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Getting an arm and a leg up on adversity

A quick recap. On Jan 3, 2013, I had an unexpected dismount from a horse and landed on my upper arm. Result, fractured humeris and upper tuberosity. Doctor said I “pulverized” my right shoulder.

On  Feb IMG-20130215-0058810, 2013, while running across a gravel parking lot I turned my left ankle and broke the lower extremity of my tibia. Not a bad break to the ankle but one that requires immobilization for a couple months.

My initial reaction to this second setback to my participation in the Times Colonist Health Challenge was typically me. “What’s done is done. Spilled milk.”

I had no idea if or how I would be able to move forward in the 12-week fitness program that includes twice-weekly workouts with personal trainers, advice from mental coaches and nutritionists.

My coach, Lindsay Forget, had already crafted a great program that worked around my injured shoulder. Now what could she do with a broken shoulder and a broken leg? It seemed impossible. As the first 48 hours passed after the injury, I fell into a slump. It hurt to move. My ankle was in a half-cast which allowed it to swell, boy did it ever. It was quite a show, and the swelling continues despite my keeping the foot elevated and iced.

I have been outfitted with what I call my Darth Vader air boot. A black bulb on the front is not a horn — so disappointing — but it allows baffles to inflate around the ankle for extra support.

I had a checkup Thursday for my shoulder and when the doctor came in the room he noted the footwear. Dr. Anderson wanted to know how it happened, as if that really mattered. I guess he was beginning to figure that with me, these things always have a good story attached.

He left to go look for my ankle xray. Yes, Dr. Anderson confirmed, it’s broken, but I can put some weight on it. I  have to use a crutch under my good arm to help the bad leg along. And the more I stay off it, the better luck I will have reducing the swelling and let healing start.

I’ll have another xray in two weeks. There’s a chance that if I’m overly active, the bones won’t begin to knit and they’ll slap my leg in a plaster cast.

So I’m trying to be good. Never mind I have  two active dogs that want to go on their usual hikes. (I hired a dog walker to take them out three times a week.) And I’m about to have my kitchen torn apart in a complete remodel. I would have loved to have been the one to take a sledge hammer to the 1950’s “custom” plywood cabinets but have had to hire Brent, who has demolished way more kitchens than I have, and on top of that, he knows what he’s doing.

I wrote a profile on challenge participant Raechel Gray from home this week, and I’ll do the same this coming week. Nathan Robinson is the biggest participant in the challenge,and he has a big personality to match.

I’ll return to the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence for workouts on the week of Jan. 25 and see what Lindsay has cooked up for her broken but determined client. Should be interesting.

Are you kidding me?

Breaking news! Five weeks after pulverizing my shoulder, I’ve broken my ankle. OnIMG-20130211-00583 Sunday, I was at a riding clinic seeing friends and saying hello to a horse I used to own. I was outside chatting when a horse untied itself from a trailer and started wandering away. People started after the horse and I ran to get the owner out of the bathroom. I rolled over on my ankle. Didn’t fall, but definitely hobbled around for awhile.

Somebody got me ice so I watched the riding while chilling the ankle. It didn’t improve so I went to Cowichan District Hospital, hoping an xray  would say it was not broken. The xray said it was broken.

So, after struggling through weeks of workouts and avoiding my injured shoulder, I now can barely walk. The workouts are over for now. I will achieve my goals of getting fit and losing weight, but things are delayed by a few months.

I actually dreaded posting the news on Facebook because my friends were, of course, horrified that I would break my ankle five weeks after breaking my arm.

Some just laughed. It is unbelievable. But I am determined to make this the best year of my life, barring further injury.

The new normal

I’ve broken through a new barrier.
Two weeks of workouts are behind me and, normally, (or at least of late) this would be the point I would quit.
I used to see diet and fitness plans through to the end but not so much anymore. At least twice before in my life, I’ve lost 30 pounds, averaging a five- to six-pound loss per month over five months or so. I’ve done the Times Colonist 10K training a few times, the last time in 2010, capping four months of training by running the whole 10-kilometre route without stopping to walk.
I quit the clinic in 2002 when my marriage break-up impaired my ability to breathe. And I quit again in 2012 when my mom thought her cancer had returned (fortunately, a CT scan eventually showed she was healthy).
Obviously emotional crises are real obstacles.
Other people seem to work out their emotional issues by going for a long run or exercising with a new intensity. I just can’t seem to do that. I shut down.
Fortunately, I’m relatively crisis-free at the moment. My fractured arm is healing nicely and I’m taking the sling off for a longer period each day. Typing is now two-handed, which makes my job as a reporter a lot easier. But the arm is still pretty useless and it will be months before I get full mobility to my shoulder.
Through 2012 I tried to get back to regular exercise, but repeated efforts to get some momentum always fell short. And I discovered a great website (, the best I’ve seen, that allows you to log your food intake so you are consuming a set amount of calories each day.
But even after losing a few pounds following the website, I found the effort of logging overwhelming. Yes, those few pounds returned.
Then, a miracle. I was asked to commit to the Times Colonist Health Challenge, a 12-week fitness program that has me and five other participants getting our collective butts kicked by personal trainers twice a week. We’re getting more fruits, veggies and water in our bellies and banning junk and fast foods.
We’ve all got our stories to tell. Elisabeth Westlake is getting back on track after losing the love of her life last year.
Meanwhile Suzie Spitfyre is channelling her inner warrior princess as she fights her way back to good health and fitness.
I’ll be telling the stories of Raechel Grey, Steve Holub and Nathaniel Robinson in the coming weeks.
We’re all in this for different reasons.
I need a personal trainer to give me my marching orders each workout, count those repetitions and give support.
The initial phase of exhaustion is over. With each workout I’m feeling new energy and purpose. I can’t see my destination yet but I’m on the journey and enjoying the view.

Head games

They say that 80 per cent of fitness is mental, and the rest is in your head. On Saturday, Christie Gialloreto gave three of the Times Colonist Health Challenge participants a few ideas on how to get a mental edge on getting fit. Gialloreto is a counsellor who helps athletes reach their full potential.

I have a lot of respect for her — she can convince an Olympic ski jumper that he really DOES want to get oapr combined show3ff the horizontal plane and onto the steep, icy slope that will send him flying through the air to a vast, new, personal best of a distance.

Most of us would think only of death as we accelerate down the ramp. Ski jumpers do it because, once they get past the nerves, it’s their idea of fun.

Now, fortunately, the participants in the health challenge don’t have to face the same kind of risk as we climb onto the treadmill or hoist a weight in the air. But we certainly have our demons, both inside and outside our heads.

I remember the terror I felt show jumping. I would memorize the course prior to going in the ring and then in the blink of an eye it would evaporate. Fortunately, the courses were numbered and if half my brain was working, I could find my way through.

The big thing we need to change: Habits. We need to change the way we think, and quiet those negative voices that have long told us we can’t reach our goals. We need to set out new plans for what we eat and how we eat it. Forget not finding time to craft a new lifestyle: Make time.

It’s about mental toughness, she said. Fifty per-cent of people drop out of an exercise program within six months.

Our challenge is to be psychologically ready to exercise and to work out at the right intensity, duration and frequency. Our short-term goals of dropping a few pounds or feeling healthier will make our longer term goals easier to attain and maintain.

Don’t work too little or too hard. Find, if you can, that middle ground where you’re in the zone and you feel you can go on forever. Or at least 15 minutes.

Go from a fixed mindset to one of growth. Forget the excuses (fixed mindset) and find ways to make new changes happen (growth).

Wake up and focus on your purpose that day. It’s not about how you feel. Find a purpose and make that the priority. Oh, and there are some bad words involved in your new mindset. Ban the concepts of “have to,” “must,” “need to,” and “should.”

Substitute “WANT.”

Instead of “I have to get up early so I can get my workout done,” try thinking “I want to get up early so I get get my workout done.”

I have a friend, a nurse, who introduced to me the concept that she doesn’t HAVE to go to work — she gets to go to work. She wants to go to work. It makes for a positive work experience and a happier way to going, she says.

We talked also about goal-setting. I said I want to feel good about my body. I want to get in shape and lose weight, but I can also buy some flattering clothes and keep my diabetes in check.

Writing helps me process things, and I’ve been reminded of that writing this blog. It’s a good companion activity to any major life change and I’ll keep writing as long as I am on this tangent of improvement.

A tip to positive thinking is to write down each day three things you did well. Maybe you smiled at a stranger, or helped out a co-worker with a task. Maybe you called your mom at the time she was thinking about you.

Make sense? Hope so. I am so dependent on the “shoulds” and “have to’s” I don’t know if I can banish them from my thoughts.

But I want to try.

Getting into the groove

Got thinking this week about goals and limitations and the relationship between those two concepts.

Fitness goals came up during a discussion with my trainer Lindsay Forget at Pacific Centre for Sport Excellence.  I already knew my initial goal is to return to the weight and fitness level I attained before going on insulin in the fall of 2010.

In September 2010, I ran a 10k in Nanaimo in 68 minutes — well off my lifetime personal best of 59 minutes and change at the Times Colonist 10k a couple decades ago. I also want to lose the 30 pounds that insulin helped find its way onto my body over the last couple years.

Sounded good, saying my goals out loud. It’s more of a commitment when you push those good intentions out of your brain and let the words come out your mouth and circle back into your ears.

I wasn’t ready to put those goals down on paper but that didn’t matter — Lindsay was writing everything down.

And then I mentioned that my doctor wanted me to lose more than that…he wants me to go down to 130 to minimize my blood sugar issues.

I let 130 hang in the air, expecting her to laugh and say what I thought — 130 was implausible, impossible, ridiculous. But Lindsay didn’t bat an eye. And it dawned on me that if I could lose 30 pounds, there was nothing stopping me from losing 50, except the limitations I carry around like an emotional security blanket.

The last time I lost 30 pounds was in 2006 or 2007, and I had a goal of 140. I made it to 138, and actually liked my body. That’s just eight pounds off 130.  So it can be done — I’ve proven that.

If Lindsay is confident I can get to 130 and stay there, why am I doubtful?

It seems like such a huge undertaking. Other people lose 100, even 200 pounds, but they’re amazing.

I’m overwhelmed  at losing 50 pounds — so I’ll break it down into smaller chunks. I’ve already lost a few pounds just a week into the challenge, so something is working. Even the workouts are enjoyable, although they would be easier without  a broken arm.

I had to pause yesterday on my favorite mountain hike to catch my breath. I do know if I keep at it, I’ll soon be hiking without having to take rests.

The key to success each day is to get up and show up. Persistence and patience will get me to my goals.

I have no limits.




Planning a life journey without a compass, GPS

The beginning of a journey usually entails pulling out roadmaps so you can plan a course and get your bearings along the way.
But what kind of map helps you to plan a life transformation?

I’m looking at 2013 as the year I will do just that, and frankly I’m daunted at the prospect. My starting point is as a 53-year-old woman with eight years’ experience managing type  2 diabetes. I weighed 150 at diagnosis, but with the help of insulin have ballooned up to 180. That gain occurred over the past two to three years.

Don’t get me wrong. Insulin is amazing and I begged to go on it when oral meds were ineffective and debilitating (Metformin is a staple med for diabetes but it has an unfortunate side-effect that I never got under control – diarrhea. Tough for someone who has a 1 hour commute to work each day.)

Insulin immediately got my blood glucose in check but it did result in weight gain. A common thing, say medical professionals. Annoying, when people with diabetes are urged to keep their weight under control.
I tend to be pear-shaped, like my mom. (She’s on the left in the photo of the old apple press.)
Mom struggled with her weight too but today she’s remarkably healthy at age 89. My dad died in 2008 at age 87. Neither had diabetes.
So if I too want to be healthy into my 80s, it’s imperitive I get to a healthy weight and stay there. Exercise is a great ally for diabetics, because it’s a quick way to burn up blood glucose and stabilize it for a time.
So I’m staring down the long road and wondering what the journey will be like. I’m fortunate to have been selected for the Times Colonist Health Challenge – a 3-month program with fitness trainers, nutritionists and physiologists. I’ll be telling the stories of five other folks who will be taking the same road trip to better health and hopefully, a feeling that we have control over our weight and our destiny.