Make Your Health A Priority

Over the course of my adult life, healthy eating habits, weight loss, exercise and wellness in general have not come naturally – or even easy at times – to me. I’ve had to work hard to run, to lift, to eat fruits and vegetables, hydrate my body and even take care of my health. Running is not easy for me, nor will it ever be, however, the challenge of running and physical activity is also what makes it appealing to me. In 2009, my health reached an all-time record of poorer than it had ever been, and my weight reached an all-time record of higher than it had ever been. I was miserable, I was unhealthy and I didn’t like myself very much. For me, whether or not I like myself, has always been tied to my physical appearance so when I gained weight, my opinion of myself plummeted. Nothing really significant changed in my eyes other than I stopped walking around campus after I graduated and landed a high-stress job soon after that was more conducive to hitting the drive-through than packing a healthier option.  I committed to running a half marathon after hearing I was at high-risk for diabetes. Go big or go home, right? I trained for five months, crossed the finish line and entered a world of racing that took me on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I raced, made friends that have lasted a lifetime, overcame obstacles I never thought I could (like loving myself again), reduced my health risks and even lost nearly 70 pounds in the process.

Everything abruptly stopped for me after I unexpectedly lost my mother just two years later. Mom was my biggest cheerleader – in running and in life. She inspired me and many others to get healthy and fit and to stay that way. At 61 years old, she was for the first time in her life training to run a quarter marathon, right up to the day she died, in fact. When I lost her, my grief consumed me.  I stopped running as much and started eating a few more things that I didn’t eat before. I didn’t lose all control, though, and tried to keep up with my training through coaching other runners. When I had an equally unexpected blood clot in my calf travel to my lung a year after Mom’s death, it was game over for me in terms of fitness and health. I lost all control – although unwillingly this time. I physically, emotionally and mentally could not do anything to take care of myself. Just surviving the injuries my body sustained was all I could do – and I was barely doing that.

Now, over two years into my recovery period, I am ready to begin again. While I still carry the emotional wounds of what happened to me, physically I am ready to start taking care of myself again. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun – and I face a whole new set of challenges this time because of my health – but, I know it is time to put this body back in motion.

I don’t yet know if running will be my activity of choice. I have a lot of painful memories associated with it that I’m not able to process, yet, but I know it has to be something. Maybe walking or cycling or more hiking. I won’t be going big this time – but I will be going.

Getting into a regular health and fitness routine is difficult – whether you are just starting out or starting over. Whether you’re making your health a priority for the first time or 18th time, fitness, health and wellness require hard work, determination, change and even discomfort. More often than not, it’s hard to get healthy!

Going into 2015, it is my goal to put my health first – again. I believe anyone can do it too. Because I did it and if I did it, so can you. And, guess what? You can take small steps to get there. Small steps add up to something when it comes to your health. If there is one thing I have learned over the past several years it is if you lose your health, you have lost everything. If you have your health, then you have everything.

Here are some simple steps to make your health a priority this year:

Sara

Be heard and get screened. Make regular doctor’s appointments and go to them. A lot of health problems can not only be found, but solved early on. As questions, be the one in control of your own health. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, take the initiative to take care of you.

Listen to your body. I didn’t listen to mine and I almost wasn’t there to talk about it. One day I went for a two mile run, and the next day I was in Intensive Care without any knowledge of if I would ever come out. I had a pain in my calf that I thought was a pulled muscle, which was actually a blood clot that traveled from my leg, through my heart and lodged in my left lung, becoming life-threatening. I was having trouble breathing and I could barely walk, but I ignored what was swiftly becoming a problem.

Love your heart. This is where even small changes yield big results. Eat right (you know how – fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, less sugar and less processed foods, drink plenty of water and move more everyday.

Educate yourself and be safe. Facing a chronic and lifelong illness, I have become very conscious about my health. If you’re facing any challenged whether it be recovering from foot surgery or fighting cancer, know your risks and know what medications you are putting in your body. Again, ask questions. You are your best advocate!

Tell me about you. How are you going to make your health a priority in 2015?

Until the next mile marker,

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Thank you to the American Recall Center for providing this Infographic and the opportunity to include my own insight. Connect with ARC on Facebook today.

Starting 2015 Off on the Right Foot – Tiux Compression Giveaway!

tiux compression giveaway

I always knew compression was an important part of recovery for runners and athletes, but before suffer from a blood clot in 2012, I didn’t realize how important compression wear would actually become for me. Not only do I wear it anytime I exercise – even going for a walk since my clotting incident, but compression socks have become a permanent part of my wardrobe. I was recently fitted for medical compression stockings (which, are very expensive) and the specialist told me more and more people are wearing compression sans exercise, for example, if they sit at a desk or stand all day. Blood clots are an increasingly scary and deadly risk. And according to the National Blood Clot Alliance, blood clots are killing around 274 Americans each day if they travel to the heart, lungs (as in my case) or brain. That could have been me. After surviving my ordeal, I am happy to wear compression as a preventative measure.

When I was contacted by Tiux Compression socks, I was immediately interested – Premium socks, cool colors, free shipping, comfort design – all for just $35. That’s right $35. It sounds too good to be true, right? Here’s how they do it:

tiux graphic

I wanted to give Tiux a try (I’ll admit, I’m a fan of CEP for sports compression and wear my boring skin-colored medical stockings daily) when my doctor decreased my compression requirement to graduated compression 20-25 mmHg to increase blood circulation in my legs. Tiux fits that requirement for me, and I was ecstatic when these showed up in the mail:

tiux compression

I was not disappointed! First and foremost, they fit on my already swollen legs without constricting them to the point of being uncomfortable. I wore these socks all day for multiple days without being uncomfortable. The padded footbed provides cushion and shock absorption, a seamless toe for maximum comfort and breathable mesh instep to keep your feet cool and dry. Plus they are constructed out of technical fabrics for superior moisture management and breathability. You can tell Tiux means quality immediately by the plush and comfortable feel of the socks. Plus, I can wear them with leggings and not look ridiculous:

tiux compression with leggings

That is not all Tiux offers. Compression is important to athletes to help recover faster and improve muscle repair with increased blood circulation and prevent blood pooling in the feet, among other things. I wore these after a two-mile walk around the Zoo to see Christmas lights and didn’t notice any discomfort, especially in the bottom of my feet, which has become common since my blood clot. And at $35 a pair, I can make Tiux a wardrobe – and fitness – staple. Be sure to read all the benefits of Tiux here.

Would you like to try Tiux Compression for yourself? Well you can! Tiux is gracious enough to have a pair of compression socks for one of my readers – so you can kick of 2015 on the right foot! Enter the Tiux Compression Giveaway here:

Tiux Performance Compression Socks Giveaway – Words to Run By

The Giveaway ends on January 07, 2015. Can’t wait? Order here now! Be sure to connect with Tiux on Twitter and Facebook and share this giveaway too.

I am committed to Tiux Compression and doing something that is beneficial to my health is not something I take lightly so give Tiux a try.

Happy New Year and may you have nothing but a healthy 2015!

Tell me about you. Do you wear compression as part of your athletic recovery? Will you give Tiux a try or have you? What are your big plans for the upcoming year?

Until the next mile marker,

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Running through a Blood Clot

My struggle in recovering from a blood clot has not been easy and since almost losing my life two years ago due to one in my lung, getting back to running has been a long and difficult struggle. I have not run more than a handful of times since then, and I often find myself feeling guilty for not getting back to training or not trying to run “like I should.” In recent weeks, I have struggled with feeling like I “should be” running and that has been burdensome to my recovery further. While I do consider myself physically recovered now – just out of shape – I still deal with the mental and emotional challenges of facing a devastating and lifelong illness on a regular basis. While I have built a network to help others struggling through the same challenges I have faced, in terms of fitness and running, I feel very isolated. It is not very often I run across someone in the fitness sphere who understands what I have been through. 

That all changed when I was contacted by fellow survivor – and first-time marathoner-in-training – Sam DeBrule. He asked to share his story with me and my readers, and I agreed. His story has made an impact on me in ways far beyond what I can articulate right now. Meet Sam.

In his own words, this is his story….

Running through a Blood Clot by Sam DeBrule

I was diagnosed with two blood clots before I turned 18 years old. This first, in my right calf, happened when I was 15 and still causes me discomfort to this day.

My father was diagnosed with two blood clots and a pulmonary embolism [Editors Note: A pulmonary embolism or PE is a blood clot in the lung, commonly life threatening] before his 40th birthday. My mom was diagnosed with a blood clot just a few weeks ago. No doctor or specialist has ever been able to determine what causes them in us. It used to drive me crazy that we never tested positive for any of the common (or uncommon) clotting factors.

But, I don’t care what the cause is anymore to be completely honest. I’ve decided after eight years to stop being a victim. I’m learning now how to start running through a blood clot towards my recovery.

Here are the two main things I’ve experienced in my journey so far. I hope they can help you if you are recovering, or know someone who is recovering, from a blood blot.

A renewed perspective

I began training for a marathon a few days ago, and I hate running. So why am I doing it?

Because I know that I can. I survived a disease that kills one American every five minutes. If that doesn’t put things into perspective for you, I don’t know what will! Surviving a blood clot is no small task; you’ve done something incredible.

There is no need to view that experience of your life as wholly negative one. Instead, use it as an internal motivator that drives you to accomplish great things.

If you’re anything like me, being diagnosed with a blood clot made you painfully aware that you are, in fact, mortal. You don’t have 1,000 years to accomplish every single thing you’ve ever wanted. So why not make the most of today and every other day from this point forward? Prove to yourself that you are capable of doing even greater things than surviving a deadly disease.

For me, it will be running a marathon, for you, it could be something completely different.

The mental recovery is most difficult

The physical pain of a blood clot is no fun. At all.

But, even worse than the physical pain, is recovering mentally from a traumatic experience. When I was 15 years old, I was devastated to hear the news I could never play football again. Everything about my identity up to that point in my life was tied to the sport. I let it gnaw at me for years, but I am finally realizing it was a blessing in disguise.

Will you let a blood clot defeat you? Will you let it make you more risk-averse and afraid to do the things you love? Don’t.

I’ve worn a medical necklace for the last eight years that alerts people that I’m taking Coumadin [Editor’s Note: Coumadin a blood thinner, carrying inherent bleeding risks if injured]. Don’t tell my doctor (or my mom), but I took it off the other day. It will never go back on. I realized that it was simply a constant reminder that I was “sick.”

I’m not recommending that you do the same, but be aware of the things in your life that feed you negative reminders of the blood you or a family member have.

If they aren’t doing anything positive for you, get rid of them.

Good luck on your journey, and I hope you wish me luck on mine!

Thank you, Sam, for sharing your story with Words to Run By. Catch up with Sam at his blog, Compression Hub, where he seeks to help others combat a sedentary lifestyle and the dangers that come with it, including blood clots, through talking about healthy living and running. Also, connect with him on Twitter @CompressionHub or @SamDeBrule
 

It’s been Two Years.

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I am two years into my recovery from a DVT and subsequent massive PE that occurred in early June 2012. The incident left me reeling – not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

It is difficult to explain what this recovery was like. It was not like taking six, eight or even 12 weeks off for a stress fracture or shoulder surgery. It’s not like having the flu or bronchitis or pneumonia that just won’t go away. It’s not like fighting an infection or a nagging running injury. No matter how much you think it might be, it’s just not. What it is like (so I’ve been told via comparison) is going through chemotherapy, recovering from a heart attack or learning to live again after a stroke. Cancer. Heart Attack. Stroke. Blood Clots. Except recognition of the last one comes far less often than the predecessors.

Public awareness of the signs, symptoms, risk factors and effects of blood clots are are not widely known, both is the public and medical sectors. Yet, blood clots kill an estimated 300,000 Americans each year (source), which is more lives than those claimed by AIDS, car accidents and breast cancer combined. Blood clots are also the leading cause of preventable hospital deaths. Every six minutes someone in this country will die of a PE, or blood clot in the lung. The lifelong effects of a DVT, or blood clot in the leg, can be devastating and far-reaching ranging from constant pain and swelling to skin ulcers physically and PTSD emotionally. Often, a diagnosis of a DVT or PE is a result of an underlying condition, sometimes previously unknown, such as hereditary or autoimmune clotting factors, lupus or cancer. Sometimes, the diagnoses of a DVT or PE comes as a result of pregnancy, sitting for long periods, smoking or weight gain. Sometimes, the diagnosis of DVT or PE comes out of the blue. Blood clots can happen to anyone, of any size and physical ability, at any age.

At my two-year follow-up, my hematologist stopped what he was doing and said to me, “You look like I imagine you did before this happened to you. I didn’t know you then, but I imagine this is more of the real you.” He was silent for a moment and then continued, “I just don’t see many people come back from as ill as you were. You’re really lucky to be here.”

Two years post-PE, I would agree that I am physically recovered from what happened to me. I can breathe without oxygen, walk without assistance and get out of bed every day. While I am not back to running yet, I feel like I could start exercising to the best of my ability again. Before this time, the desire to even try was gone. To say I am “healed” is another story. I will constantly need to have my blood monitored via intravenous draw (weekly to monthly) to monitor my blood clotting levels due to the disease that caused them to go awry in the first place; manage medication; deal with continuous pain and swelling in my affected leg, chronic fatigue and constantly be under the watchful eye of specialists for diseases like Lupus, mixed connective tissue disorder and rheumatoid arthritis, not to mention another clotting incident. I know running saved me physically. I believe training for long distances and being healthy before this happened is what helped my body physically overcome what is the worst thing to have ever happened to it.

Two years post-PE I would agree that I am very much in the middle of recovering from the emotional and psychological trauma of DVT and PE. I am nowhere near recovered from that – and I don’t yet anticipate when I will be.

Talking about what happened to me and advocating for increased blood clot awareness has become a primary focus in my life. I find that most people do not know what a DVT and/or PE is and if they do, they do not think it is something that could ever happen to them. I find that the athletic and health communities in particular – communities that I am still very much engaged in – are particularly unaware of the dangers associated with blood clots. Perhaps most frightening is that people just do not know what the symptoms of these conditions are, more proof that we need more awareness. I am grateful to have recently had the opportunity to share my story and awareness efforts in an interview with Everyday Health as part of my ongoing efforts. Please read and share!

While I have come so far in my recovery, I have some distance to go, but I know there is hope for the future. Hope that I will continue to recover and hope that the world will get out about blood clots, their symptoms and their devastating, often deadly effects. And, while I will always face the burden of health and an uncertain future in terms of it, I know I also have much to be grateful for. I am one of the lucky ones who survived.

Tell me about you. What has been the toughest recovery period of your life? How have you overcome physical struggles? Mental struggles? Did you previously know about DVT and PE?

Until the next mile marker,

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More on Me

It’s been awhile since I have posted, I know. Life gets in the way, posting becomes infrequent and finding a time to write becomes more and more difficult and farther down on the list of things To Do. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say and it’s not that nothing has been going on.  In fact, it’s times like this I wish I was better organized and had my content planned out better, but I also believe there is something to be said for writing from the heart and that is what this is. Here’s more on me – writing, remembering and [not really] running.

…On Writing

You won’t know it just by looking, but Words to Run By got a makeover thanks to Ryan and his team over at WP Site Care (check them out, they are rolling out some new features right now). If you are new to blogging or have no idea how to start using (or no idea how to use) WordPress, Ryan can help you. Words to Run By is now hosted at SiteGround, and I have high hopes that this is a beneficial and hopefully long-lasting transition to a permanent home for this site’s needs. Previously, I was hosted with Dreamhost since I made the move to self-hosted WordPress (best move ever by the way!) about two years ago; and while Dreamhost was great for a beginning blog and offered phenomenal pricing, I was really feeling like they could no longer meet the demands of my websites without a steadily rising cost. I also noticed the customer service started to diminish over the last several months (as my problems seemed to increase). Dreamhost was a great place for me to start, but I needed to move on as my site has continued to grow. Lesson learned? Do your hosting research ahead of time. While Ryan and the team at WP Site Care moved my website and ensured a solid hosting foundation over at SiteGround with no hassle to me, it does cost money to have your website(s) moved and it was not without a whole lot of worrying (okay, I might have panicked a time or two, sorry, Ryan) for me.

With SiteGround, I hope to deliver more up-time, faster page loading times and a friendlier user experience all-around. Behind the scenes I am looking forward to 24/7 live technical support if I need it, increased site speed and especially enhanced site security. I am to get back to the business of blogging without having to worry about my hosting provider anymore.

…On Remembering

April 21 marked the third year since my mother passed away. On one hand, I can’t believe it has only been that long since I saw her, talked to her, hugged her or ran with her. On the other hand, it seems like an entire lifetime since I saw her, talked to her, hugged her or ran with her.

Losing my mom does not get any easier. It just gets different. The pain I feel today is not the same pain as I felt the day it happened, the weeks or months since that day or even the anniversary of her passing last year. There have been so many times I have wanted to talk to her, to ask her something or tell her something. I’ve missed her advice, her shoulder to cry on and her undeniable support of me and my endeavors. While I don’t pick up the phone to call her anymore and her face is no longer in my phone, I think of her in different ways or at different times. When I am shopping and see something she would like or when the sun is shining and I know she would be out enjoying the weather, the first in our family to wear shorts in the spring.  I think of her when I eat strawberries because she loved them, when I write a new post because she was the first to read it and when I cry because she never told me not to.

My heart will never be the same and I’ve come to realize, maybe it isn’t supposed to be. I just hope I can convey the love she had for me through the love I have to share with others and in that way, a piece of her love will always live on.

…On [Not really] Running

I can’t remember the last time I ran. The need that I used to feel to run, just isn’t there since the blood clot nearly two years ago. That brings great concern for me as the writer of a blog called Words to Run By. I love blogging, I love writing, and I used to love running just as much, but it’s been hard for me to feel that love again. Running is tied to things that make me very sad – losing my mother, nearly losing my own life and having my self-confidence shattered to the core as it has never been in the past. It is harder and harder for me to remember the positive memories and things that running has brought to me life. It is strange to me the things I associate with running and the things that I don’t. Right now the negative associations far outweigh the positive and that is something that I hope will only take time to work through.

On a more positive note, I can see through it. I can see myself getting past the pain I feel when it comes to lacing up my shoes, but I don’t know how to do that just yet. For starters, I am getting out and walking with my dogs and my husband at least twice a week. Compared to training, this feels like nothing, but I can’t discount that. I’ve fought too hard to even get to where I am today. The truth is? I am walking when I can. I am trying to be smarter about what I eat. I am conscious of the changes I need to make to ensure a healthy lifestyle (if the weight comes off, then it does; but it is no longer my sole motivator for diet and exercise). Sometimes I think the universe had a grand design to encourage me to take a break from running and maybe this is all part of that break. Only time will tell. I know there is a future for me in running again and I am hoping in time I will see it. Until that time, I’m hanging on and don’t have any plans to pack up and move out of blogland.

Tell me about you. What have you been up to for the last few weeks? Have you written a fantastic post I need to read? Have you celebrated a life event or the memory of one? Have you run a race or are you preparing for a race? Do you get in a blogging rut or run out of time to post? Tell me in the comments!

Until the next mile marker,

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