Ignoring Chronic Pain

Stop the pain

 

Last September, I noticed some pain in my right Achilles tendon. I had just finished a long drive and really thought it was related to that. I was in the midst of training to run a half marathon at the Dallas Marathon and really didn’t have time for an injury. I taped it and kept to my training schedule, secretly praying it wouldn’t get worse. There were days when I hardly noticed it, and days when it was screaming at me, but I did finish training and ran the half. After that race, I decided to take a break and see if it would heal on its own. I had replaced running with biking and that seemed to prevent it from getting worse. Every so often I would feel the twinge. I joined Orange Theory Fitness in June and one day on the treadmill, I was in terrible pain. So, 10 months after I first noticed the pain, I finally decided to get it checked out.

I went to see the ortho who had treated me for another ankle injury and a hip injury. I don’t think he was surprised to see me. Truthfully, running has been so hard on my body.  Every time I train for a half marathon, I end up in his office.  The x-ray showed a bone spur at the top of the heel bone. Apparently this was causing the tendonitis. I was fitted for a heel cup, given some steroids and scheduled for physical therapy.  The heel cup provided immediate relief.  It raised the heel ever so slightly and that released the tension on the tendon. It felt immediately better.

Part of me knows I ignored it because I didn’t want to stop training for the half. I was training with a good friend and it was going to be her first half marathon. I didn’t want to let her down, and deep down I think I knew it would be my last half marathon. After the race, I kept thinking that it would get better if I just rested it. As long as I wasn’t doing anything that caused direct impact to the heel, it was tolerable. I am still in treatment, so not sure how this story ends. But looking back, I really wish I would have gone to see him last fall. The heel cup itself has provided so much relief.

Are you ignoring chronic pain? Get it checked out!

JA

Do you make time for yourself?

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Birthdays often cause us to reflect on our lives. Having just celebrated a birthday, I found myself doing just that, looking back at the past year. While it was truly a wonderful year full of so many blessings, I found myself wondering if I had ever stopped and gave myself time to breath.

Transitioning from a job in corporate America to one where I set my own schedule, has allowed me to do so more things with my friends, at church and at my son’s school. There are pros and cons to that. I love the flexibility, but it leads me to over-commit. I end up cramming so much into the day, that I am practically filling every hour with something. I have a hard time saying ‘no’ when people invite me to social or volunteer activities. Between my work responsibilities, volunteer opportunities, social activities, personal fitness and my family, I find that I am not allowing myself any ‘me time’.

To be honest, the first thing to go when I am strapped for time, is my own workout. This really needs to be in my top 3 to keep every day, family, faith (my own spiritual growth) and fitness. This week, my son is in a karate camp. Due to his drop off and pick up times, it has limited my availability. It’s also my ‘off’ week for teaching my evening boot camp.  I suddenly find myself with wide open windows of time on my calendar! It’s a great opportunity to plan my week, get back into my routine of eating properly and exercising regularly. I do so much better when I have a planned routine. I really can’t believe how little I have been focusing on my diet and exercise. Well, my tight pants remind me every day. It’s time to get back to it!  I have had some health challenges this past couple of weeks, likely due to my crazy schedule. This will require me to ease back into my fitness routine. I will plan for walks or bike rides until I am feeling better, then will increase the intensity.

Many people look at the start of the calendar year to make changes. I have not ever been one to make resolutions, as I think they can be a let down. However,  I am going to use the first week of my 48th year to focus on getting back to a healthier me.  It will get challenging as each week passes, but I will plan my meals, schedule my workouts and scale back on other commitments, as needed. It’s time for a change!

So my friends, if you are finding yourself in a similar situation, please take the time to step back and reevaluate. Make your diet, exercise and sleep a priority. Take care of your body, it’s the only one you have!

JA

Fitness Challenges – Inspiring a Lifestyle Change

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I think at one time or another, we have all had a hard time finding the motivation to exercise and eat right. With the start of the new year, I saw all kinds of challenges popping up all over social media. There are diet challenges, cleansing challenges, push-up challenges, squat challenges, consistent workout challenges, etc. If you can think of it, you can probably find a challenge for it. These challenges are meant to spark motivation, help with accountability and to improve the focus area of the challenge. I do love a good challenge, so I will admit to having done the squat and push-up challenges in the past.  What challenges have you tried? Did it motivate you? Did it bring about a lifestyle change that you could sustain?

This past week, I met with several of my fitness instructor friends to come up with a new fitness challenge for our mothers who are part of Baby Boot Camp. We all agreed that we wanted the challenge to be all encompassing. We wanted it to help with their overall wellness, inspiring a lifestyle change, not just a temporary one.  We came up with an 8 week healthy lifestyle challenge that addressing fitness, diet, sleep, me time, family time, accountability and much more. We created a point based system where members could earn points for activities that involved all aspects of living a healthy lifestyle. While the challenge will address the common improvement areas such as eating better and exercise, it also will encourage success in other areas as well. As mothers, we all need time to pamper ourselves, we need time to encourage our families to get healthy, and we need the companionship and motivation of other mothers in our same situation. I LOVE THIS CHALLENGE! These moms will earn points through exercise progressions, pop up challenges, weekly challenges, mini seminars, accountability, attending classes, setting goals, and more. I believe this type of program will not only help in the short term, but in the long term in helping these mothers create and maintain healthy habits for a lifetime.

Would this motivate you? I am so motivated for this program to start. I can’t wait to see the changes taking place over the coming months in these mothers. My mission with this blog is to inspire people to embrace a healthy life. This challenge fits right into this mission.  If you are living in the Frisco area, please check it out. It would be beneficial for any fitness level, as it is not just focusing on how many push-ups you can do! It is going to encourage you to make changes in many different aspects of your life. Please check out the link above, or email me at Jennifer.alameda@embracingahealthylife.com for more information.

 

-JA

 

Accountability

accountability

I came across some interesting stats about goals and accountability from the American Society of Training and Development.

The probability of achieving a goal is:

  • 10% when you think of a goal
  • 40% when you  make the decision to pursue a goal
  • 50% when you develop a plan on how to achieve your goal
  • 65% when you make a commitment to someone else that you will follow the plan
  • 95% when you have an accountability appointment  with this person.

I know when it came to training for my half marathons, having running buddies was so important. When its 30 degrees and lightly raining, you may opt to stay in bed and skip your run. However, when you know your training partners are waiting for you, somehow you find away to get yourself up and moving. We all had decided to train together. We had a set training plan and schedule. We met weekly for our long runs. If I had to run 10 miles on my own, I may have found 10 excuses to skip the run that week.  Meeting up with my group ensured I kept to the schedule and ultimately allowed me to meet my goal.

Accountability partners would be helpful in any diet or fitness program. I know I am more likely to get to boot camp class if I know my friends will be there. I hadn’t consider this approach for other areas of my life, but I could see the benefits of having someone keep me accountable with any goals I might set.

Do you have an accountability partner? When has it worked or not worked for you? Email me your thoughts and I may use them in a future post.

-JA

*I came across these stats while reading Made to Crave, by Lysa Terkeurst.

 

 

New Year, New Resolutions? Not for Me.

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Happy 2016! Yes, it’s the beginning of another year. Along with that, so many people make new years resolutions. I recently took a poll on my personal Facebook page asking what kinds of resolutions were being made. Not many people admitted to making them. The ones that did, said they were working on organization, less screen time, more service time, etc. No one mentioned health and wellness, yet most everyone I have spoken to, is making some kind of health or fitness resolution. While I always encourage everyone to focus on their health and fitness, I do not encourage people to make weight loss resolutions. While it may work for some, for others it can have the reverse effect.

I no longer make resolutions. My experience is that it generally set me up for a big let down and feeling defeated. I understand why people do it, but to try and implement a huge life change all at once at the beginning of the year is too much pressure.  When I had my weight loss success, I started in March and it was a phased approach. I did not make huge changes across the board.  There are some things I do want to focus on this year, but I am not calling them resolutions. I am approaching them as simple lifestyle changes and I am certainly not trying to do them all at once. My tendency is to over-commit. I sign up for everything, agree to take on more than I can handle,  and then I am running around stressed. After a long conversation with my husband who is generally on the receiving end of my stress, we came up with a plan on how to better manager my commitments. I have prioritized them and then have made decisions on how much time I can devote to each per week, etc. I am not giving anything up, just paring it back. We are into the 2nd week of using this method and so far, I do not feel overwhelmed.  My new scheduled allows me some downtime each day. This is critical for me to keep from becoming overwhelmed.  The biggest adjustment for me will be learning to say ‘no’ to some things. It is difficult for me to do that, but that is exactly how I get over committed!

So, enough about my changes. Let’s talk about yours. Are you looking to make lifestyle changes with your diet and exercise? If so, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid burn out. Don’t make all the changes at once. Suddenly restricting your diet and increasing your exercise all at once, can be overwhelming. Start with one change. Work on it for a week, then add in the other. For example, this week focus on getting up from your desk or couch and walking more. Next week, add in a few dietary changes while you increase your walking.
  • Make small goals.  Rather than say, ‘I want to lose 10 pounds this month’, commit to making one change that doesn’t involve the scale, like walking 3 days a week. As you successfully hit each goal, you will begin to see changes in yourself and on the scale. Those little successes will keep you going. This is a healthier approach than throwing you hands up and quitting because you were not able to sustain all the HUGE changes you implemented at once. Slow and steady….
  • Find a buddy to help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. I like using the My Fitness Pal app with my friends. It help keeps me accountable and I enjoy the positive encouragement I received from my friends.
  • Choose an exercise program that suits your fitness level. If you are just starting out, a PiYo class may not be the best choice. Start with biking, walking, or a beginners Yoga or boot camp class. Build from there. As you need more, find new challenging programs that keep it fresh for you.
  • Not sure what is best for you? Consult with a trainer for some ideas, but remember to speak to your doctor before starting any new program.

I want to help you be successful. Send me an email with what type of changes you are looking for, and let me help you come up with a reasonable plan to get you going!

 

JA

 

 

Choosing the Right Shoe

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If you have been into an athletic store lately, you might have found yourself overwhelmed by all the options. There are several brands, styles and colors. I will be honest, in the past, I would buy the shoes that had a cool color scheme. I didn’t care if they were a trail shoe, a cross training shoe, a running shoe or a walking shoe. If I liked how it looked and it was the right price, I bought it. When I took up running, my trainer went over the importance of having the right shoe and being properly fitted for it. What? I had no idea! I soon learned that each shoe style has a different purpose, and it mattered.

Running shoes: designed for a forward motion and provide extra cushioning for the repetitive pounding motion that runners experience with each stride.

Cross training shoes: designed for lateral or side to side motion, flexible sole to help the floor during workouts such as aerobics or zumba.

Walking shoes: designed with a thicker heel and flexible sole to aid in the initial heel strike that takes place when walking (heel-to-toe).

Trail shoes: designed to help grip dirt, provide extra protection against rocks and often have extra protection around the toes.

Now that we covered a few of the types of shoes, how do you get the right fit? Some athletic stores, such as Run On and Luke’s Locker, have trained specialist to help you. For example, if you need a running shoe, the staff will observe your run to determine the type of gait you have, and then recommend different shoes that suit your foot. They should bring you various pairs to try on. At that point, you need to take for a test run around the store or on the pavement to see how they feel. In all likelihood, you may not really know that you have the perfect shoe until you take them for a run. Most of these types of specialty stores have a 30 day return policy.

Two training seasons ago, I switched brands. I ran in the new brand for a month and ended up returning them on the 30th day because my toes were repeatedly numb. I was so grateful I could exchange them for a different shoe. I then went on to run in Brooks, which for me are the right shoe. Everyone’s foot is different, so other brands such as Asics, New Balance or Altra may be the right fit for you. One other thing I learned through this process is that I needed a half -size larger running shoe than I wear in a dress shoe. This is common. Some people end up in a shoe that is one full size larger. Also, if you have recently had a baby, then your shoe size may have changed.

So in summary… don’t just choose the cute shoe! Make sure you are wearing the one for the activity you are performing. If you have a specialty store in the area, ask a professional to analyze your gait and help you pick a shoe that is best suited for you. If you experience any pain or numbness, the shoe isn’t the right one. Keep your shoes updated, especially running shoes. They tend to wear out after 6 months or between 400-500 miles.

-JA

To Roll or Not to Roll? Foam Rolling

Foamrollers

 

 

Are you using a foam roller? If not, hopefully this post will encourage you to give it a try. Last year when I started a weight training program, my trainer introduced me to foam rolling. I only knew what I heard about if from runners in my circle, but I had not seen it done, nor did I understand the benefits. He went through a lengthy explanation and demonstration. I never understood the saying ‘it hurts so good’ until I gave it a try. Each day when I came into the gym, we were to spend 15 minutes warming up, with foam rolling included. If you are not familiar with it, the foam roller is a cylinder tube used in a way to give deep tissue massage to your muscles, known as self- myofascial release. The muscles are rolled back and forth over the roller 10-15 times. While it can be used in many ways such as relieving chronic pain and rehabilitation, I primarily was trained to use it in a preventative way. I was not walking around with pain in my quads or hamstrings, but when I was foam rolling, I found my ‘hot spots’ or trigger points that would hurt when the pressure was applied from the roller. After allowing the pressure to remain isolated to the hot spot, the pain eventually would subside, breaking up/releasing the ‘knot’ in the muscle. With regular use, the hot spots became fewer and my muscles had increased flexibility. This was incredibly important for me as my calves, hamstrings and quadriceps were often tight and needed the extra attention.  The foam rolling was especially helpful in the days post workout, keeping muscle soreness to a minimum. While I continue to foam roll as part of my overall fitness program, I have also had times I used it to help relieve  pain from minor muscle injuries.   I had the benefit of having someone teach me how to foam roll, which was important so I did not injure myself. In preparing this post, I did a search and there are many videos and articles with the ‘how tos’ on the foam roller, lacrosse ball and massage balls. Watch a few, consult with your trainer on how best to work it into your fitness program. There are dos and don’ts so please educate yourself before trying it..  You can find foam rollers at most quality sporting good stores and Amazon. They are a variety of types and sizes an will run you about $20.   Go ahead and show those muscles some love. After all, you work them so hard whether it be at boot camp, weight training, running or in every day life.

Check out these links for more information on foam rolling:  ACE Fitness  and Runners World.

Do you have a regular foam rolling routine? Please leave a comment and share your experience.

-JA

 

Why I Use Intervals to Train for a Half Marathon

memphis

Running. It’s a love/hate relationship. I am not always motivated to get out and run, but once I do it, I am so glad I did. It has become somewhat therapeutic for me. I am able to work through so many things as I run. It hasn’t always been that way. Four years ago,  I couldn’t run from my front door to the mailbox. I had no desire to run. If you saw me running, something was terribly wrong and you better start running too. Yet here I am several years later, a runner. As I was going through my fitness transformation, I heard about a 5K training class and I thought about it. I just knew I did not have the cardio vascular endurance to run 3 miles, so I was hesitant. My friend and trainer, Victoria, assured me I would be successful and that I should try it. She explained that it was an interval based program, so I wasn’t expected to run the entire class. I convinced a few friends to join me and off we went. We started with a 30 second jog  and a 1;30 min walk. We did this for about half and hour. I was stunned to see that I could do it. Over the course of 6 weeks, we increased our intervals. It all led up to our goal race and I ran my first 5K. I had walked many 5Ks before, but this was the first time I ran. My sister-in-law, Adrianne, and I ran together, only walking through the water station. We ran the rest of the race. Keep in mind, this was less than 8 weeks from when I started. When we went on to train for our half marathon, we continued the interval training. My trainer explained that running intervals helped reduce the risk of injury to the body and improved recovery time.  To be honest, the idea of running 13.1 miles didn’t really appeal to me. My sweet friend Amy asked me to train with her and other friends for the St Jude’s 2012 Half Marathon in Memphis. She had a personal connection with the hospital and we all joined together to run and raise money for St Jude’s. I barely had completed a 5K, but I wanted to try and train for the half. Interval training had worked for me before, so now I wanted to see if it could get me through half training. I completed my first half marathon in Memphis in 2015  and have gone on to complete 3 more.

Since becoming a fitness instructor, I have also helped coach 5K and half marathon training groups. I enjoy watching the transformation of these non-runners into women who go on to finish half marathons and marathons. I began reading whatever I could find on interval training so I could explain why it reduces the risk of injury and aids in a faster recovery. In my case it is partly psychological. I know that every 3 to 4 minutes, I get a short break. Our group usually runs a 3:1 interval ( run 3 minutes, speed walk 1 minute). At times we have gone to 4;1, but 3:1 is a comfortable fit for me. Interval training has shown to increase cardiovascular efficiency and to increase tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid. This leads to improved performance, greater speed, and endurance. I actually am able to complete a 5K faster when I use intervals than when I run straight through. Interval training also helps avoid injuries associated with overuse.  When training for longer distances, giving the body short breaks is helpful to the joints.

So, if you are one of those people who can’t run 20 yards, interval training may be the right fit for you. I realize that it is not for everyone. However, for those of us who are not natural born runners and want to try, interval based training is a good option. Want more information? Please email me at jennifer.alameda@embracingahealthylife.com. Happy Running!

-JA

Fruit Infused Water

As a part of my journey to a healthier life, I am trying to break myself of the habit of drinking diet soda. I have one soda a day despite knowing that is not good for me.   I like water and I drink a lot of it, but there is something about a soda that satisfies a craving in me.  I have been on a quest to find a replacement for my daily soda. I recently came across a blog with several recipes for infused water. I had never tried  infused water before. Most everyone knows the human body requires adequate water to sustain life. The American College of Sports Medicine says that water is the most essential component of the human body. Not only does it transport nutrients, helps eliminate waste, but it also helps regulate body temperature while exercising. It helps with blood pressure, blood circulation, lubrication of joints and aids in digestion.  Soda does not do any of those things  for me, nor does it provide my body with any needed nutrients. I need more water!

I tried several of the recipes across many blogs and even came up with a few combinations of my own. I finally settled on one combo that has me drinking 32 ounces MORE of water than I was before. It’s so easy too. I slice up an orange and a lime in the morning. I squeeze the juice of one slice of orange in a large glass. I add in 3 more slices of orange, 2 of lime and fill with water 12 ounces of water. I let it sit in the refrigerator while I go through my morning routine.  By then, the flavors have infused the water and I enjoy drinking it so much more than plain water. I do this a couple of times a day and drink this in addition to my normal water intake. I have seen several versions of these infusions in different sizes ( ball jar size to pitchers) using all kinds of fruits and spices. Here is one blog that has a lot of recipes you can try. I hope you find one that appeals to you and results in you drinking more water! This has helped me reduce my soda intake and soon I hope to break the habit completely.

If you have a favorite, please share it in the comments.

-JA

Oatmeal that taste like cookies? I had to try!

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I am always in search of yummy and filling breakfast ideas. One of my favorites is oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon. I add a sliced banana on top after it’s cooked.  When I saw this recipe on Pop Sugar last week , I decided I would try if for breakfast. After all, it says it tastes like cookies.  I mashed up the bananas, added the peanut butter, stirred in the oatmeal, sprinkled it with cinnamon and into the microwave it went. Went I removed it, it didn’t look anything like the picture.  Then again, my meals rarely look like the photo included with the recipe. I added a little milk, stirred it up and gave it a try. The texture was thicker than I expected, but the flavor was pretty good.  I like peanut butter, but  I think next time I would try some other kind of butter or maybe a teaspoon of honey. It was filling and did hold me over until lunch time.   If you try this recipe, comment here and let me know if you think it tasted like cookies, and if it was satisfying.  Do you have a favorite go-to breakfast that keeps you satisfied all morning?