Posts filed under fitness

How to Love a Bum Knee {Practical Tips for Joint Care}

I'm pressing on with my commitment to wellness and healing this year; honoring the gift of my body as the primary tool of service in my vocation; recognizing the stumbling blocks of getting... um... older. A little nuts and bolts for body maintenance today...


When I was 15 years old, I blew out my knee in a freak hurdling accident. Complete tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), cartilage damage, blah, blah, blah. It required reconstructive surgery and extensive physical therapy. I went on to fully participate in life and sports but my knee has never really been the same. 

I'll never forget the words my doctor told me after surgery: "You'll have to keep those supporting muscles strong for the rest of your life. Good preventative care will save you much struggle"

Uh huh. Said the teenager. 

So here I am a couple decades older, wiser, and creakier, wishing I had heeded his advice. I have learned about body maintenance the hard way but here are a few ways I keep the swelling and pain down and increase my overall knee health...

NUTRITION

Okay... nutrition will always be number one for me no matter the topic. But that's because it does matter. My surgery knee is a classic example...

For 20 years, the swelling in my knee was a 24-hour given. In all that time, I was never able to sit back on my heels. Never had that kind of mobility even though I was fit enough. Then I started a radical elimination diet for other reasons. Ready for my miracle?

Within 3 days (THREE!), I was able to sit back on my heels like I was a toddler again. After TWENTY years. I had no idea that my joints were in a constant state of swelling from my poor diet. All the years of all-over body pain and so many injuries... it all started to make sense. 

Fix the diet... feed the knees.

STRENGTH

The doctor was right. Don't stop moving. Keep oiling the machine. Strengthen the muscles. Those joints need it even when they hurt! As we age, it is even more important to add some strength training. Your knees need you to help them bear the load. 

POSTURE

I've recommended this book before for helping with proper body alignment and posture and I do it again. Your knees have the necessary disadvantage of being attached to every other part of your body. If you are off a bit somewhere above or below, the knee is going to take a beating.

SQUAT PROPERLY

When exercising, stick the bootie out to do squats. No knees over the toes. Pretend you're sitting in a chair and put your weight on your heels. 

WEIGHT

I have noticed over the years that my knee pain is much more controllable if I fall within 5 pounds of what I know to be my ideal weight. It's a small margin but it does make a difference... and science backs up my experience. Researchers say that each one pound of weight lost reduces knee pressure by 48,000 pounds per mile! Fortunately, my clean diet is self-regulating. I generally don't have to scale watch. Pregnancy is an obvious exception and I am more careful.

DECREASE INFLAMMATION

I don't use commercial creams and only rarely use OTC medications, but I am loving this simple recipe for knee pain and swelling. The affect for me is quick and relieving. This is particularly helpful in pregnancy when my weight surpasses the weight load ideal for my knees. I use it prior to a workouts to help reduce swelling (and consequently prevent injury), and after workouts to relieve any soreness and stiffness. 

Every person's body is different, but this natural blend provides me with noticeable swelling relief directly after application. The natural plant compounds provide anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits. It often makes the difference between being able to fully straighten my knee or not. 

Directions {including affiliate links}...

I generally fill my roller ball bottles at a 1:10 ratio which breaks down to about 20 drops per 10 mL bottles. That dilutes enough to be safe but effective for all in the house. 

1) Add 20 drops of the following essential oils to a 10mL roller bottle:

  • 10 drops Soothing Blend (Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Blue Tansy, German Chamomile, Helichrysum, and Osmanthus) This is a proprietary blend that I LOVE from the company I purchase oils from. (You can purchase directly HERE. or contact me to learn more about essential oils and how to get 25% off.)
  • 5 drops Juniper Berry
  • 5 drops Frankincense

2) Fill the rest of the bottle with a carrier oil. I use fractionated coconut oil.

3) Put the roller and cap on, give a gentle shake, and label. ALWAYS label. 

4) Roll on as needed.


As old-ish as I feel sometimes, I know that these knees have probably only carried me for half of my life journey. I have a lot of living left to do... lots of little ones to carry... and big ones to keep up with. I'm not ready to decline yet! 

Thanks be to God for the gift of this body. I intend to do my best to take care of it. 

Do you have any tips for knee health? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Posted on February 29, 2016 and filed under DIY, fitness, nutrition, wellness.

Fitness Meets Faith {SoulCore Review}

There is so much in life that draws us away from our primary purpose. When I find a resource in any category that draws me straight to mine, I cling to it. As a Catholic, that primary purpose is always Jesus Christ... and if a thing doesn't draw me closer to Him, it probably doesn't belong in my life. 

This is where the meeting of the secular and the sacred often causes confusion... because it isn't always clear cut. Excellent homeschooling materials (for example) don't always have to explicitly mention the name of Our Lord in order to help a person develop in His service. But boy, when you stumble upon a really excellent and thoroughly Catholic resource... it's a lot like winning the lottery.

I have always been committed to fitness in my life (body, mind, soul) and yet this year is much bigger for me as I focus (like a laser beam) on what it is that I need to do to be well. Healing from chronic illness and immune dysfunction can be a long road. 2016 is my time to Rise to Joy in service of my God and my vocation. And I'm sharing all of it publicly as a way to stay accountable and help others. So...

I want to introduce you to a challenging and beautiful Catholic fitness series called SoulCore. It's not yoga but it uses some of the same principles of movement that people find so effective... "a combination of core-strengthening exercises and isometric exercises, stretching and overall strengthening of the entire body." The biggest difference is...

Jesus Christ. 

Overt, joyful, focused, prayerful, physical and mental movement toward the Savior of the World.  The SoulCore project is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That's really the core of who we are. Beautiful. 

The exercises are set to a full rosary so it's a two-for-one if you're crunched for time. But there are greater benefits to that method: 

1. The prayers are the counting method. You move and pray. As a Catholic, I know the Hail Mary so well that it's like breathing. In this workout, I find myself easily entering into that prayer... sometimes less focused if I'm struggling with an exercise (but I know the prayer well enough to keep it on my lips) and sometimes more focused as my body and soul are both oriented toward work and heaven. Ora et labora indeed.

2. This is not just work and prayer but work as prayer. Our bodies are designed to serve the Lord. And the real gift with taking care of them with right purpose is that the care becomes a service to Him as well. It is not just a way to strengthen us for vocation but is actually a part of our vocation. SoulCore draws the mind to this reality directly.

As I said before, the exercises can be challenging even for those who are accustomed to working out. But they are also easy to adapt; lighter weights, fewer reps, knee push ups. My pregnant belly forces me to make some of those modifications but the workout is still wholly accessible to me. 

The Sorrowful and Joyful Mystery DVD workouts are currently available and the Glorious Mysteries will be in the shop soon. Digital downloads for all are also available. The website is full of inspirational material, accessories, local class info, and the inspiring story of the mission of the founders.


GIVEAWAY

The SoulCore team very generously sent me a Sorrowful Mysteries DVD to review (I bought two more DVD's after loving my review copy!) ... 

...and also sent TWO copies to give away to my readers. 

Enter below through the Rafflecopter. I hope you win! If not, I hope you get the opportunity to experience this wonderful workout series another way! 

Posted on January 31, 2016 and filed under fitness, Giveaway, wellness, Womanhood.

Movement: The Second Pillar of Wellness

This is the second in a three-part series about my 2016 journey to wellness. In the introductory post, I mentioned the three pillars of wellness (in addition to the foundational spiritual element) that hold up the structure of health: 

1) Nutrition: The Key to Wellness
2) Movement: The Second Pillar of Wellness
3) Environment: The Forgotten Pillar of Wellness 

A couple things to note before beginning with "Movement":

  • I am not a doctor and have no professional authority. These are simply my personal plans, goals, and encouragements. 
  • Our bodies are different. Learn about yours!
  • There may be affiliate links in these posts which means I earn pennies if you click and buy. But I don't link unless I love and use the product and would recommend it to you over a cup of coffee. Exceptions will be noted.
  • Above all, remember to submit everything to Christ... so that any perceived failures, sufferings, or victories will all be for His glory and your sanctification.  

Let's get started!


MOVEMENT

I almost titled this post "Exercise" but that doesn't quite cut it. Our bodies are made to MOVE not just exercise at a specified period of the day (the "desperation hour"). If that's all we can do, then we should do it. But our bodies are designed to thrive on the regular and healthy movement of the joints and muscles throughout the day. That movement lubricates joints, regulates hormones, strengthens posture, and releases endorphins that contribute to a feeling of well-being. 

The other side of that coin is that inactivity leads to:

The typical method of American movement is the "desperation hour" in which we practice lousy physical habits all day and then expect that one hour of spin class to fix all of our problems. We need a more holistic approach to healthy movement... one that honors God's design of our bodies and makes us fit for service in our vocations. We need an approach that is purposeful and draws our bodies AND our souls closer to our purpose... our eternity with Christ.

Now... I say all that from my couch. My pregnancies are rough and I usually emerge feeling like a hibernating slug. But even through those many rough months, it is possible to increase wellness. Even if it is just setting down a soda or taking a slow walk around the block. If we need baby steps, then we take baby steps....

But the goal must be to keep moving forward.

Is it possible to get stronger during pregnancy? During chronic illness? During a sedentary workday and a taxing schedule? Is it possible to increase endurance, flexibility, and energy when we got nothin' in the tank? Yes! We all know we want to get there...

So let's address the obstacles and put them in their place. 

Following each obstacle section, I've included a GOAL RESPONSE that gives me a quick way to remember my plan for overcoming them (and I'll summarize them in a list at the end)...

1. FATIGUE
2. SICKNESS
3. DISCOMFORT
4. FITNESS RESOURCES
5. BED REST
6. MOTIVATION


1. FATIGUE

I know this obstacle all too well. After 9 pregnancies and being almost 40 years old, I know it really well. My perspective...

  • NUTRITION
    If you're eating candy bars to keep your energy level up, you're just shooting yourself in the foot. Get back to real food and you will see your energy stabilize. Read the first part of this series for more information on how I have successfully cleaned up my diet. 

  • ANEMIA
    Very common in women and in pregnancy. I never would have believed that I needed help with this. I thought that I could just push my way through with sheer will. I was wrong. If you are finding that you can barely walk across the house without wanting to lay down on the floor (after getting enough rest and eating well)... you might want to look into blood work and supplements. See my previous post for links to my favorite iron resources (under "supplement").
     
  • SLEEP
    You need this like you need air.  If  you're pregnant or post partum, you may need a LOT. To moms of big families who haven't seen a nap in 10 years... I get it. Sometimes just knowing that chronic lack of sleep can mimic disease symptoms really can help you not feel crazy when you hit a rough patch. 
     
  • TIME
    Find a way. There's no magic pixie dust for this. Be open with others about your needs and say YES when they offer to help.
     
  • CHANGE
    It is common for adult women to struggle with deficiencies and adrenal fatigue. Runners may find that running several miles further depletes them... no endorphin rush... No increased energy the next day. Nothing but fatigue. It may help to explore new options such as shorter weight workouts, Crossfit, or interval training. 

MY STORY OF "SURVIVAL EXERCISE" (with no time or energy)...
I battled severe anemia and fatigue all the way through my 6th pregnancy. I hadn't figured out yet how my diet was making me sick but I knew that labor was coming and that I needed to MOVE for health and sanity. So I started what I called "survival exercise"...

The only reasonable time of day to exercise was late at night after the kids' bedtime. I would brush my teeth, walk with my husband up and down the street, and fall into bed immediately at home. It was brutal. But by the time I reached full term, I was walking a brisk 4-6 miles most days of the week and spending a lot of time with my husband. Not ideal. Felt horrible. But worth it. 

 


GOAL RESPONSE TO THE OBSTACLE OF FATIGUE:
Purposeful Self Care


2. SICKNESS

Sickness... It can be overwhelming to even get out of bed let alone figure out when to eat, what to eat, when to rest, and when to push it. The key is just to keep moving even if it's just a little at a time. Be deliberate... be purposeful. 

Imagine that you are "oiling the machine" each time you move something. Your limitations might not permit even a short workout, but it is still important to find a way to keep the joints and muscles active. 

I once sat behind a 50-something woman at an NCAA volleyball tournament. She swayed her arms over her head, back and forth like a palm tree... and then stretched them high and low and around, flapping and twisting. I laughed at her "bleacher yoga" at the time but have come to appreciate her actions as more time passes. Sometimes you just have to move. 


GOAL RESPONSE TO THE OBSTACLE OF SICKNESS: 
Deliberate Movement and "Oiling of the Machine"


3. DISCOMFORT

Modify! If that pregnant belly gets in the way, choose a different exercise. If the sciatica is kicking your can, do an upper body workout. If the discomfort isn't actual pain, it's okay to push yourself a little bit. If you've got pain or any other concerning things going on, stop and ask your doctor. Common sense. But even if you have limitations,  find some way to keep moving. 

Do you know what people with arthritis are advised to do in spite of their pain? Yes... exercise! Because even though it may be painful in the moment, the active use of joints and muscles is a healthy and healing action... even with a debilitatingly painful disease. 

Living a sedentary lifestyle does not properly use my body. It does not follow its design and unless medically indicated, does not heal. So my goal is to sleep and rest as truly needed... and to spend the rest of my time in healthy movement. 


GOAL RESPONSE TO DISCOMFORT:
Modify to Accomplish My Daily Movement Goals


4. FITNESS RESOURCES

Can't get to the gym? I can't either. I have become a connoisseur of exercise videos and a collector of weights and fitness doodads. Even if it takes a little out of pocket cash, it doesn't come close to annual gym membership fees.

We don't have the funds for a home gym but 20 years has given us time to invest in a little equipment (affiliate links below)...

I love and use our set of dumbbells all the time. It is mismatched and has taken two decades to build, but I don't need tools that are posh... just useful. A good jump rope is nice to have. And I'm rather fond of a soft exercise mat. I really liked my Bosu ball before a kid tested a pair of scissors on it (have I told you how much I love balance exercises?). A medicine ball and balance board are also among my favorite fitness tools. A great essential oil blend for my aching bum knee (reconstructive surgery after a teenage hurdling accident). And hello, foam roller... where have you been all my sporting life? But...

Stuff costs money. And stuff isn't necessary.

Financial obstacles in fitness are similar to frugality in other areas... Craig's list. Ebay. DIY it. Just keep moving. You don't need any money or trinkets to begin now. Just your body and a commitment. 


GOAL RESPONSE TO LIMITED RESOURCES:
Invest Wisely. Use What I Have. Be Content.


5. BED REST

You may not be on prescribed bed rest but find that you have to spend a lot of time sitting or lying down for one reason or another. This section applies to anyone who has frequent periods of necessary inactivity.

I see you, my bed rest sisters. It's rough and I'm sorry. Recent studies and statements from the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) have indicated that bed rest is not as beneficial as previously thought. MORE HERE. That information has contributed to a decrease in bed rest prescriptions but certainly not all. But I believe that any mom can make little choices that keep her moving forward toward health, even if the big stuff has to wait. 

There are different levels of bed rest. Ask your doctor what you can do and definitely take advantage of the yeses that you are given. Studies show that immobility in bed rest increases the risk of blood clots and pneumonia so modified movement as you are able will be an important part of your overall health. 

If you are immobile for safety reasons, movement workouts like this one will keep you moving forward... so just do what you can. 


GOAL RESPONSE TO PERIODS OF INACTIVITY:
Keep Moving Forward... Focus on the Yeses. 


6. MOTIVATION

"I sometimes wish that I had a clear diagnosis that would keep me motivated to stay on track." I've heard variations of that wish many times. The truth is that most of us do have enough symptoms to keep us concerned (weight, fatigue, pain, etc.) even without a diagnosis, but we have simply learned to accept a lack of wellness as normal. We have chosen to take up our aches and physical burdens as a permanent cross... and keep plodding along because fighting it seems far more difficult than bearing it.

This may be perhaps our biggest cultural obstacle. Mainstream culture is unhealthy... and "health nuts" are considered... well... nutty. In Catholic culture, we sometimes put a different spin on it: "It is selfish to focus so much on myself. I am busy serving. The saints suffered... shouldn't I?" But I'd like to extend an invitation to you...

I invite you to dream bigger.

Ask the Lord how HE desires you to care for the gift of your body. Consider how better health would contribute to your vocation. What crosses do you carry that you don't have to carry?

DREAMING BIGGER FOR FITNESS IN MY VOCATION

Sometimes I take a time out and lie still and quiet. And I dream. I remember what it felt like to race with strong legs and to jump and swim without counting the cost. I remember the feeling of real hunger with no baggage or regrets and exhaustion that only came after a day of hard play.

I dream about the eternal future when the limitations of this earthly body will pass away and I will dance before the throne of God... and never stumble. Sing His praises... and never go off key.

I dream about tomorrow... about what I hope to do. What I would do if I had the energy and the strength. How will I serve? How far can I run and stretch?

And then I give thanks. I can't go back or forward or change my limitations instantly; but I can take a moment to remember and to dream and be thankful. To let go of those things over which I have no control. And to examine where in my life I am carrying crosses that I don't have to carry.

Then I pray...

“Sweet Jesus... Thank you so much for the blessing of this life. For every moment of joy and pain. For the opportunity to stretch and serve and love and follow You. Someday, I hope to dance and sing for You in heaven... with a body that never breaks and a voice that never goes off key. In the meantime, I pray to joyfully give what I have. And to take care of this precious resource for service here... Your hands. Your feet. Your conduit of grace for those I meet. In sickness or health I will serve with joy.”

GOAL RESPONSE TO LACK OF MOTIVATION:
Dream Bigger. 


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Here are a handful of resources that I have enjoyed and modified in the recent past. There are many good resources out there but blog posts need to end somewhere... I would love to hear your input in the comments!

*Fit Catholic Mom
I didn't know about Fit Catholic Mom when I first wrote this post but had to come back to update. Fit Catholic Mom is a ministry/business run by Catholic mom Olympian Rebecca Dussault. Her approach is the overall healthiest I have ever seen from a mind/body/soul perspective. I have never incorporated so much of my faith into my physical day before.... and I haven't lived such a physically healthy lifestyle since I was a kid. Please check out her free ebook, her monthly W.I.S.E Gals online group training sessions, and her personal training offers on her website at FitCatholicMom.com.

*SoulCore
SoulCore is a Catholic exercise series that is like yoga but NOT yoga. I love it. I love how it draws the mind, body, and soul to focus on Jesus Christ and into prayer. My review is here: Fitness Meets Faith

*Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain
A family member bought this book for me when I was struggling with chronic hip pain. The pain was all day, all night for months on end. It was interfering with activities, fitness, and also causing pain in my knee as I made awkward adjustments for pain. After a couple weeks of faithfully following the hip pain protocol in this book, I was free of that pain and it hasn't returned. But the methods are unusual and the exercises are passive to a degree that they don't seem at first as if they will be effective. If you borrow or buy the book, make sure to read all of the beginning material that explains the method and principles. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects is the author's treatment of the need for movement and proper gait and posture. I became much more intentional about my own after reading... and again, my pain was relieved. Quote from the beginning of the book:

"...Eliminating the pain symptom is only the first step. Without going to the next one, the muscles will continue to tell the bones to move in ways that violate the body's design...

The only product that's worth investing in is a fully functional musculoskeletal system. It's no luxury but a basic necessity that's within everyone's reach."


Do you have questions, comments, or want to share what you love? Bring it on! We're in this together for the long haul and the exchange of information is a great way to grow!

Posted on January 20, 2016 and filed under fitness, motherhood, Womanhood.