst for knowledge.

The absolutely wonderful news is that my MS has not progressed. The MRI of my brain revealed that there are no new lesions and no worsening lesions. The MRI of my cervical and thoracic spine indicated no lesions still. Part of the report reads that the small subtle lesion seen in the right cerebellar hemisphere is seen, but does seem to be less conspicuous. What does that mean, does it mean that it is healing? Well, maybe or maybe not. It is possible that the lesion was active during my last MRI and is now calm.

Either way, I am happy. I believe that the combination of my healthy eating, exercise and my disease modifying drug, Copaxone is working for me. I am one of the few women who did not have a post-natal flare and I do not need to see my neurologist for another year, unless something changes.

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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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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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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.

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Fitness Friday

I am in a fantastic mood. The sun is shining here in Maine, it’s going to be a nice weekend and I am looking forward to getting outside, maybe some walking, tennis, not sure, but definitely outside.

I am taking a CPR class on Sunday, which I am excited about. This is a pre-requisite to taking my ACE Personal Trainer certification exam. I don’t have to take my exam until this summer, but I’m antsy and I am trying to absorb as much information as possible, I’m ready to get going!

Today’s training at the gym was a bit compromised by the new tattoo on my hip. Squatting was a tad uncomfortable, but as a gymaholic, I couldn’t not go. Friday has traditionally always been a leg and glute day; however, as I’ve realized my upper body is lacking in strength, I am now trying to include some upper body movements in all of my training days.

My Fitness Friday

Legs & Glutes

  • Barbell Squats –  4 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Plie Dumbbell Squats (stand on top of two benches for added depth) – 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Calf raises on a smith machine – 4 sets of 12 reps. I stand on a step platform, these babies burn!

Shoulders

  • Smith Machine Military Press  – 3 sets of 6 reps. I use the smith machine because I don’t have a spotter and I don’t want to drop the barbell on my face. (I’m clumsy like that)
  • Upright Barbell Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press  – I love to do drop sets with this exercise. I lift until failure and then I drop the weight 5 pounds and immediately lift to failure again. This really sets my shoulders on fire.
  • Finally, I finish with an nice isolation exercise, the Front Plate Raise , 4 sets or 10.

When I’m done, lifting my arms above my head is a chore. I cap off the morning with a 15 minute walk at a fast pace on the treadmill.

Happy Friday everyone, stay on track this weekend with your fitness goals, get out and move!

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Healthy Lifestyle Assessment

The company I work for offers a yearly Healthy Lifestyle Assessment for the employees. I wouldn’t normally participate in this sort of activity for a multitude of reasons, but this year I decided to only because there is financial incentive involved. Since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, there are financial incentives for companies to have wellness programs for their employees which includes some sort of assessment.

The assessment included an analysis of my blood for cholesterol levels, A1C (checking for diabetes), weight and blood pressure. I also filled out a survey of lifestyle habits. All of my bio-metrics were within healthy ranges but the survey indicated some risk. The survey is based on the eating habits from ChooseMyPlate.gov, which gives you recommendations on how much fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy and grains you should eat in a day based on your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity. For example; it has calculated my daily calorie intake as 2400. What!!? It has suggested that the majority of my calories come from grains, no no no!

According to my healthy lifestyle assessment I eat the right amount of vegetables, not enough fruit, dairy or grains and too much protein! Is there such a thing as too much protein when you are bodybuilding?

I am not a nutritional expert, so I’ll throw that disclaimer out there, but I would have a hard time recommending ChooseMyPlate as the source of information on how one should eat for a healthy lifestyle. What if you’re gluten free, what if you are dairy free; like so many of us MSers are?

In my opinion the basics to a healthy diet are eating fresh whole foods and avoiding packaged processed foods as much as possible. I eat a diet of 80/20, meaning 80% of my foods come from whole foods such as vegetables lean proteins (fish, chicken) and 20% from processed sources, such as a bagel here and there. There are so many articles and studies on diet it can be overwhelming, you have to do your own research, experiment and come to your own conclusion on what diet works best for your health and lifestyle.

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Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle

The weather in Maine is starting to improve, with temperatures reaching the 60’s briefly this week. I cannot wait to get outside and get active again. The winter and the darkness is really hard on me and I am aching for some sunshine.

I have to add in some more cardiovascular exercise to my training, reluctantly, I might add. For the most part I find it boring and I’d rather stick to weight training. Unless you are doing a circuit routine, weight training is anaerobic, meaning it uses a different energy system and does not work to improve the body’s cardiovascular health.

Cardio is necessary and has many benefits. Your heart is a muscle and needs to be worked just like the rest of your muscles in order to improve and maintain it’s capabilities. Getting your heart pumping with cardiovascular exercise also helps increase your lung capacity. Oxygen is the ingredient muscles use to convert carbohydrates and fat into energy, thus burning calories. 

The key is finding an activity that will get your heart pumping that you will actually enjoy. Last year I took up tennis for the first time (I’m terrible at it but it get’s my heart going). This year I am going to start biking a couple of days a week. Who know’s maybe I’ll enjoy it so much I’ll participate in Bike MS this year!

 

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MS Awareness Week

March is MS Awareness Month – and this week is MS Awareness Week, still not sure why or how there is a month and a week and then there is a World MS Day, which is later in May, regardless we have a lot of days to spread awareness about Multiple Sclerosis.

Does it matter? Does it make a difference? If more people are aware, will more people donate to support research, to support finding the cure? Scientists don’t even know what causes it yet, how can you cure something that you don’t know the cause of?

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I love these images supporting the cure and awareness, I do. I love making people aware of the cause, I have hope and strength and courage; however, I don’t think a cure is realistic – in all honesty. This isn’t meant to be negative, just a realistic assumption on my part.

Think of the serious dent in the pharmaceutical companies pockets if we were all cured and no longer needed these disease modifying drugs, that cost thousands of dollars a month. Yes thousands.

So here is my message for awareness for this week. Living with Multiple Sclerosis and treating it, is expensive! I am so thankful for insurance because without, it would cost me over $5,000.00 a month to take Copaxone. Does it work? I don’t know. I haven’t had any major flare ups in the past two years, just some minor, I have an MRI scheduled next month and we’ll see what the outcome is then.

I’m not going to hold out for a cure, I don’t think there will be one in my lifetime. I am going to learn to adapt and live my best life possible.