Thursday, March 15

Guest Blogger...Cancer & Exercise

This is my first guest to post on my blog.  Thanks to David Haas for contacting me.  David is an awareness program advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance in the US and he requested to share information about how exercise can benefit cancer sufferers.

Even though David is an advocate for those who suffer from Mesothelioma Cancer in particular, his message is to anyone who may suffer or may know people who suffer from the general disease known as 'Cancer'.  David's contact details can be gleaned from the above link to his Bio page.

I thought it would make a nice change to have a post that wasn't about me for a change, but still aligned to what I advocate about the benefits of health and fitness.  Sometimes, taking a moment to reflect upon other people's maladies, helps give ourselves a better appreciation of our own good health and the realisation of how blessed we truly are.

Live a Better Life Through Physical Fitness Even While Fighting Cancer

Physical fitness is known to have many benefits for anyone who participates in it. For someone who has been newly diagnosed with cancer, is going through radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments, or for those who are in remission, exercise is even more beneficial.

Exercise improves strength, endurance, and increases self esteem. It also increases energy levels, which are often depleted due to cancer treatments. Physical activity can help with depression and it relieves stress. All of these things will help you to feel more physically and mentally fit, aiding you in experiencing a general feeling of well being. While taking certain medications and treatments you may become constipated. Exercise is also known to ease this issue.

Physical activity may not be easy for some due to the type of cancer they have, the treatments they are receiving, or due to their age. Some people may have trouble moving or walking, or may experience weakness. Others may experience pain causing them to have difficulty in moving. In these cases, it is understandable that you would rather not move at all, but the more you stay in bed, the weaker your muscles become.  

Physical activity does not mean that you should do strenuous amounts of exercise for great lengths of time. Exercise is beneficial to you even if you do only a small amount to start with. If you do more than you should you may cause injury or harm to yourself. To begin getting some exercise, you can do things such as making an effort to get out of bed and walk to the other side. If you are feeling weak, have someone help you to do this. You can also sit in bed and do simple movements such as moving your arms in circles or lifting your legs, if possible.

Exercises that are common among people who are in remission from cancer or who are newly diagnosed are: Walking, yoga, range of motion exercises, gardening, dancing and light aerobics. As you gain strength you might try biking, swimming and moderate strength training. Start slow and build up to doing more as you can.  The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors who are adults, exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week or more.

You should discuss with your doctor, the types of physical activity you can do, before doing any type of exercise, especially if you are undergoing mesothelioma treatment, as this normally affects the lungs making it painful and difficult to breathe at times. Your doctor can help you to make personalized recommendations for your fitness plan.

By following your doctor's recommendations on exercise, and following through, you can live a better life even while fighting cancer.

Wednesday, March 7

Could This be the End of 'No Ordinary Moments'?

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."
- Lord Edward Stanley

The Paradigm Shift…
Today as I write this, it's Monday 5th March, 2012.  A paradigm shift is happening and I know now what I need to do - what feels right for my life at this point in time. 

I’m just not sure yet where to begin.  This morning I’m suffering from overthinking.  An annoying tendency I have which rears its’ ugly head every so often.  So for me, the best way to stop overthinking and begin doing, is to put it into words and usually what happens during this process is that the pieces of the puzzle and all those thoughts floating and swimming around in my head, begin to make sense and I can then see some pattern, so that order begins to emerge.

Now I’m sounding like a broken record.  My blog is all about ‘health and fitness’, but my posts of the last six months, even though touching on this, haven’t been definitive in regard to specifics of my fitness journey, as they originally began nearly three years ago.  I have no further (fitness) insights to share with you, because I’ve reached the end of that particular road. 
I am about to embark on another slightly different road. Health and fitness is still part of that, but it becomes only one part of the equation.  Its’ importance hasn’t changed, however, but how I ‘do’ health and fitness has…is changing.  I can see clearly now how it is a part, no less important, of the bigger picture of life.

I remember the first shift.   I embarked on my Ideal Bodies Online journey back in July 2008…major shift.  I was not in a good place.  Going forward just a little to January 2009, life had changed for the better and I grabbed it with everything I had.  Doors opened and I had a new body; new confidence (my old self); increased health and fitness; new plans and limitless opportunity.  My learning curve grew exponentially and in that process I learned a lot about myself and what I was capable of.

In three-and-a-half years I’ve turned my life around.  I made a promise never to return to that period before July 2008, and I haven’t.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, but on the whole I’ve maintained around the same weight and I’ve definitely become fitter and stronger.  For me, it’s all about being better than I was yesterday, and I am proud to say that with each day, I’m getting better (well…not every day).  Some days of course you may take a step or two back, and some days you take a step or two forward.  I’m fortunate to say that there have been more days that I’ve gone forward than back, so I’m still out in front and making progress.
My accomplishments since embarking on my ‘Fit-and-Fab-at-40’ journey have been:

-          Losing around 15kgs to sit on a weight range of 58-60kgs to culminate just before my 40th birthday with a 12% body fat on the day of my photo shoot in January 2009.

-          Joining the Australian Army in June 2009 at the age of 40.  I embarked on a 12 month training program written by Kristin Gleeson of IBO, to prepare me for the rigours of Basic Training, taking into account my back injury.

-          Helping others on their health and fitness journey as a personal mentor for IBO which I finished up in 2010.

-          Overcoming hip bursitis and being able to run again after approx. 5-8 years being unable to run.

-          Overcoming a herniated disc injury which had plagued me since 2000 (when I originally injured my back) through exercise and a lot of rehabilitation work.  Firstly through IBO and then specific rehabilitation, encompassing core strength and stability work with exercise physiologist, Liz Nelson.  The significance of this particular achievement is signficant, given the accompanying muscular and skeletal imbalances and injuries which I’ve sustained as complications of having a back injury.

-          Joining and training in Crossfit for 6 months of 2010.  This had been a goal of mine since becoming fitter and I saw this as an opportunity to ramp up my fitness.  However, I had to concede that Crossfit became detrimental to my fitness because of existing injuries and my underlying incorrect muscular activation issues.  I also discovered at this time that I had a bone spur and beginnings of hip degeneration in the RHS hip ball and socket.

-          Becoming educated as to what good nutrition is and what works best for me.  I have to admit the ‘what works best for me’ is still up for contention, and I’m at this very moment rethinking that part of nutrition.   Or moreso, taking this a step further.  A reason for me rethinking is tied up in the way I view or ‘do food’.  It’s something I’m constantly learning about and you could say that it’s evolved and still is evolving.  I will let you in on that when I feel more comfortable that I won’t be judged for it. The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak.  I would prefer to show you with results rather than with cheap talk.

The physical accomplishments are always easier to measure, but as we all know, it’s the other accomplishments that you can’t necessarily see by looking which have the most profound effect on our lives.
I’m talking mainly about the self confidence that comes from overcoming challenges.  This and the happiness and aura that you exude is exponential in its’ effect on not only your family and friends, but people you come into contact with daily.

It’s the clarity you get about your life and the hope and excitement you have about your future, because it’s so full of possibility.  Life then becomes exciting because you are no longer a bystander but a full participant - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
It also becomes about focus…goal driven focus.  You become determined and persistent in your endeavours.

Back to paradigm shifts…and focus.
For three-and-a-half years I have been ‘on’. I flicked a switch back in July 2008 and my focus was like tunnel-vision.  I trained hard, six days a week and I followed my IBO program (I did four programs in a row) 100%!  Nothing could deter me from reaching my goals and the old Kerry was back!

For three-and-a-half years I’ve weighed not only myself on a daily basis (though I’m honest when I say it has never really done my head in too much.  I’ve looked at it as a way to monitor patterns rather than punish or reward myself) but I’ve weighed my food on and off.  I’ve tracked the calories consumed and the macro-nutrient break-up of my nutrition to ensure I’ve had the right balance of protein, fats and carbs.  I’ve tracked my BPM via HRM and calories expended in conjunction with calories consumed through nutrition via CalorieKing to ensure that I had a caloric deficit when my goal has been weight loss.  I’ve learnt bucket-loads in the process.

I’ve trained hard and I’ve trained intensely and even as recently as a couple of weeks ago my goal for 2012 was to train intensely and consistently for 12 months.  The same way and with the same intensity I have been for the majority of the three years.  For me, it’s been all or nothing. That is about to change.
Fellow health enthusiasts and bloggers…it’s time to turn that switch off and change the light bulb!

Paradigm shift…I’m fuckin’ tired!
I’m tired of being tired and overtraining (my fault entirely).   In the last month, all of a sudden I’m racking up small, niggly injuries.  Something is up.  At one stage only recently I couldn’t stomach the thought of rocking up to the gym.  Ummm… ***Danger! Danger! Proceed at your peril!***.  Is this a tap on the shoulder or what?  I’ve had enough of those to take notice.  If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s to listen to what my body and intuition is telling me, once I’ve ruled out the possibility that I’m just piking.

There are more dimensions to life than purely health and fitness, but
without those, there a fewer options….

Please understand - this isn’t about blaming anyone or even myself.  I think it’s a natural consequence and part of my health, fitness, and life journey.  It’s a kind of fork in the road.  A place where I stop and ask myself…”Do I continue along this path, or do I take another?”
I’m tired of having to weigh my food and myself. I’m tired of cooking separate meals for myself, my husband and my daughter and not being able to sit down at dinner all at the same time and enjoy dinners as a family.  I’m tired of thinking about cheat meals, free meals, low-carb, low-fat, blah..blah…blah! 

Of course, that’s not to say that if you’re beginning your weight loss journey that you don’t necessarily have to be doing those things.  Not forever anyway –just until you have your weight and nutrition under control and you’ve maintained for a good period of time.  I had to do it first to learn what I know now.  I’m just a lot further along the road, and the process no longer suits my purpose.  That’s it – nothing more or nothing less.
I’m not belittling what’s required at the start of an individuals’ journey.  I’m just taking the next step toward what I deem as progress.

I’m tired of the fact that my workouts take so much time out of my day that I don’t get to do other things in my life because it’s not just the workout, it’s the fallout – pissed off because I don’t have the energy to do what other things I want or need to do in my life on any given day. 
I think I’ve well and truly proven myself.  Not only to others, but to myself.  It’s time to stop trying to prove to myself what is apparent to everyone else.  I’m fit, muscular and lean.  No prizes here.  So why the hell am I still doing this?  As a perceptive friend said to me only recently…”You’re a fit 40yr old trying to train like a fit 20yr old”.  He was right.  It’s time to start thinking like a fit 40yr old and accept that life is different.  It’s suicidal for me to continue pursuing a 20yr old fitness mindset.  Even though at my core, I still feel like that 20yr old.  This is my second wind in life and I intend to make the most of it by working smarter and being kinder to myself.  I can still be fit, muscular and lean.  I don’t have to beat myself up to achieve that anymore.

Where this all began…

When I finished up with my martial arts club, back eons ago, I suspect I had a nervous breakdown of sorts.  I went on to make another business mistake (that made two in a row where I chose the wrong person I went into business with) and during the fallout of those gut-wrenching failures, I decided there and then while going away to lick my wounds, that life for me would be different.  I was not going to partake in the madness of the world around me any longer…working too hard, working to be ‘rich’ (what a joke that is), and having no time to do the simple things in life which in the end became less attainable and further from my grasp.  That was around the time I fell pregnant with Philomena.  She then became another catalyst for change.  Having children for most people, as with myself, changes your perspective about life and what becomes more important.
Anthony and I decided then that life would be different.

We made the specific choice that I would stay home full-time to rear Philomena while she was at school.  I sold my car and we bought a unit in Mt Warren Park, as that was all we could get into at the time.  I did it tough with a young baby, having no car most of the time and having to catch public transport.  When you have a car, you take for granted the simple little things, like going the shops to buy necessities whether it’s pouring rain, windy, cold or oppressively hot.   Luckily, we had Anthony’s parents and a good friend to help during those difficult early years.  Since then, we’ve managed to buy a house and hang onto our investments.  I consider ourselves doing okay even on one income.  It’s a little tougher at the moment financially, but life is good.   Having a little more income through the Army Reserves has helped. Going out to work full-time to get a bigger or better house for me was not an option and still isn’t if it can be helped.  I couldn’t even imagine the detrimental effect on family life with all that stress.  I know most of the population have to do this.  We just chose and still choose, different.

So we decided that our family was going to be different than the mainstream.  Life would be quiet and Philomena would not be indulged.  We would give her our love, time and a quiet, stress-free and peaceful home life.  We would raise her to make healthy food choices, to have manners and courtesy, respect others and act with dignity.  And most of all, we would tell her we loved her and that you are never too old for hugs.  And we still do.
We are practicing Catholics and decided that though we don’t speak out about it, we would live those ideals and bring up Philomena with them.  It is our moral compass in a world where the majority of people have no moral compass and many people are lost.  I believe that it’s those guiding principles and traditions that keep us on course and keep us strong as a family and unite us.  Sometimes what we celebrate is against popular belief and it can be difficult to explain to your child why we don’t always follow what others do.  As we often say to Philomena, “just because others do something, that doesn’t mean you have to do it too”.  It’s about what is the right thing to do for us, which isn’t always easy, especially for a nearly six year old girl.  But she’s doing fabulously and as long as we explain why we do what we do she’s content.  She won’t understand fully right now, but one day she will.

So, there are rules we’ve set.  We will never allow a play station or computer games in the house.  We will never allow a TV in every room.  We limit TV exposure and encourage a lot of outside play and exploration.  The evenings are time to reduce the noise, turn down the lights, read, converse as a family and have time for quiet contemplation and then go to bed peacefully. 
I think the majority of families have lost the ability to connect because they are too busy living their own individual lives attached to technology and drowned out by all the noise, under their own roof.  They are like boarders who come out occasionally because they’re hungry and go back to their individual lives, and as a consequence they don’t know their own family. They have the inability to connect with others as well as themselves, introspectively. This also includes the inability to recognise signs and signals and lifes' sometimes subtle vibrations that reach out to us.  Society is so de-sensitised that it takes the force of an oncoming train to wake us from our state of disconnectedness.

“The most important thing is to find out what is the most important thing.”
- Shunryu Suzuki

At this point in time it’s about simplifying life when the accepted norm is to complicate life.  It doesn’t have to be this difficult.  Life doesn’t have to be that busy or stressful.  As the saying goes…less is more.
Paradigm shift…less is more.  It doesn’t have to be this difficult. 

Since moving into our new home and connecting more with my surroundings, and endeavouring to connect with family and friends at a deeper level, I’ve found that I’m yearning for more simplicity in my life to gain a richer, more satisfying relationship with it.

It’s all about Balance.  And I realise I’ve said this before.  ‘Balance’ was used in the context of my health and fitness journey, but Balance now is all about life as a whole and how I integrate all parts of my life (and the different roles I play) to reflect this.  It’s about living life more intuitively based around of course, a healthy lifestyle.  That hasn’t changed.  I’m not about to throw the baby out with the bath water. 
However, in addition to that it’s about living a life that is more genuinely me.  Those feelings of uneasiness and that somehow what I was doing was no longer congruent with what I knew in my heart to be right for me, are what’s been surfacing in the last six months.  I just didn’t know it then.

I’ve been a gym-rat for three years.  I’ve worked out and eaten, following program after program.  It’s become too hard, too tiring and too regimented.   It’s time to approach my health and fitness lifestyle differently, and enjoy physical pursuits of old, before my martial arts days, as well as encounter new ones.   It’s time to breathe fresh air into my health and fitness lifestyle and as Peter Barr would say… to continue living (more of) my genius.
From here it’s about being ‘Fit-and-Fab-after-40’. It’s time to remove all that white noise where I take life a notch upward, but at a slower, more flowing and intuitive pace.

Could this be the end of ‘No Ordinary Moments’?...

I haven’t decided yet whether to finish ‘No Ordinary Moments’ with this post.  I don’t know.  Maybe it will just evolve as I have evolved.  In the big scheme of blogs in this world, mine is just a number of millions of blogs written by people who want to be heard.  I just don’t know if I need to be heard any longer.  Am I satisfied with living out my life without an audience?
To quote the famous Zen koan…”If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?”  If I cease to allow people to bear witness to my journey via blogging, will anybody feel the ripple when my blog ceases to exist?


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