Monday, October 26, 2009

Dos and Don'ts of a Successful Fitness Plan

I am just starting to feel good enough to hit the gym again so as I was reminding myself what to do, I thought I would just go ahead and post some do's and don'ts. I realize that not everyone with RA is able to exercise, I have only worked out hit and miss since January, but if you are able to and thinking about starting an exercise program, here are some helpful tips.

Starting a fitness program doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Once you’ve committed to working out, there are some things you can do to ensure you’ll exceed your short and long term fitness goals. There are also a few things you should avoid at all costs to ensure you stay on the path to fitness and wellness.

Write down your fitness goals. You’re more likely to stick with a program once you have set some specific goals.
Always strive to eat a well balanced diet that includes ample servings of vegetables and fruit.
Break down your meals so you are eating several mini meals per day.
Assess your current fitness level before starting an exercise program. By doing so, you’ll be able to establish goals that meet your specific fitness needs.
Consider talking with your health care provider before embarking on a fitness program, particularly if you are struggling with a health condition such as diabetes or obesity.
Supplement your diet with essential fatty acids. You can do this by eating two servings of fish per week.
Choose alternatives to satisfy your cravings when possible. Consider frozen fruit over ice cream or opt for a mini chocolate instead of the whole candy bar.
Always stretch before and after your exercise routine.
Don’t overdo it! Try doing too much at once and you’ll burn out swiftly. Slowly increase the intensity of your workouts.
Diversify your workout routine. If you do the same exercises day after day, you’ll quickly tire and are more likely to skip workouts.
Work out with a friend. You’ll help motivate each other.
Keep healthy snacks available at all times. You’re less likely to grab junk food if something good for you is readily available.
Weigh yourself once a week, if possible monitor your BP and pulse weekly also.
Over-train. Your body needs time to recover in between workouts.
Skip breakfast. Eating breakfast will jump start your metabolism and provide you with the energy you need to get through the day.
Skip stretching.
Skimp on sleep.
Set unrealistic goals. A healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. If you have 50 pounds to lose, don’t expect it to come off overnight, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.
Compare your successes and failures to others. Everyone is unique, and what works for some may not work for others.
Work out randomly. Work out regularly to maximize the benefits you’ll reap from a consistent fitness routine.
Give up. Consider talking with a friend in times of discouragement.
Forget to reward yourself on occasion.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


We all know the importance of having good friends. I'm not talking about the people you work with and enjoy their company at work, but never do anything together outside of work. I'm talking about the "long term best friend, the get up in the middle of the night and bail your butt out of jail" friendship that most of us have with one of two of our closest friends. Friendship isn't easy, making a good friend is sort of like getting to select a new family member. Friendship also comes with a degree of risk and responsibility. Friends aren't always forever. I have had many friends that come and go, many I have tried to keep in contact with, but over the years the contact just breaks down.

Suffering from a disease like we have where you appear to be alright can be hard on friendships. Friends often want you to go somewhere with them and if you tell them that you are hurting or just too tired to go anywhere, you often get "the look". And one of my favorites is how RA can move from one body part to another. Some have called me on it, "I thought it was your right shoulder that hurt yesterday?" It did but today my hip is hurting. That's ok, who needs doubters as friends anyway. Give me one real friend rather than 10 friends who doubt you or talk about you when you're not around.

I have two of the best friends that anyone could ever ask for. Mike, Randall and I have been riding and racing together for about 33 years now. I met Mike by chance, one crisp spring morning, just outside of Fayetteville. I was going riding and passed him sitting on the side of the road with his bike in the back of his truck. He had just moved here from Kansas and didn't know anyone that rode here. Mike followed me out to the woods and we have been riding together ever since. Randall and I actually met through our ex-wives. We had seen each other around town, usually with a dirt bike in the back of our truck, but our ex wives had a class together at college and introduced us. We hit it off and, like Mike, have been riding together ever since. I just got off of the phone with Randall this afternoon. We have a long dual sport ride planned for Tuesday and I just called and left a message for Mike. No answer yet, Mike has had bike problems so we don't even know if his bike is back together yet. But one thing is for sure, if it is and he can get the day off ... he will be down here Tuesday morning.

Just for the record, I've never seen the inside of a jail cell, but I am assuming that Mike or Randall would be there if I needed them. We've been there for each other for various needs, help and support over the last 30 years.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good News, Orencia Is Working

Good News. The Orencia is working. Bad news, we continue to be pummeled by rain and storms. We actually had 3 days without rain from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday mid morning. It was wonderful to see the sun and experience normal fall conditions for those 3 days. Sunday and Monday night I felt really good at work with minimal pain for a couple of rough nights on the press. I am now convinced that, if our weather pattern will return back to normal, the Orencia will help me. I even felt good enough to workout with weights yesterday before going back to work and am going to do some cardio tonight. It has been a while since I have felt up to a good hard workout and I have missed being able to hit the gym. I am proceeding cautiously with the gym, don't want to overdo it right away, but boy did it feel good to work the muscles a little bit!

I went in for my 3rd Orencia infusion today and am feeling good right now, despite the rain. The nurse that does the normal infusions was out today and the backup infusion nurse missed my vein the first time. No big deal. Then she missed the second time. OK, no big deal, lets just get it in this nest time. Nope. Change arms, Nope. The sixth time we finally see blood (no not hers) and everything went smoothly after that.

More Good News. I have a new job bid where I work. I am training to run the front end of the press. There is a lot more thinking involved with registering the colors on the jobs, QC checks, dye stains for coating, ink viscosity checks, etc, but it is far less physical than the job I have done for the last 7 years. I just hope I'm smart enough to do the job. The bad side is that I am training on days and after working 9 years of nights, I can not sleep longer than 3-4 hours at night. You would think that if you are dog tired that it would be no problem sleeping. Guess I'm just weird, I have no problem falling asleep ... but at 2-3 am, I am wide awake and can not go back to sleep.

More Good News Part 3. We are planning a good long dual sport ride for Tuesday. Randall and I are going to ride, or attempt to ride, a new loop that we think we can make in one day. It is 200+ miles and we believe that we can make it between gas stations if we ride conservatively enough. I am reminded of one of my favorite old sayings, "Bad Decisions Make Good Stories".

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What if Lance Armstrong had RA

What would Lance Armstrong have done if he had been diagnosed with RA? We all know Lance's strength in surviving cancer, becoming a role model and spokesman for cancer research and support as well as winning the Tour de France a record breaking seven times after beating cancer. Lance has inspired countless cancer patients into getting back up and getting on with their lives. But what would Lance have been able to do had he been diagnosed with our disease? My guess is he would not have hung his bicycle up in the garage and settled on looking backward at what he had accomplished. I also doubt that he would have won seven tours, but what an impressive spokesman we would have had. I'm not wishing RA on anyone, including Lance, just sitting here wondering what might have happened for the RA community had this dynamic athlete shared our disease.

Little known fact about me: Mike and I started riding road bikes in 1985 for a good cardio workout to improve our endurance for motorcycle racing. We were soon putting in 35-60 mile rides and were hooked. Before long, we both bought Cannondale bicycles and soon we were riding centuries (100 mile organized bicycle rides). We were also into mountain bikes as well, just a natural progression from racing dirt bikes to riding mountain bikes in the woods. I have been a huge Lance fan since around 91-92 when he won the US Amateur Championship and went to the 92 Summer Olympics.

Lance is the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and support.
He won the Tour de France a record-breaking seven consecutive years, from 1999 to 2005. He is the only person to win the Tour seven times.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Stormy Day

It's been a crazy week for me, I have worked 12 hours 5 days in a row, tonight is my first night off and we are on the edge of a major storm moving through ... in the fall. It is October and, at 10 pm, the temperature is still 85 with 70% humidity. It feels more like a stormy spring night, not fall.

My daughter lives 80 miles north of us and as the cold front hit them about 7:30 this evening, it dropped a small tornado. No damage to speak of but she had stopped at Arby's on her way to buy some rain boots (she walks long distance's at college) and the tornado sirens started going off. She hurriedly called me to ask if I could tell her what was going on with the weather. I had just walked into Best Buy, so I quickly walked over to the computers and found one that was online. I pulled up the weather and plugged in her zip and sure enough they had a tornado warning out. I put the radar into motion and the leading edge of the storm was not quite to Fayetteville so I told her to stay put. About that time the manager of Arby's locked the front doors and asked all of the customers and employees to come into the cooler for safety from the storm. We sent text messages back and forth as I was borrowing the internet from Best Buy to keep her and the Arby's crew updated on the storm. All turned out alright, but it was a scary moment for my daughter as well as a scary moment for me. It is difficult as a parent knowing there is nothing you can do as danger approaches your child and you are 80 miles away.

As I was typing this blog, the wind just blew one of our large rocking chairs off of the front porch, so I guess I will go watch the approaching storm for myself now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back to Hurting

I have been feeling better and was encouraged after the switch from Enbrel to Orencia. My rheumatologist told me to give the Orencia six weeks to see an improvement and that in three months that I should see what it can do for me. I'm rather impatient, especially when it comes to pain, but after my second Orencia infusion, my feet and hands were not hurting as badly as they had been. Then Saturday night it started raining and we have had storms move through the last two days. I have been back to hurting, especially at work, climbing up and down the stairs on the press that I work on.

I am not giving hope in the Orencia, but I am disappointed that I am back to hurting so quickly with a couple of days of rain and storms moving through. I know it is too early to tell, but I was hoping that it was already working for me. I go in for my third infusion Thursday, then I will be on a once a month infusion schedule.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Been A Good Week

I am noticing a difference in my RA after having taken two Orencia infusions. I am feeling better and less fatigued. I have felt like doing more, but am cautious until I find out that it is the new medicine working and not just a coincidence that I am better. I go in for my third Orencia infusion this Thursday, 10/8.

I have spent this week cleaning my garage out. I will admit it up front, I am a pack rat. I have owned 27 motorcycles since I was 12. I had parts to probably 26 of those still in my garage. I could tell you what the part was but had absolutely no idea what bike some of the parts came off of. Now here's an even scarier part ... some of the parts I did remember, I could remember were no good. I was just hanging onto them in case I needed to make a part out of two "no good" parts. Don't laugh, I am serious. I finally got to the point that I couldn't hang good parts (for the two bikes that I currently own) on my pegboard (I like to have normal wear items on hand in my garage) or in my "parts" tool cabinet. I have made two trips to the dump and I'm still not finished.

Friday night my cousin brought his son, Kaid, down to spend the night with me and go ride Saturday. Scott asked me to show Kaid a few things about taking care of his dirt bike. I made a "cheat sheet" for Kaid, detailing step by step what to do before and after each ride. I also made a maintenance log for him to track when he does things to his bike. Kaid was very attentive and wanted to learn, so I walked him through, actually making him do most of the work. They have had the bike for him a year and never even cleaned the air filter yet, so it was in dire need of some maintenance. We ordered some pizza, worked on his bike til 11:00 pm then came in and watched Nitro Circus Trillbillies Double Wide. It is one of Travis Pastrana's best video's yet, but don't expect to find it at Blockbuster. These guys are pure adrenaline junkies and even if you don't like dirt bikes, you will find something on the DVD you will like. There's everything from back flips and hydroplaning dirt bikes, to rally cars, monster trucks, zip lines, base jumping and even Travis doing a back flip on a child's big wheel (oh and the asphalt downhill race on big wheels was cool too).

We woke up at the crack of 9, loaded the bikes and headed out for the woods. We had a good 75 mile dual sport ride that consisted mostly of dirt road with just a bit of asphalt and single track trail. This was the first weekend of bow season, so we preferred to not be shot at and stuck to riding the roads yesterday. Kaid was getting hungry about an hour into the ride so I changed up what I had planned to ride, and made a loop over to Haw Creek, stopped, grabbed a cheeseburger and headed back a different way. We dropped off down in the bottoms and rode across a couple of one lane, low water bridges. It has been a crazy year here and for this time of the year, the creeks still have an unbelievable amount of water in them. As we were loading up, Kaid came over and gave me a hug and said "thank you, I had a really great time". I told Kaid that the next time we do this, we will drink some whiskey and shoot at the neighbor's cats*. He grinned real big and said ok, to which my cousin Scott replied, "that sounds like fun, if you're going to do that, I'll stay and spend the night with you guys".

* Legal Disclaimer (sort of): The owner of this blog would like to note that no cats will be harmed should Kaid come down again.