Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Goals (7)


Because I said so!

Have you ever opened your mouth and to your utter horror you’ve heard your mother talking?   “Because I said so!!”  That’s gotta be the ultimate frustration level inside yourself when you hit the explanatory stone wall...... oh how do I hate that?  Let me count the ways.....   It’s always a shock when I hear it from myself.  Even more ironic, it’s like that proverbial red flag to a bull when someone gives it to me.  Tell me WHY or get out of my way.  I’ve hit that zone on exercize right now.

I’m at a waffle point: how much exercize should I be doing?  The correct answer of course begins with “it depends”.  OK - what are my priorities?

Weight loss - first and foremost.  Yeah yeah -- not the number on the scales but rather a healthy body fat percentage.  Listen closely:  I’m so far away from that ideal state that the number on the scales will do just fine for the next year.
Movement - ability to participate in normal healthy activity like dog walking, mild frisbee/softball games, getting back up again when my kid insists on snow angels.... normal life.
Ease - ability to bend my knees, walk without pain, have no need for a seatbelt extension on the airplane, buy clothes in normal stores, sit in folding canvas chairs at sporting events.    

Let’s be real here.  I’m not going to be setting any records or running anywhere at the moment.  I just need to keep the joints moving and the calories burning.  Yeah yeah - calories in / calories out is hogwash but not completely.  At some non-theoretical point, EXCESS calories DO matter.    On the flip side, in order to lose weight you have to burn fat calories no matter how many of the flipping little things are actually in a pound.  That is not a theory either.  You can’t just make a wish and have it fall off your butt.  You have to work it off.  Somehow you need to have a caloric deficit WITHOUT nutritional deficiency.  Hence, my bff in stable ketosis, but that’s another day.  This rant is about exercize.

I don’t have issue with essential notions for strength training: Stabilize joints, improve posture, facilitate movement, change body composition & therefore improve metabolism..... this is all good stuff.  HOW MUCH?  WHAT KIND?  Oh man.... things get hairy all of a sudden.  Too much exercize is just as bad as too much stress.

Leaning to do the “slow burn”  or even “eccentric” notions help clarify a little bit in that you build your muscles with controlled movement across full range of motion and smaller amounts of time than conventional pumping is recommended.  OK.  This makes intuitive sense.  Extend time & intensity of contractions and muscle will develop.  

However, when you listen to those resource people you start to scratch your head.  Fred Hahn who wrote Slow Burn Fitness Revolution and guests on “Ask the Low Carb Experts” with Jimmy Moore is talking in terms of 15-20 minutes PER WEEK in place of aerobics.  Likewise Jonathon Bailor talks about the nitty gritty of component muscle fibres in the Smarter Science of Slim, indicating one intense session per week with recovery time up to SIX DAYS!!!  Furthermore, in one of his interviews he mentions that he is sore for literally DAYS after these intense workouts.  

Yeah, no thanks.  This does NOT work for me.  It might confer metabolic benefits that are better than aerobics but it doesn’t meet my need for calorie expenditure.  Besides that, I still need to be able to walk on other days of the week.

The opposite end of the spectrum is not desirable either.  Colin Champ has an opinion post on extreme training with an embedded video of an athlete “hitting the wall”.  He has a fairly dim view of marathons!  

I can’t say that I disagree with him on the ultra-marathons either, but you know, the brag value of those things would be huge.  What a comeback to the snobs who look down their nose at me now eh?  “Yeah bonehead - I lost 200 pounds and finished an Iron Man.  What have you done?”  Somehow I think that might remain in the fiction category for just a while yet.  Mind you Joel Runyon would say I should just ignore those small minded morons and get on with the impossible.  Never say never.

Where is the happy medium?  If you listen to participaction commercials you will learn deep intrinsic truths like “One half hour of exercize is one less half hour in front of the television”.  Helpful?  NOT!  The short of it is that nobody I know has a good answer.  It depends...

You know what - I don’t know either.  I’m just going to keep on swimming on my lunch hour because I happen to like it, and I can do it without a whole lot of joint impact.  (The use of fins is addressing the shoulder imbalance.)  AND I’m going to continue biking to work until it gets too cold because that too is low joint impact and a beautiful ride.  I love the mist rising on the river in the mornings now, and the sound of the resting Canada Geese that I can’t see.  As long as the arse keeps melting and the knees don’t hurt, that’s all that matters at the moment.  Why?  Because I said so!!!!

Fred Hahn
Colin Champ
Joel Runyon Blog of Impossible Things
Jonathon Bailor, The Smarter Science of Slim, Aavia Publishing, 2012.


Bike for Breath: Success!!

Sunday October 14th was NB Lung Association's Bike for Breath.  It was also POURING rain.  I had promised too many people that I would do it - so bike it I did.  YAY ME!!

Yes I'm bragging.  Blatantly.  Careful observations of the jiggy on the side will show you that I've lost 102 pounds so far.  Bike for Breath was all about a personal challenge.  Why did I even sign up?  BECAUSE I CAN.  It's just that simple.  Because I can.  I chose the 20k route and decided to push myself to sustained capacity over the whole route.  The route was flat railroad grade and there were crosswalk volunteers at every road.  I knew it would be the best opportunity I'd get for such a test.

In short, my time was a personal best.  20k in about 55 minutes which means I was averaging around 23-24 kph.  Compare that to spring (April) when I started biking to work (13-14 kph).  My bike is affectionately known as "the Beater" -- a trusty generic mountain bike that's never met a mountain.  He sports some pretty nifty handlebars known as "ape hangers" in the motorcycle world.  

This is the front of the pack for the 20k.  Most of the group had mountain bikes.  That's me in the blue raincoat, neon yellow gloves and my trusty Beater.

The young chap in the front right was the first one back, beating me by a long minute.  The senior gentleman in the pinkish poncho was just slightly ahead of me as well.  In conversation he let it drop that he had biked about 5,000 kms this summer.  Now THAT's a brilliant way to enjoy your summers when retired!!!!  I was absolutely thrilled to finish within sight of him!

I learned a lot about gear too.  Applying the same principles as scuba diving wetsuits, I was soaking wet but with multiple layers that were soaking wet - I was still warm.  My hands were dry.  My coat was enough to keep the windchill off my arms & upper body.  The only issue was the ventilated sneakers that were just starting to get cold by the time I biked home after the route (at 30k or so).  Note to self: find some gaiter's!

What did this prove?  That I can bike 30k in the rain and still be comfortable.  Stylish?  Nope!!  But as a trial run for the Plains & Pastures next year it was a resounding success.  

Strange as it may seem though - Bike for Breath wasn't actually about me.  Go figure!  It was a fundraiser and thanks to a load of fantastic people in my world, I was able to raise $377 for the Lung Association.  Thank you so much!!


Group Fitness Classes: Motivational?

Found an interesting article on fitness motivation today.  In all truth, I started reading it with an open mind.  I just finished it in a snit that’s all.  LOL.

Motivation is a tough go.  You have to keep in mind what you ultimately want no matter how bored, tired or cranky you might be.  I find myself looking for positive messages about motivation quite a lot!!!!

Further to that sorry little bit of disclosure, there’s a real reason too.  You can’t have a negative goal.  My “wall” was pain & immobility.  I don’t ever want to use a cane again in my life.  That’s not a goal.  That’s either a term or a condition - I can’t remember which.  What do I actually WANT?  What is my goal?  My goal is to live in a healthy state of being that will let me partake in activities that are currently out of reach.  Like what?  Like walking in Machu Picchu or up Mt. Kilimanjaro or the great wall of China. Like scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or the Caymans.  Like clambering on & off a zodiac in Antarctica or the Galapagos.  Like riding Mongolian ponies & staying in a yurt.

So when I’m swimming laps ad nauseum, these are the places and activities that fill my empty head.  Sometimes I give passing thought as to how I’m going to afford to get there, but these are my daydreams and I’m sticking to them!  These are indeed my goals.  So when I see articles that might help me keep on track, I’m sucked right in.  That’s what this one did.

"Those who exercise in groups sustain greater motivation to train than those who work out alone."

OK.  That’s a blanket statement: prove it to me.

"For one thing, it seems that being in a group makes us tolerate pain better; a 2009 study  from the University of Oxford found that male rowers who trained together had double the pain threshold after exercising than they did when working out alone. Researchers theorize that even if you're performing at the same level, the added endorphin rush from participating in a group activity will be greater."

I have to stop right here and apologize to every single human carrier of the whY chromosome.  This just gave me the giggles.  Take a posse of university males, by definition highly competitive males, crowd them together where they can publicly out-do one another in a manly endeavour, and then you rate pain?  Are you kidding me?  Was the researcher’s ego-meter broken that day?  The endorphin rush from the company?  How about the sheer satisfaction of waxing the other guys’ butt?  Wouldn’t that supercede the group hug?  OK Meghann... move on!

"A 2006 study from the University of Copenhagen confirms ....that...  participants who felt cohesion with the group they worked out with were more likely to continue with an exercise program."

This makes sense.  If you like the people you’re with, it will become a social event too.  Of course I can’t help but wonder now if they get an endorphin rush out of it too.    

"Beyond that, if your challenge is more performing than just showing up, getting competitive in a group fitness class can help you push harder and get fitter. After all, if the woman next to you in run group is keeping up even though she sounds like she's struggling, what's keeping you from working just as hard?"

What’s with this competitive crap?  Motivation is intrinsic.  It’s definitely not about guilting me into working harder.  What’s the end game?  Push until I’m struggling too??  This makes no sense to me.  Needing to do better than the next person is ego.  And it’s actually quite pathetic.  I have to reject the notion that I need to beat someone else in order to feel good about myself.  Don’t get me wrong - it feels good to wax somebody’s butt at something - just admit that it’s EGO all the way!  

At this point in the article I’m quite ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.  I think back to all the times I tried group fitness classes.   They are inevitably led by a spandex waif who bends like rubber and makes it look easy.  Yeah OK - they work hard for it.  Nobody’s graceful the first time.  Then you look around the room.  OMG you’re looking at yourself in those freakin’ mirrors!  It’s bad enough you don’t feel like Elastigirl, but do you really need to SEE that stark contrast to her for the whole flippin’ class??  Yeah yeah get a grip.  Nobody’s looking at you - they’re all looking at Elastigirl at the front.  ((Except for all those competitive ones who notice that you’re puffing like a steam engine)).  FINE.  Concentrate on Elastigirl......  and of course that doesn’t work.  The human eye is genetically wired to notice movement.  And man oh man but you can’t help but see ALL that movement in the area of your arse!!

NOPE.  I can’t say as I have EVER enjoyed a group fitness class.  That’s one newsletter I ain’t gonna be signing up for!!!  I’ll get my bits of inspiration elsewhere.  Like this one.

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."
Margaret Thatcher  (1925 - )

And now for the mandatory photo .....


The Joy of Movement

Social niceties are entertaining sometimes.  Unless they're incredibly ignorant, most people just don't make comments about your excess weight (at least to your face).  But when you start losing it, then all of a sudden you hear this chorus of "You MUST feel so much BETTER now!!"  It seems like it's the only safe thing people can think of while scraping their jaw off the floor..... 

In truth, No, I don't consciously feel better.  It's the absences that are significant. It's the absence of pain and the freedom to move.  It's something that takes you by surprise when you're right in the middle of it.

Movement is something you take for granted when you're healthy.  For the most part I was able to move even at heavy weight.  It was no big deal for me to walk 8-10 blocks downtown to the drugstore at lunchtime.  Mid-day heat might stop me as I've never been a good lizard, but the walk itself wouldn't have put me off.  I have pretty much been able to do whatever I tried for most of my life.  Horses, motorcycles, even elephants were all adventures to be enjoyed.

Everything cascaded from a simple knee injury hopping off a truck.  The "good" knee couldn't take the extra strain, plantar fasciitis kicked in, knees seized up, back hurt all the time - really bad.  Mobility vanished: when I got off the crutches there was no normal to go back to.

Various bits of movement came back slowly, in small steps.  I remember being in the changeroom and having to put on my socks.  Without thinking I just bent my leg and put my foot on the bench.  YAHOO!!!!  I needed to go downstairs for something - half way down I realized that I was just walking normally - NOT crab hopping one leg first at each tread.  YEEHA!!!

Gradually without noticing the length of my stride has improved, I can get on my bike without lowering it almost to the ground like before, I've even quasi-jogged a couple dozen paces to make it to the intersection in time for the pedestrian walk signal.  It's not obvious, but you don't notice when you don't hurt.

In a really strange sort of way, it feels like I'm multiple people.  The younger me took movement for granted and just did things.  There have been times in the pool when I've got my stroke just right and things are all clicking together that I actually feel like that person again.  It's not a conscious thought - more like a warmth as the joy of movement just washes over you.  The feeling doesn't generally last long.  The euphoria usually means you forget what you're doing and end up with a mouth full of water.  But for those split seconds, it's almost like a different me is in the water. 

Maybe that's what I should answer instead of "Yes I feel so much better".  No, I don't feel better: I feel like me.  I'd forgotten what that felt like.  It's kind of like a toothache: you don't notice when it's gone!

I remember the first time I rode a Trials Motorbike.  It belonged to my friend Mike and was one of his prized possessions.  He was really good at it - zipping over log bridges & jumping off rocks long before it was a cool hobby.  He let me ride it around and around his house in Vermillion.  (Yeah I'm sure the neighbours loved us!)  It was a total blast.  Impossible to sit down on the thing - you had to stand which meant you had to have control of yourself as well as the bike.  No mean feat considering it was nothing like a horse!!  I even managed to win a certain amount of respect since I didn't stall it or dump it or run into anything.  Mike's wife Marilyn (the photographer) wasn't all that fond of the thing.  She much preferred sitting on the back of the big Honda and taking pictures without a car window in the way.  She got some incredible ones on their honeymoon.  But I digress......

I have a whole shopping list of goals for myself when I "get healthy" again.  Most of them include something active.  I'd love to get another motorcycle for zipping around on a hot day.  I plan on digging out my cross-country ski's this winter.  I saw a tv special on "The Iron Man" about a month after I took out the Y membership.  That would be awesome.  Could you imagine?  Lose 200 pounds and finish an Iron Man?  Now there's a stretch goal and then some. 

I've kept my mouth shut about that goal though.  Who's going to believe someone weighing 350 pounds when she says she's going to take up triathlon?  No.  Just think it - don't say it.  Well - that's just a bad idea.  I found this "Blog of Impossible Things" by a guy named Joel Runyon.  Basically he got sick of being ordinary and has started doing things.  Crazy things.  Things that ordinary people think are impossible.  He's got a list and he's slowly crossing them off as he gets them done, one by one.  There's a role model.  My friend Laura is another one.  She ran a half-marathon in Prague to raise money for Arthritis last year.  Next year she's doing a full one in Rome, again to raise money for Arthritis.  She's encouraging me to start running too.  You know what Laura?  I'm still too fat to fly, but I'm going to do what I can do next summer.  That's a promise. 


Beads and Brain Cells

I have become a personal data junkie.  At first I really felt self-conscious and even a little bit anal-retentive about keeping an exercize log.  Then when I realized how much valuable information I could get out of it, all of a sudden it became a high priority and a computer spreadsheet with nice pretty graphs.  (The food tracking app that I'm using also has nice pretty graphs!)

You can't improve what you don't manage.  You can't manage what you don't measure.  (I don't give two stuffed pickles whether or not there's a positive spin way to say that either!!!!!)

When I started in the pool last summer, there wasn't any real need for fancy data tracking systems.  I wasn't accomplishing much!!  Splashing a lot, huffing & puffing, but counting laps didn't even take my full set of fingers to keep track. 

As the various body systems began to remember what normal felt like, the swimming started to improve.  This wasn't like an explosion out of a cannon or anything: the first couple weeks I was thrilled with myself to get 300 metres in.  It took a couple weeks to add another hundred.  Pretty slow progress, but at least it was progress.

As it started to come together, I found myself "swimming".  Not just splashing, but actually accomplishing forward motion.  This by itself was amazing, but along with that stroke memory came a certain mental freedom.  I did not have to think where to fling my arm or how lift my head at every stroke.  I could indeed  flounder my way up and down the lane without the requisite mental orchestration.  This was liberating!!  I could now ponder the meaning of life as I was exercizing.  I could.  I didn't, but I certainly could have.

More often than not I would daydream about being healthy again, or think about what I was doing that evening.  I'd see other women with really pretty painted toenails and I'd think "I'm gonna treat myself to a pedicure when I lose 50 pounds".  While these diversions were pleasant, it meant that the brain cells were being diverted from the task at hand: I would completely forget to count the laps.  I could do a rough guesstimate based on time in the pool, but once I got up to numbers like 12 and 15 it really was a nuisance.  You'd think it would be a simple thing to count to 15 but I can honestly tell you that it takes more brain cells than I've got.  There has to be a better way.

Mr. Google showed me a vast array of lap counting devices in a wide variety of expense and complexity.  At this stage of the progress chart I wasn't entirely sure throwing money at the problem would solve much.  Plus the freakin' little screens on all those fancy gizmo's were way too small for me to see without reading glasses.  Fat lot of good that would do me if I couldn't even see how to turn them on or off in the pool!!!!!  Luddite that I am, I went low-tech.

My daughter has a huge collection of crap left over from an even larger collection of crafts that she has done.  I raided the bead bins and dug out some plastic string.  VOILA!!  The counting string was born.

The pool at Fredericton's former Y facility was a bit over 17 metres long, meaning you had to do 30 trips up AND down the pool in order to accomplish 1000 metres (1 kilometre).  This was a huge stretch goal for me at that time, so I made my bead string with 30 beads.  I started swimming in June, and three months later at the end of August I was able to finally do 1000 metres!

The beads opened up new areas of conversation too.  By going every single lunch hour on workdays, the lifeguards were getting to know me.  With an actual COUNT of the laps, finally there was some progress to be tracked and ultimately discussed.  I'd see them checking the number of beads that had been moved when they walked past on their rounds.

I also know that the lifeguards talk about them/me amongst themselves.  There was a new person on at lunch last week.  It's custom at our pool to say hello, so we started talking .... She said her name was ___ and I said my name was Meghann.  She smiled and said "I know".  Huh?  And then she said "I've heard about your beads".  LOL!!!  So now I'm the nutjob bead lady???  What a hoot!!

It is a source of some amusement that so many people have stopped to make comment about the beads.  One person actually grilled me about the system: when did I move the bead, how much did that represent, what did the colours mean, etc.  I'm beginning to think I should start making these things to sell!!!!

All kidding aside though.... the beads have proved invaluable.  Thanks to my fins (the cheaters) I am able to do between 1.0 - 2.0 kilometres at a crack, depending upon the amount of time I have.  I can daydream, concentrate on my stroke, plan things, solve things, draft things or just generally stop thinking and enjoy the time in the water.  All I have to do is move a bead every time I get back to the string, and keep track of the total time.  ((This level of requirement doesn't seem to overload my limited brain cells!))  When I enter that in the spreadsheet I can compare different pool sessions.

The data has started to get even more interesting when I added some comment fields around diet, exercize, salt, sleep, and general energy levels.  I now know that a bad night's sleep will add 2 or 3 minutes to a kilometre in the pool the next day.  I also know that I have improved nearly 1 minute of time on a kilometre for every 5 pounds of weight I've lost.  This is COOL!  I've logged over 300 sessions in the pool now and closing in on 400 kilometres since last June.  I know these numbers from the log.  And all the progress can be charted based on a simple little string of beads.  Maybe I should start selling them!