Two Steps Forward…


Two steps forward, one step back, is still a net gain.

I have been reciting this truism quite a lot lately. It seems that my 52 year old body likes to raise a ruckus with my heart, brain, and internal drive to push myself to higher levels of fitness.

Thus, for every two steps I advance, I end up taking a step back more frequently than I care for.

I have to remind myself that my general progress has been forward, not reverse. It is a small consolation when those nagging injuries prevent you from really achieving your goals, but it is an important point to make. I put this out there so others can see, it is not the day-to-day we should necessarily obsess over, it is the direction we are moving in. If I focused only on what I didn’t do today, I would be in a constant state of frustration and disappointment. But when I do look back at where I’ve come from, this is what I see: A place where 2 years ago I was someone puffing to walk up a single flight of stairs, and struggling to pick up some of my heavy pans. A place of lethargy, and yes, apathy. A place where I had resigned myself to feeling far older than my years on the biological ‘clock’. A place where I sat on the sidelines and watched my family…from the sidelines. Today, I am able to bicycle 8 miles to my trainers, lift weights for an hour, and bicycle home with ease. I have regained my joy of traveling and exploration, because I can walk, climb stairs all day long and still have energy to spare for evening. I enjoy vacations with my family. I don’t shy away from fun physical activities: Riding a Zipline, racing my daughter on a paddle board, hiking up a trail to some far off falls or cliff providing a gorgeous view. The difference is profound. All this, in just two years.

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back = 1 Step Forward. Net Gain.

I can apply this concept to all aspects of my life: fitness, education, cooking, relationships, my faith walk, and so on. It is important, when you are thrown the proverbial ‘curve ball’ to take a breath, step back, and check your direction. Are you looking back? Because the body and spirit will follow the head. Be sure to keep your eyes focused ahead, on your goal. There will be times you might have to slow your pace, stop and take a breather, or yes, even take a step back. But you don’t have to turn around to take a step back. Just like we glance in our cars rearview mirror before changing lanes, merging or pulling out into traffic, allow yourself to glance back. It shows you if you have a clear path, and reminds you of how far you have come. Then, if circumstances require it, still looking forward, allow that step back knowing that your goal for the next step is forward.

Example: Last fall, I achieved one of my fitness goals: To DeadLift 200 pounds. When I achieved this goal, my next goal was 2 plates on the bar, which is 235 lbs. In-between then and now I had a shoulder injury, neck muscle strain, my hips went out, my knee (which has had surgery twice) decided to go on strike, and my asthma decided to make an appearance after 2 years of having it under control. I confess, there were more than a few times I complained to my trainer that I was regressing, not progressing. (Confession: I complain to my trainer Ron. A LOT. And he is gracious, good natured and a good sounding board, but he will NOT let me wallow in self pity nor frustration!)

In the midst of my bummer mental attitude, he shared this little gem of truth: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Backward is still progressing Forward. Since then I have concentrated on the journey back, and on to my next goal. I know I can do it, I have done it once already. We are just going to take it a little slower this time, to hopefully minimize those back-steps. And I won’t allow myself to get discouraged again. Because I know…

2 Step->, 1 Step <- = Net Gain.

Colonoscopy Demystified

Before you go running, embarrassed, uncomfortable, uneasy or uninterested, hear me out for a moment.

I am going to delve into the uncomfortable, but discussion worthy, world of preventative healthcare procedures: Colonoscopy.

I am turning the fabulous age of 52 this spring, and that means I’m nearly 2 years past that advice we get at our half century exam: “You are due for a Colonoscopy”.
Like many others, I heard it, and moved on.
But there, in the back of my mind was the thought of my grandmother who at the ripe age of 70 was diagnosed with, and treated for colon cancer. She lived to an even riper age of 96. I shudder to think she might not have been with us that long if they had not caught it in its early stages.

I just recently had mine, so, I thought in the interest of good health I would try to demystify the process by sharing my own experience, and suggest a few helpful tips. Hopefully that will mitigate any fears people might have about getting one, and be helpful for those who have one upcoming. Because you should get one if your health provider  recommends it, if for no other reason than to have peace of mind. (Same goes with a mammogram gals! A couple of minutes of discomfort is no excuse to not have one.)

When you schedule your procedure you will be given a cleanse regime. If you work, I would recommend scheduling your appointment immediately following a day off. That way your ‘cleanse’ day is on a day when you can be home, because you will need to be close to your bathroom for a few hours. You start the flushing part of the cleanse in the  late afternoon/early evening prior to your appointment, and that is when you will want to be in the comfort of your own home and near your own potty.

The following is the prep and cleanse my Gastroenterologist recommended prior to the procedure. (Isn’t ‘procedure’ a nicer word than COLONoscopy? Which just reminds me over and over what is coming up? Yeah, I think so too!)

First, they will advice you what medications and supplements (including fiber) to stop taking 7 days prior to your appointment.
Then at 3 days prior, you begin a low fiber diet. I was surprised at how much I really had to think about this, since I apparently tend to eat a fairly high fiber diet, but it really isn’t difficult. I actually kind of enjoyed the opportunity to have a delicious white flour buttermilk pancake along with my eggs! Other options for your meals would be a good yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, lean white meats or fish. You cannot have any raw fruits or veggies, no seeds or whole grains. I’m not a fan of canned fruits, except mandarin oranges or canned veggies. I just figured I eat so healthy on a regular basis, a couple days without were no biggie. Protein that is not gristly is a good bet to keep you full feeling and yet low fiber. If you are gluten free, just watch for the ‘whole grain’ items. Try to find foods made from plain white rice, and contain no seeds. Many GF try to bump up the health factor by using whole grains or adding whole seeds. Stay away from red dyed foods, that can result in a less than clear test.
I tried very hard to keep my fiber intake as near zero as possible, because I wanted the doctor to have as clear a view of my insides as possible. I mean, if you’re going through the effort to do this in the first place, make it count!

Then the day prior your procedure you start your clear liquids diet. At noon, they had me take 2 Dulcolax tablets. I think this is so that it’s easier to move stuff through your system later.
This day is a bit more challenging because clear liquids are, by nature, not very filling.
Here is what I found to be particularly helpful and actually worked to keep me feeling satiated: I started my morning with a cup of black tea for my caffeine hit (no dairy allowed this day! None! Nada!), then followed that with beef bouillon broth. I have the brand Better Than Bouillon on hand, so that is what I used for the broth. (Be forewarned though, some of those bouillons have meat bits in them, so be sure to strain them out with a fine sieve!) To make this more hearty and filling, I ‘bloomed’ (which means – allow to rehydrate) about a 1/4-1/2 tsp of Knox Plain Gelatin in a couple tablespoons of cold water in a mug. I heated the water for my broth in a microwave safe container and whisked in the bouillon. Then, using a strainer to strain out any potential meat bits, I poured the reconstituted broth into the mug containing the gelatin. Whisk this mixture to combine, then drink.  Adding the gelatin to the beef broth made it feel more hearty and rich. It really worked to curb any hunger pangs or cravings. You can achieve the similar results by eating jello following your broth, but it isn’t nearly as tasty. I was so pleased with the result, I would do this anytime I wanted a hearty tasting broth for a snack. (It would be a perfect ‘in-between meal’ low cal snack for someone trying to drop a pound or two)

If you are a coffee drinker, that will be a no-no, decaf or not. Something in the coffee can cause rigidity in your colon and you want that baby as pliable as possible for the scope to go through. So, tea it is for your morning wake up beverage. Or coke. Or mountain dew.

I sipped this beef broth brew throughout the day, into the early afternoon. Then I switched to chicken broth. I still added the gelatin to keep me full.  Another trick is chewing some gummy bears. I bought an organic, juice-based, brand, but remember NO RED. You cannot consume anything that has red dye or red coloring in it. They stress this quite emphatically! I’m not a jello fan, so I didn’t have it, but if you like jello, go for it. I also had a box of orange popsicles on hand, just to change it up. But again…NO RED.

Around 4-6pm, you will start to consume your ‘flush’ solution. (Flush. Oh, you will be doing a lot of that, literally!) Honestly? For someone who drinks a LOT of water on a regular basis, this was a breeze. My ‘flush’ solution consisted of a bottle of Miralax and 64oz of Powerade. You mix the two together (really shake it up) and then consume 8 ounces every 15 minutes. I used my phone to set the timer at each dose. Like I said, I drink a lot of water, so this was no biggie, and it tasted good to me. (I like the taste of Powerade LemonLime, but you can use Gatorade if you like.) You will start to feel a bit full as it starts to work through your system, so long gone are any hunger pangs you might have had earlier. Trust me, from here on out, you really don’t feel hungry! This is also the time you want to have a good book at hand or downloaded to your smart device. You and your bathroom will be BFF’s for the next few hours. I suppose the time it takes to work through you is dependent upon your system. For me, I started at 4:30pm and I was about done by just after 10. And when I say ‘done’ I mean tied to the very near vicinity of the bathroom. Be sure to buy the softest TP you can find. I even invested in some flushable wipes. Oh, and be sure to have a cup of broth or juice before you go to bed, so you don’t wake up dehydrated.

The day of the procedure is actually easier. I again woke up and had a cup of black tea, a cup of chicken broth-gelatin mix.  I was instructed to consume a 10 oz bottle of Magnesium Citrate 4 hours prior to my procedure. It comes in a little bottle and you have to choose the lemon flavor because the other one is grape=red dye. (These items are available at the drug store) I used a bubble tea straw and just sucked it down. I didn’t think it tasted bad at all, and it was slightly effervescent. It tasted like a very tart lemon drink. The straw helps it go down fast. This is another time where you will want to be close to your potty. But it’s not nearly as intense as the previous days cleanse, there just isn’t much left. And its must shorter also. Depending upon when your procedure is scheduled you will or will not have time to eat or drink something prior to this step. I’d try to get some water in for sure, because 2 hours prior, you will stop drinking all liquids. As I’ve mentioned, I drink a lot of water. That was kinda hard for me. No water, no hard candies, nothing those last 2 hours.

The procedure will vary I think, depending upon your clinic. I thought it was very tolerable, the staff was very kind and compassionate, explaining everything in detail. The actual procedure was far easier than I thought it would be, and FAST. I was given the option to watch on the monitor, or not, and initially I was going to try and sleep through it. But since I for some reason wasn’t even aware when it started, when the picture came up on the screen in front of me, I was mesmerized. So I watched and asked questions along the way. The nurse who administered my drugs said that I would be given an amnesiac and I might forget everything. Well, I don’t know if it worked, or didn’t, because while I don’t remember the details beginning and ending, I remember the watching the video feed. I guess that is the best of all outcomes!

Following the procedure you will be wheeled back to recover and they will not let you go till you pass gas. And that is about how matter of fact they state it. You don’t leave until you ‘blow off some steam’. (Lame attempt at humor here, I know) I dozed off a bit. It was a good excuse to take a little nap. Then your designated driver will pick you up and take you home!

Well, that’s about it! See? No big deal really. I’d say that the only uncomfortable part was the bloated, gassy feel you get afterwards.  But in the end that really didn’t affect me much. I knew my results right away. I got a clean bill of health and a free pass for 10 more years of no worrying!

I hope that demystified the whole colonoscopy process. The whole process has come a long way in the past decade or two. No longer do you have to choke down that gag-inducing chalk stuff. And no longer do they totally sedate you. I know it’s a procedure none of us really want to have, or heck, even think about. But if it is recommended you get one, I hope that my sharing of the experience takes some of the fear and embarrassment out of the whole ordeal.

The nurse told me I could cross it off my ‘Bucket List’. Ummmm, I have a lot of things on my Bucket List, but that is not one. However, knowing I have clean bill of health, I have the peace of mind knowing I can work on that Bucket List!


Goal Setting – Goals Achieved

As mentioned in a previous post, I had set a short term goal of lifting 200 pounds by Thanksgiving ’14.

Well, guess what?? I DID IT! I hit 200 pounds, and not only did I lift it once, but 3 times! And a week ahead of schedule!

I hope that this does not come across as bragging, because that is not how I intend it.

Yes, I am proud of my accomplishment!  I have come so far, pushing through and working around physical and mental setbacks. But I share this with the hope that my success inspires you to set goals that are achievable. I did not start off setting this goal. I started off with the goal of fitting into my clothes better, and not feeling 90 at 50. I achieved the first goal within 6 months, and the second has been ongoing and liberating. I realized needed something else to work towards, so I set new goals.
First: To get a big plate on the bar for Dead Lifts.
Then: To Bench Press 100 pounds at least once.

Once achieved, I reset my goal again:
To get a big plate on the bar for Back Squats.
To Dead Lift 200 pounds

Well, today I reached my latest goal, and I set a new one:
(2) BIG PLATES on the bar for Dead Lift!

The point of my post, and my advice is this: Set small achievable goals. Once you reach your small goal, you can set another. This way you work up to, and within a decent amount of time, achieve your goals. You need to feel the success of achievement. Setting too high of a goal can be discouraging if you happen to have setbacks, either physical or mental. Keep them short/small and attainable, resetting once achieved.

If I had set an initial goal of lifting 200 pounds, not only was it an unimaginable goal to me back then, but it has taken 18 months to get to this point. I absolutely would have given up LONG AGO if I had tried to even set a goal that ambitious. I think this lesson can be applied not only in fitness, but in life. Hindsight is 20/20, and I wish I had this knowledge and motivation years ago. I’ve learned in this process however, don’t look back, just keep moving forward. Sometimes you may have to rework your goal if life throws you a wrinkle, but readjust and keep plugging away. This is a mental game, more than a physical one. Surround yourself with support, and minimize your exposure to Debbie Downers. Cause heck, if this pudgy old lady can do this, you surely can too!