The Journey of 10,000 Steps

You guys.

I got a FitBit.

I know, I know, as per usual, I am 100 years late to this trend. When I try to tell people how awesome it is to be able to track my steps and my sleep and my food and my heart rate all at the same time, they are like, “Yep, yes, uh-huh, welcome to 2013, you are only 4 years late.”

However.

I am very excited.

First of all, I didn’t have to spend a gagillion dollars on the special EKG heart rate monitor for your iPhone something-or-other that my cardiologist wanted me to get because the FitBit Charge 2 that I have shows you your heart rate stats from throughout the day.

Example:

IMG_4253

Short digression: Um, wow? Hey peaks and valleys and reasons that everything feels screwy right now! I guess I am naturally pre-dispositioned to be in “fat burn” mode for the majority of my day. I should create an infomercial…No exercise required, all you need is a life-consuming chronic illness and you too can burn fat all day long! Or something…

PS: Super nice that my resting heart rate is 81; sucks I am apparently never resting though. #POTSyLife

ANYWAY.

Back to the story.

I had no idea how much I don’t move.

Like, ok, I had an idea.

Because you know, my futon couch has a permanent impression of where I park myself every day.

But really.

I had no idea.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago when I was much, much worse (like 2009-ish), I bought a cheap plastic pedometer from Target for $5 and it told me that in the course of my POTSy day, I moved 250 steps. That’s it. I thought it was broken. But really, 250 steps is roughly the equivalent of 2 trips downstairs for food and a half dozen bathroom visits. Which is kind of all I did in 2009.

I figured that by now, in 2017, I am so much better that the 10,000 recommended steps that I, as an American citizen, am strongly urged to get by the Powers That Be and Numerous Celebrity Fitness Trainers, would be No Big Deal.

Um, yes, well, about that.

2015 Me would be all over it. 2015 Me was running all the time and was a mover and a shaker, as the kids say (or did in 1975…).

2017 Me got a bit dejected as my FitBit proudly announced that on an average day without me going out of the way to exercise or move much (so, like every-ish day right now) my grand total of steps was just over 2,000.

Blehhhh.

Before I had actually used my FitBit to track anything, I had set my goal for steps at 7,500. I figured that was a safe estimate for days when I felt a bit rough and wasn’t up to knocking out those easy 10,000.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry.

Sometimes you just have to laugh at your own very grave miscalculations, you know?

This is my second full week of tracking, and the steps are easier to get because now I am paying So Much Attention to it, which clearly I needed to be doing. I like that my wrist buzzes to remind me to move around if I haven’t made 250 steps in the current hour. Though it does get annoying when it interrupts my daily nap(s), of which I am taking fewer, if only because it is hard to fall asleep when your brain is all, “You could totally be marching in place right now.” I’ve come to find that my brain lights up just as much as my wrist does when I meet my step goal and my FitBit buzzes and throws me a tiny virtual parade, so you know, incentive.

I’ve even made it to 10,000 steps. Twice.

*Hey Chronic Friends, do you know me in real life? Be my FitBit friend! You know, if that’s still a thing…

 

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The Morning Person

Apparently, I have become a morning person.

I’m really not sure when this happened.

Previously, I have been mostly a “Few-Good-Hours-In-the-Afternoon” person. I have never been a night owl. I have night-blindness. It’s complicated.

When I was in high school, I had to get up at 6:45 to get to school on time. This was the absolute latest I could wake up, throw on my uniform (woot woot private school), brush my teeth, and still make it before the dreaded second bell. Putting on my uniform and brushing my teeth were actually my only morning routine. My mom made my lunch and shoved some sort of breakfast in my hand so that her comatose teenaged daughter didn’t have to wake up 10 minutes earlier to figure that out. #Saint.

6:45 a.m. seemed like the most un-godly hour I could ever imagine. There were some girls at school who woke up at 6 a.m. so they could shower and blow dry their hair (WHY) and my you’ve-heard-it-a-million-times joke was to say, “6 o’clock? I didn’t know they made one of those in the morning too!”

You guys. It has been 8 years, but I am now waking up at 6:45 a.m. again.

I can see all you Chronics gasping.

WHY, Nic, WHY.

Um…to run…

WHAT WAS THAT? WE COULDN’T HEAR YOU.

Yes, Chronic readers, I now wake up at a time I had previously referred to as the witching hour of the anti-Christ, VOLUNTARILY.

TO EXERCISE.

I know, I know, I don’t even know who I am any more.

This started out as a practical endeavor. I want to do my run/walk intervals outside because the treadmill is getting old and research says spending time in the early morning outside makes your circadian rhythms balanced and your serotonin levels sing like a Disney princess (ok, so that was not the scientific description, but it should have been).

In order to be outside for any length of time, I have to hide from the sunlight. What better way to do so then to go out way early when Mr. Sun still has sleep in his eyes and can’t find me beneath the shady trees that line the one sidewalk-ed street in my neighborhood?

Let’s be honest, I did not just wake up one day at this time and have it be magic.

I am not actually a Disney princess. My transformation is sadly not yet complete.

I started in half hour increments, waking up earlier and earlier every week. Yes, week, not day, friends. I didn’t want to freak my POTS out with shock. It’s very sensitive, and I have to be super secretive when I make changes. Like la-de-da-de-da, I’m not doing anything differently over here, not me! And then, you know, fake myself out.

Apparently I’m really good at this, because I didn’t even realize I had gotten to the 6:45 mark until I had done it a few times and my sister was like, “WHY are you making SO MUCH noise SO EARLY, I am SLEEPING, it’s still DARK out, I am a TEACHER on SUMMER BREAK, sleep is PRECIOUS, ohmygosh JEEZ.”

As a side effect of me being so efficient and awesome, my dog Suki, who happens to sleep in my mom’s room (#FavoriteDaughter #NotJealous #OkMaybe), thinks that morning comes early for her now too, so you know my sleep deprived mother is also a fan of this new development of mine. #Sarcasm #SheisSOCranky #OkYoureNot #SeriouslyYoureNot! #NoIWontChangeIt #Jeez #Cranky #Truth

I go out for my 30 minutes, then come home, shower, sit down to do my transcribing work, and wow, it’s like 9 a.m.

Which is what time I used to get up at.

This is my favorite part. I love to look at the clock, see a time I used to wake up at, and be like, “Well today, I went run/walking, tweezed my eyebrows, showered, did my first shift of transcribing, and played with the dog, all before I would have even been awake 2 months ago!”

It’s kind of awesome to compare yourself to yourself.

When I get up early and start my day moving around, I get a lot done. Funny thing though, no matter what time I get up, usually from about 4-7 p.m, I’m kind of a zombie person. I’m not sure why, but it happens. Of course, it makes more sense to get up earlier, so that I have more productive time in my day before Zombie Hours hit. What’s frustrating is that Zombie Hours appear to be non-transferable.

Recently, I wanted to go out at 7 p.m. I had plans with friends. This means that I had to function during Zombie Hours in order to get ready and get to where I was going. I tried everything to make myself function in this time zone. I took it easy in terms of activity level, and even took a nap in the hopes of conserving my energy to be able to use later when I wanted it.

This is not how Chronic works, apparently.

There are no roll-over minutes in this data plan, no conservation of energy for on-demand use.

I was only able to stay long enough to hug everyone, and then had to bail, which bummed me out because I would have liked to be fully human for that outing so that I could have stayed longer. No go.

We joked as I was leaving that next time we get together it will be in “Like, the daytime,” which was really just a joke to me, because I’m pretty sure my friends still count 7 p.m. as “Daytime” even though I don’t right now. #JustMe?

My second social outing of the week took place at lunchtime and was slightly more successful. Coincidence that it was earlier in the day? Maybe, maybe not.

I can’t help it, I’ve become a morning person. It’s just the way my body wants to be, even if my mind kind of sort of laughs at it. I even asked on Facebook if I was alone in my morning-person-ness; if I was some sort of running-morning-person-unicorn. It was agreed that I kind of am.

I feel like maybe that’s not such a bad thing to be. 🙂

What Progress *Really* Looks Like

I realized the other day that I keep making references to my run/walking and the Couch to 5k Program, but I haven’t necessarily talked about it and the progress I’m making in much detail.

I’m a teensy bit afraid that maybe I’ve led you to believe that I go out and run marathons on weekends now (I don’t) or that because I’m at a healthy(er) place in my POTSie journey right now that somehow negates how bad my health was before (It doesn’t).

Let’s take a moment and clear up all the assumptions I’m assuming you’re making about me, shall we?

This is what POTSie Progress actually looks like:

I officially started the NHS (National Health Service-U.K.) Couch to 5k program on October 13, 2014. I heard about the program from my dysautonomia-pal E. who is a wonderful resource of exercising awesomeness. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

I didn’t just pop on a treadmill though.

I’ve been keeping a record of my exercising habits since last January, on a very fantastic Marvel Superheroes calendar I got at the craft store (which reminds me, I need to get a new one for 2015!).

I started (at the end of February- January was rough for me) with a recumbent bike and then a rowing machine, with a spattering of youtube videos thrown in for good measure. (Check out Fitness Blender’s channel for good ones.)

The week before I started, I walked a mile on the treadmill every day to get used to it and find my balance (treadmills can be tricky for balance, at least I think so).

I don’t know if treadmill speeds are universal, but the first mile I walked, I did a speed of 2.5 miles per hour. It took me 24 minutes and 10 seconds to complete.

The following Monday, my first couch to 5K day (Cto5k from here…) my helpful podcast guide Laura instructed me to walk a 5 minute warm up walk (speed of 2.5 mph) then alternate between 60 seconds of running (speed of 3.2 mph) with 90 seconds of walking (again, 2.5mph) and end with another 5 minute cool down walk (2.5 mph). The podcast ran for 31 minutes, and my total distance traveled was 1.43 miles (approximately 2.3 kilometers).

I followed the instructions to do this 3 times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) before moving on.

The following week, Podcast Laura told me to alternate 90 seconds of running with 2 minutes of walking between my 5 minute walk-bookends. Feeling uber pleased with myself, I upped my speed to 2.7 mph walking and 3.3 mph running. Still good, 3 times a week.

Week 3 brought the challenge of a new pattern: walk 5 minutes as usual; follow the pattern: run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes twice; 5 minute walk. Again, I increased my speeds to walk 2.8mph, run 3.4mph. In the 27 minutes of the podcast, I went 1.345 miles (2.16 kilometers).

My notes on the Friday of that Week 3 simply say “Did whole tape, but very hard, should do week 2 again next week.”

10 minutes into Monday’s workout, my right knee swelled, and I was down for the count.

The next 2 weeks, I sporadically used the rower, the bike, and the treadmill while icing my knee and keeping it elevated at rest. I saw the rheumatologist, who didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary, thank goodness.

On November 24, I decided to start over. This time, I would do each “week” in the podcast twice, so I would be super ready to move on when the time came. Two weeks of Week 1, two weeks of Week 2, then it was time for Week 3 again.

One workout in, and my knee swelled up again.

Ew.

Plus, then it was Christmas.

And then it was New Year’s.

Suddenly it’s January.

This past Monday, the 12th of January, I started again.

Back to Week 1 I go. I plan to do two weeks of each pattern again, but make up my own pattern for Week 3 wherein I run for 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute, to see if that helps me get past whatever wall that has kept me from progressing.

Monday was a good day, and in 31 minutes, I covered a distance of 1.728 miles. Wednesday was the same. As I have been upping my speed as I go along, I am now walking at 3.2 mph and running at 3.8 mph.

To review, I am now walking at the speed I was running the very first time I did this.

I’m telling you all of this because it very well illustrates The Way of the POTSie.

If I were to look at this whole thing- the past 14 weeks- the way that 90% of the population does, I would not see any progress. The Cto5K program is designed to take 9 weeks. Logic would say that I failed, because 14 weeks later I am still not past Week 3. It would be easy for anyone to say I didn’t do it “right” or that I didn’t make any progress or point out that I had to restart the whole thing 3 times, like that was a bad thing.

What a POTSie sees is this:

~I restarted the program 3 times. That means that even though it was hard, I didn’t give up. The way I did it the first time didn’t work for me, so I tried again a different way. The second time didn’t work for me either, so I have a plan to make changes the third time.

~The first time I did Week 1, I walked at a speed of 2.6, ran at a speed of 3.2, and totaled a distance of 1.43 miles. The third time I did Week 2, I walked at a speed of 3.2, ran at a speed of 3.8, and totaled a distance of 1.728 miles. The podcast didn’t change. I did.

~My first mile took 24 minutes to complete. My mile yesterday? 17 minutes and 50 seconds. That’s a 6 minute difference, friends.

BAM!

Progress.

Sometimes it helps to sit down and spell it all out.

Sometimes that’s the only way you can see your own progress.

If you use the measuring stick of the 90% (really, a made up percentage-but it sounds about right so let’s go with it…), you might find yourself lacking. You will probably get discouraged. It will totally bum you out that your progress is not obvious and neon-bright like “everyone else’s.”

When it comes down to it though, when you measure yourself the only way that matters- the you You are today versus the you You were yesterday- there is so much progress there.

Right now, I am measuring my progress on the treadmill; I’m measure my capacity to exercise in this way.

Another measure of my own progress is “What was I measuring this time last year?”

In January 2014, my goal was to get dressed in real clothes every day. Not clean(er) PJ’s, not sweatpants, but actual, Sigourney Weaver-approved (running joke, see: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/07/30/that-time-i-let-sigourney-weaver-tell-me-what-to-do/ ), honest to goodness clothes. I measured things like “I washed my hair today when I didn’t yesterday” and “I wore shoes for 6 hours instead of slippers.”

Yep, that was what I was doing, really and truly.

It’s weird to think about now, because even just one year ago feels so far away.

A lot can happen in a year.

I encourage you to keep track of your own progress, Chronics.

What is your challenge, your hurdle, the thing you are working on or towards?

Measure yourself against yourself. It’s the only comparison that matters.

I would love to hear from you, Chronic friends! Leave a comment below and be sure to LIKE my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell