Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mike made me do it.

In my last blog, I wrote about the need for a support system.  Having people to stand by you, to cheer you on, to encourage you, to make you laugh when you need it and to hold you up when you're down.

One of the key people in my support system has been my personal trainer.  I've had three.  After a few months with the first one, our schedules were not a good match, so I got a new trainer.  Mike was a young, good looking guy.  We clicked immediately.  After our first "getting to you know you" session, he had me lifting weights, barbell presses and a whole variety of other weights.  I couldn't lift my arms.  "You did a really great job today, Tracey.  I'm proud of you," he said.

I can remember thinking, "He's proud of me?  Oh my God, he's proud of me.  I did it!"  I felt  a giant surge of confidence, like I might actually be able to do it.  I started going to the gym at least three times per week (something I was not doing previously).  Mike asked me how my nutrition was and I said, "I am not going to use that stupid app.  So don't ask me to.  I know how to eat right, I just need to do it."  The focus of my sessions with Mike was all exercise and endurance.

After the first weigh-in, I lost 9 lbs and I was beginning to lose inches.  I was encouraged.  I really enjoyed my time with Mike.  He was so funny, always cracking jokes.  He pushed me to do things that I did not think I could do.  I would look at him, shake my head and say, "No, I'm not doing that."  He would shake his head, point and say, "Yes.  You got this."  I would do it and he'd say, "See? You got this."  He started having me bench press weights and do dead lifts.  We started bench pressing just the 45-pound Olympic bar.  I couldn't do at first, but he helped make sure the stupid thing did not crush me and I got through it.  When he graduated me to lifting without his help, he'd say, "This is all you."  He knew exactly what I needed to do to see improvement.  He gave me routines to practice on my own.  Some of the exercises were so hard, that when I did them, I heard him saying, "Trace, it's all you.  You got this."  I still hear him sometimes.

I wrote about the Rugged Maniac in a previous blog entry.  I was so grateful to Mike for believing in me and for giving me the confidence to complete the race.  If it weren't for him, I don't think I would have even gone to the race, let alone finish it.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

In the fall, I started working evenings, so I had to juggle my appointments with Mike and figure out how to get to the gym.  I wasn't getting home until about 7 p.m.  I finally learned to stop making excuses for not working out.  I was at school for close to 12 hours and still made it to Best Fitness every day.  Mike was flexible and let me know if a later appointment opened up so I could get my session in with him.

Our family planned a trip to Disney World for Thanksgiving.  When I started packing, I realized my clothes were too big.  It was a really good problem to have.  I went to Kohl's and bought a couple things, packed what I could find at home that would work.  I was so excited and grateful to Mike.  Our family had an amazing vacation.

On Thanksgiving I got a mixed up text message from Mike, meant for someone else.  He told me he wasn't feeling well. I  said, "No worries."  We came home on the 30th.  Monday evening I went to the gym to workout, grabbed my card from Mike's drawer, did one of my routines.  During one of the exercises, I remember thinking, "I need to talk to Mike about this one because it doesn't feel right tonight.  Not sure what's wrong...if I'm doing something wrong or what."  As I was putting my card away, Ashley grabbed me and said, "I need to talk to you."  She brought me into her office, had me sit down and told me that Mike got sick last week, was in the hospital over the weekend and died the night before.  I really can't remember anything she said after that.  I was in shock.  Numb.  Mike was 24-years-old.  What do you mean he died?  This is not a funny joke.  What the?

Somehow I got home, told my husband what happened.  Mike was my trainer.  I spent 30 minutes with him each week.  None of my friends, family or coworkers knew him or was friends with him. I felt like I was all alone with my grief and that no one could possibly understand what I was going through.   At work the next day, I cried on and off all day long.  The other counselors had to cover for me because I could not function.

The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces. 
Isaiah 25:8

While my relationship with Mike was strictly professional, he helped me believe in myself.  By this point, I had lost 40 lbs, which I attributed to Mike.  Losing him made me wonder if I could continue without him.  Mike reminded me so much of my oldest son.  He had an amazing sense of humor.  He was so witty and made me laugh.  I talked to him about my kids and he talked to me about his parents.  He loved them both so much.  One time he told me he went to the store to buy his mom flowers, "Just because."  I thought that was so special.  

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother."
Ephesians 6:1-2a

As I had become accustomed to working out later, I went to the gym every night after dinner.  I'd try to get through the routine...and I would cry.  One time Ashley saw me and pulled me into her office to let me get it out.  She was amazing.  Another time I saw someone who looked like Mike and I thought, "This was some stupid cruel joke," then he turned around and I saw it wasn't Mike.  And I cried some more.  I could not listen to the playlist on my phone because the songs reminded me of Mike.  In an effort to find new music to workout to, I thought disco music would work, so I made a "Bee Gees" station on iTunes Radio.  Do you know what songs come on the Bee Gees station?  Love songs.  How about these?

How can you mend a broken heart?  - Bee Gees

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?  (tell me)
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
But we could never see tomorrow
Would you believe that no one
No one ever told us about the sorrow (so)
Help me mend my broken heart
...I just wanna live again.

Everything I Own - Bread

Is there someone you know,
Your loving them so,
But taking them all for granted?
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away, 
And they don't hear the words you long to say

I would give anything I own, 
I'd give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give everything I own, 
Just to have you back again;

Mike was gone.  Listening to these songs made me sob.  It was like poison.  I knew it wasn't good for me, but I couldn't help it.  I listened to one after the other.  Eventually I was able to make it through a workout without tears and I created a new playlist (minus the Bee Gees).  The staff at Best Fitness helped.  Nastasha, Ashley and my new trainer Dmitriy have been amazing.  Nastasha has been a shoulder to cry on when I could not pull it together.  Without Ashley, I would have quit. She helped me to keep my focus, to put one foot in front of the other.  Dmitriy has been great too.  I'll write about him in another blog.  

Since Mike died, I've turned my pain into motivation.  I am determined to achieve my fitness goals.

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Michael Cobian

Michael touched so many lives and meant so much to so many people.  He will be missed.
I hope he is watching over us.  That he can see how much I have accomplished and is proud.

When I do the Ride to Remember in September, I am doing it for him.

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Don't go it alone!

Being married to a police officer who works third shift has made for an interesting marriage.  I have learned to get through the long nights alone.  When the kids were little, it was very lonely.  As they got older and into more activities, it became very busy for me.  We were running all the time.  Now that one is in college and the other is a teenager, my life is my own again.  

I am used to being alone, but facing obstacles alone is overwhelming.  Trying to lose weight and get to the gym regularly to exercise...these are things that require commitment and a level of accountability.  I've tried just about everything, I am even a lifetime member of Weight Watchers.  

When I embarked on my goal to become fit last year, I knew I had to do things differently.  While Weight Watchers worked for me in the past, I never had lasting results with it.  It did teach me how to eat smart (but those blasted points).  I tried to go to the gym at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m., which did not work.  If it was too cold, either my gym partner or I would send a text saying, "Too cold, not today."  That would turn into a week of no gym, which resulted in a lot of cheating on my diet.

I'm used to losing five pounds in the first week of a diet, but after six weeks, I lost only seven pounds.  I was still aching and sore.   At age 44, my body did not respond the way it did when I was 30.  Things needed to change!  My colleagues at work were all trying to lose weight too.  Andrea hired a personal trainer, which was working well for her.  With my bad knee, and lack of progress, I made the decision to hire a trainer, and that has made the world of difference for me.  

The girls at work have been my cheerleaders all along the way.  We share ideas and suggestions.  Erica even gave me some of her clothes when they got too big for her.  Having a common goal has brought us close together.  They all tease me terribly, which I take in stride.  It's usually about my clothes being too big, my "having to" get to the gym, or using Vaseline for my chapped lips.  For my birthday, they went all out!!  Andrea made cupcakes (yes, I cheated a little on my birthday) and they got me some wonderful presents.  I love these girls!

 My birthday celebration at work
me with:  Erica (top), Tami (middle), Sanyalee (bottom) & Andrea (right)

As iron sharpens iron,  so one person sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

My sister-in-law Maria has been cheering for me from Boston all along the way.  I am one of her biggest fans and admire her so much.  When we went there for New Years Eve, Maria took me out to do our own little boot camp in the cold!!!  It was fun and I felt accomplished for keeping up with her. 

I would be remiss if I did not include my husband.  He is the one who holds me accountable, who gives me "the eye" when I buy food we should not have in the house.  He is the one who made me so mad that I actually trained for and completed the Rugged Maniac!  He is the love of my life.  

After the Rugged Maniac

On my journey over the past year, having a good support system has been critical to my success.  I could not have done it without them!   So, who is your support network?  Who cheers for you?  Find people with similar interests and goals, who will join you in your mission to become a healthier you.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Three steps to weight loss

There are three things you need to do to lose weight.

ONE:  Watch what you eat - balance your nutrition.

TWO:  Exercise.  Weight bearing exercises are essential.  Most women do cardio only.  Cardio is not enough.  I used to do 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and got out of dodge fast.  Now I do cardio, stretching and weight lifting.  I am at the gym six days per week, for at least for one hour, sometimes longer.  And I don't mind!!!!  I like the results I see.

Disclaimer:  This is not me, it's a model for another website.

THREE:  Stick with it.  Don't give up.  There will be ups and downs along the way.  Setbacks should not become road blocks.  Do not detour, just get back on the wagon.

This blog is about nutrition.  If you want to look lean, you must eat right.  Fad diets are not going to do it for you.  I do not adhere to any of them, as they do not result in long term weight loss or maintenance.

The most important step is to keep track of EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING you eat.  Use an app, such as My Fitness Pal, or one that came with your Jawbone UP 24 or Fitbit.  Input your health information and follow the app's nutritional guidelines for calorie intake.  There should be a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  The number of calories you eat depends on your height and weight.  Remember, if you put it in your mouth, log it!

The next most important step is to drink plenty of water!!!!

It's only when I started logging my food that people actually started to notice that I had lost weight.  In December, when Dimitriy said, "If you want to lose weight, you need to keep track of your food," I reluctantly agreed to try it for a week.  It's February and I'm still doing it.  Since my November weigh-in, I lost 22 lbs and my body fat went from 36% in November to 28.6%.  That's a pretty radical improvement and it certainly motivates me to be more religious about my eating habits.

Here are some MUST haves for your grocery list:

  • Protein Powder (Look for whey protein isolates - 24 grams of protein per serving is what you want.  These come in different flavors.  I prefer vanilla because you can mix it with different things to make it taste good.)
  • Protein Bars  (Watch out for high carbohydrate counts in the ones at the grocery store!!!)
  • Almonds (great to snack on between meals)
  • Almond Milk  (I am not lactose intolerant, but almond milk is lower in fat and calories than milk.   I buy the plain kind and I don't drink it, I mix it with the protein powder or put it in my oatmeal.)
  • Bananas
  • Frozen mixed berries or other frozen fruits
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Mixed greens
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese (I prefer the chive flavor)
  • Feta Cheese
  • Peanut butter 
  • Ground chicken and ground turkey  (the ground turkey serves well in place of ground beef, but when it comes to a burger, I must have ground chicken)
  • Frozen chicken breasts  (I buy the 10 lb. bag of frozen, boneless, skinless ones at Costco.)
  • Frozen steamer vegetable bags (any variety)
  • Oatmeal
There may be other things you want to include, but these are my must haves.  As it is February, I am relying on frozen fruits and vegetables.  This will change when the local farms start producing fresh produce.  

For breakfast, I eat a fruit smoothie with protein powder almost every day.  Sometimes I have a three egg frittata with spinach and feta cheese.  (I use cooking spray to keep the eggs from sticking to the pan.)  

For lunch, it's often home made vegetable soup with protein from the previous night's dinner.

Dinner changes, but is always protein and a vegetable, which is typically a bag of frozen steamer vegetables.

I eat snacks in between - a handful of almonds, a protein bar or shake, a banana, a piece of fruit, a handful of grape tomatoes or a Greek yogurt.

If I am low on calories after dinner, I will have oatmeal.

Note:  I eat bread and pasta very sparingly.  I prefer my carbs to come from other sources.

I crave hot fudge sundaes.  My friend Hannah gave me this suggestion as a substitute:

1 over-ripe frozen banana
1 tbsp. peanut butter
2 tbsp. chocolate sauce
1/2 c. almond milk

Put it into a blender and you have a healthy version of a  "banana split."
This is a 331 calorie snack, with 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein and 52 grams of carbohydrates.

I had one last night.  It was delicious and held me until bedtime.  While high in carbs, I had plenty left over for the day, so it satisfied me without the guilt.

Experiment with different recipes.  Try new things.  Eat the calories you are supposed to consume, based on your height and weight.  This is important.  Your body needs calories to burn calories.  If you starve yourself, your metabolism will slow down.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's about more than just weight loss

In January, 2014, I began my journey to a new me.  I was very obese (nearly morbidly obese), with 40.8% body fat, and well on my way to developing serious health issues.  Food was an emotional crutch.  I ate when I was sad, stressed, anxious, and even when I was happy.  "Let's celebrate with a hot fudge sundae!"  I was tired all the time and felt like my world was out of control.  Fast forward to February, 2015 and I have made significant progress towards a healthier new me.  I have lost over 50 lbs. and am down to 28.6% body fat.  I still have a ways to go, but I realize it is not just about losing weight.  It is so much more.

This is me in July, 2013.  
After this picture was taken, I gained another 15 lbs.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"
Matthew 6:25 ESV

The purpose of this blog is to share with you pieces of my journey, to help motivate you and to answer some of the questions people ask me when they see me.

The key has been to set small goals and work to accomplish them along the way.  When I first met Ashley, the Fitness Director at Best Fitness Springfield, she asked me what my goals are.  I told her, "To lose weight and to not further injure my knee."  (My knee is a story of it's own, for a later blog.)  These two goals are overarching goals which guide me on my journey.  However, I need more attainable goals along the journey. These are what drive me.  Focusing on "losing weight," is not going to get me to my goal.  

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded."
2 Chronicles 15:7

My first goal was to do the Rugged Maniac, a 5K obstacle course through rugged and muddy terrain.  It was a long term goal which required me to push myself physically.  When I signed up to do this race with my husband, he did not have faith in me.  In July, he got on my case about it and said, "You are not going to be able to do that race sitting here on the couch."  Well, that really made me mad.  Of course he was right, but how dare he point it out to me!!!  That really changed everything for me.  His telling me I wasn't going to be able to do it put me into overdrive.  I got a new trainer who pushed me past my limits, gave me a strenuous routine to follow on my own and instilled in me a confidence that I did not have.  Mike was an inspiration.

In September, I did the Rugged Maniac and kicked butt.  Due to my knee, I can't run without sustaining serious setbacks, so it took us a while.  But I was able to complete every obstacle!!!!  The best part was, I showed my husband that I had it in me.  

After completing the Rugged Maniac, September 27, 2014.

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:31

After the Rugged Maniac, I didn't know what I wanted my next goal to be.  Obviously weight loss was still important to me, but I was missing short term goals.  Mike asked me what the next race was going to be.  Since I can't run, I told him I was thinking about doing the Ride-to-Remember, a 100 mile bike ride that brings awareness to the “Massachusetts Fallen Officers Memorial” located at the State House in Boston, MA. I did not know if I could do it with my knee the way it is.

Ride to Remember, 2013

In December, I had to get a new trainer.  (This is a very painful part of my journey, which I'll talk about in a future blog,)  At my first session with Dmitriy, he asked me, "So what are your goals from training?"  I was like, " lose weight!"  But I realized that I needed more than that, so I told him, "I really want to do the Ride-to-Remember, but I don't think I can with my knee. And I want to be able to do push ups."  There.  I said it out loud.  Now it is a promise.

The push ups are to prove something to Mike.  He used to make me do modified push ups, first on a bar, then on a box, then on bench and then a Bosu ball.  I hated them so much!!!  But I want to accomplish "real" push ups to make Mike proud of me.  Right now I can do two "real" push ups, but the goal is to do three sets of ten.  I am working towards this.  I will make it happen.

The ride is a pretty huge goal.  How does someone with chronic knee pain do a 100 mile bide ride (and at a fast pace)?  I had no idea what I need to do to accomplish this.  Dmitriy gave me some stretches and rigorous leg exercises specifically designed to improve flexibility and to strengthen the muscles in my legs.  Since Christmas, I have had minimal pain, and even cancelled arthroscopic surgery, which was scheduled as a diagnostic procedure to see what else might be wrong.  Registration is now open for the ride and I will be signing up shortly.  This is a big step for me!!!

You have probably noticed the scriptures I include here.  My walk with the Lord is key to everything.  He is my guiding light, the source of my inner strength.  My weight-loss journey  has taught me a lot about myself and brought me closer to Him.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans."
Proverbs 16:3

It is my hope, wherever you are on your journey to fitness, that you will be inspired and find some value from what I have learned along the way.  I am still on the journey.  It is never too late to start!!!  Do not give up on yourself!!!  Stay tuned.

Have a blessed day!

In 2014, I was wearing size 18's.  Fifty-seven lbs. later and I'm in a size 12.