When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Make a Plan


I think each and every one of us has come to a point in their lives where the day to day minutiae just seems too overwhelming. We get stressed, we have a crisis, something unexpected throws our world into a tailspin and we just want to say “screw it” and give up on healthy living. It could be overeating, a relapse into drinking or substance abuse, or giving up other healthy habits like exercise or drinking water. Our minds and our hearts stop communicating with each other, and no matter how well we KNOW that continuing a healthy lifestyle will help us, we just feel like it’s hopeless. I’m going through a phase like that right now. For many years, I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression. This winter, it’s hit its absolute peak. It started building in November, and now it’s February and I’ve hit rock bottom.

Me on a GOOD workout day.
Me on a GOOD workout day.

For someone like me, who is not an emotional eater, keeping my food healthy and limited has not been a problem. My anxiety causes me to feel sick to my stomach, and my emotional distress gives me no appetite. Often what happens is I’ll feel sick and won’t want to eat, and then I’ll feel sicker, realize I haven’t eaten in hours, eat, then feel marginally better until a few hours later when the cycle continues. Blah. The real problem is working out. My mind is all over the place right now, thoughts racing all over and flitting about and thinking negative things. Usually I can quell this by focusing on something intently, but something like going for a walk or doing kettlebells just doesn’t focus my mind enough to distract me. Wednesday I managed to force myself through my bells routine by watching a DVRed episode of Justified. I made it through, and may have even worked harder than usual. I felt better afterward, and had a fairly decent day.

Friday I felt like I needed a change. I’ve been doing the same routine for the most part for about 5 months, with a short stint of a second routine during the holidays. While these routines are still challenging, I thought that maybe adding a third routine could spice up my workout, and learning some new kettlebell moves might keep my mind occupied. Since I work out three days a week, doing a different routine every day could help keep things fresh. Having a regular scheduled work out time helps: although I’ve been a bit slacky on my start times this past week. The thing is, it’s getting started that’s the hardest part. Once I actually start, I finish.

Image Courtesy of http://www.dickssportinggoods.com

So, Friday, I went to FitnessBlender.com (uhm, if you don’t know about Fitness Blender, you need to check it out – tons of FREE workout videos that are easy to follow) and found a new full body bells workout to try. This may have been a saving grace for me: having to pay attention and learn new moves without injuring myself really kept my mind focus on the work. And the work is satisfying, once you DO it. You’ve heard that quote “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”? Well the hardest part of working out when you just aren’t feeling it is starting each workout. If you make it to the gym, you work out, right? If you workout at home, it’s the act of putting on your workout clothes that triggers the activity. For me, it’s putting on my lifting gloves. Once those babies are on my hands, it’s game on.


In short, here’s my new plan for working out through the tough times (some of these steps I’ve had in place for a while):

  1. Have a workout schedule and stick to it. I workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My start time on Monday is flexible, since that’s one of my days off, but in my really good workout days I started around 6:15-6:30. Lately I’ve been struggling to start, so it’s been closer to 7 am. (And, to be fair, this week’s Friday workout was on Saturday, but that was planned because I was meeting a friend for coffee.)
  2. Lay out workout clothes the night before and set them near my “gym”. This will have them in plain view so all I have to do is take off my pajamas and put on my workout clothes. I’ve even simplified my workout clothes because I have found my balance with kettlebells is actually better when I’m barefoot. So I don’t even have to put on socks and shoes. (This will change the first time I drop a 30-lb bell on my bare foot.)
  3. Vary workouts. I will do a different kettlebell routine each day of my week. I will follow each workout with an ab workout, which I’m also going to try to vary, I just haven’t worked out how yet. (Note to self: do planks, they WORK.)
  4. Plan rewards. I used to reward myself with an extra tablespoon of peanut butter on my English muffin in the morning after a workout. That resulted in, guess what, weight gain! So I stopped doing that. I need to come up with a list of non-food rewards. Ideas: self-massage with a tennis ball, aromatherapy.
  5. Treat it like a job. Working out is something I do that I usually enjoy, and I get “paid” in physical fitness.
6. Ron Swanson is a genius.

Do any of you have strategies for getting through your workouts when you just aren’t feeling it? Leave your plans in the comments!

Vitamin D: Are You Deficient?

From http://nutristart.com/vitamin-d-foods/
From http://nutristart.com/vitamin-d-foods/

NOTE: I am not a doctor and you should never take any supplements without first consulting your doctor.

If you get outside a lot, or drink milk regularly, you probably don’t think much about Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin whose main purpose is to help your body use calcium to build strong bones. Lack of Vitamin D can cause a whole host of problems, many of which aren’t obviously related to the source of the problem. In fact, symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can be mistaken for a thousand other problems.

In the summer of 2009, I was around 275 lbs. The Hubs and I were both unemployed, but we were newlyweds, and we had my Dad nearby for support, both emotional and financial. Things were okay, not great, but okay. But it was summertime, and I was depressed. Not normal, I’m-having-a-rough-time-right-now-but-things-will-get-better depressed, but more serious, lay-on-the-couch-in-tears-staring-into-space depressed. I’d had depression before, when someone very close to me had died, and this was far worse. I’d known that I was susceptible to feeling down on rainy days, and that I felt better on sunny days. But it was summer, warm, wonderful, sunshiny summer! So why did I feel so lousy?

On top of the depressions, I had other symptoms. I ached, physically. It started with my shoulder, my left shoulder. It ached for seemingly no reason. The next day would roll by and the pain would be in my left elbow. Then my left wrist. I wasn’t sure if I’d injured myself or not. It started to worry me. But one day, the aches moved. To my other arm. That really freaked me out. I sucked it up and went to the doctor. The depression concerned him, but the migrating pain concerned him more. He asked that I have a full blood test done. And what that revealed was surprising. My Vitamin D level was 11. Well, 11 what? Turns out, it’s 11 ng/ml (or nanograms per milliliter).

This may seem like an arbitrary number: it certainly seemed like that to me. But my doctor said that research into Vitamin D’s importance was being re-evaluated. Previously, a level of 32 ng/ml was considered sufficient for the body to properly utilize calcium, but when I was suffering from deficiency, doctors were about to raise the level to 45 ng/ml. A quick bit of research while writing this entry revealed that the desired level is now 50 ng/ml. So I had a FIFTH of the desired Vitamin D in my system. It was causing my depression and my bone pain, and if I’d let it go much further, I could get rickets. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with the following:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Severe asthma in children
  • Cancer

So what causes this deficiency? Diet is one of the causes. If you’re a vegan, or have a milk allergy, you might not be getting enough dietary vitamin D, because most of the natural sources of vitamin D are animal based: fish and fish oils, fortified milk, egg yolks, cheese and beef liver. You also may not be getting enough sun exposure. Those with darker skin have a harder time absorbing the sun’s rays, and sun exposure helps our bodies naturally produce vitamin D. That’s why a deficiency may have stronger symptoms in winter, when the sun rises late and sets early. You could be older: as we age, our kidneys are less capable of converting vitamin D to its active form. Digestive issues are also a problem: if you have Crohn’s disease, celiac or cystic fibrosis, your intestines may not be able to adequately absorb vitamin D. Lastly, obesity can be a cause. Fat cells can pull vitamin D from the blood, inhibiting its release into the circulatory system. Those with a Body Mass Index over 30 can have low blood vitamin D.

From: http://bestvitamindsupplement.net/the-best-vitamin-d-supplement-for-men-risks-benefits/
From: http://bestvitamindsupplement.net/the-best-vitamin-d-supplement-for-men-risks-benefits/

The best thing to do if you suspect you have low Vitamin D levels is to make an appointment with your doctor to have a blood test. If your blood test results show low Vitamin D, your doctor may prescribe you high dosage Vitamin D pills. I was given a 12-week regimen of 50,000 IUs a week, and let me tell you, after the second pill, I felt almost normal again. Since the prescription ran out, my doctor has had me taking 5,000 IUs a day. And to be honest, even with that, I still get the winter blues. So I invested in light therapy for the winter months. I use what’s called a HappyLight: a natural light spectrum lamp you can use first thing in my morning for 20-30 minutes to help your body produce Vitamin D naturally. It really improves my mood in the winter months, and I find I don’t need it in the summer at all.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause a LOT of very serious problems, but the good news is that if you catch it, it’s easy to fix. (My prescription Vitamin D cost less than $10, and over the counter Vitamin D is less than $10 for 250 pills.) Remember, your health is more than your weight!

You can find more information about Vitamin D deficiency at WebMD and The Vitamin D Council.