Putting Wheels on a Squash is Harder than you Think

I’m just back from an absolutely amazing trip to Walt Disney World to cheer at WDW Marathon Weekend. This was the second year in a row that I went and didn’t race. Last year, I was dealing with a then-undiagnosed injury, so I didn’t really have any emotions tied to not running, but this year, I found myself wanting to be back out on the course. Next year’s 10K is on my birthday – I think it’s a sign.

I also got to attend the Cigna Blogger Event again this year. I really love these events that Cigna puts on. They’re the main sponsor of Marathon Weekend, and I very much appreciate their push towards healthy living.

This year’s focus was preventative care and knowing your 4 health numbers:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Sugar
  • BMI

At the expo, Cigna had their Health Improvement Tour van where you could get a ten minute screening to get these four numbers. Of course, I went. I’m fascinated by biometrics and knowing my numbers. Also, I’ve been working to improve my cholesterol numbers, and I was curious to see how things were looking.

(On the down side, it was my birthday, I was on vacation, and I definitely had been enjoying the Disney snacks.)

The screening was super fast and super easy. The lovely, lovely nurse took my blood pressure, pricked my finger to get a drop of blood to put in a fancy machine, weighed me and measured my height, and also measured my waist circumference.

I wasn’t surprised by the BMI (though I was pleased the scale wasn’t higher), but waist circumference isn’t something that I had considered. Apparently, this measurement is important because belly fat is a good way to estimate the fat around your heart and other organs. Women are at risk with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference of over 40 inches. While I generally try to not worry about weight and BMI as a number and focus on being healthier, my waist measurement is right on the line, so there’s something to work on.

I was pleased by the cholesterol numbers. Don’t get me wrong – they’re still not good, and this is very likely due to heredity. But they’re improving. One thing I really liked here was that the advice focused not on lowering my bad cholesterol (because many of the tips are things I already do), but how to raise my good cholesterol by adding certain things to my diet. I always appreciate advice that is about adding things rather than taking things away.

And thankfully, it wasn’t all bad news. My blood pressure and non-fasting glucose were both in good ranges.

At the Cigna Blogger Event, we got to meet some of the Cigna staff and learn from a dietician about how diet can really improve all of this information. And of course, they always make a point to make learning fun.

After lunch, we got divided into teams and then participated in a Spud Racer event. We had to make a car out of fruits and vegetables and then race them. But it wasn’t just about fun. We had to make a poster and presentation about our assigned health topic. My group got assigned Cholesterol.

I have to say, making a car out of fruits and veggies isn’t easy. Our team went for weight and worked with a butternut squash as a base. This was not the wisest choice, because have you ever tried to chop a butternut squash? Sticking an axle through it is even harder.

After some serious time spent building, we realized that our car was very likely to crash, so we went for beauty over brawn.

We were the only car with green zucchini flames, that’s for sure.

If you’re ever in a spud racer event, the key here is that you want something that will drive straight. The winning car in our competition was actually a simple small zucchini with wheels. Nothing fancy, just simple elegance.

Honestly, that’s probably a metaphor for healthy living, though I didn’t think of it at the time. Keep it simple. You don’t need to do a fancy, expensive diet plan. You don’t need crazy tools or crazy rules. You just need the basics, and I think a lot of us make it too hard for ourselves.

In terms of the presentations, I’d say the winning group was the one who emphasized “Know Your 4,” highlighting the four key health indicators. Excellent work, team!

However, “Out of Our Gourds” didn’t come away empty handed. No, we were awarded the prestigious Lemon Award for our fabulous presentation and car crash and burn (with zucchini flames, of course, no roasted veggies here).

You better believe I wore it proudly

I really enjoyed this event and hope that people take advantage of the Cigna Health Improvement Tour if it visits your area. I promise, it’s almost entirely painless and knowing your health data is so important. Barring that, schedule a visit with your doctor for a physical. Preventative care can save you a ton of stress down the road.

2019 Goals and Word of the Year

One thing I like to do every year is look back and see how I spent my time, what I thought I would get done and didn’t, and what I want to prioritize in the coming year. I also look ahead at what I have on the calendar. I use all of these things to set some goals for the year. Typically, these goals are focused on bettering myself and the world around me.

This year, I’m also setting a word of the year, something I want to use to help focus my year. I have a number of Coeur teammates who do this every year, and I decided this year, I would too.

For 2019, my word is Challenge. I picked this after reading through some quotes and came across this one: “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.” This definitely resonated with me, especially when it comes to racing. I often set race goals for myself that I fear I can’t meet but then I end up meeting and beating. The majority of the time, I crush my A goals. To me, that says I’m not setting my challenges high enough. This year, I want to push myself, both in triathlon and in life. I want to see what I can accomplish.

I took a look at my goals for last year and used those as a framework for 2019. I think some were too generic and I need to be more specific. I won’t say these are full on SMART goals, but they’re closer.

Goal 1 – Train and Race Smart at IM 70.3 Ohio
As the race draws closer, I will set specific time goals. Ideally, I would like to crush my 70.3 PR, but isn’t that always the race goal? Truly, the goal is to be smart about training. I want to push myself, but not so hard that I burn out or get injured or sick.

Goal 2 – Cook One New Recipe a Month
I have so many amazing cookbooks, and yet I tend to pick one or two recipes from them and just make them over and over again. I want to try at least one new recipe a month.

Goal 3 – Read More Books
This year, I got really into longform journalism, which is awesome, but it meant that I wasn’t reading as many books as I used to. I want to get back to that (which will also mean not reading from a screen before bed, which is a terrible habit) and track in Goodreads. I am going to try to read 50 books this year, which will include audiobooks. Given the hours of training I have ahead of me, that should be doable.

Goal 4 – Get My Budget to YNAB’s Rule 4
I have been using You Need a Budget for money management for probably around 10 years. The application has changed a lot in those years, but the basic concepts of the budgeting method haven’t. Rule 4 is the basic idea that you live on last month’s income. It helps you build a buffer for when unexpected expenses appear, and it makes monthly budgeting a lot easier. Now, I’m certainly not living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s been a while since I’ve been fully at Rule 4 and I’d like to get back there.

Goal 5 – Lift Heavy Things
When I injured my hip, I gave up on a lot of my workouts, and the big thing that hasn’t fully returned is weightlifting. I’m doing bodyweight workouts and some upper body strength work, but I want to get back to doing my regular weightlifting routine. My plan is to start with once a week and then increase that. I have the ChaLEAN Extreme Program that was popular a number of years back and I really enjoy it. It’s slow, controlled movements, and the workouts are under 45 minutes.

I think these are definitely doable goals, but also goals that will challenge me, especially in terms of time management. Life is busy, but it’s important I prioritize myself.

Labral Tear Recovery Update

I’m now 8 months out from my labral tear diagnosis and about 6 months into rehab (thanks, ovarian cyst).  And it’s going… okay.  Not great, not bad, but definitely okay.

Leading into my August vacation, I was feeling pretty great.  For the most part, I wasn’t dealing with daily pain.  I was doing my PT exercises 6 days a week (though my PT said I didn’t have to do them that often – the routine was good for me) and I made it through my first race of the year with no issues.

Vacation went great!  Lots of walking and zero issues.  It definitely felt like a victory.

But once I was back from vacation and really increasing mileage, I started to notice some familiar twinges coming back.  My quad started tightening up more and more.  I just assumed it was the mileage.  But then I realized it’s also my own doing.

I’ve dropped my PT visits back from weekly to every 2-3 weeks.  My PT does a ton of table work, so I was getting regular work on the knots in my leg.  Sure, there may not have been too many, but they were getting worked out before they had a chance to take hold.

I wasn’t doing my PT exercises quite as much as I had been. Maybe down to four days a week instead of six.  And I certainly wasn’t spending much time on the foam roller, which is probably the biggest mistake I made.  Increasing my mileage and not foam rolling is just stupid.

So I’m paying the price for it now.  My leg has all sorts of fun knots, which means I’m spending more time on my foam roller and also going back to weekly PT.  At my last session, I was lucky enough to get Graston and dry needling.  Worth it.  I’m lucky that my insurance covers more than enough visits for me to go weekly through the end of the year and I will only have to pay my copay.

Lesson learned.  Just because I’m feeling good doesn’t mean I can step back.  This is an injury that won’t heal.  I will have to constantly be doing strength work and proper stretching, especially when I’m doing things like increasing mileage.

I still don’t regret not going the surgical route, though I totally support anyone who makes that choice.  Each hip labral tear is different, and recovery will look different for everyone.  As the research improves, I may consider stem cell injections at some point (especially if insurance ever covers them, because right now, I’m not sure if it’s the idea of a giant needle in my groin or the ridiculous cost of the injections that’s keeping me from even considering it at this point).

 

Mid-Year Goals Check-In

So even though it’s well past mid-year, I thought I would go back and look at the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t given them any thought.  Which is not how goals are supposed to work.  You’re supposed to set them and then work towards meeting them, not ignore them and hope things go okay.  However, 2018 went completely off the rails for me so it’s no surprise I wasn’t focused on my initial goals.

Finish my 70.3

Well, this clearly didn’t happen.  I didn’t even start the 70.3 or really get heavily into training for it once my labral tear was diagnosed.  And while not being able to race was a disappointment, I still consider 70.3 Chattanooga a huge win.  I got to cheer on so many of my Coeur teammates and sherpa for them at the race.  I had so much fun, and it was absolutely worth being there.  I worried I would be disappointed that I wasn’t racing, but instead I was just glad to be there, and feeling lucky that I would be able to race later.

Get Healthy

This was focusing on my lingering injuries, and I definitely am doing well on this one.  Labral tear diagnosed and causing way less pain.  Ovarian cyst diagnosed and removed.  My labral tear will never be healed, but the strength work I’ve been doing to support my hip is doing wonders.  I have to keep up the strength work but all in all, I’m really happy with how this goal is going.

Diet

Well, I’m still working to clean up my diet.  Surgery kind of threw me for a loop, to be honest.  Because I wasn’t hungry post-surgery, I kind of let myself eat whatever I wanted, because I just wasn’t eating much.  That wasn’t a trend I should have started.  I’m doing better, but my diet is still way too sugar heavy.  I crave it when things get stressful, and I need to learn to conquer those cravings.

Budget

You know what isn’t good for a budget?  Medical expenses.  With surgery and scans on my hip and physical therapy, I have spent thousands of dollars on medical expenses.  And I am lucky to have amazing insurance.  Also, my air conditioner died and had to be replaced.  So my budget is definitely hurting right now and I need to keep tightening the purse strings.  (Which should be very easy since I’m headed on vacation this month.)  I’m not digging myself into debt or anything, but I would like to beef up my savings and start putting away money for some big projects I want to do on my house.  (Fun projects, not things like getting a new air conditioner – which was, of course, worth every penny.)

So the goals this year have been pretty hit or miss, but there are five months left in the year for me to get things into shape.  I already have a plan to straighten out my budget, and I think more meal planning will help my diet as well as my budget.  And of course, I am going to keep doing my PT work and continue to slowly get back into shape.

Reach In

jplenio / Pixabay

With the recent tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, there have been a lot of things written online suggesting resources for people who are struggling with depression.  Lots of phone numbers of places to go for help, lots of people saying “Hey, if you’re in a dark place, contact me.”

And this is all great information.  But you need to also look at the words coming from the people who have been in those dark places.  When someone is so depressed that they are considering suicide, they don’t think they have value.  They don’t think they will be missed.  They think that others will be better off without them.  We all know that is so very wrong, but their disease is lying to them.  And so they aren’t going to reach out for help.

Instead, we have to make a point to reach in.

I’m lucky in that I have struggled with anxiety and probably some mild depression over the years, but I have never been suicidal.  But I have friends who have been and friends who have been in some pretty dark places.  And you know what?  I didn’t reach in.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Maybe I thought they needed time alone, maybe I was too wrapped up in my own life to notice that someone needed help.  Wherever I was, I wasn’t there for them.

Now, I’m not trying to say that anyone is at fault for suicide.  Suicide is entirely the fault of depression.  It’s a vicious disease.  We would never judge someone for dying from cancer.  We would never judge someone for getting medical help for cancer.  Depression should be treated no differently.  The problem is that one of the effects of depression can be the intense need to hide away, preventing the afflicted from getting help.

So if you have a friend who is struggling, or who you haven’t heard from in a while, or who you’re just a little worried about, check in on them.  And depending on the situation, maybe don’t take no for an answer.

There is a wonderful Twitter thread circulating about a woman struggling with severe depression following the death of her father.  She moved to a new apartment and had been unable to muster the energy to unpack (another effect of depression) so her friends simply showed up and setup her home for her.  They didn’t ask, they just went into action.  Sure, this was a risk.  The woman could have gotten angry.  But it was a worthwhile risk.  It showed her that she was important, that she was loved, and it created a safe, comfortable space for her to live in as she fought with her depression.

I’m not saying that you should just invade a friend’s space, but if there is someone you’re worried about and inviting them out isn’t working, try showing up with food and a movie.  Worst case, they close the door in your face.  Not the end of the world.  Maybe they aren’t up for seeing you, but at least you brought them something to eat.  But maybe they will let you in and sit down with you for a meal.  Even if you just watch the movie and don’t talk, you’re showing that friend that you’re there.  If you’re far away, just keep trying to get in contact.  Send texts, send emails, send a care package.  Do whatever you can.  Because while depression is a disease and is often best treated by medication and therapy, friendship and caring can also make a difference.