I MUST HAVE ASKED MYSELF A MILLION TIMES:
How did I get in the shape I was in now? After, a difficult divorce, I reentered the workforce and worked long hours sitting at a desk without much thought about taking care of myself, I just needed to make my own way financially as quickly as possible.
After many years though of sitting at a desk, I had put on a lot of weight and weighted in at 174lbs. I had now been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, High Blood Pressure (and was having a hard time controlling it), had a surgical repair on my right shoulder for two injuries, a torn rotator cuff and a 2+ AC separation, and then suffered a spontaneous tendon rupture in my forearm along with two more surgeries to repair joint damage in my right wrist. I had constant pain and was chronically sleep deprived because of it. I noticed my balance was off more and more, I was winded at the top of the stairs which worried me and my rheumatologist had just added an additional medication to the others I was taking.
As my health deteriorated, I did little more though than make several halfhearted attempts to change things. I joined a fitness club near home three times, but never went more than a hand full of times. I tried, but without support, it was easier to not feel like a failure if I just did not go. I let the stresses in my life and things like holidays, family issues and a myriad of other things take over as I continued to sit each day.
TIME TO WAKE UP:
My wake up, do something now, was when I tripped and fell doing something, I had done 1000’s of times before. I added a broken right hand which put me back in a cast for the third time in a year, blacked my eye, gave me temporary vision problems and many bruises. I knew deep inside that I would not have fallen if I was in better shape. I wasn’t sure anymore if it was possible to get my balance back or get back in shape and truthfully, I had little hope of ever being out of pain again but I knew I had to try something.
Lifetime was taking over Lakeshore Athletic Club near my home and my friend, Liz Strong now worked for Lifetime and asked if I wanted to try it, she explained that it was different than the previous club. I decided yes and joined Lifetime. My first visit with a personal trainer was with a cast still on my hand. She had to use workarounds so I could even hold on to some of the equipment. I saw the Pilates machine though and as soon as the cast came off, the call of Pilates which I have always loved took me away from the individual personal training.
PROBLEMS AND DISCOURAGEMENT:
I had a problem though, when I do things, I go at them 150% and then some. Before Pilates class I would get on the stair stepper machine, or put the treadmill up to level 10 and walk. I didn’t really think about adding more damage or inflammation to my body. I was totally focused on losing weight and I just wanted to get there faster. Soon, I had bursitis in both hips to go along with all the other pain I had. After steroid shots in both hips I decided this was not going to work. I felt like I was trying to put a square peg, into a round hole. I was very discouraged and did not know what direction I should go. I considered ending my club membership even though I now had friends and support there, I just felt like maybe it was too late and I was too old and had too many health issues.
In June, as I left the club, I stopped to talk to one of the trainers, James Garcia. I told him how discouraged I was, the classes weren’t working for me because I did too much and didn’t seem to know where my limits were. I hated being in pain all the time. Pain is very debilitating mentally and physically when you live with it for years and the idea of always hurting this much forever was very discouraging. Failing now meant I probably wasn’t going to try again.
James immediately asked if I would let him do a full assessment and figure out where things were with my body and then we could talk about a starting point and a way to move forward from here rather than my giving up. Previously when I had had an assessment done at another club, all they did was show me machines and tell me which ones to use. I agreed but was a little skeptical as to whether or not it would make any difference. After the assessment James talk to me about where I really was, the instability in my hips and muscle weaknesses that were causing the bursitis and balance problems, the pain in my shoulder and hand and how much inflammation I was dealing with on a daily basis.
He reassured me it was not too late. He told me he could definitely help me step-by-step to find a way back to better health BUT it would take a real commitment on my part, and I couldn’t miss training sessions if I wanted to do this. It was the first time I felt a little bit of hope that maybe, maybe things could be better.
I decided to give it one last, fully committed; no maybe; no probably; no, I will try. A real decision that I wanted a new healthy life…DO it, no matter what obstacles might come up in my personal life. I would commit to not missing the gym. Getting my health back was going to be my priority now.
July and August past and I lost a little bit more weight as I worked out each week. I spent three of those weeks on a trip out of the country with my mom and sisters, and carefully chose foods that I knew I should be eating and avoiding those I should not. I took with me a personal training work out I could do in my room, but was encouraged to try to use any workout facilities that were available doing exercises I had learned. I came home weighing 6 lbs less than when I left, and was able to walk during the tours, over cobblestone without too much difficulty or hip pain.
September, I started to train in earnest. I showed up every time as before but during our training sessions James talk to me more about nutrition, eating whole real foods and why I should use supplements.
At one point he grabbed a registered dietitian so I could ask questions about some of the Lifetime supplements. Over the next months I added Lifetime multivitamin along with fish oil and curcumin to reduce inflammation and restore PM Complex to help with my insomnia. I struggle to get enough protein, so I started drinking whey protein drinks, and then switch to collagen protein, to help my skin and joints and workout recovery. Weighing in accountability was hard for me to do but there was no judgment, just a quick discussion of the successes and what I needed to change to make things more successful. I still hate weighing in, but know the accountability does keep me on track.
Each workout was different, each one a challenge for me. Sometimes, either my hip or shoulder pain would not allow me to do a planned to exercise, James quickly changed to a different exercise that allowed me to work the muscles without causing additional pain and inflammation. By the beginning October, although I hated side plank clamshells and bridges the pain in my hips all but disappeared, unless I did too much of an incline on the treadmill. Mid- October, I remember reaching up in my car for the garage door opener clipped to the visor and for the first time I could remember my shoulder didn’t hurt. I wanted to cry. Lifting weights was helping. Sometimes I tried to add additional exercises that I decided I liked to my workout but when I told James what I have been doing he asked me to go with the workouts he provided so I wasn’t overworking any particular muscle which could cause problems for me.
BIGGER AND BETTER CHANGES:
I noticed that, before James switches things up for me, he starts hinting I should do them… He started talking about maybe doing the 60-day challenge, for better focus on my goals and to keep me on track during the holidays.
November 9… I began the 60-day challenge weighing 150 pounds with 38% body fat. My goals included eating clean protein, healthy fats, fruits and veggies with complex carbs added to my dinner meal. James asked me to really dream big about where I wanted to be at the end of those 60 days. I told him in truth, 20 pounds down, to weigh 130 but I wasn’t sure that was possible, I asked him about body fat percentage since I really had no idea about what that should be. We set my goal to aim to weigh 130 and reduce my body fat to under 30%. A very aggressive set of goals.
The weeks ticked by the workouts got harder = more weight, more reps. We added high intensity training to weight training sessions. Sometimes when I would start a new exercise I would think or say I can’t do it, but then I could. I started to see many things I wasn’t able to do before I could. I told James I hated HIIT, and didn’t want to do it. He just laughed; saying I didn’t want to do something or couldn’t do something didn’t I mean I was not going to do it anyway. Some sessions, had a little complaining, and others I complained a lot and apologized for complaining a lot, but week by week I got stronger and we also added more minutes to cardio sessions, all the while keeping a close watch on my nutrition.
PROGRESS STARTED TO SHOW:
Thanksgiving, my children and grandchildren were sick, and since I have my 82-year-old mom living with me we celebrated with friends. My friend asked me to bring…of course pie, so I asked if I could also bring green beans with lots of things “on the side” for others to add including fried onions and bacon. Lots of turkey, plain green beans, a bite of stuffing, lots of water, great friends, conversation and laughing and I came through Thanksgiving on track.
The next change came when I was asked how much caffeine I was drinking and I answered 6-12 cans of diet Pepsi a day. I saw James face as he suggested maybe I should cut back and think about doing detox just after Christmas. The look I saw on his face, said I would be doing detox after Christmas.
Traveling for Christmas was a challenge. Two 12-hour drives in five days. The challenge was to eat right while on the road, eat right living in a hotel, eat right at our Christmas celebration with family which included Christmas Eve traditions and an all-Day Christmas feast. The hotel we stayed in was supposed to have a workout room so I left with paper in hand for workouts but their workout room was closed. It’s a very small town but I managed to find a gym that was dirty, had cement floors, machines scrunched together, but at least I could do some sort of work out, and added additional body weight workout exercises I did in my hotel room. To help keep my eating on track I brought shrimp to the Christmas eve and Christmas day celebrations along with huge vegetable trays and salads. I was surprised by how many people chose the shrimp and vegetable tray items, all were completely gone by the end of the celebration. When I was tempted to eat things that were not in my best interest (think plates and plates of Christmas cookies and candy), I headed back for shrimp which I love. I came home losing both weight and body fat.
The first workout back James suggested that I do a D.tox. We talked about it for a while but I resisted. I’m not sure what that was about, everything he has suggested and I tried has worked to move me forward towards better health. He didn’t push though, just asked what my reservations were and then told me whatever I decided he would support. After he left, I sat for a minute or two in the cafe trying to determine what it was that I was resisting. There wasn’t no good reason not to D.tox so I started D.tox on December 27th which I continue beyond the end of the 60-day challenge.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED DURING THE 60-DAY CHALLENGE:
- Being over 60 yrs old doesn’t mean you should accept chronic pain, medications, and limitations on what you can do as a normal part of aging.
- The phrase “I can’t do it” doesn’t exist between client and trainer.
- When I think I can’t do it, for me usually it means I’m afraid to try.
- Health can be improved no matter what shape you begin in.
- It is important to find the right support.
- Making a real, very real commitment is a necessary part of the process.
- Weight training and cardio are both needed to keep your body health.
- Weight down, I made it to my goal of weighing 130 pounds.
- Body fat down to 33%, and I will get to under 30% soon.
- A recent visit to my rheumatologist; I was able to remove the additional medication and we are no longer talking about daily prednisone, plus I can wait six months to even come back. I am better than I have been in the eight years I have been seeing him.
- A recent visit to my family Dr.; he asked what I’m doing and how I’m doing it since I am healthier than he has seen me in a long time. The difficulty keeping my blood pressure down has been solved too!
- My balance is back, I am doing things that I only dreamed about doing when I started this.
- I am back to size 2-4 instead of a 12-14 and I actually went shopping and didn’t come home depressed (just a little poorer).
- The absolute best thing though, 95% of the pain that I had from Rheumatoid Arthritis and shoulder and wrist injuries is gone, which for me is huge. The Bursitis in my hips has also vanished. Building additional strength in the muscles that stabilize my joints has worked miracles.
MY THANKS TO:
- James Garcia who didn’t let me give up and so, has had to put up with me, a very untypical personal training client (or maybe just the “real” kind of typical client).
- Liz Strong, my friend who guided me to Lifetime and knew how much I really wanted this.
- Lauren and Shelly the Registered Dietitians who answered questions about nutrition, Lifetime supplements and for their encouraging words every time I saw them.
- All the staff at Flatirons who greet and who keep the club so clean and nice!
So, what does the end of the 60day really mean? It’s not the end of working out, it is not the end of weight training, it is not the end of cardio, it is not the end of making health a priority in my life. It is not the end of learning to stay healthy as I grow older.
THE END OF THE 60-DA IS THE BEGINNING OF A HEALTHY LONG-TERM WAY OF LIFE. MY LIFE!