Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Spoonful of Sugar

Yesterday was a bit of a disaster in terms of blood sugar (mis)management.

Roller-coaster doesn't even begin to describe the dramatic ups and downs.

18 and climbing an hour after breakfast for no apparent reason.

3.5 and dropped two hours after that, again for no apparent reason.

Four lows between lunch and dinner. Each treated with plenty of carbs. Each sending me up to 10 and then straight back down again. All with no insulin on board.

Rose beeped during dinner (which I did not bolus for despite many carbs worth of potatoes) to say that I was 3.1 and heading down again.

I got up from the dinner table, sweaty and shaking, to down two tablespoons of maple syrup.

Ten minutes later I felt fine again and was up at the sink drying and putting away the dishes.

"You don't have to help you know?" Doug said gently.

"I know. I felt awful a few minutes ago but I'm fine now that the syrup kicked in" I replied.

And that's when it hit me.

Diabetes can be pretty annoying sometimes but it sure doesn't take long to recover from the ups and downs of it. At least compared to some other things that cause us to feel crappy.

Strep throat? That sucks. Here, take these pills and hopefully you'll feel better in a few days.

Seasonal allergies? Too bad. Here, take these pills and eye drops and hopefully you won't feel too bad for the next three months.

Stomach bug? Yuck. Well, once you throw up a bunch of times and spend a few hours in the washroom, you might be ready for a few crackers and some ginger ale.

Low blood sugar? Here, have a spoonful or two of maple syrup, wait ten minutes and then get on with your day.

High blood sugar? Take some insulin and I bet you start to feel better within half an hour.

Highs and lows can be pretty dramatic but so can the recovery of those highs and lows.

One minute I'm shaking and sweaty, pale-faced and pretty much useless. The next I'm chatting away as I dry the dishes feeling no worse for wear.

Maybe that's why I get so impatient when I'm real people sick. I can't fix that crappy feeling with a spoonful of yummy tasting maple syrup.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Don't Tell Me What To Do!

I'm not a big fan of being told what to do.

I'm even less of a fan of being tricked or manipulated into doing something.

And I'm stubborn enough to cross my arms and refuse to budge when someone tries to push me to do something...even if it's something I secretly want to do.

It wasn't until this weekend that I realized how that particular quirk of mine could be put to good use.

Remember the book I wrote about last Friday? The book called The End of Overeating by David Kessler?

Well I had a bit of time on the weekend so I've made some good headway into it. And what I've learned so far has been fascinating and more than a little disturbing.

The first section of the book is completely dedicated to the science of food production. Specifically the science of producing food that people will anticipate, crave, and, in many cases be unable to resist eating large quantities of....even when they are not at all hungry.

Turns out that, when it comes to producing a lot of the food that graces our grocery store shelves and restaurant menus, it's not about producing food that is delicious, healthy or satisfying. It's about producing food that has the right combination of fats, sugars and salt to trigger a physical response. A response that leads people to come back for more. And more.

As I continued to read, I got more and more annoyed as I thought about all the products on the market that fit this description. Those bags of sweet and salty popcorn that people bring to meetings. Chips, chocolate, fries etc etc. None of these things are good for us and yet these are the things that we are constantly battling against when cravings rear their ugly heads.

Chocolate is one of my weaknesses and I do battle every day in my head against the little voices that try to convince me to buy some.

It's one thing to crave a chocolate bar.

It's another thing to know why I crave it. Turns out that I crave it because a bunch of people did some research and figured out how to make it taste and what ingredients to include so that I would crave it. Then they make commercials and posters that advertise their products in enticing ways that make me want it even more.

They are trying to manipulate me.

Assholes!

Funny thing is that, since I read about how this happens, it's been much easier to resist. In fact, when Doug and I were at the bulk food store buying Easter chocolates for next weekend's Easter egg hunt, we bought exactly the number of eggs we needed and I wasn't even tempted to add one more to the bag. When we were in the grocery store and my favourite chocolate was on sale, I wasn't even tempted to toss one in the cart.

Instead of feeling that familiar ache of a chocolate craving, I felt a twinge of annoyance. I wondered if the reason it was my favourite chocolate bar was because it really was a delicious piece of chocolate or because the manufacturer got the combination of fat, sugar and salt just right to trigger the pleasure receptors in my brain.

So I've learned a few things this weekend.

Turns out that the best way to beat back a craving is not to use self control or distraction techniques. The best way to beat back a craving is to learn why the craving exists, get pissed off about it, and refuse to play their little game.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The End of Overeating

A few weeks ago I wrote about a book I was reading called Vitamania.

I finished it the other night and, I have to say, it was a fascinating read.

There was enough science in it to keep the geeky part of me really happy. It's been 18 years since my last university biology class and books like this one remind me how much I loved learning about anything biology-related and how much I miss being immersed in that kind of brain-expanding knowledge.

You might remember that I talked about hearing an interview with the author of Vitamania on NPR during our road trip and that was how I learned about the book. Well, during that interview, the author mentioned another book called The End of Overeating - Taking Control of the Insatiable North American Appetite. The author is Dr. David Kessler.


I downloaded both books onto my iPad and, now that I've finished Vitamania, I'm moving on to The End of Overeating.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the second book but, within the first few pages of reading, I thought "this man is on to something". In fact I had a slightly creeped-out feeling that he has been following me around, hanging out in my head and analyzing how I think about food.

He writes about the challenge that many people in North America (and perhaps elsewhere) face around food. He writes about how people lose the ability to focus during a meeting if there is a plate of cookies or a bowl of M&Ms on the table. About how much time many of us spend every day thinking about food, starting off the day with noble goals of eating healthy, convincing ourselves that we don't need to eat something that's unhealthy (like the office meeting cookie), breaking down and eating it anyway, feeling guilty about it, and then having another. And another. And waking up the next day and doing it all over again.

I'm not too far into the book yet but the author has moved from writing about our relationship with food to writing about how the food industry has learned to develop foods that trigger a response in us that has nothing to do with actual hunger. We no longer eat food because we are hungry. In fact we often continue to eat well beyond the point of being full. Dr. Kessler is arguing that we eat food because of how our body responds to the combination of sugar, salt and fat in the food that we eat.

Having type 1 diabetes already puts me in a difficult position when it comes to food and hunger. Low blood sugars have forced me to eat when I am full more times that I want to count and high blood sugars have prevented me from eating when hungry just as often.

My life is often a matter of eating when I have to or when I can rather than eating when I want to and blood sugar readings often supersede feelings of hunger or fullness.

So I will be very interested to learn what Dr. Kessler has to say about the North American diet in general,
the food industry and the unhealthy relationship between the two.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Waste of a Good Spoon

A colleague of mine shared an article the other day about spoons. 

Click here for the link to the full article (which is worth a read) but I'll give the Coles notes version (for those of you who remember Coles notes).

In the story, a conversation happens between two friends, one of whom has lupus. The girl who has lupus is asked by her friend what it's like to have lupus. The friend is not looking for a scientific answer, she is looking for what it's really like to live with lupus every day.

So the girl gives her friend 12 spoons. And she tells her that these are all the spoons she has for the day. And that every time she does something (like take a shower, or make lunch or meet a friend for coffee) it will cost her a spoon. She then makes her friend talk through an imaginary day and her friend quickly realizes how much it 'costs' to simply get out of bed, shower, get dressed and have breakfast. She was down to 6 spoons before she even left the house.

It was a pretty powerful way to describe the decisions and the compromises a person has to make when, for whatever reason be it physical or emotional, they struggle to do what most of us do without a second though.

I read the article and it really got me thinking. After a while, I sent a response back my response. I borrowed the spoon analogy but tweaked it a bit to see if I could use it to describe diabetes.

I said that living with type 1 diabetes is like carrying 10 spoons around all the time.

Each spoon represents a question that needs to be answered. And all 10 spoons (or questions) must be answered before you move on to the next activity in your day be it getting into the car to drive to work, having lunch, going to an afternoon job, or even just going to bed for the night.

1. What is your blood sugar?
2. Is it going up or going down?
3. Do you still have insulin in your system from your last bolus?
4. Have you eaten something recently that has carbs?
5. Have you done any activity today that might affect your numbers?
6. Are you going to do any activity later that might affect your numbers?
7. Are there any other variables that might affect that number? (illness, what phase in your monthly cycle you are in, stress, extra sedentary day, bad sleep the night before, not enough water to drink etc etc).
8. Do you need to do anything (take insulin, eat something, drink water, lower basal insulin) before undertaking whatever thing you're about to do?
9. Do you have enough insulin left in your pump to get you through to the next activity with enough left in reserve in case you need it?
10. Do you have emergency carbs with you in case you answered any of the above incorrectly or in case the diabetes gods are feeling frisky?

Once these questions are answered, you can move on to the next activity in your day.

My colleague responded with a rather shocked-sounding email. "I had no idea it was that complicated". To which I responded "I think that's why I don't get worked up about most things. It's just not worth wasting a spoon."

Not worth wasting a spoon.

What an interesting way to look at your day.

If you only have so many spoons in a day what would YOU do with them?

What activities would you stop doing because, when it comes right down to it, they really are a waste of a spoon?

And which activities would you make sure to prioritize because they are totally worth the cost?

And since we have no way of knowing how many spoons other people get for their day, maybe we could cut them a little slack sometimes eh?

On a funny note, I went online to see if I could find a funny picture of a spoon to include in this post. I found two that I really enjoyed. Hope you like them too!







Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Ups and Downs of a Sunday Workout

I haven't written too much about diabetes lately because, for the most part, the diabetes god have been pretty well behaved. They still throw plenty of highs and lows my way but they've been pretty predictable and easily remedied.

Sunday morning was a different story and I was not impressed with their shenanigans. I guess, in hindsight, I was partly to blame but I'm still disgusted by their behaviour.

I woke up on Sunday morning to Rose vibrating next to me. I had just dipped under 4.0 (3.9) after a long slow descent over the last 5-6 hours. To deal with the low, I had four Dex4s. I also turned down my basal rate by 40% for 3 hours since I knew I was going to the fitness centre once I got up.

By the time I was up and dressed and down in the kitchen, my blood sugar was 9 and climbing. Seemed pretty dramatic after only having four Dex4s but I figured it would come back down once I started erg'ing. In fact I knew it would drop down so I had half a banana for good measure.

Ten minutes later I was on the rowing machine and, after 30 minutes of hard work, my blood sugar was 10.4 and dropping. Looking at Rose I could see that I had climbed to 11.5 during the workout before turning south again.

I figured 10.4 was a good number to start my weight training at and that I would probably keep trending downward. I did indeed keep trending downward and got all the way down to 9.0 before heading back up again.

Sixty minutes of weight training later I was 13.5 with an arrow heading straight up. It didn't make sense at the time, After my workout I bolused two units and headed home.

I kept climbing, double arrows up, until I reached 16.9. By then I had 6 units of insulin on board, was starving for breakfast and unable to eat.

I guzzled water, showered, and patiently waited for the insulin to kick in. After an hour, it finally did and my blood sugar did exactly what I expected it to. It tipped downward, gathered speed and within 30 minutes I went from 16.9 to 10.

I started making breakfast, which was technically now my lunch. By the time it was ready I was 6.4. I ate, my blood sugar climbed up and back down the way it normally does when I eat my breakfast and things were fine for the rest of the day.

Doug asked me why I went so high during the workout.

I guessed that it was because I was lifting weights. That used to happen years ago when I weight trained but I had forgotten.

The combination of 30 minutes of cardio (which usually drops my blood sugar) followed by 45-60 minutes of weights (which apparently brings it up) will take me a few weeks to figure out.

I'll start by not lowing my basal insulin next week and see if that helps avoid the awful high without triggering a low.

Good thing I like to exercise, love numbers and don't mind experimenting. Otherwise I can see how it would be pretty tempting to just stay in bed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heart Rate Update

I think it's about time for a heart rate update. Seeing as how I track it pretty religiously these days, I might as well report back in case anyone out there is thinking about training using your heart rate.

Since running is the sport that I do the most (3 times per week rather than just 1 or 2) it's the activity that I am getting the most practice with in terms of figuring out heart rate.

What I've been trying to do is to keep my long runs under 160 beats per minute while keeping my shorter runs under 165. Last week I started doing speed work again and I'm planning to get back into hill workouts this week. For those I just go full speed ahead and then check what my heart rate is at the end. For the speed work I peaked at 174 beats per minute and for hills I'm guessing I'll max out at 180 since that was my max last fall.

Here is an example of how things have been going:
Saturday I ran 14k. I tried very hard to keep my heart rate between 155-160 and it stayed there easily for most of it but kept creeping over 160 during the last few kilometres. That being said, I ran 14k without too much effort and I did not stop once. Not even for 15 seconds at a red light. I just started running at the end of my driveway, ran 7k, turned around and ran back to my driveway. Best part was that I didn't want to stop. It felt easy enough that I knew I could do it so I did.

The tradeoff is that I'm slower than I used to be. Not by a lot but still slower.

That being said, I'll take 15 seconds per kilometre slower if the tradeoff is that I can run for 90 minutes with no great difficulty and feel completely fine for the rest of the day.

I'll be ramping up the mileage over the next few weeks as I train for my spring half marathon. I'm running 16k next week, 18k not long after and then I'm in the 20s for a few weeks in a row. If I can keep my heart rate down and glide through those distances too, I'll be completely sold on this new way of running.

On to other activities!

I have used the erg (aka rowing machine) four times now at my new fitness centre. I've tracked my heart rate each time as well as my distance. During my first two 30-minute workouts it was a struggle to get 6000m done. On the third one I did 6400m and just this past Sunday I was able to do 6650m. So I'm obviously getting the hang of this thing.

My heart rate numbers are pretty similar to my running ones. Once I get going I'm hovering in the high 150s, up to 160, for the rest of the workout. Strangely, that heart rate makes for a pretty easy run but it makes for a pretty intense erg session. At the end of 30 minutes I'm dripping wet, panting and exhausted.

For cycling, I can't seem to get my heart rate up to 150, never mind above it. Even when the dude on the video is yelling at us to climb faster or spin faster or push harder, I tend to hover around 145bpm. I feel like I'm working pretty darn hard but it's not reflected in my heart rate.

Tracking my heart rate during a swim is not an option at this point because I don't have the waterproof watch to do it.

Lessons learned so far?

1. Running using heart rate works very well for me. It might not work for the speed demons out there who like to give it their all during every run but it works for me as I try to find a way to run long distance races feeling strong from start to finish.

2. A given heart rate (say 155bpm) is easy to reach during some activities, hard in others and seeming impossible in others still. Yet the effort I'm putting out is different for each activity.
- 155bpm = pretty easy running
- 155bpm = pretty tough erg'ing
- 155bpm = I've never reached that on the bike so I'm guessing it might kill me if I do

Heart rate training may not be for everyone but it's definitely a tool I'm keeping in my fitness toolbox.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Getting My Pool MoJo Back

I'm back at the pool now and am getting into the swing of it again.

I swam last Monday and again last Friday.

Those will be my swimming days for the foreseeable future and I say them out loud to Doug the night before so I can't change my mind.

Both times I went last week I swam for an hour rather than the hour and a half I used to do in the master's class. An hour feels much more reasonable and I can get about 2500m done in that time.

When you consider that I'm training to swim 1500m max this summer, it doesn't make much sense for me to do twice that distance and more every time I get into the pool.

In addition to only swimming for an hour, I also decided to buy a three-month lane pass rather than sign up for the next Master's session.

So I'll be swimming with the regular folks and fighting for my spot in a lane rather than swimming with the crazy folks and having a lane almost always to myself. It's a bit of a tradeoff but I'll try it for a few months and decide if I like it.

What kind of workouts am I doing now that I don't have a coach writing them down on a whiteboard for me? Good question.

Luckily, I was a very keen student and I went home after every master's class and wrote down my entire workout in Training Peaks. Complete with goal times, actual times and instructions.

Which means that I can be my own coach.

I pulled out one of my small moleskin notebooks, tore out a few pages and wrote out four workouts in dark black ink. I put them inside a plastic sealable snack bag. Every time I go I just pick the one I want, put it at the front of the baggie and I'm good to go. Some are distance workouts, some are speed. Some are a bit of both.

It's now even easier to figure out what lane I'm in. Just look for the black flip-flops with sparkles, the sports bottle filled with NUUN and two ziplock baggies, one with two tubes of Dex4s in it and the other one stuffed with workouts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

No More Excuses

The piles of snow are (almost) melted and the streets are clear and dry. The temperatures spend more time hovering above the freezing mark than they spend below it and I've dropped two layers of running clothes already.

So basically I have no more excuses.

It's time to get back into hill and speed training again.

I tend to avoid it during the cold winter months because a) the freezing air wreaks havoc on my lungs when I'm gasping for breath and b) the roads around our home always have some degree of snow or ice cover and it feels a little too dangerous to be tearing around a corner at breakneck speed in the dark over unpredictably slippery roads.

So I don't do it and, to be honest, it's a nice break.

Like most cyclical activities though, after a bit of time away from them, I'm ready to get back at it.

Yesterday morning I got up early, pulled on my running clothes and filled a water bottle. I strolled to the end of my driveway, put the water bottle on the top of my car, and headed out for an easy 1.5k warmup around the neighbourhood. At exactly 1.5k I was back at my car. I hit 'lap' on my watch, stretched my calves and sipped water for two minutes and then hit lap again as I headed off for an 800m sprint.

I love the fact that one time around my block is exactly 800m. I start at my car and end at my car and don't have to do much thinking other than to remember to turn the corners.

I usually do 6 or 8 times 800m when I do this workout but I figured I'd start with 5 since it has been months since I've run this hard.

It went something like this.

Sprint 800m. Hit lap on the watch. Check out my time and my heart rate. Try to get my breathing back under control while I stretch my calves. Do it again once my two minute rest was up. After the 5th one I turned off my watch and headed inside for breakfast, feeling energized and strong.

My 800m times were:
4:29
4:33
4:36
4:37
4:39

My heart rate at the end of each interval was 174 beats per minute. Since my max heart rate (based on my hill running experiment last fall) is 180bpm, I was running at just under 97% of my max before I dropped back down to 115 or so during the rest break.

Each 800m felt pretty tough and I don't think I could have gone much faster but they didn't kill me. I spent the day feeling energized rather than exhausted and nothing felt tight or sore afterwards.

Next week - hill training!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ladies' Remedial Golf League

I came home tonight to find a letter from a golf course on my desk.

It's the golf course that me and a few of my girlfriends played at most Monday nights last summer.

A little par 3 course that had a pretty sweet ladies' night deal.

We called ourselves the Ladies' Remedial Golf League and there was only one rule. If you're too good, you can't be part of our gang. It says a lot that none of us came close to being kicked off the team.

I liked the course because it was easy - allowing me to focus on my game rather than just desperately trying to get to the hole. I loved it because every hole was a possible hole in one. And I want very much to get a hole in one.

I tried every single time to not just hit the ball but to hit it onto the green so that it rolled into the hole.

Several times I made it to the green. Just as many times I made it into the nearby woods, fields and water hazards.

We laughed at ourselves and each other and we slowly got better.

The letter from the golf course reminded me that it's time to dust off our clubs and gather the ladies together again for the 2015 Remedial Ladies Golf League.

The Remedial Ladies (minus one) decked out in our fabulous matching jackets at the end of season banquet. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blood Pressure

I had two medical appointments yesterday.

I had an appointment with my family doctor because I went to renew a prescription last week only to discover that I had no more repeats on it. They were nice enough to squeeze me in so I could get another six months' worth of a prescription that I will be taking for the rest of my life (sigh).

While I was there, they checked my blood pressure.

It was 127/72.

They said nothing other than to speak the numbers out loud.

I left, prescription in hand, and headed down the road to my dentist for my 6-month cleaning and check up.

When I got there, they tested my blood pressure.

It was 119/80.

"That's pretty much perfect isn't it?" I asked. "120/80 is the magic number right?"

"No", replied my dental hygienist. "120/80 is the highest you want it to be. So you're just on the edge of too high." "Your heart rate is really low though. It's only 55 beats per minute" she said. And then she proceeded to scrub my teeth within an inch of their life for 45 minutes...which gave me 45 minutes to think.

I realize that blood pressure fluctuates for all sorts of reasons. Stress, movement, time of day, the way they did the blood pressure reading etc.

So I'm not particularly bothered by the difference in my readings.

What I am bothered by is the fact that my family doctor didn't bat an eye at 127/72 (and she is the type to prescribe medication even before it's needed) and my dental hygienist's comment seemed to indicate that I was teetering on the edge of problematic blood pressure.

After CoreFit and a late dinner I went online to do a bit of research. Here is what I learned.

The top number indicates the systolic blood pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is pumping. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries in between heart beats. With me so far?

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, low risk blood pressure is a top number  below 120 and a bottom number below 80. (uh oh)

Medium risk is a systolic blood pressure of 121-139 or a diastolic blood pressure of 80-89.

High risk is 140+/90. Unless of course you have diabetes and then it's 130/80.

Bloody hell!

I looked up what the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends for lowering blood pressure.

  • Eat a low sodium diet (stay under 2,300mg/day) - I don't get anywhere near that number most days. I typically hover around 1,500mg. 
  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat - again, no problem there. 
  • Exercise 150 minutes per week - I do several times that most weeks.
  • Don't drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day - I hardly drink two per week
  • Don't smoke - you couldn't pay me enough to pick up a cigarette
  • Keep stress to a minimum - I have a pretty stress-free life most of the time and work hard to keep it that way. 
Well, I have six more weeks until my next appointment at the Diabetes Centre. They're really good at answering my questions so I'm sure they'll give me a good sense of a) what my readings mean and b) if I need to do anything about them. 

In the meantime, I'll keep on doing all the things I do to stay healthy and I may just pop into the local pharmacy for random blood pressure checks. For research purposes. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just Some Numbers

A few numbers, for the record.


  • I've been using the FlexBar for 12 days. My elbow no longer hurts when I grasp things with my right hand and it no longer hurts when I lift things with my right arm. The only time it hurts now is right after I use the FlexBar. 

  • I have been using My Fitness Pal for 80 days. I have not missed a day of logging my food intake or my activity, not even during our two week holiday. 

  • I typically meet my daily fibre goal before lunch and I haven't come anywhere near my sodium limit in weeks yet I'm still struggling most days to get all of my calcium and all of my protein. Despite what feels to me like a lot of nuts and a lot of yogurt. Maybe if I top my yogurt with some grilled chicken? 

  • I've dropped 4 pounds. Not a ton but I wasn't going for a ton. I just wanted to get back to the weight I was a few years ago and I'm almost there. 

  • The weight loss is fine and all but the best part of it all are the other things I've changed. I hardly drink alcohol at all anymore and I hardly miss it. I still have my after curling glass of red wine but I have not opened a bottle of wine in my own home in six weeks. The 8 bottles sitting the cupboard aren't even calling my name. 

  • I no longer buy chocolate bars to stash in the cupboard for after dinner treats. I find it easy now to turn down treats when they are brought into the office and my serving sizes have been cut in half. I rarely feel hungry but I also rarely feel full. I just feel good. 

  • I use almost 20 fewer units of insulin per day than I did a year ago. I've gone from the high 40s and low 50s to the low 30s. 

  • I chopped my hair a few months ago which resulted in some unexpected savings. I save several minutes in the shower every morning since I have much less hair to wash and rinse. On the other hand I spend much more time drying it now that I can't get away with letting it dry on its own. I am saving a lot of shampoo since I have much less hair to lather. On the other hand I am spending more on haircuts since I now go every 6 weeks rather than every 8-9. I'm guessing if I crunch the numbers it was cheaper and easier to have longer hair but I like it short so short it will stay. For now at least.

Monday, March 16, 2015

All About the Pride

I've tried being patient.

I've tried being understanding.

I've tried guilt and I've tried peer pressure.

And I'm still not finding a way to get myself back into the swimming groove.

Which seems completely bizarre to me because I really do love it when I get there.

I just don't seem to care enough to get there.

So I'm through being patient and understanding and I have dropped the guilt and peer pressure tactics.

I'm moving on to more drastic measures.

I've registered for two triathlons. Entered my information. Chose my shirt size. Gasped at the price once they added taxes, administrative fees and insurance. Entered my credit card number anyway. Clicked confirm. Got the email saying I was in.

I'm committed. I'm doing a sprint triathlon in June and an Olympic triathlon in July.

I'm eyeing two more races as well although I have yet to pull out my credit card again. But they are another sprint and another Olympic which would bring my summer total up to 4 triathlons. (Plus a half marathon just to liven things up a bit.)

This is where the psychological part is going to kick in.

See, I know I could swim the distance if I had to do it tomorrow. When I hopped in the pool back in January, after a few months off, I swam 3k fairly easily. So the thought of having to swim 1500m is not enough to get me back in the pool.

What is enough is the thought of swimming 1500m poorly.

See, swimming is actually my strongest of the three sports. But I've neglected it so my speed and my form are nowhere near where they were two summers ago when I was swimming 3 times a week.

And finishing a triathlon in June with a swim time that is several minutes slower than it was two years ago is enough to get me back in the pool when nothing else was.

Turns out it's not about the guilt.

It's about the pride.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Strategic Strength Training

Now that I have my very own fitness centre just down the street, I figured I should probably be strategic in how I approach weight training. I mean I can certainly go in there a few times a week and lift weights but I thought it might make a bit more sense to make sure that I was doing exercises that would target specific areas in order to improve how I perform in my other activities.

You know, like do trunk rotation exercises to help my golf swing and that sort of thing.

I decided to see what I could find online by searching for weight training for a specific sport and then seeing if I could string together some sort of targeted weight training routine.

I got about that far in my thinking before I laughed out loud.

Weight training for golfers would certainly give me a few ideas for how to strengthen the muscles I need in order to be a strong and stable golfer but that would not necessarily help my running.

Or my curling.

Or my cycling.

Or my swimming (once I get my sorry a$$ back in the pool).

So I laughed at the ridiculousness of my idea.

If I looked up specific weight training exercises for each of the activities that I do and strung those together I would have to quit my job so that I could spend all of my time lifting weights.

I stared at my monitor for a few moments and then decided that the best approach is probably a varied one. Every part of my body can benefit from getting stronger and, as long as I do a variety of exercises so that I don't strengthen one part at the expense of the other, I'll probably come out ahead.

So rather than driving myself mad trying to create a routine to help with everything, I decided to go with option #2.

Book a session with one of the instructors and let them give me some guidance as to how to proceed. Which is exactly what is happening this afternoon when Doug and I meet with the Cybex instructor so that he can make sure we know how to use the machines and then answer any training questions we have.

I'll let you know next week how it all went and pass on any great tips I may learn.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Le Curling

As the temperatures continue to rise and the mountains of snow continue to melt, the last thing I'm thinking about is next winter's curling season.

I'm thinking about running outside without having to spend 10 minutes pulling on layer after layer of clothing.

I'm thinking about how long we have to wait until the golf course opens and how soon we can cycle outside again.

I'm thinking about spring half marathons and summer triathlons.

So I was a little taken aback when I received an email from one of my curling friends asking me if I would be interested in playing on their Tuesday night curling team next season.

I was a little more taken aback when I read that they wanted me to play vice (3rd).

Tempting...and flattering. A good combination for a recruiting committee.

I liked the idea but didn't like the fact that a) it would mean no Tuesday night CoreFit and b) I'd be up until almost midnight on the weeks when we played the late draw. (For those of you who know me, you know how utterly crazy that is). 

A few emails went back and forth and, in the end, I decided to accept the offer.

What sealed the deal you ask?

What could possibly convince me to skip a season of CoreFit and stay up late on a school night?

How about the fact that three our of four of us are French-Canadian?

Spend Tuesday evenings in the company of some very entertaining French-speaking curlers? Oh, and every so often play against Doug's Tuesday night team just for kicks?

Sold!

So even as I look forward to running in shorts, golfing with the sun on my shoulders and open-water swimming, a little part of me is already looking forward to the end of the warmer months and the start of a new curling season.


For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about when I go on and on about curling, here is a two-minute video that captures the game...and makes me laugh.


And for those of you who speak French or simply like the sound of this lovely language, here is the same video en fran├žais for your listening pleasure. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ResearchKit

I don't know if you've noticed but the Apple Watch seems to be dominating the news this week. Apple made another one of their very fun to watch product announcements and, since then, everywhere I look I see this:

Not that there is anything wrong with seeing this. It is very pretty. 

What I'm not seeing as much of is something that was introduced in another part of Apple's presentation. 

Something that Doug brought to my attention and insisted that I sit down to watch for myself. 



As Apple says, it is "an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps that could revolutionize medical studies, potentially transforming medical research forever".  

Basically what it does it is turns your iPhone (with your permission) into a diagnostic tool that can be used to help further medical research. Researchers can create apps that allow users to provide all sorts of medical data. The accelerometer in a phone can be used to conduct a gait analysis or to evaluate motor impairment, the microphone can be used to evaluate speech etc etc. 

Apple has partnered with several large research institutes and together they have developed the first five apps. These apps will help further medical research for breast cancer, parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, asthma and, you guessed it, diabetes. 

Users who choose to download one of these apps and participate in research will be able to complete consent forms, fill out surveys, complete tasks or whatever else a particular research study is looking for people to do. 

Users choose what research they participate in, control what information they provide and get to see what data is shared. And Apple does not see any of their data. 

The potential for what this can do to help medical research is enormous considering how many iPhones users are out there. The potential for recruiting people for large-scale studies is incredibly exciting. 

On a personal note, I probably spend less than 5 minutes a year thinking about what a cure for type 1 diabetes might be like. Any more than that feels like a waste of time because a cure is a long long way off and my life is happening right now. 

But as I watched the talk about the potential of ResearchKit for providing vast amounts of data and helping to move research forward at a much faster rate, I was surprised to find my eyes welling up with tears. I was even more surprised to hear a little voice in my head whisper 'maybe this will be how we find a cure'. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Erg'ing

When I started curling, I became a member of what I referred to as my curling club. 

A few years later I took up golf and switched my membership from curling to a full membership which allowed me to curl in the cold months and golf in the warm months. So it became my golf and curling club depending on the season. 

Then my club announced all sorts of improvements including the building of a new fitness centre. After a few months on construction, the fitness centre opened last week. Better yet, the use of it is included in my existing membership. Not having a gym membership, I was pretty excited to have access to cardio machines (hello treadmill!) and weights. 

Last Friday I headed there after work to check things out and I was impressed. They spared no expense and we have brand new, state of the art equipment, lots of weights, fitness balls, mats, and everything else a great gym should have. They even have, omigod, a rowing machine! (Apparently it's supposed to be referred to as an 'erg' but I prefer rowing machine.)

When I was in university I was taught by my sister (who used to row for her university) how to row properly. I was nowhere near as strong as she was but I loved it. I used to use it all the time...but that was almost 20 years ago. I figured I'd be a bit rusty but I was excited to try.

I hopped on and rowed (erg'ed?) for 30 minutes. It came back to me instantly and I fell into a rhythm that was easy to maintain. I kept looking at the screen and watching the numbers but really had no idea if I was flying across the water or barely moving the boat. All I know is that I did 6000m in 30 minutes (is that good?). 

Afterwards I did all sorts of upper body weights using weight machines I haven't used in at least 10 years, since I cancelled my last gym membership. It was great! 

I went again on Sunday morning and hopped back on the erg again. Again, I did 30 minutes and covered just over 6000m. Again I did a bunch of weight machines afterwards and went home feeling great. 

When I was a curler, I liked my curling club. 

When I became a golfer, I really liked my golf and curling club. 

Now that there is a fitness centre too? I'm thinking I'm going to be hanging out there a whole lot from now on. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

FlexBar Report

Last Friday I wrote about my golf-induced tennis elbow. Also known as tendonitis for those who prefer the more technical name for things.

I also wrote about ordering something called a FlexBar that is supposed to help strengthen the weak areas that lead to tendonitis.



I was pretty happy to have my FlexBars (I ordered a few different ones so that I can increase the resistance as I get stronger) arrive on Friday morning. I've now had three days to use them and can give a FlexBar report for anyone who is interested.

The first thing I learned is that using a FlexBar is all about subtlety. The movements you need to do to address different problem areas are not big broad movements (like the kind that usually cause the problem) but small and precise ones.

I read the instructions and (thought I had) figured it out. The movements seemed to stretch the area that they was supposed to.

Then I went online to read more details about how to do the exercise and I discovered that I was doing it all wrong. Not a little bit wrong but almost completely backwards from what I was supposed to be doing. Once I started to do it correctly, I really really felt the stretch in all the right places.

The instructions say to do the exercise 5 times in a row, three times a day. They say that it will probably hurt afterwards. They say that the discomfort should go away after a little while and, once I can do 5 in a row without pain, I should increase to 10. And then 15.

By Sunday I was doing 10 in a row with the second highest resistance. There is still pain afterwards but less of it. I can also grip my water bottle and lift it without pain which is something I could not do last week. So I'm willing to say that, while it's still early days, things seem to be moving in the right direction.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Flexbar

We played 6 games of golf while we were away.

Six games of golf...in 7 days.

Before every game of golf, we went to the practice range and hit balls. A bucket of them.

In 7 days (I'm guessing here) I swung my golf club 1000 times.

Considering the fact that the last time I golfed was October, that's kinda like not running for four months and then easing back into things with a hilly half marathon.

So it should come as no surprise that my body responded with an 'I'm not very happy with you' message.

My elbow started hurting in a way that it has never hurt before and got steadily worse at the games went on. It began to hurt every time I gripped the club in my right hand it and hurt when I then tried to lift my arm while holding the gripping club.

I carried on figuring it was only a few more days and then I had at least two months to recover before golf season in Canada began.

Well I've been almost two weeks since my last golf game and my elbow still isn't happy whenever I try to pick something even remotely heavy up with my right hand.  I have to force myself to lift my water bottle with my left hand to avoid the now-familiar twinge.

So I decided to research 'golfer's elbow' to see what the deal was.

Turnsout I don't have golfer's elbow. I have tennis elbow. Which golfers can get too apparently.

Anyway, I read all about treatment and prevention options and most articles I found kept leading back to the same thing.

This:

 Introducing the Thera-Band Flexbar

Apparently the key to fixing and avoiding a recurrence of tennis (or golfer's) elbow is to strengthen the muscles in your arm that become irritated. Doing so is difficult using regular exercises but this little baby does the trick. Check out this article about it in the New York Times if you're interested.There is also photos and a short video to show the move you need to do to strengthen the affected area.

So I texted my friendly neighbourhood chiropractor to get his thoughts and then, with his approval, ordered my very own. It should arrive on Monday and, if it's anywhere near as good as it is touted to be, I should be feeling much better and stronger by the time I swing my clubs again.

Which is a good thing because I plan on spending a lot of time this summer swinging my clubs.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vitamania

One of the best things about road trips, in my opinion, is getting to listen to all sorts of interviews on the radio while we drive. Interviews that I would not normally have time for, often on topics that I wouldn't naturally gravitate towards. Whenever we hit the road, Doug and I switch back and forth between CBC Radio One and NPR depending on our moods and the topic of the hour.

Last year when we drove to Florida and back I heard several authors interviewed and came away with a list of books that I wanted to read. I downloaded them all and, over the year, have worked my way through them. This year, I had my notebook and fountain pen ready and was not disappointed. I now have 6 more books on my 'to read' list.

The one that I wanted to read first was a new book that just came out called Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection. It's written by Catherine Price. She was interviewed for almost an hour and we listened with fascination while she explained what vitamins actually are, what they do and how we have been convinced that we need megadoses of these things in order to be healthy. She talked about the history of vitamins and how devastating it can be if someone is deficient (scurvy anyone?). She talked about how dramatic vitamins could be and how having something as simple as a few oranges could miraculously bring someone back to robust health.

She also talked about how it's not yet clear how much of any of these vitamins we really do need to consume and what the long-term risks are of getting too much. She also talked about how unregulated the production of vitamins is and some of the risks associated with taking pills when we don't know for sure what they contain.

Oh, and she has type 1 diabetes too boot which upped the coolness factor by a few notches.

So I got the book and I've started reading it. We heard that interview last week. Since then I have read an article about her in the National Post and I have seen mention of her book on Diabetes Advocacy Facebook pages. It sounds like she's reached the 'tipping point' (which by the way is another interesting book) and I'm guessing you'll be hearing a lot about this book if you haven't already.

On a personal note, I've been interested in nutrition as long as I can remember. I read everything I can get my hands on about it. Over the years, I've learned that the world of nutrition a slowly evolving one where things like fats, carbs, protein, vitamins, omega 3s and other things come in and out of favour as our knowledge increases. It can seem frustrating as the messages change (I've lost track of whether eggs are good for me or not) but I take comfort in the fact that the messages change because we are learning more.

So I will read Catherine's book with fascination and add what she says to my knowledge base. I may not clean out my vitamin cupboard but I expect I may pare it down a bit and spend a bit more energy trying to get what I need from my diet rather than my pharmacy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February Roundup

I'm a few days late but here is what February looked like in terms of exercise and activity. 

February is a short month to begin with. Add a few snow storms in there and a two-week vacation and it didn't add up to as much activity as I would like. But it does add up which is always better than not adding up. 

So, for better or for worse, here's the report. 

Cycling
Because of all the snow I did have to sacrifice two runs and hop on the trainer instead. So I cycled 5 times in two weeks which is more than I usually would do. I covered a total of 83km in just over 4 hours. 

Running
I only managed to run 5 times which is a lot less than I normally do in a month. I ran twice at the beginning of the month but the constant snow made it too treacherous to do any more than that outside. I did run three times in Florida which was great but then didn't run at all during our second week of vacation. So the grand total is 52km in 6 hours. 

CoreFit and Tabata

2 sessions. That's it. Just two. Two were cancelled due to weather and then I missed two weeks while I was away. Sad. I did do a bunch of weights on the weekend when we got back and was shocked to see how quickly things fall apart. Oh well, March is a new month! 

So my total distance covered this month was 135km. 

In January I covered a total of 216k which, when you string them all together, took me from my front door to Barrie. Add February's distance and I'm now just north of Parry Sound, Ontario. 

Regina, Saskatchewan is still 2,396km away but, with half marathon training coming up, golf season almost here and outdoor cycling fast approaching too, I'm pretty confident that I can cover that distance in the next 10 months. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Road Trip 2015

Hi!

I'm back!

Back from a two-week road trip. Back from several thousand kilometres of driving. Back from palm trees and golf courses and stores that sell guns and ammo (and craft supplies!?!) and lots of 'how y'all doing?'.

We went to get a brief break from a rather tough Canadian winter. We went to visit our friends. We went to revisit some of our favourite places in the United States.

Here are a few of the highlights for you.

We learned how Floridians protect delicate fruit such a blueberries when the temperatures dip below zero. Cover them in ice. 

We discovered a beautiful golf course called Providence (not in Rhode Island Jeff!) and I posted my best golf score ever! 

We went to Bay Hill to play a game and ran into its very famous and very charming owner and designer. (In case you don't recognize him, his name is Arnold Palmer.)

We spent as much time photographing the Bay Hill golf course as we did playing it. Such a beautiful place. Oh, and I got a par on the 18th hole. Which will make it fun when we watch the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and I get to see how the pros tackle that same hole...from a few feet further back than where I hit from. 

After Florida, we drove to Pinehurst, North Carolina for a few games of golf but the weather had other plans. So we gave up on our golf games and photographed the snow and explored the charming little town instead. 

The very old and very famous Pine Crest Inn where we stayed. We even got the same room we did last year. 

We headed north to Washington DC, one of our favourite cities for two days of exploring. First stop, the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum.

Stealth Bomber

I spent a lot of time checking out Discovery. Such a beautiful old gal. 

It was nice to see the Canadarm standing guard beside her. 

Discovery looking very Stars Wars-like from behind. 

We also explored the Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural Science (my favourite!). We saw Archie Bunker's chair, Dorothy's ruby slippers, Julia Child's kitchen and THE Star Spangled Banner. 

We're home and pretty much back to normal. Laundry's done, groceries are restocked and we got our first snowy run in.

Tomorrow: my February workout report.