Wednesday, 23 January 2013

An Obsessive's Guide To Diet and Exercise Part 3

I don't know if I would ever have gone back to exercise if there didn't exist this thing called 'ageing'.

It is strange to me that whilst maturing mentally seems to have completely passed me by (and in fact I seem to be a mental equivalent of Benjamin Button, getting more childish by the year), my body somehow does show signs of time passing. It creeps up on you so slowly that you don't really notice it - or at least I didn't. Then one day your Son says, 'why are you doing that? Why don't you just walk properly' as you struggle to get your feet flat on the floor as you walk first thing in the morning, ankles crunching, calves niggling, hips aching.

But hey, it only lasted until I reached the bottom of the stairs, and no one could tell by looking at me that I was a crock in the morning. And EVERYONE has these aches and pains, don't they? It certainly wasn't enough to get me exercising.

You see, in my odd little brain, if you couldn't exercise for at least 40 minutes, at least five times a week, well, it wasn't worth doing it. So when I would periodically decide I 'really must do something' about exercising, it would last about a week, then I'd have a lot on and miss a couple of days, and then I would tell myself it was pointless continuing. I was just TOO BUSY to be fit.

Then one Monday last September I woke up and my left arm was numb. I thought I'd slept on it funny, but as I sat up I became simultaneously aware that my face was swollen and my left leg didn't feel like it belonged to me. I was instantly terrified - I'm a physio, I know what a stroke is like - but I couldn't believe that this could happen to me. I got out of bed and went downstairs - or tried. I couldn't lower myself with my left leg, so I had to get down two feet to one step-wise like an old person. At my living room door (on my left). When I first pushed it, I couldn't open it - had to deliberately push harder. My arm felt unco-ordinated, as though it didn't belong to me. I kept waiting for it all to go right, but it didn't. I had no headache, and no loss of visual field, so I was pretty sure this wasn't a migraine. I also thought I would probably have a headache if I'd had a stroke, and probably would have lost visual field. And my left is the side always affected by migraine (it goes numb, but never lower than my arm), so maybe it was? I was having no trouble finding words, which I always do when I have a migraine. But stroke patients paralysed on the left hardly ever have problems word-finding. This was all running through my mind, because surely it wasn't possible that I had had a stroke?

In the end, I decided I had to see a doctor. I phoned the GP, and the receptionist asked why I needed an appointment. I told her, and she didn't even refer me to the triage nurse - in a first-ever occurrence, she gave me an appointment for later that morning, no questions asked. This was not looking good.

I phoned my boss to say I wasn't going in to work, got Son off to school (he knew nothing of this drama) and headed off to the doctor. I was sort of expecting her to reassure me all was well and send me back to work. She agreed that I had good muscle power, but said I had to go to the hospital, and did I want an ambulance?!!!!

I said I didn't, I would call a taxi. I couldn't have coped with the drama of an ambulance as the whole waiting room looked on. ME! Avoiding drama! I must have felt ill.

Went home, called a taxi and wondered what the hell was going to happen to me. I got to the hospital A and E, and two stroke nurses were waiting for me. They assessed me and said I had to go to the stroke unit for tests, but that the stroke unit doctor would need to assess me first, so I waited in a cubicle while he came. The nurses came back after he had done all his tests and stuff and said I had to be admitted and would need a scan (can't remember now which one it was, MRI or CAT).

'But how long will I need to stay?'

'Well, at least overnight, but possibly longer.....'

'I CAN'T!!!! My Dad is dying and my mum has dementia and I have to go over to Wolverhampton to take her to visit him, and I have a son, and who will look after him, and....'

'Hey, hey, that will all be sorted out, we'll help you sort out child care, is there someone you can phone....'

'NO!! There's ONLY ME! I can't stay, I don't mind signing myself out, I have to go -'

At this point the doctor who had been standing at the nurses' station came in and said, 'it's alright, you won't have to stay.'

PHEW! He then went on to describe how he had been pretty sure it wasn't a stroke or TIA because my pupils were fine, as were all the cranial nerves. He asked if I had been under stress lately, and I said I had, with mum and dad and so on. He then talked about strange neurological things that could happen when you were under stress, and because he had mentioned migraine, I thought he was saying I had had a bad migraine. I didn't think this was true. But hey, I was able to leave, that was the main thing. My Dad died that night.

My leg recovered quickly, but my arm was problematic, particularly the shoulder, for over two weeks.

Several weeks later I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 discussing something called Functional Neurological Illness (previously known as Conversion Disorder) - physical symptoms with no apparent physical cause, which were associated with stress. I realised I hadn't had any problems with my arm since my father's funeral. I had suffered a Functional Illness - which is pretty ironic considering that during my time in mental health I had come across it several times and was well aware of the mind-body connection. Yet it never crossed my mind that this was what I had, and this could only be another example of the less conscious parts of the brain hiding stuff from the conscious part, cos once I heard that programme I was like 'of course'!

But the relevance of that here is that it got me thinking about my health. This was only reinforced when I had a vomiting episode whilst on holiday in October. It only lasted 24 hours, but it made me really question how run down I was, and how unhealthy I was now feeling - especially as I didn't feel right for about three weeks afterwards. It was this vomiting episode that led me to give up alcohol unless I was going out socialising. No more weekend glasses of wine to unwind. It would also mean I would save money, which was a bonus. Still exercise hadn't crossed my mind.

Then the Unforgiving Mirror across the hall from my bathroom struck  again. I rarely leave the bathroom door open, so when I do my reflection always takes me by surprise, usually by being a stone heavier and 15 years older than I am expecting. This time I was horrified to spot notice I had no bottom. Where it used to be was a sad little fold of flesh like an old lady in her 80s would have. A sad little fold of flesh with cellulite on the right hand side.

This succeeded where all else had failed - I was now motivated to exercise, because I WANTED MY BOTTOM BACK. I told myself that this time there wasn't going to be any obsession, I would fit it around my life, not the other way around, and I would stick to it because if I missed a few days it didn't matter, I would do some lunges at least, and I would Get My Bottom Back.

I started doing my old exercise DVDs and VHSs - I like Davina, Cindy Crawford and Elle McPherson. However, I knew if I was going to keep it up, I would need some new DVDs to fight the boredom.

This being the start of November, there were a few deals on Amazon and Ebay, so I bought a couple of Nell McAndrew DVDs (BIG mistake, boring as hell and v high impact so no good for those with a 30GG bust) and a four DVD box set by someone called Jillian Michaels. I had never heard of her, but she had rave reviews and seemed to be pretty difficult, and I knew I would get fit pretty quick from previous experience, so I bought them.

I mostly bought them for her 40 minute routine ones, one to boost metabolism and one to target problem areas. WELL! For the first time since I had restarted exercising, my legs and arms ACHED the next day after each of these. Oh, I have to be honest, I thought I was going to DIE whilst doing them. DEFINITELY a step up from Davina, these and the 30 minute abs DVD now became my favourites. Son would hear me and go, 'mummy, PLEASE turn that off! Why are you doing this to yourself?'

But I was now motivated by something completely different. By December I was leaping out of bed with no problem in the mornings. My stiff neck, my twingy back, the little aches and pains I had put down to getting older - they were GONE. What's not to like? I was exercising on average three times a week, and I felt GREAT.

Then came Christmas. Two very busy weeks. Here I may have fallen off the wagon and not exercised at all, but in the four-pack of Jillian Michaels DVDs was '30 Day Shred' Now I am well aware that this DVD is now all over Twitter, my timeline is full of it, but at that point I had never heard of it. I certainly didn't believe that 20 minutes of exercise would do anything by way of fitness. But I told myself that 20 minutes was better than nothing.

I didn't do it as directed because I get bored, I did a different level each time I did it. On the second week I only did it three times. When the Christmas period was over, I had every intention of never doing it again - after all, although it is intense, it's only 20 minutes - that wouldn't do anything. Would it?

First exercise DVD after going back to work, and I did the fat burn/metabolism boost Jillian. I managed it with no problem - it was hard, but I wasn't moaning and crying by the end like before Christmas. Next time, I did Davina - three of her High Energy Five - and it was TOO EASY. I was having to add weights and add in Jillian adaptations to make it hard enough. I was completely and utterly amazed. '30 Day Shred' had achieved results fast. So now I do it two or three days a week, and do other DVDs when I have days off and time for them. I have also bought another pack of Jillian DVDs - including Extreme Shed and Shred - OMG, this one is a KILLER. but I am going to persist (in a 'once every two weeks or so' kind of way!).

I am now motivated because I am stronger than I have ever been. I can do 10 press-ups - I was never able to do more than three, even when I was a crazed gym bunny. Can I brag? 30 Day Shred is easy now, aside from the occasional moves that I find hard, like moguls. I sometimes think my horrendous bingo wings are shrinking, and I definitely have a two and a half pack - I can see the top bit of a six pack, and the top of the next bit of a six-pack, but the rest is covered with my baby belly fatty skin! Which is sad, cos I'd like to show off that two and a half pack, but I don't want to clear any rooms :-)

Over Christmas I put on 6 pounds, mainly down to non-McKenna endorsed pigging on Xmas Cake and custard. Though the upside is I didn't eat any salad or other non-sweet delaying tactic crap beforehand - just ate what I wanted but forgot to be mindful and didn't stop until I felt nauseous. On more than one occasion. I am a work-in-progress still. I lost 4 of those pounds in the first week of going back to eating normally. Haven't weighed since, but will weigh on Thursday or so. Just to be sure I'm below 10st. I'm not oging to post 'progress' or anything here or on Twitter cos for me none of this is about weight (tho I've got to admit if I go over 10 stone it def IS about the weight!). It's about a new way of living - a more healthy way. I measure that in aches and pains, not inches :-)

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