Guest Post: Transformation Thursday and Hypothyroidism

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Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.

Christy
Hypothyroidism… Heard of it? I hadn’t heard of this endocrinological condition until I was 19 and had to face what it meant in regards to my life. Basically it is a condition where your thyroid gland is slow and doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The major issue here is that an underactive thyroid upsets the normal balance of your body’s chemical reactions and the more severe your thyroid impairment is, the more severe your symptoms are. Now the thyroid can have issues with being too fast or too slow and the graphic below covers the symptoms on either side of the spectrum… this post however, will focus on my experience of hypothyroidism.

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Hypothyroidism officially came into my life when I was 19, but it was actually wreaking havoc for years prior to my diagnosis. My slow thyroid is the culprit of mood fluctuations that I experienced as a child and as a teen. I would slip into severe depressions every couple of years, but did not know at the time that it was abnormal. These depressions included irritability, chronic fatigue, an immense lack of motivation for day-to-day activities, self-loathing, and thoughts of killing myself when things got bad enough. I grew up in an active and social family family and I am no exception. I have a wonderful family and a multitude of friends whom I did not want to alarm, so I learned to hide my depressions when they struck by gluing a smile to my face and excelling in school, sports, and in life.

The game changed when my family moved across the country from San Diego, CA to Annapolis, MD and my depression hit hard. Suddenly I had to finish high school away from all my friends and I was angry. I stopped playing sports to take more AP classes and I got a job at the local movie theater to take up time on my lonely weekends. … The weight started to pile on. I was no longer running around all the time and burning enough calories to compensate for my increased emotional eating. I’d never been skinny, but I’d also never been fat… then suddenly I was 193lbs at 17 years old. At 5’8” I still wasn’t fat, but I was no longer my healthy self. Then the depression hit harder and I proceeded to cope by eating. My happy façade fooled people enough that I had plenty of friends and no one gave me a hard time for putting on weight, but by the time I graduated high school I weighed 227lbs. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that it was suggested that I get a thyroid test… a very easy blood test. Sure enough my results came back positive. I had some facts to face. The first and foremost is that I now take a pill called Synthroid every day to provide my body with the extra thyroid hormone that my thyroid gland cannot produce. I will have to continue taking Synthroid for the rest of my life to stave off the worst of my symptoms.

So what now? I was a college sophomore and I was hovering somewhere in the 230-240lbs range, taking a pill every day and miserable. Suddenly the majority of my mood symptoms vanished, but I was left to contend with my struggle to lose weight. I say struggle because having hypothyroidism makes losing weight approximately 4x harder than the average person (a fact provided by my primary care physician). For the typical person it is a matter of calories in vs calories burned, not for those with hypothyroidism. You have to work even harder to get your metabolism up to speed… because as you may have guessed by now, a slow thyroid means a glacially slow metabolism.

My goal is to be healthy and to be strong so I made a commitment to myself when I was 19 that I was going to turn things around. I got involved with my university’s lacrosse team (Go Saints!), I began taking part in group activities, I swam every day in the summer and I did lose weight. But then I’d gain it back if I slipped in my diet, even just a little. I learned then that this will be a struggle I battle every day, for the rest of my life. I had to find the fight within me.

At 22 I went off to grad school and my weight was an even bigger struggle because insane time constraints can make the poor health choices easier to make. At 24 I recommitted to myself and started running. I may not have been very fast and the weight may not have fallen much, but I dropped 2 pant sizes in a month.

At 25 I graduated with my master’s degree and my graduation present to myself was to join the 24 Hour Fitness gym here in Annapolis. I took control of my typical excuses by finding a gym that is close to home, is open 24/7, and it has a pool. I sweetened the pot when I decided to start working out with a personal trainer. He’s expensive, but he’s worth every penny. I began working with him about five months ago and I am still working to dip below the 200lbs line, but I have dropped 7% of my body fat and I have lost inches all over my body. My commitment to myself and working with a professional trainer has gotten me onto the right track to become healthy and reach my goal of getting the heck out of the 200s. It’s a struggle every day, but I have achieved so much more than I ever would have imagined when I was that hopeless, heavy 18 year old. I had to find my inner fighter and tell myself that just because I am faced with some extra hurdles does not mean that I cannot overcome them. I ran from the girl I was and hid in the food I ate. Now I run for the woman I want to be and I work out to make sure that she is as strong as she deserves to be.

A little trip down memory lane…

When I was young and then at my heaviest:

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Taking my life back:

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A couple fitness tips for people with hypothyroidism:

  • Commit to yourself and appreciate who you are
  • Develop a fitness routine that you can stick with and set realistic goals
  • Eat healthy meals 3x/day with two snacks in between (eating approximately every 3hrs will help kick start your metabolism)
  • Keep carbs to earlier in the day
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get others involved in your goals (your doctor, trainers, work out buddies, and moral support in general can be a big help)
  • Do your research to better understand your diagnosis and how to work with it

For those of you struggling with hypothyroidism or any other chronic health condition: do not give up on yourself… not ever. Weight loss is a challenge, but with the right support you can do it in a healthy and safe way. It is important not to compare your progress to those around you because your body chemistry is different and it is painful to watch sedentary friends lose weight while you consistently kick your own butt in the gym … at least it sure is for me. There are plenty of books and accounts out there for you to check out about hypothyroidism, remember that your experience will be unique to you as mine has been to me. I wish you all the best of luck in your fitness endeavors.

Laura’s Note: I am so incredibly proud of Chrity’s transformation. She’s a beautiful person inside and out — and a HUGE inspiration to me! I am also proud to announce that Christy has officially signed up for her first half-marathon this Fall. Join Christy and I (and Maxwell!) as we run the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on October 5th and let us know more about how YOU are finding your strong.

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Guest Post: The Burning Truth About Skin Cancer

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Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.

Growing up I was that kid at the beach. You know… that pale kid… slathered in sunblock… wearing the oversized shirt… under the enormous umbrella. That was me from the time I was born until I became a teen and could conveniently “forget” to put on sunblock, or I could choose to toss off the shirt and escape the umbrella in search of a tan. I’m pale, that’s just a fact of life for people with strong German and Irish heritage; so the sun can be a major problem. I’ve always been pretty good about wearing my sunblock when I’m outside, and even though I have never once stepped foot inside a tanning bed, I still got cancer.

I love the sun! Growing up in San Diego on the beach and then lifeguarding each summer after moving to the East Coast meant that I saw a ton of sun as a kid. I still see it all the time between my various activities because my favorite place to be is outside. I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed with my first Stage 1 Melanoma. It was a small spot on my arm that I overlooked given my many freckles and moles; it simply looked like an extra dark freckle with a light colored ring around it. I asked my dermatologist for a mole check to have a baseline – for future problems I thought – when I was 18 and walked out with a bandage over my biopsy site thinking it was no big deal… but it was. I had cancer.

I am very blessed that all three of my melanomas were caught early and I have not had to undergo aggressive treatment like some of the people in the attached video. I have had one removed from the topside of my right forearm (2007), one removed from my left shoulder blade (2012), and one removed from the backside of my right ear (removed one month ago). The common factors about all three sites are that they see a lot of sun when you are not careful and consistent with sun block.

I’ve played sports my entire life, and currently I have gotten involved in league sports as well as pursuing fitness for my own goals. As I mentioned previously, I love to be outside so sunblock has become a permanent sidekick of mine. The various manufacturers have made it so convenient to wear that there are no good excuses to skip it. I’m outside a lot so I carry lip balm that has sun block in it with me at all times, and I make sure to apply sunblock at least ten minutes before my activity and then reapply every hour to two hours.  I also make sure to use a spray sunblock to go over the part in my hair and my scalp. I’m not perfect, I still get sunburns, but I do my very best to protect myself from further sun damage and cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun is your friend. You need vitamin D for strong bones and you need sunshine to improve mood; but you don’t want to get so much that it ends up harming you. Learn from my experience and don’t face going in for biopsies of suspicious sites every six months (I have 12 scars from skin biopsies), wear your sunblock. When you go out running, swimming, biking, hiking, or any other type of outdoor activity… WEAR YOUR SUNBLOCK! Wear your sunblock even if you are only planning to be outside for an hour and wear it even if it is cloudy outside (cloudy days and water activity are deceptively dangerous for sun damage).

If you have freckles and moles, no need to panic! Just make sure that you know your body; keep track of your freckles, moles, and skin in general. If you notice changes in size, color, or shape be sure to get it checked out by a dermatologist. It’s smart to get freckles and moles checked by a dermatologist every couple of years just in case. As my dermatologist put it… skin cancer can pop up where the sun don’t shine … and she ain’t kidding.

If you really want that tan, consider getting a spray tan. Check out the link below and consider this… “Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20%1; and people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%2. Knowledge is power, learn from others’ experiences and protect your skin so that it can protect you.

christy2

For more information please visit: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts

 References:
Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345:e4757. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4757
Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly-exposed population. Cancer Epidem Biomar Prev 2010 June; 19(6):1557-1568.

5 for Friday!

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#1

Both my mom and my mother-in-law are breast cancer survivors and 2 of my favorite people in the world! Last October I was able to run a 5k with my mother-in-law when she finished radiation to support breast cancer research and on May 10th I get to run/walk the Susan G Komen 5k with my mom! My mom picked this race because she participated in a research study while she underwent treatment. The research doctors were at each of her surgeries and appointments and she knows firsthand how important the research is. If you are in the DC area we would love to have you join our team and walk with us! If not, we would greatly appreciate your prayers, positive thoughts, and donations to research if possible. You can check out our page HERE.

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 #2

This week I threw my name in the ring to be part of Saucony’s 26 Strong project. Saucony pairs up 26 veteran marathons with 26 cadets (or first time marathoners) and together they train and run a marathon this year. I first followed the project when NYCRunningMama was selected as a coach last year. As you can tell, Saucony is the inspiration behind my blog and the maker of some of my favorite shoes! To make it even better, a local DC area coach whose blog was the first running blog I followed, Mile Posts, was selected as a coach for 26 Strong. There are so many amazing and inspiring applicants so I am trying to not get my hopes up too high – but I would be SO stoked if I won it! I met all of the criteria (having run a half marathon, no injuries, etc.) and find out on the 17th if I made it. Only 26 do…AHHH!! I often watch these Saucony ads when I need a little pre-run inspiration (it works) and thought I would share. The second video is actually Mile Post’s Saucony ad!

 

#3

Marathons have been on my mind (hello, 26 Strong Project) but so have triathlons. My dad is a triathlete and I’ve been feeling a strong tug towards more distance biking and triathlons. Right now I am very overwhelmed with the sticker shock of road and tri bikes because my hybrid bike is not going to cut it…especially if I need to keep up with my dad! My dad needs a biker buddy when he moves back here in July and I want to add biking in as cross training…so I am hoping he will help me out with a road/tri bike! Right now I am in the research phase and would love any input from triathletes on entry level tri/road bikes that won’t break the bank. The only bike I’ve test-driven so far is the Specialized Dolce. I loved it, but I am open to suggestions. Until then, I am pinching every penny so I can make this happen!

Biking with my dad

#4

Easter is (almost) here! God is good! I am very thankful my boss gave us off for Good Friday and Monday to celebrate. It was wonderful to sleep in a little today and I am really looking forward to baking a ton, cooking Easter dinner with Max, and celebrating Easter. This is our first Easter without our parents near by (mine are in the Philippines and his as in Missouri) so we are cooking a feast for two this year! On Saturday my sister and some friends are going to a tapas lunch and watching Heaven is for Real. We lived in Spain for 4 years so Alicia and I will jump at any chance to drink sangria and eat paella! Gift giving is definitely one of my love languages and over the last 2 weeks I have made 3 Easter baskets (one of Max, one of my sister-in-law Natalie at college, and one for our friend Tim). I love making them and can’t wait for people to enjoy them. I’ll post pics after the Easter Bunny visits because I don’t want to give any secrets away!

#5

KT tape. Every heard of it? I don’t have any injuries but everyone has the occasional ache or pain. When these aches or pains flare up I love to help them out by using KT tape. Think of it as a tape brace! I use it on my hips, IT band, shin splints, knees, everything! I was first introduced to a KT-tape like product in high school when I dislocated my shoulder but needed to tape it down to play volleyball. I’ve been “stuck to it” ever since! This weekend I wrote out a message on my tape as a reminder to offer up the pain or struggle of running for those who can no longer run. We are all #BostonStrong this week!

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Shin Splints: Causes and Cures

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Shin splints are arguably the most common running problem/injury runners of all levels face. Whether you’re just starting our you’re an elite runner training for the Olympics, chances are you’ve probably had shin splints at one point or another. Over the past week I have received three separate e-mails about shin splints and myself took 5 days off of running because of the horrible splits!

shinsplints2

So what causes shin splints and, more importantly, how can we fix them?

First, we need to understand what shin splints are. When I was in middle school and high school shin splints use to come on like clockwork every spring during the first week of track practice. Why? Because I was doing too much too quickly and my body needed to get used to it (but have been something about not training during the winter…darn coaches were right). Shin splints are a catch-all term used for pain located in our lower legs. When the pain is located on the front outside part of the leg they are called anterior shin splints and when they are on the inside of the leg they are medial shin splints.Essentially, shin splints are a shorter work for medial tibial stress syndrome. Key word: stress. You are stressing your body! Too much, too soon!

Here are a few more causes:

  • Overpronation
  • Over worn shoes (check my previous post on when to get a new pair)
  • Over compensating one leg over the other
  • Lack of stretching
  • Running on hard surfaces (your legs are taking a pounding)

So why does it feel like tiny electrocuting spider webs are hitting my shins every time I try to move? Truth be told, sports medicine doctors have a variety of theories as to what goes on. Small tears in muscles along your tibia are pulled off of your bone, tiny micro fractures along your tibia, inflammation of the muscles. It varies! It happens! Once they’ve started there is no stopping but there is one thing we can do (or not do): DO NOT RUN THROUGH THE PAIN! Think of it this way…

If you have shin splits, there is some type (even if small) injury to your bone and/or muscle tissue. Forcing yourself to run through that can make that work. Your shins are just like any bone. If a baseball pitcher has small but painful tears in his shoulder, should he continue to pitch? No! And neither should you!

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So what are you going to do? You’re going to treat them! Here’s how:

ICE: Place ice bags on your shins several times a day while you elevate your legs. I did this one leg at a time while at work or both legs at the same time while on the couch at home. The ice is instant relief and helps with the inflammation.

*Extra Tip: freeze water in a paper cup, peel back the paper and roll the exposed ice cup along your shins.

COMPRESSION: Rock a pair of compression socks (CEP or any other brand) because feel great and help with recovery. There’s no real “science” here to prove that they help your shin splints, but I certainly felt a difference. They are pictures above with my sweet candy candy PJ’s…and yes…my compression socks are pink (who is surprised?)!

REST (sort of): Take a couple of days off of running. Recently I took 5 days off of running because of shin splints and spend my time in the pool or on the bike instead. It does not mean you have to quite yoru cardio routine, it just means you need to decrease the impact.

STRETCH: There are a few ways to stretch your shins out (including stretching out your calf and Achilles tendon). My favorite is to kneel on a carpeted floor with your legs and feet together – feet/toes pointed back. Slowly sit back onto your calves/heels and push your ankles into the floor until you feel the stretch along the front of your shins.

shin-stretch

KT Tape: I’ve yet to try out KT tape…but I am intrigued! While researching, I came across a few helpful tips from our friends over at KT Tape that you may want to check out. The photos are helpful as KT Tape can be tricky business!

And before you return to your training program remember:

  • Check your shoes to make sure they are not too worn out
  • Run on smoothed surfaces (think trail versus pavement running)
  • Invest in a pair of compression socks/sleeves
  • Stretch!

Again – I am not doctor. If you are experiencing excruciating pain (more so than your average nagging shin splint) please consult a health care professional.

I’m Here! I’m Here! With Neck Pain!

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Hello Bloggers,

I want to apologize for my lack of posts this week! My best friends wedding is coming up in 2 days and with a short work week (so I can get my booty up to Pennsylvania for the big day!) this have been a little more hectic than usual. I’ll be back VERY soon!

I am however having a bit of a neck pain problem that I would love some advice on. I woke up 2 days ago with horrible neck pain (like a kink in my neck) that has not gone away. It’s the bottom of my neck where my neck and shoulders meet. I used my STEM machine on it last night and had the hubby work the knots out with a good neck rub. Today I am going to try ice packs while at work because my chiro advised against heat the last time this happened (several months ago before a business trip). I have not lifted weights since the pain started and have lightened the load on my backpack while biking to and from work. It is making running this week quite uncomfortable! Do you have any suggestions?! I would love some input!

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