Guest Post: Transformation Thursday and Hypothyroidism

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.

hypothydoidism

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:

chirstyyeah

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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Shin Splints: Causes and Cures

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!

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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.

“The Dreaded Plateau” – Dear Diary #7

Trying to cut down on your weight has to be one of the most frustrating personal struggles! I work out every single day, sometimes twice a day, and bike to work. I play softball. I eat what I consider a healthy and clean diet – and one day I need to do a photo log of what that looks like to get some help – but I stay in the same weight range. It’s frustrating!

I try to tell myself to stay away from scales because I know that the numbers are not always reflective of your body and the fat:muscle ration. Do I stick to that? Heck no! Do I wish I did? Of course! Nothing sucks more than working out for weeks and seeing no change in the numbers.

I lost 4 pounds when I started this blog and nothing has changed number wise since. Of course I feel it in my body, I feel the pain on my sides from crunches and in my legs from squats…so I know it is doing something… I just do not know what. For me my BIGGEST trouble spot is my belly – urgh hate it! Who doesn’t?

I’ve read a lot about cleanses lately and I know that most of them are pretty dangerous and/or deprive your body of much needed nutrients. However, I did stumble across one that I think could help boost me over this little plateau. It’s Jillian Michael’s “tea” from the Biggest Loser series. Basically you continue exercising and eating healthy BUT you add drinking 60 ounces of this tea to your daily intake:

60 oz of purified water
2 tablespoon’s lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar free cranberry juice
1 dandelion root tea bag

My only question is where the heck does one find dandelion root tea bags?! Hmmm…time to start searching.
I need to remember that there is no quick fix. I don’t need diet pills or slimming drinks or expensive weight loss tolls….all I need is running shows, a sports bra, and a little determination.

Do you have any tips for weight loss? What would you suggest?

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Are You A Runner?

I never considered myself a running because I didn’t “look” like one or I was not “as fast” as the runners out there. But you know what? I get out there and pound the pavement! So I am a runner in my little heart! We all are – own it!

You run for two miles? You’re a runner!

You run for 26.2 miles? You’re a runner!

You doing a Couch to 5k program? You’re a runner!

If you struggle with this (like I did for many, many, many years) then I really recommend reading Dorothy’s piece “I want to look like a runner” on her AWESOME blog Mile Posts.

This has been my realization this year and I want to own it. Step by step. Little by little. I too am a runner. Yesterday was one of those days that validated that for me. As you know, DC summers are ridiculously hot and humid. I set out on a 2 mile jog around our neighborhood on Sunday and was a little terrified about the heat. I had spent the morning at my parent’s house baking cupcakes before they flew back to the Philippines (they live there) and was stuck with a mid-day run. Ouch! Mr. husband helped me load up on sunscreen before I attached my heart rate monitor and I put on my new running outfit (always makes you feel better!) – THEN and I was off! It was a little after 3:00 PM and the National’s were playing a day game. We live right by the stadium so my run to the boardwalk took me straight past the stadium and around TONS of Nat’s fans just meandering around the neighborhood. “Don’t stop” I thought to myself over and over again…they will see you! They will see you! Keep pushing through!

So I kept running out of fear of being judged by the big guys with their Nat’s jerseys and Bryce Harper bobble head dolls. I thought to myself “well, you usually stop around here and walk” but I wasn’t tired yet and continues on…one foot in front of the other. I surprised myself when I made it all around my usual 2 lap loop and stopped only once (to wait for a crosswalk light to change). I like to think it was powered by my new blog love – so thank you readers!!

Here is a shot of yours truly finding her strong post-run:

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I set out Monday afternoon to get another two miles in before Bible Study at 6:30 pm. It was STILL boiling hot! I grabbed my water and set out. What I forgot was that while DC is pretty flat running…NOVA is rolling hills…HILLS ARE EVERYWHERE! I felt like it was two miles uphill the whole way but I made it. Nothing feels better than conquering a new hill! I got lost once and had to slow down to turn my Google Maps on, but I finally found my way back to a main road. Hot. Sweaty. And down 300 calories.

For the second day in a row I had a run I was PROUD of!

Today was my cross training day so I headed over to boot camp and am still shaking as I type this blog post up. An hour of outdoor torture (that I secretly love) is what it really should be called. This was the last camp of the summer but they are considering extending it for another month! I have to say that it is probably the fastest 600 calories I have EVER burned.

Tomorrow? Rest day! Max and I have a softball game after work with our team Hawks on the Hill and are hoping to kick some butt…because we got ours kicked last week. It’s not a traditional rest day 😀 but I like to save those for the very end of the week just in case I cannot get a run in on a regular week day.

Keep finding your strong,

Laura

 

Finding My Strong

I’ve never been a skinny girl and I have no desire to be one. I’m not in it to look like a model – I am in it to get healthy. I am type 2 diabetic (insulin resistant, what my doctors like to call “pre-diabetic”) and have PCOS which makes loosing weight an absolute nightmare. My body ignores (resists) insulin which we need for energy and to break down sugars and starches. Basically my body does not know what to do with the insulin in my body, doesn’t detect it, and over produces it.

I’m on medicine to control my diabetes (glucofage, metformine) and to control the cysts in my ovaries and every couple of months I have blood work and ultrasounds done. It’s a ton of fun (ok – not really). Nothing majorly life threatening here BUT I REALLY hate being on medication. My solution: kick diabetes in the butt and getf it…and OFF more medicine! A few weeks ago I had my monthly check up and my doctor was not happy with my weight (nor was I). Together we worked out a plan to bring me back down to my “normal” weight for my height and have set a goal for 6 months. I am re-launching this blog to help keep me accountable. Maybe I am the only person who reads it…maybe not! But their way it will help hold me accountable.

Now I am by no means overweight or unfit. I finished my first half-marathon in February (and fractured my ankle…but I finished in 2 hours and 50 minutes!) and am working towards the Marine Corps 10k in October as my “come back”). So journey with me as I kick diabetes in the butt AND re-kindle my love for running. Now I say “re-kindle” because there was a time when running consumed my life. I ran track in high school and to this day hold records for the 100, 200, and 400m sprints at two different high schools. I races against girls who competed nationally around the world and hold medals from both Hong Kong (under 18 nationals) and Shanghai. Things got iffy when I switched from an elite track team to a high school team when I moved from Hong Kong to Shanghai…buy my lover for running was still there! Now, many years later, I’m here to bring it back.

I absolutely love Saucony and I love their moto “Find Your Strong” so this is my attempt. Travel with me as I find my strong!

my strong