Category Archives: breathing

10 Things I love About Biking

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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, especially since I wrote the 10 Things I Hate About Biking. So here it is:

10 Things I Love About Biking:

  1. Biking is Challenging – I love a good challenge. I tend to be singular in what I challenge myself with. Mostly, the only challenge I really have is my work. Last year was particularly difficult and work took up a huge amount of my time and focus. Biking offered a counter balance to the work challenge. It was personally challenging for me to get on the bike. I forced myself push a little farther every day.
  2. Biking is Fun! – Honestly, it really is. I have said many times it was hard work, but the pay-off for that hard work is that I get to bike. I love the feel of the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. I love flying down hills, or the steady pedaling of riding on a flat trail. I feel free in a way that I do not feel walking or *gasp* running, or doing any other kind of exercise.
  3.  The “Biking Community” –  I am not sure if it is the same in every community, but in Arlington, there is a big informal, (and probably formal if I looked into it more), biking community. A lot of people bike here. There are bike trails everywhere and most of the streets are accommodating to bikers. And other bikers kind of look out for one another. This is something I was not really aware of. One day in August was particularly hot. I was thirsty and pulled off the trail for a moment to drink some water. I’m sure my face was red and I was very sweaty and panting. One girl slowly road by me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was just thirsty and she pedaled on her way. Occasionally, you get the person who is aggressively concerned with your biking. Annoyingly so, in fact. “That bike is too small for you!” One such person yelled to me as I was slowly riding up hill. “You need to raise your seat! You’ll blow out your knees!” I had to stop and walk the bike up the hill and he came over to try to show me how to raise my seat. Dude! Seriously? At that point in my biking I was just a few days out and feeling very unstable on the bike. Raising my seat was not something I was quite comfortable with yet. I waved him off and told him I was OK, and he grumbled his disapproval and walked away. Creepy. Fortunately, my experiences with other bikers has been much more pleasant.
  4. Supportive Bikers – This is probably a sub-group of the biking community, but I have really come across so many bikers who have been very supportive of my efforts. There’s the girl who offered to fix my flat tire. The guy who stopped to see if he could fix my handle bars. And bikers who just acknowledge me with a polite nod as they pass. But my favorite person, I “met” on one of my first rides. I was re-entering the Four Mile Run trail from South Glebe. There is a slight incline as you enter the trail. I was really struggling to get up the teeny hill. I wanted to push myself to the top. I was traveling at a snail’s pace. A woman rides up behind me and announces she’s passing me on my left. I was literally about to give up and get off my bike when she said as she rode by, “Keep pushing! You got this!” Her words were just the impetus I needed. Two, maybe, three pedals later, I crested the hill and yelled out, “I did it!” She raised her fist in the air in solidarity and rode off.
  5. Being Outside – I could go to gym and ride the stationary bike or join a spin class, but that really never held any appeal for me. I love being outside. The feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Amazing. Plus I get to see all the beauty around me. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I love the feeling of renewal in the spring air, the blooming of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, budding trees. And the last splash of color and cool air of autumn. And everything in between.
  6. Pushing Myself – I love pushing myself. This past year, I have ridden harder and farther than I ever thought I could. I love to see how far I can go. There have been times I have pushed too far, but I’ve always made it back home, even if I had to walk. The farthest I ever pushed myself to date is my ride from home to Chinatown in DC. It was much farther than I thought it was. Google Maps initially said it was only 6 miles from my house and would take an hour. Google lied. On the bike trail, it was probably 10 or 11 miles. And it took almost two hours. I do not regret doing this though. It was hard and a little scary, but I had a lot of fun.
  7. Riding Downhill – Need I say more? Yes, it is a little scary, but man is it ever fun! I push myself to ride a 4 miles on a slow steady incline on my regular ride. The reward is, I get to ride about 4 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home. The downhill part of the ride is what everyone who dreams of riding thinks biking is like, pedaling effortlessly down the trail and enjoying the ride. And that is what it is like sometimes. But you do not think of the long slog of pushing up hill to get there. The uphill is what makes the downhill really worth it though.
  8. It Is Hard – I like that biking is difficult. One of my favorite movie quotes is from A League of Her Own when the obnoxious Tom Hanks character says to star player who is walking away from the game, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Of course, in Northern Virginia, I think everyone does bike, but that’s not the point. The point is, that I have forced myself to do something that was difficult for me. And the rewards have been immeasurable.
  9. Being Present – There are numerous articles about the benefits of being present in your life, living in he moment, appreciating the here and now. So many of us just coast through our days. Or our schedules are so full, we are just racing to get to the end of the day so we can collapse on our beds for a few hours of respite before we begin again. I often say that when I’m at work, I feel like I’m wishing my life away 8 hours at a time. I’m never fully there. Always planning for the next thing. When I’m biking, I’m not doing that. I have to be focused and present all the time. There are so many things that can derail my ride, cars, traffic, pedestrians, obstacles on the trail errant two-year olds running in front of the bike. You have to pay attention if you want to be safe. Of course, my mind wanders and I think of other things while I’m biking. I think about writing, and all the things I have to do when I get home or get to work, but always, I’m paying attention to the trail, the bike, how I feel, am I hydrated, should I rest, how far I am from home. Biking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m not just waiting for the time to pass so I can get to the next part of my day. I am happy just to be in the moment biking and loving it.
  10. Overall Feeling of Well Being And Accomplishment – I feel better when I bike. My health is better. My breathing is better. I feel stronger and more confident because of biking. I know something about myself. I know that I can push myself physically to achieve a goal. This is something I have not always felt I could do. As someone who spent most of her adult life morbidly obese, the idea of excelling in any kind of physical activity was almost unthinkable. That is no longer the case.
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Far From Perfect

I made it to the gym again today.  I did 30 minutes cardio on the bike and then did an hour fifteen minutes of yoga.  The yoga class was intense.  I have to say, though, the instructor was fantastic.

The class was fairly advanced, that is to say, it was not for beginners.  I have taken yoga classes in the past as I mentioned yesterday.  I’m not unfamiliar with the different poses.  I would still qualify myself as a beginner, however.  It has been quite a while since I have really done any yoga, apart from the Bodyflow class yesterday, which I guess doesn’t really qualify as yoga exactly.

This instructor really seems to like the downward facing dog position quite a lot.  I can do it, but it is a fairly difficult position, particularly for someone who is still a bit heavy.  The fact that most of my weight is still in my stomach and upper body makes it even more difficult.

Every series of poses that she did either ended up in downward dog position or started there.  I had a really hard time with it.  The nice thing about this teacher is she kind of let us do things at our own pace.  When I found I could not do that position over and over, she said it was OK to either do the plank position or the child position instead.

This helped.  I alternated between downward dog and the child position.  She moved fast, but she let people find their own way to get from one position to the other.  Some of the students have apparently been doing this a long time and did not have the struggles I had.  Other students were far behind me.

Another student said that this teacher is great because she gives you permission to fail and find your own way through the practice.  That you don’t have to be perfect, but you just have to try.

This is good news for me because I am certainly far from perfect.  Nonetheless, I feel I had a good practice today.  I really tried to stretch and breathe through each pose or series of poses.  I am sore, but I feel good.  And the meditation at the end was wonderful.  I really like meditation.  It helps me feel centered.

I will definitely go back to this class, but I also think I’m going to start practicing the poses and breathing at home on my own.  Clearly, there are plenty of videos on Youtube to help me out.

I have my consult with the personal trainer on Thursday so that I can learn to use the weight equipment.  I know how to use some of them, but I really want to learn how to properly use them so that I can focus on strengthening and firming my body in addition to the cardio and fat burning that I’m doing on the bike.  I want to move away from the bike and onto the treadmill, but I have to admit, I’m a bit apprehensive of running.  I don’t like running at all, but I’m getting bored with the bike.  Maybe I will give it a try for 15 minutes or so tomorrow.  We shall see.

Life, Rebooted!

This past week has been fantastic.  Every day I am more and more amazed at what I can do, thanks to my 112 pound weight loss, which seems to have stalled-out recently.  At least I’m holding strong though and not going back up!

As I posted yesterday, my friends Liz & Steve have been visiting.  Well, yesterday, they went to the Smithsonian Museums with their girls.  I work in DC about 4 stops from the museums metro station, which is conveniently called Smithsonian.  I walked the 5 blocks to Farragut West, got myself turned around because I do not often go to that station.  Hopped off at the Smithsonian Station and  walked over to the Air and Space Museum, which had just closed for the day, and waited outside for my friends.  Then we took the metro and bus back to my hood where they were having a jazz concert/wine tasting and dined at the inimitable Busboys & Poets.

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Then we walked around Shirlington some more.  My friends bought some cheese from Cheesetique.  And we walked back up the hill to my apartment.

A year ago, I could not have done all of this walking.  I would have gone home from work, probably by car.  Then I would have waited at my apartment for my friends to call me.  I would have had to drive the 4 blocks to the restaurant, parked, ate, and then drive back home.  I would have been in horrible pain, have difficulty breathing, and would have been just miserable.

Today, I think nothing of aimlessly wandering all over the darn place.  Plus, I was able to enjoy jazz, good friends, and good food!  I truly feel as if my life has been rebooted.

Tonight, more jazz at the Sculpture Garden!

Memorial Day Fun

George Washington's Mansion Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mansion Mount Vernon

What a busy weekend.  A college friend came to Washington, DC to visit me.  I have not seen Jerry since November when he visited me after my surgery.  He came to town to help me get settled back into my apartment after I came back from my sister’s house.  I stayed with my sister for a month after my weight loss surgery.

Cow at Mount Vernon

Cow at Mount Vernon

I have known Jerry since I was 20.  We attended the University of Dayton together and we have been friends ever since.  He has seen me through many ups and downs.  He knew me when I was thinner, healthier, and of course much younger.  He saw my health decline as I gained weight.  And now he has seen me make an incredible comeback after my gastric by-pass surgery.  He is so happy that I have started to regain my health.  My return has allowed us to do quite a bit this weekend.

Saturday, we went to Mount Vernon and walked around for over three hours.  We toured the grounds and then stood in line forever to see the mansion itself.  The ride there was hilarious.  Instead of staying on the GW Parkway and following the signs to Mount Vernon, we followed Siri’s directions on the GPS feature of my iPhone.  We ended up in a subdivision.  I have been to Mount Vernon before and I knew this was not right.  So, we back-tracked to Route 1 and found the signs for Mount Vernon and viola, we found it.  We did not follow Siri back home.  Then we went to visit my brother, his wife, and daughter  after we had some dinner.  That was a lot of fun.

Wonder Woman Auntie Colleen

Wonder Woman Auntie Colleen

Then yesterday, he magnanimously allowed me to use him and his truck to pick up some furniture.  We went to Unique and I bought a buffet for my dining area for $13.11.  That’s right, you read that correctly, $13.11.  It was originally $24.99 and they were having a 50% off sale.  Amazing.  Then we went to Goodwill and I bought another small book shelf and a wooden filing cabinet.  Goodwill is a lot more expensive than Unique, but they had a better selection of stuff.  Still, much cheaper than buying new, which I really cannot afford at the moment.  Then we went back to my brother’s house and he gave me a dresser and a very large print for my walls.  Jerry has been exceedingly generous with his time, truck, and willingness to move furniture around for me.

My niece enjoyed her two visits with her Uncle Junkle as she calls him.  Well, OK, she called him that one time three years ago, and we thought it was so cute, we just continued to call him that.  He generously gives her piggy-back rides and runs around playing games with her.  He is as enthralled with her as the rest of us.  We have all fallen under her spell and pretty much do whatever she wants.  She has become our raison d’etre.

Today, we woke up, had breakfast, and took a nice long walk along the bike path in Shirlington.  Then we had coffee before trekking back up the hill.  We are hoping to see my sister later today.  She has been in visiting in Pennsylvania with her husband’s family and my mom.  They were supposed to be back last night.  If they are not back yet, I am sure we will find something to do today.  If nothing else, we can always head down to the Tidal Basin and walk around.

I am so lucky to have such great friends and family around me.  They have all been so supportive of my efforts to regain my health through the gastric by-pass surgery.  I could not have come this far without them, that is for certain.  I will miss Jerry when he leaves tomorrow morning, but at least I know that the next time I see him, thanks to my weight loss, we will be able to have just as much fun as we did this weekend!

Fighting Back My Own Demons

I know that I have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for since my WLS surgery.  I have lost 108 pounds.  I have come down in size from a 30/32 to a 14/16.  I can walk.  I can breathe.  I can walk and breathe at the same time.  I have many new cute outfits.  I can fit into old cute outfits that I have not worn in years.  I have a lot to be grateful for.

And yet…

I still find that it is a daily struggle to fight back the demons that took me to that awful place where I weighed over 300 pounds and felt that my life was not worth living.  I still have to struggle against the same self-doubt and fear; the same desire to fill that void inside of me with all the wrong things; the paralyzing thought that I have wasted too much of my life; the fear that I have already done too much damage to my body and that no matter what I do now, it cannot be repaired; the fear that no matter what or how much I change, I will always be unloveable; that I will always be alone; that I will never progress any further in life than where I am now; that the evil voice inside my head and the people in my life who reinforce that voice are right, that I am nothing and not worth the effort.

The intellectual side of my brain knows that none of this is true, but some days it is harder to believe than others.  I know tomorrow I will feel differently, but today the struggle continues.

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Day Of Reckoning

Monday I have my six month follow-up with the surgeon’s office.  I am actually quite nervous.  The last time I saw him three months ago, I had lost about 50 pounds.  Now I have lost over 100 pounds.  That is 50 pounds since I last saw him.  I know he will be happy for me.

I was apparently quite a mess before the surgery.  My triglycerides were dangerously high.  My good cholesterol was low.  My liver was enlarged and very fatty.  I was morbidly obese.  I could barely walk or breathe.  I was a mess.  The surgeon told my mother how worried he was about me, but he did the best he could and had high hopes that I could recover if I followed the plan.

I have been very strict with this diet.  I am walking for exercise.  I am doing really well.  I have had my blood checked and my cholesterol and liver numbers were very good.  I think the surgeon will be pleased.  I am just waiting to hear from my doctor to see what my vitamin levels are.  I have not had those results yet.  My primary doctor is supposed to have the results faxed to my surgeon’s office.  I hope he has the results by Monday.

When I look back to October 24 and think about how far I have come and the difference this surgery has made to my life, I am so glad that I did this.  I feel so completely different than I did before.  I feel like a completely different person.  I can’t wait to see what the next six months brings.

Bloodless

That’s how I feel today.  I had to go get some blood work done.  Of course, I had to fast, so no food since dinner last night.  I also did not have much water this am.  I have since eaten, but they took 7 vials of blood, so I’m still a bit woozy.

I went to my primary care doctor, who I have not seen since just before the surgery.  I had one phone conversation with her after the surgery, but all of my follow-ups have been with surgeon.  I am scheduled for my annual physical, which is coming up soon. 

The nurse in her office did not recognize me.  I saw the look of confusion on her face as we walked back to the dreaded scale.  “I’m going to have to weigh you,” she tells me.  I knew she would definitely be surprised.

Most of the staff in her office knew that I was having the gastric by-pass surgery.  I’m not really sure what they expected.  The nurse weighed me and then entered my weight into the little mini lap-top they carry around with them.  Everything in their office is very high-tech. 

“Wow! Oh my God!”

“I know.”

“A hundred pounds!” she continued. 

“I know.”

“Oh you look so good, Colleen.  I didn’t recognize you.  Wait until the doctor sees you.”

The nurse takes me back to the little room.  She does the standard, “What brings you here today,” routine.  Checks my temperature, my blood pressure, my pulse.  All are normal.  Still no meds on my part. 

The nurse leaves and I hear excited chatter up at the nurses station, but I cannot really make out what they are saying.  Then I hear the hurried clicking of high heels on linoleum getting closer to the door.  A quick rap and my doctor enters not waiting for me to say anything.  She is all smiles when she enters the room and I can tell she is excited to see my progress for herself.  “Wow, Colleen! One hundred pounds!  You look so good!  How are you feeling?”

We had a nice conversation about everything I have been through.  She asked me specific questions about different things.  I told her about my struggles with constipation and feeling unsteady.  I also told her all of the good things like being able to breathe and walk. 

She’s very happy that my blood pressure is normal.  I shared with her the blood test results from the health screening my employer did.  She was happy to see my triglycerides were way down.  My blood sugar is normal.  My cholesterol is normal.  My good cholesterol still needs to come up some, but she’s not overly worried about that just yet.

After the appointment, she sent me across the hall to get blood drawn.  The surgeon’s office wants to check my vitamin levels to make sure I’m taking enough vitamins.  Malabsorption is a serious problem after the gastric by-pass surgery.  They take so much blood for that test though.  It may take me all day to recover.