In our 1998 newsletter I set a goal to be “in the best shape I’ve ever been in when I turn fifty” (December 1999). Among other markers I would measure this by being able to do an unassisted handstand and backbend. Well, it’s three years later and a lot has changed. The first section below was written for our 2000 newsletter. Following that is an update on this topic for the 2001, 2002 and 2007.
In November 1999 I started doing yoga at home every day in addition to taking classes twice a week in a studio. I developed tendonitis in both elbows, both tops and bottoms. This injury slowed me down for a long time. I cut way back on yoga and had to adapt some poses. I iced many times a day and did physical therapy and took anti-inflammatories. It lasted so long that I became concerned that I might not be able to continue working on a computer, which was a scary thought! In fact I even investigated voice recognition software to minimize my use of the keyboard and mouse. That was a fun exploration. Fortunately my elbows are pretty much healed now. But I’m no closer to doing handstands or backbends! (see yoga article)
The ’90s have been hard on this body beginning with the bike accident in ’91 and then two whiplash car accidents (’93 & ’97). I suspect the elbow injuries were in response to my body compensating in yoga poses due to the earlier injuries. I’ve discovered an interesting program I’m just embarking on developed by Pete Egoscue called The Egoscue Method. He has two books. The reason I’m excited by it is that they fully evaluate the biomechanics of your body by observing it in motion and then prescribe an hour-long exercise menu based on exactly what your body needs. Every month I send a video of me and they adjust the program based on the changes they see! I’m hopeful that by the end of the eight-month program my biomechanics and posture will have improved substantially and that I’ll be able to stay active well into the second fifty years of my life. I am still hopeful that eventually I’ll develop enough strength and flexibility to do those elusive backbends and handstands.
Body image acceptance
You’ve probably often heard me talk about my weight. I wonder why I’ve spent most of my adult life wanting to lose just 10-15 pounds. I’ve never really been terribly overweight but I’ve always felt like if I wasn’t careful I could cross that line. Our meditation group has been pondering death this year (more about that in another article). I found myself wondering if on my deathbed I’d really be saying “gee it was a great life, IF only I’d lost that ten pounds!” I know it sounds silly, but it really does help put it in perspective. When we went on our annual meditation retreat I held this weight question in my mind. What I came up with was interesting to me. I realized that, just as the spiritual path we’re on is called The Middle Way, that is my way in the world. I generally don’t do the extremes on either end. So when it comes to my weight, I’m unlikely to ever become extremely overweight AND I’m also unlikely to become THIN. I’ve never been thin! Why would I suddenly be able to be thin in my fifties? I have my mother’s genes after all! (Aside: My Mom attended the residential McDougall Program more then a year ago in California and now eats a low-fat vegan diet in addition to doing stress reduction methods and regular exercise. She’s in the best shape she’s ever been in! A terrific role model.)
So, like my Mom, I eat right, I exercise and I do the best I can with the cards I’ve been dealt. I’ve come to accept this body and will continue to take good care of it so I can stay active and vital for another fifty years. I find that goals, like the horizon, keep moving as you approach them!
Fast forward one year…
What’s new with this old body in 2001?
A lot! Last biking season we rode 2000 miles and I gained weight! That was discouraging. It’s possible that it was muscle, but I didn’t have a good way to determine that. And I didn’t feel like I was stronger or leaner (my new goals).
In the spring we had a tandem club booth at the Bike Expo and I met a woman named Emily Cooper, MD. Dr. Emily, as we fondly call her, has a clinic called Seattle Performance Medicine. They offer all kinds of testing and coaching. Since one of her staff is a vegan ultra-marathoner, I felt like I could trust her not to try to convince me I had to eat meat!
In early May we started with a measurement of percent body fat and a review of a three-day food journal. Dr. Emily informed me that I wasn’t eating enough food and particularly wasn’t eating enough protein. Next we did a sub-max test which included determining my resting metabolism, what my heart rate zones are and how many calories I burn in each zone. She recommended how long to spend proportionately in each zone to retrain my body to burn fat (all my body knew how to do was burn carbs since that’s what I mostly ate). I started using my year-old heart rate monitor a lot smarter! All this was especially useful when we were doing 5 hour plus tandem rides. You’d be surprised how much one needs to eat!
For some of you all this is likely to fall in the category of information overload. But for me…I love it. I set up an Excel spreadsheet and I use it every day to monitor my intake and expenditure. When I was re-tested in August I’d lost about 10 pounds and more significantly two percent body fat. All of my testing levels improved significantly and I’m now burning fat…HOORAY! In fact I’m burning twice as many calories in each heart rate zone then I was in May.
The other new piece is that I bought a small set of dumbbells and I’m doing about twenty minutes of upper body work three days a week. I’m starting to see the difference in some of my more challenging yoga poses and I know it’s an important step for osteoporosis prevention as well.
So while I still haven’t entirely learned to accept my body I think with each passing year I learn to love and respect it more. I think my goals are more health oriented and less driven by societal pressures. I want to be strong and lean and healthy. Doesn’t everyone?
2002 Brief Update
The year’s been good to me. We rode about 3000 miles on the tandem this season and I’m feeling great. I’m now maintaining my weight in the 130-135 pound range without daily tracking in my spreadsheet. I’d still like to be about ten pounds lighter but I look and feel trim and strong. I started lifting weights at the local Y at the beginning of the year and my upper body strength is improving. I’m much closer to doing push-ups now.
At this writing I’m about to turn 53. I do have muscular/skeleton issues due to my scoliosis and accidents that leave me with low back/hip and shoulder pain. Fortunately none of it keeps me from participating in life’s activities. I’ve been getting DexaScans every two years to evaluate my bone density. Despite the fact that I do everything “right” I’ve learned that my bones are in the early stages of osteoporosis. So I’ve been reading up on it and making informed decisions. I just started using a drug called Fosamax once a week to help rebuild my bones. After five years, I’ve stopped using the Ostaderm (topical natural hormones) for menopause and hot-flashes have resumed. I’m working with an accupuncturist and taking Black Cohosh to try to tame them.
2007 Brief Update
On August 10, 2006, a week after returning from our bicycle trip to Europe we were hit by a DUI while riding our tandem in Auburn. It was hit and run. Fortunately Spencer got the license and she turned out to be liberally insured as she was only back to driving a week from a previous DUI! I broke the top of my humorous. After a year of physical therapy, massage, accupuncture, etc I’m still not back to where I was as far as the challenging yoga poses but overall I’m doing very well.
I’ve managed to get off the Fosamax (for osteoporosis), Ostaderm (for hot flashes) AND Imipramine (for microscopic colitis). I owe this significant change to our adopting a vegetable centered eating plan called Eat to Live. To listen to Dr. Fuhrman (author of Eat to Live) talk about Osteoporosis and learn WHY I got off Foxamax, download this hour-long 13mg MP3 file and listen now or right-click to save and load it into your iPod. And here’s a recent, comprehensive look at the business of our bones…Alternative Medicine Magazine, 4/2007, Bones of Contention by James Keough or here’s a PDF copy of the same article.
I’ve found a great website with tons of great info on Osteoporosis. I bought one of these weighted vests and I’m using it regularly now. Check it out at: weightvest4osteoporosis.com.