Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jillian Michaels says I'm not healthy

"Does this dress make my cholesterol look high?"

I wasn't going to write about this, but it has been rattling around in my head for a while and I think it's better to write about it so I can stop thinking about it.

In a recent episode of her podcast called "Fat Shaming," The Jillian spoke about the self-acceptance movement on social media.  She seemed to go back and forth on the idea of whether she supported it or didn't.  On the one hand, she agreed that we all need to be proud of ourselves and love our bodies in order to affect positive changes in our lives, but she seemed to get stuck on numbers.

She talked about Meghan Tonjes's fight with Instagram, supporting Meghan and saying "she has a great butt." She said she thought Meghan was a size 14 -- I would guess from her photos that she might be a bigger size than that, but I think that Jillian was right, she does have a great butt.

At the same time, Jillian said she'd like to post an inspirational story from this movement, but she hasn't found one to post yet that is "healthy."
"I just want to say, the message is, yes, love yourself no matter where you are at. You are a valuable human being. You are a powerful human being. You are a lovable human being. I don't care what size you are, I don't care how old you are. But, what I can't cosign is people saying it's okay to be unhealthy. . . I can never, and I will never put a stamp of approval on people damaging their health. And I've seen many healthy girls in size 8s! Size 10s! I don't generally see it in 12s, 14s, I have yet to see it."
"How's my blood pressure, J?"
What is unhealthy? She at first talked about things you would learn at the doctor's office: Cholesterol, blood pressure, hormones.  But she also talked about clothing sizes, and looking at pictures on the Internet. I'm not sure how you can diagnose hormonal problems, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc., from looking at a photo.  But if that's possible, instead of going to the doctor's office next time, I'll just send a selfie to Jillian.

I'm being a little facetious here. I'm a Jillian Michaels fan and I always will be -- she's real, she tells it like she sees it, and she isn't afraid to admit when she's made a mistake.  I think she has made one here, but I don't know if she will understand that she has.

First of all, I have seen Jillian in person, and she is teeny-tiny. She probably would be very overweight for her frame if she were wearing a size 12 or 14.  If she is thinking about herself and how she would feel if she were that much larger, I can see where she would project bad health. But a typical plus size model is much taller and built on a larger scale than Jillian.  It is possible to carry extra weight and have great blood pressure and blood sugar levels. I should know.

Jillian, presumably, can't diagnose these things from a photograph, so she is talking about looking healthy, not actual physical health. I wish that she would just admit that, but confusing weight and health is so common that it's hard to blame her. I do it too. I remember running into an old college friend and congratulating him on how healthy he looked (because he was visibly at least 50 pounds thinner than he was in college) and he had just gotten over a very serious illness.

Health is not an on/off variable anyway, and it isn't completely under our control. There are so many parts to it. It's not easy to measure.  You can have great numbers and still have a heart attack a few weeks later (I know people this has happened to).  You can be physically fit and still get cancer.

I'm a little sensitive about this because I grew up in an extended family that put a lot of emphasis on looks and weight, and never really talked about health. I had several relatives who were put on "diet drugs" by doctors in the 70s, which turned out to just be amphetamines.  Another relative got a lot of praise for how good she looked while she had an eating disorder.  Putting the emphasis in the wrong place can be very destructive. It can put a lot of pressure on someone who is otherwise healthy and carrying extra weight, and worse, it can give a false sense of security to the thin and unhealthy.

I get what Jillian is saying -- love yourself as you are but continue to work to improve. She has taken this to heart herself with her "Project Awesome," so I think it's fair for her to ask the same of the rest of us.

I would love to be a size 8/10 and qualify for "healthy" status. Until then, I'm doing what I can.  In this "unhealthy" size 12/14 body, I ran and biked yesterday and did yoga. I'm planning to swim around this lake tonight.

I can't instantly make myself thinner, but I can keep taking care of the body I have. I think Jillian would probably approve.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Note to self: Just track!

Dear Me,

It doesn't help not to track. Even if you are going over your points, being honest with yourself is better than hiding from the truth. You are paying for access to these tools, so use them.

Track by phone, on paper, or snap and track -- just do it!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Photo tour of Mackinac Island

My bike makeover was in preparation for our trip to Mackinac Island earlier this week, and I have to say that a cruiser bike with fenders and a basket is the perfect vehicle for visiting the island.

Fenders are just a cute accessory here on the mainland, but my husband rode a bike with no fenders on a wet day on an island that uses horse-drawn carriages for everything from passenger transport to trash pickup. He ended up with the famous Mackinac Island Fudge Stripe on his back.

Because the first day was so wet, we did as many indoor activities as we could. The $10 Grand Hotel tour was our big activity for the day:

We needed a rest so we stopped in the Cupola Bar and each had a drink -- I chose coffee because I was chilled, and my husband had a Big Porch Ale. Neither of us opted for the $127 anniversary cocktail.

The Grand was not in our budget, so we opted to stay at the Inn at Stonecliffe, which was a pretty strenuous bike ride from downtown.  My bike basket and my tote from Bicyclette were very useful in transporting the things we needed for each day after we left the hotel. 

The first night, we chose to have a less-expensive dinner at a downtown restaurant, which didn't save us much money when we figured in cab rides there and back. Still, it gave us a chance to see the downtown area at night.  Tip:  It's a good idea to give the inexperienced (and often drunk) cyclists plenty of room when crossing the street. 

Luckily, we had better weather on our second day on the island, so we spent most of our day touring. Fort Mackinac, besides all the history and re-enactments, offers stunning views of the island and the water.

Our $12 tickets also included entry to a bunch of smaller museums, including a blacksmith shop.

We also toured The Grand Hotel Stables, which had historical carriages on display. 

And we took a long stair climb up to Arch Rock, which was well worth the walk, although we found at the top that we could have just accessed it from the road at the top of the cliff.

For dinner on our second night, we walked to The Woods, a restaurant operated by The Grand Hotel, which was right next door to where we were staying.

After dinner, we watched the sun go down from the back patio of our hotel. I wanted to wait to see the stars when it got dark, but by 11:00, we were both too tired from our long day to stay up any later.

The next morning we packed up, sent our luggage to the ferry, and did a little shopping and sightseeing. It's interesting to see the consequences of the "no cars" decision.  Almost everyone on the island bikes to work.

Horses transport most things, but we also saw a bike trailer loaded up with furniture and quite a few people pulling hand carts for smaller items (and to clean the streets of the consequences of all the horses). A lot of people have to work very hard to make it possible for vacationers like us and people with summer homes to enjoy a car-free retreat.

We rested for a while near this pretty house, then bought a little fudge, some souvenirs, and got on the ferry for home, a little worse for wear.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Aging and beauty: On praise of 42-year-old-women

It's interesting, this debate about middle-aged women and desirability, because an article that didn't seem all that offensive to me inspired not one, but two angry responses that I also agreed with, though I thought they missed the boat in dealing with the real way we forty-something women feel about our bodies and our looks, whether or not we "should" feel that way.

Sure, the Esquire article focused on women's value as sex objects, but hello, what did you expect in Esquire? A sincere examination of changing gender roles and a call for a new definition of masculinity that wasn't all about conquest?  I suppose that you might also expect that Hustler would put clothes on the women in their magazine, arrange them in non-gynological-exam positions, and ask them about their deep-seated hopes and dreams.  In the context of Esquire, a sincere appreciation that women in their forties are now commonly-accepted sex symbols is exceeding expectations, at least mine.

The truth is that some forty-something women (and beyond) do, in fact, want to still maintain some sense of desirability, even if they are in committed relationships and have no intention or interest in going out with anyone else.  Especially because we still feel so young on the inside, we might not want to be resigned to being past all of that.

At the same time, I don't arrange my life around being pretty like I did at 19.  I'm not expecting to be the center of attention when I walk in the room -- and if I were, I'd figure I had spinach on my teeth or had my dress tucked into my pantyhose.  I do some things to maintain my health and fitness.  These would also, happily enough, would allow me to address many of Lisa Solod's other 8 things.  I feel the truth of Coco Chanel's quote:
“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.”
And to be honest, I also look with surprise at some of the forty-something men and women I know and wonder how we all came to be middle-aged so fast. It's easy to get used to my own aging face because I see it in the mirror every day, but when I see someone I haven't seen in years, I see the passage of time more clearly.  I never understood my parents and aunts and uncles and their talk about how time flies when I was a teenager who thought that high school's tortures would never end.

Is it anti-feminist to admit that I hoped that I could somehow manage stay young and beautiful forever? All I can do now is try to expand my own definition of beauty, and I'm not surprised that it's hard for Esquire writers, because it isn't easy for me either.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Injury prevention for triathletes: An interview with physical therapist Robert Gillanders (PT, DPT, OCS)

During to a conversation with Erin Wendel from the American Physical Therapy Association (a Fitbloggin' sponsor), I was offered an opportunity to do an interview with Robert Gillanders, who works with runners and triathletes in his physical therapy practice and is also a speaker, writer, and does other media work. This interview was a great opportunity, and I received no other compensation for the post. 

Preventing Injury

Robert GillandersRobert works in the DC area where people "tend to work very hard and train very hard," so he works with a lot of triathletes and runners.

He says that the causes of triathlon-related injuries are not that much different than the causes of injuries in other sports.  "Oftentimes their bodies are ill-prepared to take the training stress that they throw at it."

"The textbook, most common cause would be more related to training errors than anything. They have a long, hard winter, people are not consistently exercising, we start getting some warmer days, and people get a little overzealous with ramping up their training. The body has difficulty with adapting to that new stress."

Triathletes can reduce the chances for injury by training correctly. He wants athletes to build a solid endurance base before they start adding intensity.  "People start feeling good after a couple weeks of training and then they start pushing it with hills or sprints."

Unless they are "doing something absurd," training errors can take some time to manifest as injury, so when an athlete presents with a new injury, he asks them to go back several weeks and months and look at what has changed, "More frequency, more intensity, outside vs. inside, using different equipment, all these variables are things that weigh in."

A big challenge for triathletes is a simple problem of time management. "They're expending so much time and energy with doing all three sports that they don't have time for anything else. What we see in the clinic, oftentimes its some of the strength imbalances or the flexibility imbalances that make a person vulnerable to injury."

There is also a danger in going right from work to a workout. "A lot of these people are sitting at a desk all day and then they're going out and training, sometimes before work and after work. If they're not putting any time into stretching out their legs or stretching out their back, the repercussions of sitting all day tend to catch up when you ask those muscles that have been in a shortened position all day to perform."

The stabilizing muscles needed for injury-free training are not strengthened enough by triathlon training itself.  Most of the motions in running, biking, and swimming are movements in one plane, but the muscles that support that movement also need to be stable in other planes.

Flexibility is also an issue. Running, for example, requires flexibility in the hip and ankle. "If those areas are not flexible enough, then they start compensating. It's often a low-level stress, but running is such a high-repetition, high-load sport, that some type of micro instability or micro deficit adds up."

Physical therapy exercises can be a hard sell, because triathlon training is already such a juggling act. "You should see the looks I get when I ask somebody, 'besides running, biking, and swimming, what else do you do?' The look I get is one of disbelief."

"The body needs more input from a flexibility standpoint and from a strength standpoint." He has worked with many triathletes so he knows that this is a hard sell.  Most triathletes just manage injuries as they occur rather than working to prevent them.  (Author's note: Guilty as charged). "It doesn't take much to have a focused routine to prevent the injury in the first place. A lot of the outreach we do is just educating the athletes."

He says that experienced triathletes can be the most resistant. "They have had some measure of success in their sport and they want to keep going. Getting them to change behavior is not easy." He said that newer triathletes will "look at you with starry eyes and drink the Kool-Aid. Anything you tell them to do they're willing to do."

Robert suggests that especially in the off-season, over the winter, triathletes should train to develop the strength and mobility needed for their sport. "If you're more flexible and you have more stability and strength, you're going to be able to tolerate more training load, and that's where we see the performance gains."

He points to professional athletes -- golfers, baseball players, and football players, and other athletes don't just do their own sport, they work on strength and endurance. Triathletes need to do the same.

Robert says that when he begins working with an athlete, he performs functional tests that mimic the sport. For example, for runners, he will test them in single-leg standing, squatting, and jumping -- motions that simulate the most challenging part of the movement.  He also looks for "common patterns of deviation" that lead to potential problems.  For example, "if the glutes are not strong, the hamstrings will try to help out... if the hip is not flexible, the whole leg can't get behind the triathlete so they will try to reach with the ankle."

Other common areas of complaint in triathletes are the neck (from poor position on the bike), rotator cuff (from swimming), knees (biking and running), Achilles tendon, hamstring, plantar fascia.  He says that longer-distance triathletes can also sometimes experience lower-back pain from core/glute imbalances.

"The body is always going to go to the path of least resistance. If you are stiff in a certain joint, the body is not going to go to that restriction, it's going to go around it." This creates unnatural movements that the muscles or joints cannot handle. "It's easy to see how there's going to be mechanical stress as a result of that."

Robert says his job is to take an athlete's weaknesses and make them strengths.  He teaches them to change patterns of movement to make them more efficient and safer.  He develops an individual roadmap for the athlete.  People who just use more generalized advice will often not train the areas they really need to train.

I have been trying to use yoga as my strength/flexibility training, so I asked Robert what he thought of yoga.  He likes it as an adjunct to physical therapy, but not as a substitute for it. "Get there ten minutes early and go through a routine of exercises where you're isolating certain muscle groups." He'll also suggest certain yoga poses where they can be mindful of their individual challenges.

It's Gotta Be the Shoes

I couldn't resist asking him to chime in on the whole shoe debate. He says for most runners, a "Goldilocks shoe" is best.  Motion-control shoes tend to be "too much of a good thing." Too-structured shoes interfere with normal motion. "If we stop pronation altogether, people are exposed to a higher risk of injury."

He doesn't necessarily recommend minimalist shoes, though. "If I have somebody considering a minimalist shoe, do they have the flexibility and mobility to accommodate that? A lot of times I see people rushing into these things."

For some runners, switching to a lighter-weight shoe may be appropriate when they are trying to improve race times or lighten the load during training, but it should be done with care,  just like when they are making any other change to their training.

He sees the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction again now, with "super-plush shoes."  Runners see a problem and immediately want to swap out their shoes rather than changing how they move. "If can teach them how to run correctly to the point where the equipment isn't really an issue."

Heel-striking or forefoot running isn't really the important point. The foot needs to land closer to the body's center of mass, which minimizes the impact because the leg can absorb some of the shock of running.  He asks runners to "Run softly, run tall, land with your feet underneath you."

  • Train smart. It's easier to prevent injuries than to fix them.
  • Develop good habits when you're just starting a sport, including strength and flexibility work.
  • Training in the three sports is not enough!
  • Be smart about how quickly you ramp up things to let the body get used to training.
  • Recognize the need to think about common injuries, muscle imbalances, and joint flexibility.
  • It can be easy to fix injuries but it's easier to prevent them in the first place.
  • 10-15 minutes of exercises may be all it takes to stay injury-free and improve performance.
  • Warm up and cool down and use that time to do stretching and strengthening drills.
  • Consult a physical therapist who can help you safely and effectively achieve your training goals. Find one in your area.

The following resources are from the APTA's "Move Forward" campaign:

Running resources
Healthy cycling
Avoiding overtraining
Soreness vs. Pain
How to recover from a workout

I know that I am feeling more motivated to work on injury-prevention and strengthening work after doing this interview.  I might even pull out those exercises I was supposed to be doing for my hamstring injury... I'll add any other good articles or resources I find to my Triathlon Resources Pinterest board.

Robert Gillanders's bio from the APTA website:

Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT, OCS, practices at Sports + Spinal Physical Therapy in Washington, DC. He is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist, a certified ergonomic assessment specialist, an active release treatment techniques therapist, and is certified in Intramuscular Manual Therapy (also known as "trigger pointneedling"). Gillanders is also a certified bike-fit specialist and running medicine expert. He integrates clinical skills with personal experience to provide athletes with sports-specific services that help them expedite their recovery and improve their race-day performance. Gillanders received his master’s of physical therapy from the University of Saint Augustine and his doctor of physical therapy degree from Marymount University. He is a frequent guest speaker at medical conferences and athletic events, a contributor to Runner's World magazine, and a consultant for local running and triathlon teams. Gillanders enjoys staying active by running and cycling. He has competed in numerous endurance cycling, running, and triathlon events, including the Boston Marathon 5 times.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wednesday weigh-in: Succeeding 60%

A small gain (0.6). I wasn't expecting a loss this week, but I'm proud of myself for hanging in there and still tracking 60% rather than giving up 100%. This has been a hard week. My lack of sleep is not helping.  I'm going to commit to going to bed tonight at 10 p.m. rather than futzing around on Facebook until almost 11 like last night. 

Oddly enough, since I've been focused on other people's health lately, I had two doctor's appointments in the last two days: My general practitioner and my endocrinologist. I'm going to fast tonight and do my labs for both appointments in the morning.  

My GP is sending me for a stress test since I have heart disease in my family, just as a precaution. I will be doing a treadmill test. I am expecting them to find nothing but it will make me feel better to be sure.

My endocrinologist was happy that my weight was down a little since my last visit. He said "Stay thin and fit." I said I was halfway there, and he said, "I guess my version of thin is more generous than most people." Later I realized that as an endocrinologist, he probably mostly sees diabetics, so I am probably a relatively easy case for him. Visiting him made me feel better. My thyroid has shrunk to the point where he can no longer feel it when he feels my neck, which is great as it was very enlarged before.

I'll know a little more after I get my labs back later in the week. I need to get that stress test scheduled too. I might wait until after Mackinac -- I would like to feel a little less stressed before I do it!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Low energy

I have been feeling very low energy because of my fears/concerns over a family member's health problems (the situation in my last post). There is really nothing I can do right now, but I have been having a hard time not worrying and thinking about it constantly.

My sleep has been terrible, so my energy has been terrible too. I have tried both variations -- working out and not working out -- and the exercise seems to help. Today I even did a more-intense-than-planned All-Women's Ride with Team Toledo, and getting out on my bike and really pushing myself helped a lot.

I don't have much of anything I can do to help anyone else right now, so I'm taking care of myself the best I can.  I figure it's conserving my energy for when more is needed from me.
"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07