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

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Living with Invisible Illness

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My life and my journey has taken a very different turn over these last few months. Some issues in my professional life as well as some family health concerns have led me here. Back to a place I never thought I would be again.

Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is miserable. There is no way to sugarcoat it…no magic words…it just sucks. Everyday is a new adventure in how bad your body feels or how exhausted you are…when on outside you look perfectly fine. People don’t understand…and it turns into the explain game. This can be very isolating..and very depressing. For me, coping with the CFS combined with my PCOS as well as IBS and other undiagnosed stomach issues has really done a number on me. I have had many more bad days than good since the summer but here I stand – ready to fight back.

I’ve lived with this illness for about 10 years. I never had mono or any other condition that would give me this. I have had periods of very high stress. Which is exactly what this summer brought me…and has continued to bring me up until now. I went from losing my job and caring for parents who are not well (and who live an hour away) to taking on two jobs and working 12+ hour days during the week as well as weekends…plus caring for my parents whenever possible. My body shut down. It literally gave me a big middle finger and said no more.

Perhaps I was kidding myself or I just didn’t want to admit it…but this relapse actually began over the summer. I was so tired that I couldn’t function…and no amount of sleep seemed to make that better. I know that CFS never really goes away but I truly believed that mine was cured. Silly, I know, but like it or not it’s back…and now it’s time to figure out how to cope with it in my daily life.

The first step has been to take control of my professional life. It’s not healthy to work almost 70 hours per week. It also isn’t realistic to think anyone could sustain that. So, after struggling for months with a very compromising work schedule, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith to embark upon a career that I set out for almost two years ago. I have begun the process of getting my personal trainer certification! I left one of the more demanding jobs so that I could throw myself full-throttle into this new career venture and, for once, be happy with my job. I am hoping that this lends itself to my feeling better and getting back on track.

Another issue that’s been plaguing me is that I have not been to the gym in a very long time. Very long meaning a few months. This has me extremely concerned. My metabolism is VERY slow and with the lack of exercise lately, I am worried that this will set me back BIG time. While I haven’t weighed myself, I know I have gained a little weight. I can see a difference in how my clothes fit…and I don’t like it. So, I started doing some research. I want to push myself but I don’t want to make a bad situation worse. Turns out there are many workouts that can be done from home that won’t aggravate my symptoms and will still get results! With that, I’ve developed an at-home regimen to help ease my mind and get my body moving. This has included resistance bands and certain bodyweight exercises for strength training and doing run/walks for cardio. It’s not much…but it’s a start.

One step at a time…one day at a time…just keep going! That’s been my mantra and it’s what I hope for anyone that reads this who may be struggling right now. No matter what…I never give up. It can be extremely hard to maintain a positive mindset but I have surrounded myself with some pretty amazing people who help keep me in check. As big of an obstacle and setback as this has been, I know that I’ve seen the light from this tunnel before and I will see it again one day. Push yourself through the darkness and light will come.

Stay strong & stay in the fight 💕

Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Twitter/IG: @finallyfit23
FinallyFit.1stPhorm.com

Transforming From the Inside Out

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Happy Friday everyone!  Last night was the season finale of The Biggest Loser and it left me extra inspired.

The contestants always come so far…not just in the weight loss but in life. The changes that occur in such a short amount of time is nothing short of amazing.

I got to thinking about how much the show really has taught me. This whole journey isn’t just about weight loss…it’s about getting your life back and taking control of your own happiness. I’m realizing more and more each day that I’m not the same girl that I used to be.

Earlier this week we were hit with a big snowstorm…which derailed my precious gym time. The old me would have used that as an excuse to stay home and veg out in front of the tv. Not anymore. I definitely used the shoveling to my advantage and I also made sure to use my time indoors for some killer at-home workouts. No more excuses.

I was truly miserable for so long that I didn’t know what it meant to be happy. I went from being a depressed teenager to an unhappy young adult who partied her way through sadness. That insecurity also landed me in an abusive relationship, which lasted most of my twenties. It also lead me to some very toxic friendships. I was so unhappy and insecure that I clung to the wrong people for way too long…and for all the wrong reasons.

A little over two years ago, I found the Biggest Loser and decided enough was enough. I started working out and eating right. As I lost the physical weight, I also started dropping the dead weight…in the form of the negative people in my life. As time went on I grew stronger…not just physically but mentally.

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to see you succeed. While I do have some incredible people in my life, I’ve also lost some “friends” along the way. They say that misery loves company; now that I’m truly happy in most aspects of my life, some people have disappeared. It’s sad how life can be sometimes, but its taught me who my real friends are. I’ve always said that I’d rather have a handful of genuine people than surround myself with a huge group of phonies. I’m too old for the nonsense – nowadays it’s most definitely quality over quantity. You either have my back no matter what or don’t even bother.

I am forever grateful to the Biggest Loser for teaching me that you need to transform yourself from the inside out. You can’t truly succeed with a physical transformation until you conquer your inner demons. Everyday I learn something new about myself…and in doing so, I’m becoming a better person. I feel lucky to have the support of true friends, a loving family, and the best boyfriend a girl could ever ask for. I’ve lost a lot of weight but most importantly, I’ve gained my life back.

No matter how much you may struggle, it IS possible. Don’t let any type of negativity weigh you down. Love yourself enough to respect yourself. That may seem easier said than done but I’m living proof that against all odds, you can overcome obstacles and achieve any goal you set. It won’t be easy but always remember: nothing worth having comes easy.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Everything You Go Through, Grows You

Good grief, where has the year gone?!? The holidays are finally over….and so is the year. I’ve spent the last month like most…busy with shopping, get-togethers, family, etc. In this time, my routine was completely knocked off track. Sure, I worked out when I could…but my diet was another story. If only clean eating could include cookies….

I must’ve been a good girl this year because Santa treated me really well. My broken magic bullet was replaced….and I got a new laptop! I even got a new arm band to accompany the new phone that I finally got myself. So now that my life has been upgraded and replenished…there are no more excuses for me to make.

Merry Christmas to me :)

Merry Christmas to me!

Anyway, that’s my little update. On to other business.

I got to thinking about all I’ve accomplished over the last two years of this journey…but most especially this year. I got myself down to a size 2…which I’ve decided doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve become super focused on building muscle and the more muscle I build in my legs and booty, the less comfortable jeans become. Who needs jeans when you can rock leggings anyway?They are not only more comfortable but they make your butt look good too 😉

Not only did I make many physical changes, I made a lot of changes to benefit me mentally and by doing so, I’ve become the happiest that I’ve ever been. I’ve spent so many years miserable..and the last decade was particularly hard on me. I’ve gone back and forth with whether or not to share personal stories on this blog–but this is my story and my journey. While it’s fitness driven., a weight loss journey is much more mental than it ever is physical. Until you overcome your inner demons, you won’t truly conquer your physical ones. That being said….here it goes.

The last decade of my life was spent in a pretty bad place. I graduated college with a dream to becoming a NY Yankees broadcaster (we see how well that turned out…) In addition to floundering in the “real world”, I was in an abusive relationship (mostly verbal but there were some physical episodes.) I was also surrounded by a lot of drama and a lot of negative people. I would go to the bar and get myself black-out drunk. I thought I was just having fun but looking back on it, I was probably trying to mask everything going on in my life.

I decided to this story with you all because it was one of the the biggest hurdles that I’ve had to climb in recent years. There was a lot of verbal abuse and manipulation over those years, which really did a number on my brain. I made a decision two years ago, in the midst of that break up, to get my life back. And so my journey began…and I have never looked back. As the saying goes: everything you go through, grows you. I was one of the lucky ones to get out and I took many lessons away from that experience. You don’t truly know who you are until you go through something horrible. I became much stronger and learned a lot about who I really was during that time…and I’ve learned much more since.

As this year comes to a close, I am in the best shape of my life….physically and mentally. I have gotten rid of the negative people and influences in my life and I’m a better person as a result. The only thing missing is to make my career dreams a reality. Stay tuned for more on that and on how to stick to your resolutions later this week!

My year of progress

We all have our own personal journey and I thank you all for letting me share mine with you this past year. I hope that by sharing my stories, some of you have been inspired and maybe even a little bit motivated. I want you all to see that no matter what obstacle you face, it IS possible! I’ve had to work EXTREMELY hard for everything that I have…and this coming year may be the hardest yet. I will tell myself what I tell all of you—Nothing worth having comes easy!

I wish you all a very safe and happy new year!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com