END the Silence

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. It is during this month where we raise awareness to an illness which affects millions of women worldwide.

1 in 10 women in the US are living with endometriosis and sadly, they are often suffering in silence. It is a disorder that is commonly misdiagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or simply ‘period pains.’ It can take an average of 10 years between symptom onset & proper diagnosis.

Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside instead. Endometriosis growths bleed in the same way the lining inside of your uterus does every month. This can cause swelling and pain because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body. The growths may also continue to expand and cause problems, such as: cysts, inflammation, problems in the intestines and bladder, or formation of scar tissue & adhesions which may not only cause pain, it may also make it difficult to become pregnant.

The pain that women with endometriosis suffer, which can often be severe and feel sharp or stabbing, occurs in the pelvis or belly and usually won’t go away with medication. Some women with mild cases have intense pain, while others with advanced cases may have little pain or even no pain at all. Other symptoms include excessive bleeding during and/or between periods, backache, leg pain, painful sex, painful bowel movements, and infertility.

While there is no known cause, there are several factors which place you at greater risk for developing this illness. These include:

  • Never giving birth
  • Starting your period at an early age or beginning menopause early
  • Short menstrual cycles
  • Having high levels of estrogen
  • Family history of endometriosis
  • Any medical condition that prevents the normal passage of menstrual flow out of the body
  • Uterine abnormalities

Unfortunately, there is no cure but there are several treatment options. The doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and take the one of the following steps to determine if, in fact, you do have endometriosis:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Imaging test, such as ultrasound or MRI
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, including thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Lowering your estrogen level by exercising regularly, taking birth control, or avoiding large amounts of alcohol and caffeine
  • Laparoscopy

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of endometriosis, contact your doctor immediately. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can be on the path to feeling better.

References:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis
https://www.endostrong.com/#end
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My Fight to be Fit

Anyone who has ever been overweight knows just how hard of a process it actually is. Every single day is a struggle. Like many others, those struggles began for me as a child. I played sports and was fairly active during the summer but not all year round. As a result, my weight reached 180lbs by the time I entered high school. High school can be rough on any kid…but when you struggle with weight it’s that much worse. By senior year, I developed significant problems with my eating. I didn’t know that I had a “real” problem because I was never underweight and I was never formally diagnosed with any type of eating disorder. I’d go from eating one meal a day to, at my worst, one piece of candy or cracker per day. I made myself sick, which ultimately got me to eat again but not nearly enough. As the years have gone on, I’ve come to realize I suffered from what is known as Atypical Anorexia. That disorder continued to plague throughout college and ultimately ended with my spending upwards of 2 hours a day in the gym, barely eating, and drinking (heavily) every weekend. I got down to 130lbs and while I looked great…I didn’t feel it. Looking back on it, I had worked really hard in the gym but done nothing about my diet…or my mental state.

What many people in the fitness industry don’t truly understand is how much of this process is actually mental. You could do all of the right exercises and have the best diet…but if your head isn’t in the game…you won’t be either and that will almost ALWAYS catch up with you. It did for me.

Over the course of my entire life, I probably did almost every fad diet there was. At the time where I was living at the gym, I was also on the South Beach Diet. Like most other fads, once I stopped living in the gym and doing that diet, I gained a lot of the weight back. Over the course of the next 5 years, between health issues, medication and a lack of exercise, my weight climbed to an all-time high of 210lbs. I was miserable and completely clueless as to how I could change it. I needed help but I didn’t know where to turn. Enter the Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels. The show has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years for people gaining the weight back. Anyone who drops a crazy amount of weight without changing their mindset and, subsequently, their lifestyle, will fail. That’s just a given. Those who used the show as a method to change their life have stuck with it and their results have lasted. Those who used the show as a game and a chance to win money and fame…have not succeeded. It’s not easy. You have to work at this every single day. But that show, that woman…completely changed my life. If it wasn’t for the one night I turned on that show…I may not be where I am today. I began going to the gym the very next day and I never looked back. To date, I’ve lost and kept off about 80lbs & gone from squeezing into a size 14 to comfortably wearing a size 2/4.

It hasn’t all been roses & sunshine. I didn’t know much when I started. It took me a long time to lose weight and figure out what worked for my body. I began, like many others, by doing a ton of cardio. Slowly, with the help of online videos and Jillian DVDs, I began to incorporate weights into my routine. Without the proper guidance though, I ended up overtraining and doing many exercises incorrectly. This gave way to a serious shoulder injury, which landed me in surgery last October. I became a trainer and nutritionist so I could help others see that they weren’t alone in this fight and give them the guidance that I never had.

Since starting at The Arena, I’ve gone from a personal trainer to a professional. I will still argue that while you may lose some muscle, fasted cardio is the key to my fat loss. After all, every person’s body is different. However, I’m learning more and more everyday just how bad some of the most common exercises are and how they’ve created pain & made my pre-existing injuries that much worse.

Despite negative feedback and research, the Biggest Loser is the reason I got off the couch and did something about my weight. Was it the best, most credible source? Maybe not but it sure was the driving force behind my motivation and what kept me going every single day. I watched season 14 and I connected with the cast and trainers. I used Jillian’s voice as my motivation…and I made a change because of it. I may not have known the proper form or done the safest exercises but I got off my butt and got to the gym. I toned down the partying and eating out. I made small changes and learned how to implement a healthier lifestyle. I did the best that I could with the limited resources available to me. I also did it the smart way – making sure to not restrict myself or start some crazy exercise regimen. I made it work for ME…and it’s stuck 4 ½ years later. Along the way I’ve learned how to exercise safer and what proper form actually is. I’ve learned that I don’t need a TON of cardio to shed fat…but that for my terrible metabolism, I definitely need some. Most importantly, I found balance. Something I strived for my entire life. Now I want to help others do the same.

If you’re in the NYC or Westchester Area & are looking for personal training, nutrition coaching, or a kick-ass class, contact me! I hold weekly bootcamp classes every Tuesday & Thursday and am available for small group & individual training. Email me at gina@thearena.fit for more information.

See more of my videos and articles here: Fight to Be Fit

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Exercise & Invisible Illness

 

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Anyone who suffers from an invisible illness can testify to the effect that it has on you, mentally & physically.

I suffer from two different invisible illnesses, PCOS & CFS. The PCOS has been under control for many years however I have been experiencing a very bad flare-up…which has caused my CFS to go mad. The combination has caused my workouts to stop, my weight to rise, and my mind to go bonkers. Let’s back up a bit so I can explain better.

Unbeknownst to me, the  (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) began in high school. I would get extremely sick every month and end up sent home from school, doubled over in pain. Soon after my graduation I went for my first ob-gyn appointment, and learned that there was a reason for my misery. I was placed on birth control and, barring some issues along the way, have mostly been fine ever since. Until now. Up until recently, I have not had the insurance to warrant my regular exams or medication. The results have my weight sky rocketing, my sugar cravings going absolutely MAD, my hormones completely out of whack, my skin breaking out like a teenager,  and my lower back in chronic discomfort. The more research I do, the more I realize I have been suffering with various symptoms of this all along but since the pain was gone, I had no idea. It also seems that some of my stomach problems may be linked to this. While there is no concrete evidence, I’m finding that the “PCOS-friendly” diet is actually the diet that helped my stomach most when I followed it a while back. While I do follow the high protein/low carb diet, I have been on sugar overload. Now I may love candy but even I can admit that my cravings have been out of control lately. All of this has my wheels turning and thinking that perhaps PCOS has been the cause of all of my health issues all along…but since it is not a proven fact I will just let that be for now. What I can say is that the PCOS, combined with my insane stress levels, have caused my CFS to run wild.

CFS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is something that is very hard to explain…and even more difficult for people to understand. There are no visible signs. Your body aches as though you have a very high fever or the flu and you get extremely tired and feel this overwhelming sense of fatigue that no amount of sleep seems to cure. Your immune system also gets significantly weakened with CFS. Some days it just feels like my body is fighting a losing battle within itself.

With the combination PCOS & CFS wreaking havoc on my body, my exercise routine has taken a BIG hit. So much so, that my Summertime Shred has been put on hold. It’s been really hard on me mentally but I know it’s for the best. I have been doing my best to follow a very good (PCOS-friendly) diet and exercise whenever possible, but it’s still taking a toll on me.

Often times people who suffer from CFS feel as though they don’t have the energy for simple tasks such as going to work or taking a shower. That’s exactly where I’m at. Lately just getting myself out of bed has been a chore in and of itself. However, seeing how much you can accomplish and improve over time by exercising can be a big motivator and a way to feel better, both physically and mentally. I am doing my best to get some type of exercise in every day, no matter how little it may be.

A common trend that came up in my research for both CFS & PCOS is that of walking & yoga. Both seem to be exercises that are extremely effective and favorable to both illnesses. As the weather gets warmer (HELLOOO SPRING!!), I have been incorporating walks more & more into my daily routine. Despite the fact that I am not the biggest fan of walking, it does make me feel good to get my body moving. Since it seems to be working well for my body, I find myself doing this most often.

I have also found myself stretching a lot more. I’ve tried to take advantage of the foam rollers around me and, while I have never been the biggest yogi, I’ve also been using several yoga poses to help with managing the aches & pains. It has been proven that certain yoga poses promote hormonal balance and deep relaxation, which help to bring the adrenal and cortisol levels of otherwise stressed-out PCOS minds and bodies in check, while assisting in healing from chronic inflammation. The more my lower back hurts, the more I find myself gravitating towards this practice. Right now I’m doing some of the stretches/poses myself however, I may be trying out some yoga classes (or dusting off my old SkinnyGirl dvd) one day very soon.

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If you are like me and have grown accustomed to a structured strength training regimen, having chronic pain & fatigue can be torture. However, I have found that resistance bands, in all their simplistic glory, are quite the amazing resource in such times. The bands are designed to keep your strength training up with as little impact & intensity as possible. Your muscles will feel as though they had a monster workout but you are actually putting in half the effort you normally would.

I have also found in my research…and my own experience…that it is often easier to divide daily exercise into two sessions, to avoid symptom flare-ups. Activity may be alternating and brief, spread throughout the day and/or followed by rest. If you experience a worsening of symptoms, you should return to the most recent manageable level of activity.

It’s important to keep in mind the following when beginning a workout routine, under the stress of any chronic pain/illness:

  • The more gentle the exercise, the better it will likely be for you. It may seem like you are doing nothing (especially at first) however it’s important to ease into a new routine that will suit your current needs.
  • Start slow – It’s not about the ego! I’m guilty of trying to do more than my body will allow but it’s critical to monitor your symptoms and adjust your workouts accordingly.
  • Push yourself to get moving, but don’t push yourself to do more until you know you’re ready. You want to make sure you get your body going…but not overdo it to the point you make a bad situation worse.
  • Expect some setbacks – you’ll need to experiment to find your current level of tolerance.
  • Remember that exertion comes in all forms. Don’t try to exercise on a day that you’re also going to the grocery store or doing something else that’s strenuous.
  • Take breaks when you need them, but don’t give up! The payoff could be less pain, more energy and a better quality of life.

**Note: Many people who suffer from chronic illness/pain are so ill they can barely get out of bed, let alone leave their home. In this instance, there should be a very modified & careful approach to exercise. Hand stretches and picking up/grasping objects may be all that can be managed at first. Gradually increasing activity to the point where you can handle essential activities of daily living such as getting up, personal hygiene and dressing would be the next step. Those in this situation, should focus on improving flexibility and minimizing the impact of deconditioning so they can slowly increase function enough to manage basic activities.

I always struggle with sharing my setbacks on here and on my Instagram but the goal has always been to inspire others by sharing my story…no matter how good or bad it may be. I want you all to see that no matter how hard things get and whatever life throws your way – it IS possible. I have been feeling really defeated lately, especially as I am trying to build a fitness business. However, I know that I work hard and I will get myself back to looking AND feeling good soon enough. As a matter of fact, I have recently obtained insurance and have already begun taking the necessary steps to alleviate this whole mess! I may not be able to crank out my own crazy workouts right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t help others achieve their goals. I know how hard this journey is and I know what it takes to succeed. I have always said that nothing worth having comes easy – and this is by far the biggest test of that. The best advice I can give anyone (including myself) is to take it one day at a time…one step at a time…and above all, just keep going!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

1st Phorm Product Review: Adrenal Restore

For the last 10 years, I have suffered with Chronic Fatigue. Many symptoms come and go but the fatigue is always present. I’ve taken vitamins, gotten injections, and tried various other remedies but nothing has worked. Until now.

Enter Adrenal Restore, from the awesome people at 1st Phorm. This has truly been my magic pill. I’ve been using it for about three weeks now and it has completely changed my life. I went from barely being able to move out of bed to being back at full speed in the gym, while balancing the rest of my hectic life. I have tested it by using it a few days then taking a few off. Let me tell you – I feel a HUGE difference when I take the pills. The aches and pains are almost non-existent, my energy is insane, and even my sleep has improved.

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Here’s a little background on the pills themselves and how they help you:

From 1st Phorm: “The potent ingredients of Adrenal Restore reduce physical and mental stress, minimize caffeine headaches, reduce cortisol levels to help minimize fat storage and optimize natural energy levels.”

Since beginning these pills, I have drastically cut down my coffee intake – going from a MINIMUM of 4 cups per day down to one. My energy levels have been much higher than it has in months so I haven’t needed that extra caffeine boost. I also notice that while I may not be getting extra hours of sleep, I feel much more rested when I wake up. Best of all, I am able to lead a normal life without the aches & pains wearing me down.

More from 1st Phorm: “Your Adrenal glands play a huge role in your every day function and how well your body operates. They are responsible for some major hormones like DHEA, Cortisol, Progesterone, testosterone, Adrenaline and over 40 others. These hormones can be thrown out of whack due to the strain placed on your adrenal glands through training, stress in life, anxiety patterns, stimulants, and countless external stressors. No matter what gender someone is, they are susceptible to the negative side effects of having there hormones being out of whack. This is where the term adrenal fatigue comes in: being chronically tired, trouble getting up after good sleep, cravings for food, getting sick more easily, not feeling the effects of stimulants like caffeine, feeling over whelmed… and the list goes on. Now, Adrenal Restore is an all-natural product designed to help reduce those side effects and get your adrenal glands back to proper function. This is done with the vitamins and herbs in the capsules. Here is a list of ingredients. You will see that the ingredients listed are proven to be antioxidants, fight fatigue, improve memory, normalizing blood sugar, boosting your immune system, and mood enhancing.”

*As a word of caution: Even though this is a natural supplement, if you are currently on prescription medication you should consult your physician prior to trying these pills.*

I don’t like to promote products for the sake of doing it. This blog is all about sharing my journey to help others facing similar struggles. I truly believe that this pill can help many others who are suffering, just as it helped me. If you are interested in learning more about this product or any others, click here or send me an email at the address below. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com