Don’t Call it a Comeback

After a 2-month hiatus from running, I hit the pavement again yesterday! My chiropractor finally said I could start testing out exercises like running, so I didn’t waste much time getting out there!

My first run was slow. I was exhausted from little sleep, my left foot felt uncomfortable in my shoe the entire time (a good reminder that I need new shoes), and my knees were achey. Despite all of that, though, I was just so damn happy to be running again, no matter how slow or how many walk breaks I needed (excluding my warm-up and cool-down, I needed about 3 total).

img_3243I ran/walked 1.74 miles with an average turtle pace of 16.12 minutes. That’s a heck of a lot slower than my previous 10 to 12-minute paces a couple months ago, but I was deliberate in my slowness. I knew if I tried to go too fast or too hard on this first run, I’d regret it and maybe even cause a setback. So I’m taking things slow and steady in hopes that I can continue running.

I won’t be taking up my run streak again any time soon. Right now I think I’m going to try to maintain a schedule of running a few days a week up to every other day and see how things go. I don’t have any pace or mileage goals; right now, the only goal is to just keep running.

I’m also doing some moderate upper body/shoulder strength training, too! I’m using resistance bands rather than weights (I’m weak AF after a year of zero upper body training), and it will be a slow recovery process. But it’s progress nonetheless.

In my last post I talked about how little sleep I’ve been getting and my resolve to give up caffeine as a last-resort effort to improve things. I’m happy to report that I’ve moved past the horrible withdrawal headaches I had the first few days. Unfortunately, it seems the caffeine, or lack of, has had little impact on my sleep. I’m still getting less than 5 hours of sleep each night (and less than 4 the last couple nights).

I’m considering giving magnesium another try. Apparently some options come in a lotion form, so maybe I’ll like that better than the spray I bought. I’m also considering switching back to Benadryl from the current antihistamine I use before bed occasionally (usually when I’ve had something for dinner that gave me hives) and trying something like Tylenol PM. My concern is most medications that make other people sleepy seem to have the opposite effect on me and I just feel totally wired.

For now, I’m going to continue with the decaf, because now that I’m past the withdrawals, I don’t see an urgent need to go back to regular coffee. And I’m going to keep running and doing whatever other exercises I can in hopes that might help my sleep, too.

 

Praying for Sleep

I’m not particularly religious, but if I were, I’d be praying to whatever deity for sleep, which has eluded me for months now. 

I started tracking my sleep in January, but I knew that, for at least a couple months prior, I wasn’t getting enough sleep. From January to now, I get an average of about 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I get as much as 6 or as little as 3, despite being in bed for 7 to 8 hours total.

img_3235
The light blue lines are periods of restfulness and the dark blue is deep sleep. Ugh. 

I’m not wide awake, though. There’s not a million thoughts running through my head (okay, that happens sometimes) and I’m not staring at my ceiling every night wondering why I can’t sleep (that happens sometimes, too). Instead, I’m tossing and turning and just restless in general. I’m exhausted, but I just can’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.

My shoulder pain may be partly to blame, and I assume stress is also to blame. I’m doing everything I can to reduce those (seeing a chiropractor, more self-care, etc.), but there’s only so much I can do. I feel like I’ve tried everything people suggest to sleep better. I’ve tried:

  • Going to bed early
  • Getting up early
  • Going to bed/waking up at the same time every day
  • Turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Reading before bed
  • Drinking herbal tea before bed (relaxing, yes, but I usually have to get up to pee)
  • Diffusing lavender and other calming essential oils in my bedroom
  • Getting more magnesium
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating
  • Not drinking caffeine after noon (more on this later)

I even got so desperate that I tried taking melatonin and Zquil. Neither worked. In fact, both of them made me feel exhausted but also completely wired (I’ve had the same experience with muscle relaxers in the past). And one of my main motivations for doing the Whole30 in January was to improve my sleep. While I saw a whole slew of other non-scale victories, better sleep wasn’t one of them.

So, desperate times call for desperate measures. In addition to praying to the Universe for sleep, I’m also giving up caffeine. Because caffeine can stay in your system for so long, I stuck to the hard and fast rule of no caffeine after 12 p.m., but that hasn’t helped. And I had previously tried going a couple days without my  morning coffee, but didn’t notice a difference so I quickly gave up. This time, I’m going to stick it out for a couple weeks at least and see what happens.

It’s the only other thing I can think to do. So I’ve traded in my beloved, caffeinated, bulletproof coffee for a decaf version. As of this posting, I’m four days caffeine-free and these four days have been entirely unpleasant. The first day I had a mild headache. No biggie.

By the second day, that headache was a full-blown migraine with a side of nausea for good measure. I was grateful to have a light workload because I spent most of the afternoon just laying on the couch. I ate very little and watched a whole lot of Netflix. I thought things were really looking up when I fell asleep relatively quickly and wasn’t tossing and turning, but then Penny started whining.

I checked the clock. 2:45 a.m. Ugh. I got up and let the dogs out. She definitely needed to go, so the whining was justified. I put them back in their kennels and went back to bed. Couldn’t get comfortable. I turned on some meditation music to help me fall back asleep. Didn’t work. Played a dumb game on my phone for a while until I was tired again. Finally fell asleep around 5. Alarm went off at 6:30. Decided to sleep in an extra half hour. Slept until 8 instead.

Despite the lack of sleep (I should be used to it by now), I actually felt a little better on day 3. My headache and nausea were gone. I made my decaf bulletproof coffee and ate a banana for breakfast to play it safe. Now I just have to wait and see how much sleep I get.

img_3230By the way, if you aren’t sure what bulletproof coffee is, it’s a pretty popular morning drink. It’s traditionally made with regular (ie caffeinated) coffee with grassfed butter and coconut (or MCT) oil blended in. Previously, I simply added ghee to mine, omitting the coconut oil, although I have done both in the past. More recently, I’ve added collagen peptides (check back for a post on this later) and ghee, and starting this week, I use decaf coffee. Then I top it off with a little dairy-free creamer and use a frother to mix it all up. It’s a delicious morning tradition I just couldn’t part with (hence the decaf).

Have you ever struggled to get a good night’s sleep? What are your best tips for falling–and staying–asleep? Are you a fan of bulletproof coffee or do you prefer yours black? Let me know in the comments!

PS: This post contains affiliate links.

Missing Running

Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately, mostly because my personal life has been chaotic. I’ve been struggling both mentally and physically since I had to stop running over a month ago (chiropractor’s orders). I had plans to run a 10k at the end of May and that’s just not going to happen. Maybe if I got cleared to run in the next week I could pull off a 5k, but I think the 10k is out of reach at this point. So that’s frustrating.

On top of that, I really have had zero physical activity over the past month. I went to the gym once and did the elliptical and it was awful. Way worse than the “dreadmill”. So I’m not getting much exercise, I’ve been sore from my adjustments and muscle work at the chiropractor, and I feel like I’m not making much progress with it. My shoulder still hurts and although they tried to have me do exercises last week, I was so sore afterwards that they’ll probably delay those even longer.

I know it will eventually get better and I’ll be able to do more than I could do this time last year, but the waiting is hard. Especially since running was about so much more than staying in shape for me. First and foremost, it got me out of the house at least once every day (work from home problems). But it’s also an outlet for anger, frustration, sadness, writing blocks, and so much more. So now I have all these pent-up feelings and I don’t have a way to release them.

IMG_3169.jpgThe past month or so has been hard for lots of other reasons, too. My freelance work was slow for a while, which really stresses me out (and I couldn’t run to relieve that stress!). Then, my grandpa passed away, so I had to cut back on the little bit of work I did have so I could be with my family. It was all hard and exhausting, but the amount of people who came to the visitation and/or funeral was incredible and I’m so grateful to everyone who stood in line for almost an hour or more just to say hi and chat for a minute.

In spite of all the sadness and stress and exhaustion, good things are in the works. My freelance work is picking back up and I’ve got some promising full-time opportunities on the horizon as well. It’s been hard to stay positive lately, but I’m trying.

For now, I’m going to keep working hard, and maybe try to write a blog post more than once a month! I’ve got some other posts I’m working on so be on the lookout for those!

The End of an Era

My run streak has come to an end.

That probably sounds a little dramatic, but it’s how I feel right now. I finally went to see a chiropractor to find out if they could do anything to help with the shoulder pain I’ve been dealing with for over a year now. Turns out, my shoulder pain is probably the result of some neck problems, which were probably the result of one or more concussions I had in high school and college.

So the chiropractor is going to start working on my neck, which should relieve my shoulder pain and will probably help quite a few other issues I’ve had over the years. Unfortunately, that means ending my run streak. I asked him twice, just to make sure I actually had to end it. [And I thought briefly about continuing it anyway, but decided I’d rather be pain free and re-start my run streak at a later date.]

Not only do I have to end my run streak, but I can’t do many other physical activities either. He said I could still go to the gym and do things like the stationary bike or elliptical as long as I’m not moving my arms and I’m not hunched over. Those sound worse than the treadmill, to be honest. After about a week or two of adjustments, I should be able to start running again, but it will be a while before I’m doing upper-body work again (not that I was doing much to begin with).

So my 4.5 mile run on Tuesday was my last for a while. I made it 218 days and ran over 370 miles. That run streak pulled me out of a depression that had lasted most of last summer. It showed me just how strong I am. And it reminded me how much I love running. Over those 218 days and 370 miles, I got faster and ran farther.

Now I have to let it go and put my goals on hold. It’s frustrating to say the least. I’m trying to remind myself that a healthy, pain-free shoulder will be a good thing. Because eventually I’ll be able to do other exercises I haven’t done in over a year. Like yoga and lifting weights. I’ll eventually have some upper body strength again, which I completely lost over the past year. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be able to achieve my goal of doing a headstand.

It was hard starting the past two days without a run. I’ve started the majority of the last 218 days that way and it’s been amazing. I’ve seen a lot of sunrises. I’ve run in the heat and freezing cold; in the snow and rain. I’ve put a lot of miles on my two pairs of running shoes, which are in dire need of retirement. I’ve found money on my runs and seen a car accident. I’ve run on vacations and overcame my hatred of the treadmill. I’ve run through soreness and head colds and on holidays and weekends. I’ve run through every possible excuse to not run.

It’s hard to let it go, even though it’s only for a week or two. But I know when I come back, I’ll make even bigger gains in my training. Once my shoulder is feeling better and I can start doing upper-body exercises again, I’ll be able to cross-train properly, which will make a huge difference in my endurance, speed, and overall strength.

Doing what’s right for your body isn’t always easy, but I’m choosing to take this time to rest and regroup so I can come back better than ever, even if I am starting over at day 1.

My Whole45(ish) Recap & Food Freedom Forever Review

I finished Food Freedom Forever a couple weeks ago. I also ended my Whole30 last week. I lost track of what day I was on, but it was day 45-ish. I just wanted something easy, so I decided on Chipotle. I ordered a chicken bowl (the chicken is cooked in rice bran oil, so it’s not compliant) with lettuce, mild and medium salsa, and—of course—guac (which apparently costs more now—ugh). I also got a bag of tortilla chips, because their chips are delicious (it’s the lime juice + salt).

It was good and 100% worth it. I didn’t notice any negative effects from the non-gluten grains, and the next day I went right back to eating Whole30. So far the slow-roll reintroduction method is working well for me. I’m only reintroducing foods I really want/miss and I’m only doing it when I’m ready. In addition to non-gluten grains like corn and rice, I’ve also reintroduced sugar. Not because I miss desserts (I don’t, and I’ve had just one brownie since my Whole30 ended), but because I really miss my egg-free mayo and it has sugar in it. I also tried some new maple blueberry breakfast sausages, which were also delicious.

Those brownies didn’t stir my sugar dragon, and incorporating a little added sugar makes my life so. much. easier. So while it’s unbelievably annoying that sugar is added to things like mayo, I’m willing to make it part of my diet occasionally to enjoy some convenience foods (chicken salad for the win!).

That’s what food freedom is all about. Finding what works for you and in the right amounts. I miss dairy the most, so I know I need to wait longer to reintroduce it. I also know from past Whole30s and allergy testing that dairy causes stomach and skin issues for me. And while my shoulder is still not doing any better, I’m pretty sure it feels worse when I go and eat a whole cheese pizza, so I’m going to stay dairy-free for a while longer.

My food freedom will change, and that’s kind of the point. Right now, I’m eating mostly Whole30, while incorporating non-gluten grains and a little added sugar with certain meals. Eventually I’ll reintroduce gluten and dairy, but not until I’m ready.

What I loved about Food Freedom Forever is Melissa Hartwig stresses that eating Whole30 100% of the time is not food freedom. Instead she gives you a plan to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, bingeing, and “cheat days”. You start with a reset (ie the Whole30). Then you reintroduce and evaluate how those foods make you feel. The ones that don’t affect you negatively become part of your regular diet.

She also stresses to evaluate foods in the moment. So before eating something—particularly if it’s a food that might cause digestive distress, skin breakouts, and the like—ask yourself two questions: 1. Do I really want this? 2. Is it really worth it? If the answer to both of those is “yes”, then you eat the food and deal with whatever consequences there are. If the answer to either is “no”, you skip it.

Another point she makes is that you will slowly slide back into your old habits. Eating dessert every night after dinner whether you really want it or not. Having a glass of wine as soon as you get home from work every day. Bingeing on certain foods because “it’s the weekend” (which is not a special occasion). Fortunately, she emphasizes that this isn’t failure. It’s normal and happens to just about everyone. All you have to do is go back to your reset. You may or may not need a full 30 days depending on how long you’ve been sliding and how many resets you’ve done in the past.

After your reset, you reintroduce and redefine your food freedom. And that’s it. You go back to your reset as needed. You keep asking yourself if you really want it and if it’s worth it. What I love most about this is it transformed how I viewed my past Whole30s. My most recent one was my eighth (I think), and I felt a bit like a failure for having done it so many times. In reality, every time I do a round of Whole30, I’m reaffirming my commitment to my health. That’s a non-scale victory.

There’s a ton of great information in Food Freedom Forever. It will help you transform not just how you eat, but how you talk about food (and maybe even how you talk to/about yourself). I highly recommend reading it before or during your next Whole30 so you can start implementing the strategies immediately. It is by far the one book I wish I would have had from day 1.

Have you read Food Freedom Forever? What did you think? What does food freedom look like for you?

 

I Finished the January Whole30 But…

I’m not stopping at 30 days!

FFC47689-CEF1-4C6C-8E10-193496F631AC-19105-0000117502365E44.jpgAs of today, I’m on day 32, and I’m going to keep going for a while. The past 30 days have been pretty great (I’ll get to my non-scale victories shortly), but it’s just not enough this time. My primary motivation for this round was to see how it would affect my shoulder. And while it has eliminated that 24/7 chronic pain I was dealing with, I think it could be better.

So I’m going to keep on keepin’ on for another 10-15 days at least to see just how much better my shoulder can feel. I also didn’t see as much improvement in my sleep and energy as I’d hoped I would (I mostly blame this on stress), so I’d like to see if those get any better as well.

IMG_2863.jpgMy experience wasn’t all negative, though! Before I get to all my amazing NSVs, I want to talk about the two books that were total game changers for this round of my Whole30. First, The Whole30 Day by Day is the journal I wanted to keep during my first several rounds but was too lazy to do so. I was able to keep track of how I was doing and feeling, the NSVs I was seeing, and it offered tips and tricks to help get me through those “kill all the things” days.

For those 30 days, I read and journaled in that book every morning and night. It became a familiar ritual (which I’m now replacing with journaling and meditation) that gave me some perspective on the day ahead and allowed me to reflect on what I learned. I’m not saying I couldn’t do another round without this book, but man, it would be hard.

IMG_2858.jpgThe second book that made a huge difference for this round was The Whole30 Fast & Easy cookbook. This book was full of new and exciting recipes to try, most of which involved few ingredients and minimal prep/cook time. I tried a bunch of them and they were all delicious (although many did not turn out nearly as pretty as the photos in the book!). I even got creative when I realized I was missing a few ingredients and/or bought the wrong things. Improvisation is not something I would have been comfortable with prior to this round.

And with that non-scale victory, let’s get into the list: IMG_2942.jpg

  • Tried one or more new recipes per week
  • Got really good at meal prepping
  • Relied on my allergy medicine less (I was taking one every night, now I’m taking it as-needed)
  • No more belly bloat
  • Fit back into my favorite pair of jeans
  • Tried beets again (still don’t like them, but I gave them another shot)
  • Clear skin
  • Lightened under-eye circles
  • Tried new Lacroix flavors and discovered I love the grapefruit one
  • Ran almost 55 miles over the month and started training for a 10k (more on that in a separate post to follow)
  • I met my goal of exercising every day during my Whole30
  • Created healthy rituals and routines that aren’t focused around food, like journaling each morning and reading before bed each night
  • Gained more confidence in my appearance and my abilities
  • Had the energy and courage to tackle hard things
  • Stopped waking up every morning with a headache
  • Fewer stomach aches
  • No more brain fog

I didn’t weight myself before starting and I didn’t take any “before” photos. The weight wasn’t that important to me—I just wanted my clothes to fit better, and they do! There are probably more that I’m forgetting, but that’s a pretty impressive list of NSVs if I do say so myself. Hopefully in another week or two I can say my shoulder is almost pain free and I’m sleeping better. Time will tell!

In the meantime, I’m reading Food Freedom Forever, which I started about half-way through my Whole30. It’s another game changer and I highly recommend it!

Did you do the January Whole30? How did it go? If you haven’t done a Whole30, but you’re curious, let me know how I can help!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links.

Whole30: Halfway There

I’m halfway through my Whole30! Find out how it’s going:

Yesterday was day 15 of my Whole30, which means I’m halfway there! It’s amazing how even though this is my eighth round (I think), I’m still learning new things. It’s also funny how some things get easier, but it’s a pretty safe bet that no matter how many times I do this, some aspect of it will always be hard (and it’s rarely the same thing!).

This round I’ve had a lot of help from The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook and The Whole30 Day by Day. The cookbook has tons of meals with short ingredient lists and fast cook and/or prep times. I’ve tried several so far and have enjoyed each and every one. That’s including the ones where I improvised because I forgot to buy something or didn’t read the recipe thoroughly so I bought the wrong thing.img_2858

I can tell you one thing. Improvising in the kitchen is not something I ever would have done during my first several rounds of Whole30. And certainly not before the Whole30. My kitchen skills have improved tremendously over these eight-ish rounds and it probably would not have happened if it weren’t for all the tips they provide on their social media and in their books.


img_2827

In addition to trying lots of new dishes to keep things from getting boring this round, I’m also tracking things in the Day by Day book. It’s got tips, motivational passages, hacks, and more to keep me feeling motivated and to reassure me about where I am in the process. It also has spots for me to write down my NSVs (non-scale victories) and reflect on how I think I’m doing.

It’s everything I wanted for my first several rounds of the program but I lacked the discipline to actually follow through with (changing your eating habits is hard ‘yo). I basically carry it around with me all day (I work from home, so this is slightly less weird than it sounds) and write down what I ate and how I’m feeling. I also start every morning by reading the tip, motivation, and FAQ pages for that day. And I end the day by journaling about how things went and actionable things I can do to ensure success tomorrow.

While these two books have made a huge difference in how well this round is going compared to past rounds I’ve completed, I know a lot just has to do with me and my own motivation. I’m more confident in the kitchen, so I’m less afraid to try new recipes and buy weird-sounding ingredients (nutritional yeast, aka “nooch”, anyone?). I’m also really motivated by the pain I’m in.

img_2863

I’ve been dealing with pain from a shoulder injury for almost a year now. After seeing two doctors, having two different sets of x-rays taken, physical therapy, and an MRI, I still have zero answers for what’s wrong with it. My sole motivation for this round of Whole30 was to eliminate inflammatory foods to see if it helps relieve some of my shoulder pain.

Guess what? It’s day 15 and I’m finally starting to notice a slight improvement. Enough so that I’ve started working in some light shoulder mobility exercises when I’m at the gym. That’s a HUGE NSV for me, and I hope I continue to see improvements throughout the next 15 days. I am fully prepared to extend the program if it’s improving but there’s still some pain at the end of the 30 days. Then I plant to tackle the reintroduction to figure out which foods are causing the inflammation.

Other NSVs I’ve experienced so far:
img_2873


  • I no longer wake up with a headache every morning
  • My skin is much clearer
  • My belly isn’t constantly bloated/uncomfortable
  • I fit into a pair of jeans I haven’t been able to wear in over a year
  • My energy levels are higher and more stable throughout the day (I mean, I’m writing a blog post after working all day. If that’s not energy, I don’t know what is)

I’m still waiting for my sleep to improve and get more consistent. Part of my sleep problems are related to stress, I’m sure (stay tuned for a post about how I’m managing it). I’m also still waiting to see improvements in my running. Right now I’m not running much faster or farther than I was before I started. I suspect that will change soon though, and I can’t wait!

Are you doing the Whole30? What day are you on and how’s it going? What NSVs have you experienced so far?