24 September 2015

Summer Success Story: Exercise

You guys, I am praising the Lord big time this morning.  Maybe it's not something that would seem like a big deal to other people, but it is huge to me.  But before I tell you why, I have to back up in the story a little bit.

For the last several years, I've been in a battle against some health problems.  Now, most people wouldn't know it to look at me, because we have this idea in our society that if you are thin, you are automatically healthy.  And unless you know the subtle physical signs of Graves' Disease, you wouldn't realize what a mess is going on inside the endocrine system.

Over the past two or so years, I've been blessed with a diagnosis--yes, KNOWING what is wrong is a blessing, because then you can figure out how to fix it!--as well as good medical care.  

The thing was, even though my thyroid levels finally returned to normal, and I felt mostly better, I developed some new symptoms that, while each successive doctor and specialist told me were benign, were in actuality disrupting my quality of life on a regular basis.

So last fall the decision came down to two options:  I could go to another specialist, who my cardiologist said might be able to help me (but in all honesty, he told me he wasn't sure if there was anything they could do).  

Or I could take a different direction and see a lifestyle medicine specialist/nutritionist who would take a broad look at a lot of blood work, and fix whatever was obvious.

I chose the broad look at a lot of blood work.

How much blood work that would mean didn't really sink in until I fainted in the lab when they were drawing about the twentieth vial of blood.  I had never fainted before, but it really wasn't that bad.  They took great care of me, and most importantly, got all that blood work done, which showed all kinds of interesting things about how I could improve my health, naturally.

So last winter the fainting thing was a first for me, but so also was being able to go for a run, and run for thirty minutes without stopping.  Oh, how I worked to reach that goal!  Already the lifestyle medicine approach was working.  My symptoms weren't completely gone, but they were improving.

Well, fast forward to the beginning of summer, and I faced two big hurdles.  They were named HEAT, and FISHING SEASON.

Heat is miserable on multiple levels, but specifically for me, it was a hurdle because I knew I needed to keep up on my exercise program in order to keep experiencing the health benefits I was beginning to enjoy more abundantly.  

I knew the night time temperatures would not drop much if at all below 80 for several months, and I knew it would be difficult to get exercise without putting myself in danger for heat exhaustion.  I figured I could walk outside for a few minutes after breakfasts and suppers, but I didn't know what I would do after lunch or for the vigorous exercise my lifestyle medicine specialist recommended.  

And then fishing season.  My husband's family have been commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay (see me standing in Bristol Bay in the sidewalk map above?) for several generations, and this summer, that meant my husband would be away for about six weeks.  I had to find a way to combat the loneliness I would face spending that much time by myself.

As it turned out, finding a solution for exercise also turned out to be one of the key things that helped me get through fishing season on my own.

My mother-in-law, who is a great runner and who with my husband is just the greatest exercise cheerleader on the planet (actually, so is my father-in-law...I'm really blessed to have them in my life), kept encouraging me to explore a gym membership.  And being the cheapskate that I am, I didn't want a gym membership.

But after she mentioned it again and again, I decided to ask Google if there were any free exercise videos I could use at home from my computer.  Then I clicked the first link, and started looking through what the site had to offer.

More than 60 free exercise videos, at all fitness levels.
Some videos using equipment, but many without.
A Christian health and wellness perspective.
Appropriately dressed women.
Free access to the videos by just supplying your e-mail address.
Options to download the videos to your phone or computer, and use them offline if you wanted.

Because the woman in charge viewed this as her ministry.

Well.  Sign me up.

I started right away.  I put on a video whenever a thunderstorm or the intense heat and humidity kept me from walking outside after a meal, or going for a run.  Which, let's be honest, was at least once every day, and sometimes more!  I explored a few beginner body weight workout videos.  And, oh, yes, the beginner videos were enough for me!

But only at first.  After a while, I noticed I could try out harder ones.  I also noticed that if I was feeling lonely and just ready to cry knowing my husband wouldn't be home for several more weeks, and then decided to do even just a ten-minute workout video, I would immediately notice a peace and calm in my emotions that hadn't been there before the exercise.  

As they say, you're only one workout away from a good mood!

That was fourteen weeks ago.  I know that because Michelle, the founder of faithfulworkouts.com, sends me an e-mail each week, encouraging me to keep at it.  Yesterday's e-mail said it was week 14 for me.  And while I haven't been completely faithful, I've certainly been making improvements.

Of course I had other strategies too, but those workout videos were a HUGE part of getting myself through the six weeks of fishing season while my husband was working hard in Bristol Bay.  I can't explain to you all the physiology and science behind it, but I can tell you from my own experience that emotional well being and exercise walk hand in hand.

This morning, though, I didn't work out with Michelle.  The morning temperature was down to 69.  Below 70.  For the first time in MONTHS.  {Imagine it if you can.  I dare you.}  So I went for a run for the first time in at least two months, just to see how I would do, and to see if exercising with Michelle all summer long had preserved any of my ability to run.

I felt great at five minutes.  And just fine at ten minutes.  And breathed harder at fifteen minutes.  And stopped at twenty minutes.

Which is longer than I was able to run without stopping before the summer heat hit.  Which means exercising with Michelle all summer long was a great idea on so many levels.

Now, I wouldn't want anyone to think that they have to follow the same exercise plan that I do.  We each have to find out what works best for us.  But I would love to encourage each of you to make an exercise plan, and to stick with it, and find ways to get exercise even when life and summer heat and whatever else don't seem like they're cooperating with your goals.

The exercise is worth it, not just on a physical level, but on the emotional level, too.  

And if you're interested in more natural ways to improve emotional health, I highly recommend this lecture (click over to the blog for the link if you're reading this in e-mail).  I've listened to it three times in the last week or so, because it's just that inspiring and fascinating.

01 September 2015

Two Years

{Celosia going to seed}

Two years ago today we drove into town, our little car weary and worn from more than one 2500 mile drive over the summer.

We didn't know where the car repair shop was.
We didn't know where the grocery store was.
We didn't know where we were going to live.
We didn't even know where we could stay the night.

We didn't know anyone who could help us find any of the things we needed, except maybe a new coworker or two from my husband's new school.

Although we were excited about the possibilities, we were entirely unprepared for the culture shock brought on by the climate, attending church in a language we didn't speak well, and the way people drive in this flood plain they call the Rio Grande Valley.

Yet somehow we found a little hotel room with a kitchenette that became our center of operations while we waited for the car repair, searched for a place to live, and began our new life in South Texas.

That first week, friends of a friend welcomed us into their home for Sabbath dinner.  We found a house to rent that turned out to be only a block or so away from a wonderful Adventist couple our age who have become good friends.  

We responded to a Craigslist ad for free lemons, bought a citrus juicer (all our stuff was still in storage in another state), and made lemon juice.  Because that's what you do when life gives you lemons.  (Couldn't resist.)

My mom sent word that not only was she coming to visit, but she was also sending us a piano that would arrive on the same day as she would, which turned out to be the same day our moving truck arrived.  

We camped out in an empty house for three weeks--what I went through to find an air mattress without a hole in it!--waiting for my mom, the piano, and the moving truck, just thrilled to have our own space and be out of hotels.  We bought 40 pounds of limes for $4 at the flea market, some jars, and a pot, and I spent days making and canning our own lime juice.

Because that's what you do in a new place, right?  Buy produce in large quantities and set right to work preserving?

And of course you plant your seeds for the fall garden.  We were a bit late--September 11 that year--but since South Texas really doesn't have winter to speak of, it worked out fine.  We had carried our little box of seeds everywhere we went that summer like regular Johnny Appleseeds, to good purpose.

This morning I looked at my kitchen sink full of dishes that I didn't get to last night, and thought through the day ahead.  Costco run.  Groceries.  Bank.  Gas for the car.  Teaching lessons.  Keeping house.  Saving seeds from the stunning celosia flowers that bloomed and attracted the butterflies all summer long.  Watching for the next rain, when I will plant some new fall crops.

A busy day ahead, for sure, but a day of blessings.  Dirty dishes are blessing dishes, evidence of good meals, a settled home.  Errands to run, without looking at Google maps, are blessing errands, especially when you know just which stores offer the best prices.

And teaching lessons?

Oh, my, that itself is blessing unbounded, and full of surprises and delights at every turn.