Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Year of Change(s)

One year ago, I was in ICU with a bilateral pulmonary embolism. A.K.A Saddle clot. The long and short of it is that I had blood clots in both lungs. The mortality rate is about 25%. Scary stuff.

I won't bore you with the details, but a lot has changed in the past year. I've made a ton of progress. Here it is, by the numbers:
  • I've lowered my blood pressure from high 140s/mid 80s to mid 120s/high 60s.
  • My resting heart rate is down from mid 70s to mid 50s.
  • I've lost 90 pounds. (Nope, I'm not done yet.)
  • I've dropped 8 inches off my waist. I've bought new pants and jeans, but not belts. Leather is still good, so I've just been drilling new holes.
I'm not telling you this because I'm looking for an attaboy. Nor am I trying to be preachy. I'm saying this because if I can change, anyone can. But I figured out that I have to listen to my body, but still know when I can push.

Avoiding past mistakes

Yes, I've changed my diet. No, I'm not starving myself and I don't deprive myself of much, either. Moderation is the key. I haven't given up beer, but it's a special occasion thing now. I've tried eating healthy before, but I sabotaged my efforts by going off the deep end any time I didn't strictly adhere to it. So now, I'm a big proponent of the 80/20 rule.

Yes, I've changed my attitude about exercise. Six weeks after my hospital stay, I was cleared to walk 10 minutes a day. Over the next six months, I increased the time I could walk until I was doing 3-4 miles a day. Now I do an hour of fairly strenuous cardio five days a week and strength training two days a week. I haven't been cleared to do more. Yet.

Trying something new

Probably the most unexpected change I've made, that I didn't think would ever happen, is that I meditate. It happened by accident; I started doing deep breathing exercises to help my lungs recover. And I noticed that I was a little sharper and a little more focused. So I meditate now.

Perhaps the biggest change is my attitude toward health care. A lot of that has to do with my employer, as I work for a health care company. I realize that preventative care trumps sick care. By a lot.

My doctor kicks ass. She's supportive, creative and calls bullshit when it's needed. She's whip smart and funny as hell. I also have a health coach that I see once a month who keeps me accountable, gives me advice and lets me talk about what I'm going through.

I will also tell you that I'm a big believer in FitBit. It tracks calories in and out, water and steps. Even tells me how good I slept last night. It takes five minutes out of my day and guards against the bad habit of eating without a purpose.

Starting slow and finding time

I'll tell you right off the bat that you don't have to go to the gym. More people say one of the overriding factors for not exercising is they don't have the time. And it's hard getting started. Hey, I've been there. But by starting small, increasing when the time was right and pushing myself when I could, I got better.

Wanna know a secret? Exercising sucks the first few days. I'm not going to lie to you. But do it every day for two weeks and you'll start to feel worse if you don't do it. Wanna know another? I lost more weight just walking than I have since I started going to the gym. More about that later.

I had to start slow because I had to. Doc was afraid my heart would work harder because of the clots. I adhered to a strict, 10-minutes a day maximum the doc set for me for a few weeks. Ten minutes became 15, and I could walk around the north end of the school in our neighborhood. Then it became 20 and I could make it down another block down and one more over. A couple weeks later, it became 30 minutes, and I could make it down and around the park. I started walking in the morning and in the evening for 30 minutes, one of the few things I did that didn't get cleared by the doc.

By mid-July I could go 45 minutes without stopping, then an hour. I was getting up at 5 a.m. to walk, every day.

Here's the deal:
If you don't have time to walk 30 minutes, walk for 15 minutes twice a day. It might even be better for you than doing it non-stop.

Becoming a rat

When I got cleared to go to the gym, I didn't start right away. I liked walking. But as it got colder, it was my only option. Low impact was the key, so I was on the stationary bike for 30 minutes. First week of that hurt the old posterior. But I got used to it.

Most days, I'm the first one there. I go on the weekends, too. Fearing an injury that would set me back, the doc made me schedule two rest days a week. She's overly cautious, but I get it. I'm turning into a gym rat. Kinda. I've even been known to go to the gym a couple of times a day.

To top it off, Ashley has been putting in time, too. She goes five days a week and is making great progress. It definitely helps having someone who's not only in my corner, but on the front lines as well.

Changing it up

Although I like the bike, I've added elliptical, rowing machine and swimming to my cardio arsenal. Keeps things from getting boring. I'm not an efficient swimmer so much as I'm an inefficient drowner. But I get a little better each week. (I swim on my off days. Don't tell Dr. Toney.)

It's not my objective to preach. I hope I'm coming off as somewhat inspirational. And realistic. Is it hard? I would say, no, not really. Having a health scare of that magnitude changes the perspective quite a bit. I'm grateful for what I've been able to accomplish, the resources that have helped me, and the people who've supported me in my efforts.

It's a journey. One step, one minute, one mile, one lap and one day at a time.