Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why Knee Pain was Such a Blessing

Knee Brace like mine
I am a self-help book, life coach fanatic.  I listen to and read Martha Beck, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant, and Mark Sisson (although he wouldn't call himself a life coach) to name just a few.  I've come to learn a very important lesson.  Listen to your body.  Today I was listening to Martha Beck's Follow Your North Star, and a lesson that jumped out at me (among many others) was that your body is the best tool you have to tell you whether or not you're on the right track.  You always have it with you and it gives you such detailed information if you listen to it.  And although feeling ill or in pain might not feel like a blessing, your body is trying to tell you something.  And if you listen, your life might change for the better.  I had an "Ah ha" moment when she discussing this.  For some reason recently my knee has been giving me slight twinges of pain.  It's okay because I know that my poor choices in diet, although they are getting better are bringing on some old pain from an injury a few years ago.  So when I was listening to the audio book, the knee twinge was happening and it brought me back to when I hurt it.  I ran two half-marathons in my life.  The first was with Myia, and since paddling was getting super competitive we decided to make running our major choice of exercise.  We did a great job of slowly building up to higher mileage and I think 10 miles was my longest before the half-marathon.  Those runs felt amazing, I always felt super energized afterwards and my body felt great.  I was also skinny and not having any knee pain at that point in my life.  My plantar fasciitis was also in remission at this point.  I ran the half-marathon, but I think I started off too fast, probably it was the excitement of the crowd of people and it being a race.  So I think I ran the first half and started to walk and then did a walk/jog to the end.  Not too bad.
The next year (or the year after?) Ananda and I did the half-marathon, same course in Kailua.  This time I had run a few times, but definitely didn't train like I had for the first one.  I hadn't felt like it.  I was still paddling, so I was exercising, getting in good cardio, just not running.  That year the half-marathon felt great! I obviously didn't win it or come anywhere near the top 25% of runners, but I ran the whole thing at a reasonable pace.  Of course at about mile 10 my knee started to hurt and I "ran through it" like us athletes are wont to do.  Needless to say, my knee never fully recovered.  A combination of not running enough and not stretching enough (try ever) really put stress on my knee.  I would start running again to get back into shape then every time my knee would hurt I would stop again.  I started to regain weight.  I went to a podiatrist who had no concept of sports injuries and told me I would never run again.  So I didn't for a good 6 months.  I rested, I swam and hiked some, I wore a knee brace and I searched the internet.  I finally figured out that I had a common injury among runners that we get when we overtrain with running.  Our muscles in the legs get super tight and if we don't stretch them out enough (or at all) it ultimately pulls at the tendon's hold on our knee.  Now I know about it, but it never totally goes away.
So why is this a blessing?  I would have told you to shut the hell up if you had told me it was a blessing in disguise or some such nonsense at the time.  I might have used some expletives and most likely would have flipped you the bird.  Today though I realized that it ultimately has changed how I exercise.  And how EFFICIENT at exercising I have become.  The first exercise I got into that didn't hurt my knee was kickboxing with Master Smith at Smith Taekwondo in Kaneohe.  That was freaking awesome!  Those workouts were some of the best in my life!  I tried to get all of my friends and my mom to try it out.  I was in super good shape, muscular but not bulky and so strong!  And I only went twice a week.  2 hours a week and I was super fit!  The only problem and ultimately why I changed sports is that I didn't actually want to get in the ring with people and fight.  I had absolutely no desire for it, I only wanted to workout for fun, but I felt like I was being steered in that direction.  Next I tried Taekwondo at the YMCA.  That was super fun, but it wasn't competitive enough.  I started to not look forward to going to the workouts and started to gain weight.  It wasn't as efficient.  I went to two 2 hour classes, but I didn't get as much out of it.  I got my orange belt and quit.  But I was on the right track.  Right now I'm doing Crossfit.  I'm not married to it, but it's hitting me on all levels of motivation, efficiency and fun!
If I hadn't hurt my knee I would have continued to depend on running as my main source of exercise.  It kept me skinny basically and gave me enough of a cardio workout, but it took so much time!  I felt like I had to run all the time to stay in shape.  And my knee wouldn't allow me to do that anymore.  My knee being hurt led me to figure out how to gain the most benefits from exercise without working out forever.  It also led me to Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint and his theories on how much you need to exercise.  I don't follow anyone on faith alone, I have experimented and have found that it's true.  Lift Heavy Things twice a week, Sprint once a week and as much as possible throughout the week, Move Slowly.  Also throw in Play whenever possible.  So much more fun and I spend way less time "working out" then I ever did.  I feel like I'm having a good time.  Even if I'm not looking forward to Crossfit cause I'm tired or cranky or it's early in the morning it's such a short workout that I can just tell myself to get it over with.  (Afterwords I'm always in a good mood and energetic, but it gets me going to look at how short the workout is.)
Conclusion:  My knee told me I was doing the wrong thing for my body.  I was overusing one form of movement.  I needed to find more efficient exercises.  It led me to less time working out and more time having fun.  (It now also tells me "no seriously, cut the grains out of your diet")

What is your body telling you?  Will you listen with patience and love instead of judgment?  Could be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Update with Being Primal

Earlier this month I decided that I wanted to try Mark Sisson's Primal BluePrint. Paleo is just a guideline for what food is good for you and what foods to avoid. I love it and feel totally healthy, but feel like I am ready to graduate to a full body version of the concept. I have always been a fan of Mark's website, I read all of his blog posts. So I'm completely bought in to the theory of Primal Blueprint. I think it is an amazing way to look at health, nutrition, exercise, sleep, basically everything that can keep a person healthy and happy. The thing that really draws me to the PB is that it really speaks to my lazy, fun side. The side that doesn't want to exercise like a maniac and restrict what food I am "allowed" to eat. The part of me that knows that counting calories is stupid and short-term. (I'm not saying it doesn't work or that that hasn't helped some people. But don't you just know there's a better way?) So if you go to his website and look at the Definitive Guide to the Primal Blueprint, you'll see the basics.
1. Eat lots of animals, insects and plants- this is my favorite way to look at nutrition. Eat Real Food.
2. Move around a lot at a slow pace- walk around, use the stairs, take a stroll, walk your dog, do this every day.
3. Lift Heavy Things- the Primal Blueprint version of lifting weights, or doing body weight exercises. Mark has a great simple guide to exercises you can do with little to no equipment with modifications for all fitness levels. Super simple.
4. Run really fast every once in a while- this one has blown my mind! I always thought that I had to do cardio 3-5 times a week! And truthfully, when I wasn't eating paleo or primal I did have to run 3-5 times a week to maintain a healthy weight. Now that my eating has vastly improved (not the quantity, but the quality) my need to seek out the nearest treadmill is gone. Some sprints (running or biking or stairs) will suffice once or twice a week.
5. Get lots of sleep- The research is out there folks. You have to find the right amount of sleep for you. Some people need a lot of sleep, some people need less. But if your health is out of wack and you're convinced that you only need 3-5 hours of sleep a night, you may want to re-evaluate. Our body does so much restoration and healing while we sleep. It is the time that all of the damage you did to it all day finally has a chance to start being internally repaired. If you don't give your body the time it needs, you will never fully heal.
6. Play- Favorite Rule Ever! And who would believe that we would need someone to tell us to go have fun! But it's true, we spend so much time scheduling in "exercise" that moving around becomes such a drag, such a chore. Thankfully I have friends who are interested in play! Our hikes are never a simple walk in the woods, there is always socializing, laughter, and great use of imagination. We've played all kinds of sports together, from tennis to swimming to paddling to (hopefully soon!) racquetball. Don't argue with this! You need fun in your life!
7. Get some sunlight every day- This one is a bit counter intuitive to "modern science" in quotations because I think modern scientists have been led way off track with their research. I usually use Dr. Mercola as a reference first, since he doesn't seem to be biased by big businesses, the media or pharm companies. Anyway, sunlight has a lot of valuable properties. I think everyone has heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder at this point and some of that has to do with the lack of available sunlight. Just in case you don't actually go read the articles or resources, no one is advocating for getting out there and getting a sun burn. If you've gotten that red, you've had too much sun. But some sun is good. That golden tan from being in the (real) sun for a little bit every day is actually good for you.
  8. Avoid Trauma- this one is pretty common sense, but important. Don't dive into shallow water. Be aware of your surroundings. Don't exercise beyond what your body can handle. (Know the difference between good sore and hurt.)
9. Avoid Poisonous Things- This is the one I have most trouble with. Everyone's body is different and what we tolerate to what level is different. I hope you take the time to really figure out how well your body is tolerating grains, dairy, legumes, sugar and vegetable oils. Mine doesn't handle grains well at all (except for rice, that seems to be fine). I break out with acne with legumes, sugar and vegetable oils. When I eat anything with grains or sugary I also balloon up with both excess weight and bloating. I get gassy to the point that my stomach is painful and I have to wear loose pants that don't make the pain worse. Even though I know this, it has been difficult for me to say no to this stuff. First, because I used to love it and finding food to replace the emotional connection I have for those foods is tough. (Eating chips after a hard day at work, or ice cream for "treat.") Second, people tend to want you to eat these foods. I found that once I began to eliminate them from my diet totally, people began to push them on me like drug dealers. I am lucky that my husband and my closest friends don't do this. My husband still keeps them around the house, but won't try to tempt me with those foods anymore. Other people are a different story. I am tempted to tell everyone that I am diabetic or have Celiac Disease, but fuck that. I should be able to tell you, no, I don't eat wheat or sugar or whatever, and you should say, okay. It's okay to ask me why. But what irks me is when I tell people this and then they make an attempt to sell the food to me somehow. "But, it's so good!" "But this whole wheat is good for you!" "Come on, just have a bite!" It would be funny to see how badly people want you to eat these foods, if I wasn't already having a hard time saying no. Yes, I do want that cream filled donut, but it will make me gassy and bloated and therefore I am choosing not to eat it. Hard to fend people off when that donut is being waved under your nose. Anyway, like I said, here's where I have the most difficulty.
10. Use your mind- Good advice. I try to do this daily as some form of reading of a book or blog or word game.

If anyone wants to join me in my health quest, write me an email or drop a comment below. I'm not an expert, but I am a super cheerleader.