Road to Recovery – 1 year later

From day one to now

June 2014 – After training for months, I took part in the ROC race (think of the tv show, Wipeout). I trained like I had for Spartan races, focusing on my upper body above all. The day came and I was ready. I flew through the obstacles and then I got to the monkey bars. Historically, I was never any good at those. I was the little kid who’s parents had to hold her as she went across. But that wasn’t gonna stop me. I trained hard, doing many pull-ups. I could do this! I made it half way without a problem. Then I felt something pop and burn. I grabbed my shoulder and let myself fall. I shook it off and continued the race, finishing all smiles. In the weeks and months that followed, that smile quickly faded. At first I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something…but it wasn’t getting any better. I continued to workout and work around my injury until one day I realized there was no muscle growth on my bad arm. I couldn’t take it any more. 

October 7, 2016 – I finally went under the knife to repair a nagging shoulder injury. After trying my best for two years to rehab and “fix” it on my own, I realized that my injury only getting worse. I went to the doctor and was immediately sent for a MRI, which revealed that I had a torn labrum and, because I waited so long, a frayed rotator cuff. The doctor was clear that while I didn’t HAVE to get surgery, the longer I wait the worse it will get…and the less likely I would be to get back to full strength. So I begrudgingly scheduled the surgery.

I’ve never had a broken bone much less surgery like this before. I had my tonsils out when I was 11 or 12 but nothing like this. Despite being clumsy my entire life, I somehow managed to escape the ER. Yet here I was – ready to undergo surgery. I wasn’t so much nervous for the actual surgery as I was for the recovery. I wasn’t wrong.

The surgery itself went fairly well, despite a nonsensical hiccup at the hospital the morning of. I was given a nerve block, meaning my entire arm was numb and feeling fantastic post-op. Until around 3am anyway. They say you should stay ahead of the pain and medicate. I didn’t want to overuse the drugs that I was given…so I didn’t listen. Big mistake. I learned good from that though and made sure to keep ahead of things for the next couple of days. I was religated to sleeping on a recliner for that first week…and almost a month in total. I couldn’t lay down without being in terrible pain so I gave up and slept like that. It killed my back but at least I was able to get some rest.

One week later, I went back for my first follow-up. I was given a clunky, yet very sturdy, sling/support device. I was also told that I couldn’t drive for at least another week, meaning I couldn’t go to work. I hate to sit still so this killed me. It’s important to note that I’m right handed…and the surgery was on my right shoulder. So this meant EVERYTHING was a chore. Basic things like showering and eating became a ridiculous task. 2 weeks after surgery I was able to return to work and begin getting back to “normal.” Which…wasn’t much. I couldn’t do many tasks at my job and I had to drive with my left hand (no sling could be worn…which hurt more than one may think). It wasn’t easy at all but I was determined. I also began physical therapy twice a week, which was a godsend. They got me moving again and helped me regain my strength.

Little by little, with the help of PT, I was able to get back to normal. A couple of months later, my insurance decided to stop paying for PT and that was that. I kept at it on my own, best I could. I had the idea of enlisting help from my co-worker, who specializes in massage therapy along with personal training. I knew that I needed help with correcting the bad form that I created and while I may be a trainer myself, it’s much more difficult to correct things on yourself. See, over the two years that I was injured I had to adapt and make changes to compensate for the pain. Some I knew I was doing…but many I didn’t. So I got the help that I needed and was well on my way to pain-free workouts…or so I thought.

March 1, 2017 – just under 5 months post-op and I was cleared for all physical activity. The doctor was really impressed with my progress, saying that I was healing faster than most. I wasn’t given any restrictions!  Sounds great, right? It was…except I know no limits and paid the price for that. I began working out the same as I always had…which produced the same pain it had in the past. As I write this, my eyes are rolling HARD. It was stupid to stop the PT warmups and just jump full speed ahead. People tried to tell me that – I didn’t listen. The following month, I began my 6 week summer shred. I went balls to the wall in my workouts and by the end I looked great…but my arm was killing me. 

I went back to the doctor, fearful that I did serious damage again. Lucky for me, doc didn’t think I did anything to my shoulder but he did think that I was suffering from some bicep tendinitis. I was told to scale back my workouts and to rest more. This completely deflated me.

Since then, I haven’t worked out much. I do weekly workout videos and often feel pain in the days that follow. It’s extremely discouraging but I have decided enough is enough. I was able to get back to full strength in just under 5 months…so I damn sure can get there again. I’m not the most patient person but I’m learning how to be better. I began my PT regimen over the weekend and my plan is to do that 3-4x per week (not counting other workouts). I will also enlist the help of my coworker again- not so much for the corrective stuff but for the magical ART work that he does. 

I want to ease my shoulder back into things this time. Knowing how I get, I’ve decided to work towards a couple of goals to keep me motivated. My first goal is to do pull-ups again…and do them unassisted. After all, they were one of my favorite exercises. I’m pretty sure that’s how I blew my shoulder out but maybe if I don’t overtrain and do it right, I can do them better than before. Another goal of mine is to do another Spartan race. That’s not on the forfront as I’m a little skiddish about hurting myself unnecessarily…but it IS something I’d love to do again. Lastly, and maybe most important, my goal is to have pain-free workouts. That is going to require A LOT of patience but I’m going to do my very best.

This injury has taught me many valuable lessons. I need to be patient and truly trust the process. I don’t do myself any favors rushing things. No one tells you how hard this is mentally. Everyone focuses so much on the physical aspect that the mental is all but forgotten. After going through this myself, I’ll tell you the mental is so much more important. If you can’t will yourself through the pain and will yourself to do the work, you’ll never recover. It’s truly a testimony of your inner strength so much more than physical.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an injury or injury recovery, know that it DOES get better. Take the time you need to rest and really take the time to get to know your body. It’s a long process but you will come out on the other side…stronger than before.

Until next time, stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

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Sleep Your Troubles Away

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If you’re like me, you probably spend most of your day exhausted and chugging coffee just to function. One bad night of sleep turns into two…and before you know it you’ve barely slept all week. You think to yourself, I’ll catch up on sleep this weekend – but when the weekend comes, family obligations and household errands take the lead and all of a sudden it’s Monday again. Sound familiar? Well, turns out we aren’t alone…but this is a much bigger problem than we all realize.

Studies show that over 40% of Americans get less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. It’s important to every aspect of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being to get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep won’t just invigorate you; it could also help control how much you eat. A lack of sleep is linked to overeating—especially the overconsumption of junk food—which can lead to weight gain. It also has an impact on hormonal balance. Two hormones that help regulate hunger—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls. This leads to an increase in hunger. Not only does a lack of sleep interfere with hunger signals, but there’s also the problem that less time in bed simply gives you more hours of the day to eat.

In addition to weight/metabolic issues, a lack of sleep also will cause more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Some research has linked a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body and it’s now believed that people who experience short-term sleep deprivation are not able to process glucose as efficiently as those who get eight hours of sleep. This means that they have an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

If a person is lacking rest but has continuous muscular activity, other issues such as cramping arise. Muscle fascia tears, hernias, and other problems usually associated with physical overexertion have also been reported in extreme cases of sleep deprivation.

Besides the many physical consequences of insufficient sleep, perhaps the most important consequences of sleep deprivation are deficits in working memory and attention. Lapses in ordinary day-to-day tasks can cause worrying results; from missing words or sentences while taking notes to omitting important ingredients while cooking. It appears that carrying out these tasks which require attention is in direct correlation to the number of hours the person sleeps each night.

As hard as it may seem, we need to make time for ourselves and for sleep. Doing this will ensure that you lead a much more productive and healthier life.

2017 Fitness Expo & Summer Shred Week 3 Recap


Another year and another fun fitness expo at Giants Stadium! It wasn’t as successful as years past – Apparently they stacked all of the good stuff on Saturday this year…and since I went only on Sunday this year I missed out. It was still a good time and I made the most out of it. I got some clutch samples and did some TRX exercises on the field!


I also did my annual tour of the locker room




All in all, it was a very fun day…and I can’t wait until next year! 

Now for my Summer Shred update. Once again my workouts last week were not the best but I did what I could. I kept my diet mostly in check. Friday was Cinco de Mayo and while I did have two drinks (Don Julio on the rocks with a splash of club soda and a few limes), I kept my diet under control. I did have the chips and guacamole…but I followed that with salad. 


Since I had chips, I didn’t eat most of that shell. It was very filling and delicious. Last time I did this shred, I deprived myself a lot. I could do that again and be just as cut…but deprivation has always been and will always be the root of all evil in me. I binge so hard after…it’s not worth it. I’ve finally found peace and balance with food…and it’s the most amazing thing. After the expo on Sunday, my friends and I went to Houlihan’s. I punched in several menu options into my handy app…and found something that would be delicious and somewhat macro friendly. 


I decided that I would really be strict until my birthday. I have no reason not to be. I planned on doing cardio this morning…but lack of sleep and stress shot me down. I attempted to hit the gym near my house after work and realized quickly I should’ve done by cardio before I left instead. No treadmills were free. I’ll make up for it tomorrow instead. No excuses. No bullshit. My stomach may be flat and I may be seeing results…but I’m not as cut as I would like to be as I begin week 4. Despite my lack of workouts, I am losing weight and inches…so I just need to kick it all up a notch. Higher protein…Lower carbs…Intensified workouts. I’ll post a weekly recap this weekend so you all can see what I ate and how I did. If you need the daily meals/macros, follow along on MyFitnessPal (username – TheFightToBeFit) or on Instagram (@thefight2befit)

2 more weeks….we got this! 
Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Control Your Mind & Conquer Your Body


You’ve been working hard and seeing some serious results. You start allowing yourself a few more treats…you skip a few days at the gym…you tell yourself you earned it. You still work out and eat fairly well, but as time goes by, you start noticing that your clothes get a little tighter or that some of the pudge around the middle came back. All of a sudden it seems that while you’re still living a somewhat healthy lifestyle the weight is coming back. Now what? How can you avoid this seemingly inevitable slip backwards? Read on!

Research has shown that over 80% of those who lose weight actually gain it back (and then some) within two years. This doesn’t just take a toll mentally, but it also causes our body physical harm. Not only is the extra weight a health risk, but recent studies have linked the gain-lose-gain cycle to potentially life-threatening conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer. Let’s discuss some ways in which you can prevent this from happening.

Get your mind right…and everything else will follow. That’s my number one key to success. That’s my big secret. There are no quick fixes to losing weight. You need to get your head in the game…and keep it there…if you want to maintain weight loss. It’s not easy. We work so hard to take the weight off, so that once a few pounds creep back on, we feel like we just undid everything. That’s not true. Life happens. Maybe we missed a few workouts or deviated from our diet a little, but as long as you keep your mind on the end goal, it won’t matter. Get right back to the gym and to your regular workouts when you can. Be stricter with your diet after those events pass. Everything will eventually fall back into place.

If I’ve learned anything over a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and weight struggles, it’s that deprivation is almost always the root of all evil with weight loss. Taking out the foods that you love will only lead to you binging on them later. I always use this rule of thumb: wait a half hour (or the length of one TV show). If you still want that snack/food, have a little. It will be better than eating twice as much later on. Also, consider having your favorite “unhealthy” snack as a treat rather than a cheat. People will often feel guilty when they think of themselves “cheating” on their new healthier lifestyle. If you look at is as a treat, you will look forward to it and there will be less guilt afterwards. Be sure to control your portions; just because it’s a treat meal doesn’t mean you should go nuts. Indulge a little, but still practice moderation. When in doubt, opt for a healthier version of your favorite “unhealthy” food. Almost everything has a healthy alternative. For example, choose guacamole or salsa rather than queso or another dip. Select frozen yogurt or protein based ice creams instead of the more fattening brands. Try to cook or bake your favorite foods so you can control what goes into it. You can create healthy options which may not be the actual food you are craving, but they are satisfying enough to have the same effect. Get creative! If you genuinely enjoy what you eat, it will make sticking with your plan that much easier.

In addition to diet, you MUST continue working out. It will keep your metabolism moving and keep those extra pounds/inches from creeping back on. Switch up your routine often to avoid plateaus…and boredom. Continue to set goals for yourself, even if you’ve already lost weight and/or accomplished the original goal(s) set for yourself. Setting small goals and switching your routine will keep you motivated and keep you moving.

An often overlooked key to success is the importance of surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people – people who will lift you up and keep you motivated. Not everyone will understand your journey and that’s ok – after all, it’s YOUR journey not theirs. However, it’s important to your success to have at least one person standing by your side to provide encouragement, especially on those hard days. This will not only keep you accountable, but it will keep your head in the game.

Besides getting your mind right, it’s also important to get your body right too. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and have him/her check your hormone levels. Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss, including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite, and even your cravings. Your stubborn belly fat may actually be caused by a hormonal imbalance, such as high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol. It’s also important to check on your thyroid. Monitoring these levels will help keep you on track.

Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will tell you that the journey never really ends. It will take time and a lot of work, but eventually you will get to a place where you have never felt freer in your whole life. It really is an amazing thing. Keep in mind it took you more than one day to gain the weight so it certainly will take more than one to lose it! As hard as it is, and as bad as it may seem, know that it really WILL be worth it in the end.

Stay strong & stay in the fight 💕

Gina

Heart Healthy Habits

February is American Heart Month, which focuses on the prevention of cardiovascular (or heart) disease. Cardiovascular is a term which relates to the heart, as well as the arteries and veins that supply our organs with blood. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States.  Many Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Your risk also increases with age; however, regardless of age, it is NEVER too early to start practicing heart-healthy habits. Here are a few steps you can begin implementing at any age:

  • Check your family history. Ask family members if they have had heart disease or any risk factors for it. If the answer is yes, you have an increased chance for developing the disease will go up so it’s definitely important to learn the information sooner rather than later.
  • Smoking will double your risk for heart disease and stroke. Avoid all smoke, including second hand. Plus smoking combined with certain oral contraceptives can cause an increase in your blood pressure, so women should be sure to choose their birth control carefully.
  • Know your numbers, such as your cholesterol and blood pressure, which will impact your heart health. Visit your doctor regularly to monitor both of these. As we age, it becomes increasingly more critical to monitor changes in our body so make sure to get those regular checkups and screenings.
  • Excess weight increases the heart’s work. It also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop. By losing as little as 10 pounds, you can lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet & exercise regularly. As we age, our dietary needs, as well as physical limits, may change. However, regardless of your age, making smart food choices and keeping yourself active will insure a longer lifespan. A good rule of thumb is to follow these guidelines:
    • Eat more fruits & vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry/fish, and nuts.
    • Avoid red meat, as well as sugary and processed foods, and foods high in sodium.
    • For overall cardiovascular health, the AHA suggests 30 minutes of aerobic activity, 5 days per week along with muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week.
  • Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression & anger. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, which directly affects the brain. Long term stress will cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to damage of the artery walls. Find ways to reduce and/or manage your stress at home and at work. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. A stressful situation will almost always cause your quality of sleep to decline, which can also impact your heart health.
  • Part of living a heart-healthy lifestyle is also dependent on getting enough sleep. People who don’t sleep enough are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.Studies show that adults who sleep fewer than six hours per night are about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Good-quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Lack of sleep can also increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Making small adjustments to your daily routine will dramatically improve your overall quality of life. Remember – it’s never too early!! Take action today so you can look forward to a healthier tomorrow!

On the Mend

Lots of things have gone down since my last blog. One of the most significant things being my shoulder surgery. After two years of dealing with aches & pains, I finally sought help…and finally had corrective surgery to fix what had been ailing me all along. The injury itself began to negatively impact my own workouts and sleeping patterns as well as how I train clients…so it definitely needed to be done.

How It Happened – In June 2014, I participated in the ROC race. You’ve seen it – the race that mimics the TV show, Wipeout?? I trained hard for months and focused a lot of time on building my upper body strength – something that has long been a weak spot for me. The day arrived and things were going great…until I got to the monkey bars. Now, I’ve never been able to do monkey bars without assistance but I was determined. I made it halfway across when suddenly I felt a pop and instant burning in my shoulder. I immediately dropped down. Even though I felt some pain, I wanted to complete the race so I pushed through and finished all smiles. All good, right? Nope.

In the weeks and months that followed, I noticed that I wasn’t able to raise my right arm properly or lift has heavy as usual. In fact, most of the exercises that I was accustomed to doing at the gym were becoming impossible. I decided to take a couple of months off in the hopes of healing and rehabbing the injured arm myself. What I thought would be temporary actually never got better at all…in fact it got worse. This year, I began noticing that my right arm wasn’t developing muscles like the left was. It looked as though I had only been using one dumbbell. Any exercise involving my shoulder or overhead ROM was completely out of the question. My sleeping patterns were also thrown totally off. I’m typically a side to stomach sleeper…my right side. I tried to adjust to sleeping on the opposite side but noticed quickly that was easier said than done. If I happened to roll over in my sleep and end up on that right side, my right shoulder would be as big as a balloon when I woke up. It got to the point where if I felt myself rolling over, I’d actually wake up out of a dead sleep to make sure that I didn’t end up on that right side. It was becoming a nightmare. Enough was enough – is was time to see a doctor.

MRI – Over the summer, I sought help from a local surgeon who instructed me to get an arthogram (MRI with contrast) of my shoulder. Upon review of this test, it revealed my worst fear – I had a tear in my shoulder after all. My labrum was completely torn off and since I had waited so long, part of my rotator cuff was beginning to fray as well. The only way to rectify this problem was to get surgery.

Surgery –  After some scheduling conflicts, my surgery date was finally set for October 7. Things with my clients have been slowing down a bit so I decided that it would be best to go under the knife now, rather than have it drag through the holidays. I did just that and while the day didn’t start out so smooth, the surgery itself went very well. They were able to successfully repair the labrum and clean up the frayed edges of my rotator cuff without any further complications.

One Week Follow-Up and Beginning of PT – About a week after my surgery, I went back to check on the wounds and to receive my physical therapy prescription. Since the surgery was an arthoscopy, there were 3 small incisions where they were able to repair the tear. This is what it looked like:

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My doctor instructed me to attend physical therapy 3x per week for the next 12 weeks. They also changed my bandages and gave me a new sling with a detachable pillow piece to help support my arm. It was a very cumbersome device and I was less than thrilled with it:

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I signed up that same day for PT and was given an appointment for a few days later. That first day I was very excited to get things started and finally begin my road to recovery.

 

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The therapist who did my initial evaluation and first session wasn’t a great fit for me so I requested a different therapist…and I’ve been with him ever since. I was allotted 20 sessions by my insurance, which does not cover the amount of sessions that my doctor wants me to have. I had to obtain a letter from my doctor in order to gain more sessions from my insurance. For the first three weeks, we did PT just once a week so as not to waste the sessions so early on. We worked on passive ROM & stretches and I was given one exercise called shoulder pendulums, to do twice a day at-home. As excited as I was to get moving, I quickly learned that the best and most exciting part of a physical therapy session is the last 10 minutes…when the pillow-sized ice pack comes out!

As of today, I began a slightly more active PT session. I was given several exercises to do mostly on my own, with minimal help from the therapist. I also increased my sessions to 2x per week and was told to stop my at-home exercises altogether for now.

Going Forward:  Since this is my 4th week post-op, I am now able to wear the sling part-time and slowly get back to normalcy. I will continue to sleep with it, as I had a rude awakening when I attempted to sleep without it this past weekend. I woke up in the middle of the night in so much pain that I decided it’s not worth the effort right now. My shoulder feels like it’s being weighed down without the sling so I will be keeping it with me and switching between having it off & on.

This whole situation has definitely done a number on me mentally. Being out of commission for this long as caused me to gain some weight and lose a good chunk of muscle. Not only have I been unable to exercise…my diet hasn’t been that great either. Once I’m actually cleared for some type of cardio, I intend on following a very strict diet to lose the excess weight and get back on track once & for all. I will keep you all posted on my progress and once I’m able, I will definitely share my light workouts and new diet plan. For now, I will just try to remain positive and pray that with my continued PT efforts & some more time to heal I’ll be back to doing what I love sooner rather than later…and be even stronger than ever before!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina