July 21, 2012

Escape From Prilosec

Following a recent article on the New York Times Well blog, I made a pretty big decision to get off a medication I've depended on for more than 12 years. I've been taking a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) since my mid-20s for what has always been a mysterious stomach problem. PPIs are prescribed for acid reflux, but I didn't have reflux, instead I had a chronic, deep pain in my stomach that was very perplexing. After seeing specialists and going through an endoscopy, ultrasound, biopsy and CT scan the only answer seemed to be that I produced too much stomach acid and could benefit from a PPI.

I started to feel better and life went on thanks to this miracle drug. I honestly rarely thought twice about my daily pill until I read that article. Long-term side effects were unknown until recently and while I was aware of the risk of calcium deficiency, I had no idea about overall poor nutrient absorption, possible weight gain and acid rebound. I decided it was time to take control.

I did some Googling and read horrible stories on message boards about the misery of coming off the drug. Most people were forced to go back on it because they were in so much pain. I plotted my approach of taking Prilosec every other day and 150mg ranitidine twice daily on the alternating days. I bought ginger tea, apples, applesauce and almonds - foods that naturally alkalize the system according to my research. Then I woke up on a Monday morning and didn't take the pill.

It's been almost two weeks and it's going well so far, but I have really challenging days. During the first week I felt so ill some days I could barely eat. I had to make some changes in my diet, mainly giving up coffee or only having a very small cup. I temporarily gave up beer, which makes me very sad, but it has the lowest pH of alcoholic beverages and is not good for the stomach. I reduced the amount of wine I'm drinking, but haven't given it up. That is one change I'm not willing to make! I'm seeing how everything I eat reacts in my system and dialing up the good ones and minimizing the not so good ones.

After a week I moved to two days ranitidine and one day Prilosec and feel pretty good. I gave up my weekend to do a two-day juice cleanse to further speed up the healing in my stomach and alkalize my system. I'm usually a huge fan of a cleanse, but this time I'm bored out of my mind. My stomach feels amazing though so I'm sucking up the boredom and pushing through. Ironically I spent most of the day reading food blogs and posting food pics to Pinterest and tumblr. I'm a glutton for punishment.

The phase off usually takes about three months due to the acid rebound so I'm not planning a victory party yet, but I feel good knowing I'm taking control of my health and ridding my body of something it doesn't need.

July 18, 2012

A Truck Ran My Legs Over

You know that strength training routine I started? Well the great news is that I LOVE it. It's so refreshing to do something different from the cardio overload I'm used to. The bad news is my legs feel like a truck ran them over. I feel fine when I'm not moving, but then I stand up or attempt to walk and am swiftly reminded of how out of shape I am. I'm surprised my legs are taking the biggest beating. As an endurance athlete I've always thought all of my strength was in my legs. After all, I can bike hundreds of miles and run marathons and am almost never sore. But I'm learning that strength and endurance are two very different things and I definitely have a lot of work to do.

Over the weekend I put my legs to the test in a different way with my first hike in well over a year. I have always loved hiking, but there isn't always enough time for it. We were up at 5am and on the road by 6:15 for a three-hour drive to the Catskills. The early morning wake-up was well worth it, we had the trail to ourselves all the way up. And up it most certainly was. The peaks in the Catskills aren't terribly high, but some of the trails are challenging. This was considered an easier hike, but right at the beginning it was pretty much straight up. I was feeling every Bulgarian split squat from the previous week. But for views like this, it was worth it.

Before you think I'm abandoning cardio entirely, I realized New York Marathon training has officially started if you follow the traditional 18-week schedule. I've done a fair amount of running the past couple months and feel I have a solid base. I'm doing this self-coached for once and will be putting together my training plan this week.

Do you work with a coach or coach yourself?

Do you have an activity, like hiking, outside your usual sport that you enjoy?

July 12, 2012

Dead Plants, Wasps and Wood Choppers

I've had an interesting week. I arrived home from my blissful vacation to find my beautiful garden dried up and wilted due to a massive heat wave while I was away. It was such a sad scene I couldn't even bring myself to take a photo, but essentially most things looked like this, which was formerly basil and will soon be living in a landfill.

I immediately watered everything and woke up Sunday morning to signs of recovery. I then spent six hours stripping all the dead leaves and flowers from the plants, leaving them looking spindly and sparse, but hopefully poised for healing.

Then I noticed a small hive on my climbing rose vine. I hoped it was for bees, but was visited shortly after by a very aggressive inhabitant that I immediately recognized as a wasp. A little research revealed it was a yellow jacket hive and all advice was to kill them immediately. So I bought the wasp spray that claims you can stand 20 safe feet away and soak the nest without getting attacked, then invited Mark over for dinner. Isn't that what boyfriends are for? After a lovely meal we staged an attack and quickly learned the directions on the can were crap. You have to stand more like six feet away and pray the winds are in your favor. But luckily Mark managed to nail it and as of this morning, my backyard seems to be wasp free.

Aside from fiddling in the garden and attacking insects, I finally started my strength training routine. I'm aiming to do three days a week the remainder of the year in an effort to reduce body fat and eliminate some muscle imbalances I've developed from years of only S/B/R. I'm also not getting any younger and the statistics on annual muscle loss are frightening so it's time to do something about it. I spent 45 minutes at the gym Tuesday and left feeling utterly destroyed, yet amazing. It was so much fun to do something different that also made my heart pound and sweat pour off me. My favorite was the "wood chopper" for the obliques, as demonstrated in this video. Note that my obliques do not (yet) look like that (in fact I'm not sure I have obliques) and I don't exhale quite so dramatically.

I've also been up early to bike a couple times this week and finally went for a post-Provincetown run, thought the squats made that a little painful. It's great to do whatever I feel like and the break will definitely make next year's return to structured training that much more enjoyable.

Do you make time for strength training during your season?

What is your favorite routine?

July 9, 2012

Serious Vacation

I love to travel. If money and time weren't limitations I'd likely wander endlessly. But often after my travels I feel I need a vacation from the vacation since I come home exhausted from the various adventures and activities. Last week's vacation was a completely different story, a true vacation from stress, obligations and everyday life. It was so relaxing that I didn't turn my computer on until late in the week and even then couldn't bring myself to spend any time on it. Days went by where I didn't read email or look at my phone aside from a Facebook upload or check-in.

I spent a week in Provincetown, Massachusetts, all the way on the tip of Cape Cod. Our house was in the far West End, about as close as you can get to the tip of the Cape.

I was joined by my mom and dad, my sister and her husband, and my boyfriend. We spent the week relaxing on our waterfront deck, swimming, going to the beach, walking, exploring, grilling, sleeping, reading. But before I sound too lazy, I was also active the entire week. Mark and I ran three consecutive days, something I haven't been able to do in more than two years. My feet held up and kept allowing me to progress so I'm cautiously optimistic things are improving. I did three open water swims and spent one day walking across Provincetown Bay via a 1.22 mile jetty that is partially submerged during high tide. That was an adventure.

Then I tried something new and went kayaking for an afternoon. I was skeptical but ended up loving it! I made it all the way across the bay to the West End, then across to the tip of Long Point. It felt amazing to step onto that beach knowing I'd made it on my own steam.

Provincetown is a magical place and it's even more magical when you can share it with people you love. Here are a few shots from my week in paradise.

 My two men, we brought Otis with us! 

View of our house at low tide

 Mark and I on the deck

Dinner at our FAVORITE - Moby Dick's in Wellfleet

Local Provincetown oysters that we shucked ourselves

The harbor just before dusk


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