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Stapedotomy surgery improved my hearing and ability to focus

Losing my hearing didn’t happen overnight – it’s like the volume was turned down gradually over the years.  Humans are incredibly adaptable and will find ways to deal with most situations. I was always too busy and too ready to dismiss hearing problems as something that came and went with allergy season and the occasional ear infection. The inevitable result was a loss of hearing that was slowly getting worse. It reached a point where I couldn’t hear what people were saying unless they were facing me. Add a little ambient noise to the room and I would have to lip-read to understand what was being said. Depending on the seriousness of the conversation, I would occasionally fake a smile or nod knowingly if I missed something rather than embarrass myself by asking for a repeat.

I finally made the decision to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Jane Lea. After a thorough examination and hearing test, she diagnosed me with otosclerosis, a genetic disorder that occurs when one of the bones in the middle ear, the staples, becomes stuck. In that state it is unable to vibrate, rendering sound unable to travel through the ear. If you think getting diagnosed with otosclerosis is a bad thing, think again. This was fantastic news because the condition was treatable.

At the time, I was speechless. I didn’t want to admit to having a hearing issue which I considered to be a nuisance. I had not allowed my diminishing hearing to direct me to a conclusion of having a health issue that needed to be dealt with. I actually believed myself to be in perfectly good health. Later, I researched Stats Canada to learn that more than one million adults across the country reported having a hearing-related disability, a number more than 50 percent greater than the number of people reporting problems with their eyesight. Other studies indicate that the true number may reach three million or more Canadian adults, as those suffering from hearing problems often under-report their condition, myself included.

To repair my hearing loss, Dr. Lea gave me two options, which were either get a hearing aid which was the safest, non-invasive route – or have laser stapedotomy surgery which included a negligible (two percent) risk of losing my hearing. I wouldn’t be able to have my hearing returned if the operation was unsuccessful. I was unsure about the ear surgery as I didn’t want to lose what I had left. After thinking about it for a few weeks, I decided to go for the surgery. I confess to being nervous right up to the surgery date because I really couldn’t imagine how my hearing was going to be almost magically restored. Yet Dr. Lea was confident it was my best option and there was a high success rate with this type of operation.

The day of the operation I was nervous because surgery of any kind was foreign to me. I was thinking, “What if the anesthetic doesn’t work and I’m still awake? Should I tell them?” And, “Are all those tools on the tray for me?” And of course, “You will remember to wake me up when it’s time, won’t you?”

The staff at St. Paul’s Hospital was amazing. Before going under, the nurse had a calming effect as she held my hand. When I woke up Dr. Lea was smiling and I could hear better already. What a feeling. The sounds were beautiful and no words could describe the feeling.

Even though you go in expecting the best result, it was still such a relief to learn everything went exactly as planned. There would be no more coping or struggling to hear.

When I came home that same day, I could hear my feet hit the floor for the first time in about two years. It was surreal. I could hear so well that my ear would ring. It spooked me at times being able to hear so perfectly. It was going to take some getting used to. I couldn’t work out for a few weeks so when run day finally arrived I could hear my feet hit the ground. By not having to struggle with my hearing, all of my other senses seem sharper too. I’m more focused on every task than I ever remember being. My overall confidence is no longer an issue. The benefits of having the stapedotomy surgery will last a lifetime.

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @christineruns

Clear vision, stay in the game

Improving body and mind through working out takes dedication and time. It takes commitment to get your self in gear, speaking rhetorically and literally.  The running boom has spawned a multi-billion dollar shoe industry, whose experts will help you achieve your goals in comfort.  Our feet are taken care of but what about our eyes?  This is what Alcon DAILIES TOTAL1® contact lenses can do for your vision.  Having your eyes feeling  uncomfortable during a workout will steal your focus and drain your energy.  With high quality contacts lenses you can concentrate on the task at hand. Conversely, your focus at work or school will diminish if your eyes become dry from wearing contacts longer than normal, with no solution in sight (pun intended).
From a sunset walk along the beach, to having coffee with friends, to getting away for the weekend, there is much in life we take for granted.  You end up foregoing it all if you are battling a constant irritation of your eyes.  You may learn to cope, however, without regular eye exams which detect the onset of disease, as well as making you aware of the best eye care available, your eye health could be at risk.
There is a solution for the every-day contact wearer.  ALCON®DAILIES® are daily disposable lenses offering sharper vision.  They are the world’s first water gradient contact lens, meaning they’re designed to offer more comfort and breathability for longer.  They provide more than three hours of additional comfortable wear time per day, compared to their regular lenses.
Taking control of your vision will improve your confidence in everything you do. You will never have to quit a long run because a lens had become uncomfortable.  Athletes will apply the latest information on supplements, diet and training methods to give themselves an edge.   It’s just as important to get proper vision care, which could be a difference maker.
Are your eyes ‘performance ready’? It’s never too late to have an eye exam. It is Vision Health month in May, which is a national campaign to bring awareness to Canadians to get regular eye check ups.  According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, (CNIB) seventy-five per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated.  Preventive measures and early detection of eye disease significantly lowers your risk of vision loss. Keep your eyes healthy by getting a regular eye exam, eating healthy and exercising. You can protect your eyes from ultra violet damage by wearing sun glasses at work or at play.
Learn about some eye conditions such as presbyopia, which is a common eye condition that often occurs around age 40 due to a gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus on close objects, affecting nearly 1.7 billion people worldwide – a number expected to increase to 2.1 billion in the next five years.
 Alcon Multifocal lenses can treat presbyopia. There will be no squinting to read the menu or blurred vision while looking at your fitness gadget.  Accepting less than perfect vision is no longer necessary with the advanced eye care that is available.
Seeing the world up close and personal is now possible. Please visit your eye care practitioner for further information.
Twitter: @christineruns

Workout motivation: do, don’t ditch

So, the calendar has an intense workout or long run scheduled but the little devil on the shoulder is making a convincing case to do otherwise. That dilemma is a classic one – even for those fit-as-a-fiddle women who seem to have all their sh*it together. No one is without flaw when it comes to maintaining the perfect workout schedule.  All have dips in motivation, and have bailed on a yoga or gym session without good reason. I know l have days where it takes all I’ve got to not succumb to pressing play to another episode of Easy. For those days when the motivation is lacking, the below list will provide an extra dose of encouragement. Here’s what happens when I actually get in that workout:

Enjoy the rest of the day with feelings of confidence… not guilt.

When the to-do list calls for an intense spin class or sweat-inducing morning of barre, it can be easy to use the I-don’t-feel-like-it excuse and reschedule for tomorrow. Remember that this workout was scheduled by yours truly for a reason. Bite the bullet and… Just. Get. It. Done. I know that guilty feeling that lingers when cancelling a workout. Actually doing it means enjoying feelings of confidence instead.

Feeling sluggish? Look forward to a second wind right afterwards.

Oddly enough, it’s during those evenings when the energy levels feel low and those gym plans feel far-fetched that I end up with a second wind afterwards. Sitting at a desk all day can bring on extra lazy feelings by dinner time but remember that to spur the body into action is to give it a wake up; a much needed one. Enjoy that post-workout energy boost.

Know you’re more likely to be alert while working.

Those morning workout people will often say that setting the alarm for early a.m. hours means arriving to the office alert, happy and ready to go. If mornings at the office are often a slog, perhaps saying yes to even gentle exercise in the morning is a way to combat that and become more productive.

Fit people often have more energy in general.

Have that friend who somehow conquers her runs, yoga practice and dance classes during the week and STILL ends up rock climbing and playing ultimate frisbee on the weekends? Well she’s not actually some super-human freak of nature. Energy breeds energy. To stay on top of the workouts is to kiss lethargy goodbye. Go to the gym during the week and on the weekends, active plans won’t seem so lofty.

Accumulated workouts are an investment in future well-being.

The present-moment version of a person may not want to drop and do those sets of planks but guess what? The future self is the one who most benefits. Getting sweaty today means looking more trim and toned tomorrow. The biggest benefit of all though is creating a healthier, stronger mind and body.

It’s one of the easiest ways to get a mood upgrade.

If these tips have yet to inspire a new, revamped fitness routine, know that today’s workout is probably the quickest route to a better mood. Even a half hour on the treadmill is likely to turn a deflated mood around.

 

Getting race ready

No matter how well my training is going, there is still a seed of doubt about whether I’ll be able to do a personal best on that day. This is normal behavior I am told from my running friends, and it is basically for me to learn how to cope with the pre-run jitters.

The key is to think about all the hard training I have done, and how good I will feel crossing the line. A positive mindset and being prepared before race day will never let me down to perform well.

Here are my top 5 racing tips before I lace up my shoes:

1. Clothing/shoes

What helps settle my pre-race jitters is the night before I figure out what to wear. I dress for the weather conditions and wear moist wicking fabrics to keep me dry and comfortable. I also choose the shoes that are best for the distance I am doing. In addition, I bring an extra change of clothes, socks and comfortable shoes to change into afterwards.

Before lining up to the start I double knot my shoe laces to trip in the race which has almost happened once.

Two other items I bring are Vaseline and Bandaids.

To keep me warm before the start I wear a top that I don’t want and can discard  it when the gun goes off. 

2. Nutrition/Hydrate – The night before, I eat light- for example plain tomato sauce with pasta- I avoid anything too spicy and creamy sauces that will upset my stomach. Lunch is my last big meal before any race day. The morning of, I usually have oatmeal with brown sugar and fruit with milk. That is all I need before the run.

If it is a half marathon or a longer distance I will bring an energy bar and have it halfway through the race. Avoid eating too close to race start as this could lead to problems during the race.  Also, I also keep hydrated leading up to the race. Most big races have water and/or energy drink on the course.

3. Rest – I make sure to have a good  sleep the night before. The previous day to the race, I stay off my feet and relax to music.

4. Stretching- I stretch after my warm-up before the run and after the race. I also do a cool down afterwards. I stretch all of my muscle groups, including calves, quads, hamstrings, groins, I-T bands, arms, upper and lower back.

5. Start slow, finish strong works for me. I start slow and then I make up the time later.  While running I keep my shoulders low and relaxed and pump my arms, especially on the hill sections. Suggestion: have a realistic goal.  Write on a wrist band the times you are hoping to achieve at 5 kms, 10 kms, 15 kms and 20 kms. 

 I try to run my own race and don’t compare myself to others. This will keep me focused, relaxed – the end result I will be running smoothly.

 

Healthy eating tips to complement your workout

As a runner, following a proper program and eating healthy is the perfect recipe for optimum performance and life long running. When I started training for my first 10k, little did I know how important what and how much I was eating could hurt my training.

At the time, I wasn’t making good food choices or eating well balanced meals. I would also skip breakfast or not make the time to eat. This was a huge mistake as I was often depleted after a workout. I also felt low in energy before the workout. The end result my running had suffered and this unmotivated to run.

Taking some time off not from running, I instead looked carefully at my diet. I realized running 5 days per week my body needed more nourishment. Skipping breakfast wasn’t working and eating creamy sauces the night before a long training run had given me an upset stomach.

If I wanted to continue training and see the finish line I needed to change my eating habits.

After doing some research into how to properly fuel my body and seeking advice from a dietitian I began to change my eating habits.

Here are my top 5 healthy eating tips 101 that I still use today:

1. Eat breakfast on a regular basis

Having breakfast fuels my body. I have a lot more energy before the run. Here is what I have on a regular basis – oatmeal with a bit of milk, brown sugar and some fruit. Give yourself a couple of hours before running.

I enjoy having one cup of coffee before heading out the door. I would have though a glass of water to keep hydrated.

2. Make the time to eat – your body will love you

Sometimes it is hard to make the time to eat. If you don’t have the time, bring a snack with you. Snack bar or granola bar and a piece of fruit to get through the workout or afterwards depending how much time you can digest it.

3. Follow a proper meal plan – eat carbs, protein and unsaturated fats. Carbs like a bagel gives me a lot of energy and having pasta, plain sauce with no creamy sauce the night before a big run.

4. Avoid foods that will upset your stomach. If you are not sure try it before the race. I love yogurt but discovered having some before a run upsets my stomach.

5. Keep hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you and drink sips of water throughout the day. Suggested to drink at least 2 liters a day or 8 glasses of water a day.

After a hard effort in a race, my stomach cannot handle food. What I have is a sports drink instead which has electrolytes.

Listening to your body is the key to knowing what foods work for you. See a registered dietitian for advice or more information about following healthy eating for your training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners’ Health: Don’t let allergies hold you back

Spring is here and so is allergy season. There is good news however for allergy sufferers who run, as their condition may now be controlled and prevented if necessary steps are taken. After suffering for long enough, I decided to visit my doctor to learn which of many allergy medications would be the most suitable. I was diagnosed with rhinitis (hay fever) and was prescribed with Flonase (nasal spray) and Reactine,which are taken before the workout and have certainly helped to make my running experience more manageable.

Back in 2001 when I was living in South Korea, my sinuses had to be drained because of extremely high air pollution and more pollen than I could handle…not conducive to comfortable running.

It is difficult enough to run but to have hay fever on top of that makes your workout less enjoyable. So seeking tips as to how to go about diminishing symptoms was my goal during a phone interview with Dr. Jack Taunton, who was chief medical officer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Dr. Taunton stated” I discovered that certain regions across North America are harsher than others when it comes to allergies. The West Coast of British Columbia is a particularly troublesome place for allergy sufferers because of the vast amount of forested areas and voluminous species of plants and grasses.”

Dr. Taunton further alluded to some people being allergic to certain foods, such as strawberries, some vegetables, dust and pet dander that may trigger an allergic reaction, adding, “Some triathletes are even allergic to certain types of chlorine in the pool,” also showing that for some unlucky people there is no escape. He suggested seeing an allergist (specialist) when symptoms become difficult to manage and to isolate exactly what type of allergy you have.

To summarize, your allergies are caused by the environment or certain foods, according to Dr. Taunton, and the best we can do is try to manage the situation. So what can you do to enjoy your workouts more? “Try breathing more through your mouth,” says Dr. Taunton. Try running when the pollen counts are lowest (check the weather report), wear sunglasses to prevent itchy, watery eyes. Avoid running on trails or in parks at the most dangerous times (for your allergies). Before your workouts, take an antihistamine medication like Reactine. Nasal sprays and eye drops are often available by prescription only. Allergy shots may be the answer and it is also suggested that Green Tea may help provide relief. As already mentioned, however, the best idea is to visit your doctor first to find out if you do suffer from an allergy condition.

Twitter: @christineruns

Instagram – runwithit_christineblanchette

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‘The Vagina Coach’ on pre- and post-pregnancy

Kim Vopni is known as the “The Vagina Coach”, and is a passionate promoter of female pelvic health in pregnancy, motherhood and menopause.  Pregnancy is an especially important time to pay attention to the pelvic floor because it can make the pregnancy more comfortable, the birth easier and the return to full function more likely.
Vopni is especially passionate about helping women prepare for and recover from pregnancy and birth, while aiding in the process of getting back into shape after the fact. She is a certified personal trainer and a pre/post natal fitness consultant.
 The Vancouver resident understands the importance of pelvic health care and how it can improve and reclaim your fitness level. Vopni’s mission is to help pregnant women have an easier birth and get back into a fitness regimen.
While growing up, Vopni was afraid of birth and never thought she would have children.  “I saw a childbirth video in grade six sex ed. that scared me, and my mother told me about her birth experiences and the resulting challenges she had,” Vopni said. “In 2002, that all changed when I watched my sister-in-law give birth. My vision of what birth was all about changed and it empowered me. The following year, I was pregnant and my research led me to a pelvic floor biofeedback product that helps you prepare for birth.”
Your pelvic floor is a collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue that are interwoven within the pelvis. The product helps mimic the sensations your pelvic floor will face. An inflatable silicone balloon is inserted into the vagina and guided by a pressure gauge, the user can see when they contract and relax their pelvic floor and they can also familiarize themselves with stretch and what they need to do to yield to that discomfort. The user trains their pelvic floor to respond appropriately during birth
 
“I bought one and had an amazing experience! I decided more women needed to know about this so I became a distributor for that product. That was my introduction to the world of pelvic health and I have never looked back!”
In 2009, she created a workshop called Prepare to Push for pregnant women that was all about preparing for birth and preventing or minimizing the issues many women think are normal after having a baby. These include birth position practice, exercise, pelvic floor release work, restorative exercise to ease back pain, eliminate incontinence, and regain control of your bladder.
“It started as a workshop and is now individual consultations, an e-Course and a book! I use the fitness principle of specificity to prepare the body for birth by mimicking labour and delivery as closely as possible during training. The benefits are a stronger core for delivery, a mind-body connection to the pelvic floor so that women know how to let go of tension when it comes time to give birth, increased confidence and a better recovery.”
Vopni says that runners should make informed choices about their training once pregnant.
  “While running in pregnancy is safe for baby, it places additional strain on the core and pelvic floor,  I recommend scaling back in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and using the elliptical or better yet, get outside and walk up some hills or stairs.  It’s great cardio, low impact and the core and pelvic floor are better able to manage the loads.”
 As for returning to running postpartum, a pelvic floor physiotherapist should be the one to give you the ‘green light’ to go back.  Wait around four to six months postpartum, provided intentional and deliberate core retraining has taken place first.

For more information about her book Prepare To Push™ – What Your Pelvic Floor andAbdomen Want You to Know about Pregnancy and Birth and her program, go to www.preparetopush.com

World Sight Day reminder for runners to get proper headgear

To get the most out of your running performance, you need to: wear proper gear, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and follow a proper running program to suit your fitness level. That takes care of the basics. Running and most forms of exercising may help maintain overall good eye health, but like our bodies, our vision is affected as we age. As we approach 40, it may be a challenge to see our fitness tracker or training watch clearly.

No doubt, it can be a frustrating experience.

Wearing reading glasses may help you see clearly, however multifocal contact lenses could be a better option for working out, especially when running outdoors in rain or snow. According to a study in the journal Age of Perception, 30 per cent of aging Canadians would rather wear contact lenses than glasses, 16 per cent would rather squint than wear reading glasses, and about one in five (19 per cent) agree they would or currently avoid wearing reading glasses because they would make them look older.

An eye condition called presbyopia often occurs around the age of 40 due to a gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus on close objects. This affects nearly 1.7 billion people. The symptoms are eye strain, difficulty seeing in dim light, and problems focusing on small objects and/or print found on items such as fitness trackers and smart phones.

With World Sight Day coming up on Oct. 12, it is a good reminder to get an eye exam, become familiar with presbyopia awareness, and be updated on the latest eye care technology such as Alcon multifocal contact lenses for the aging eye. A new option has opened up for those who run with a smartphone or fitness tracker. Multifocal contact lenses allow Canadians to see everything near, far and in between. Alcon Dailies Total1® Multifocal contact lenses replace the glasses you would need to wear to see what is ahead while on a run or view your fitness device.

Running with a watch to keep track of your times is a good indicator of your overall health, but if you are struggling to see the watch you may have presbyopia. If you have noticed changes in your vision, visit your eye doctor to get a comprehensive eye exam. More information on the Alcon multifocal contact lenses can be found at LoseYourReaders.ca.

60 second workout is a dud

What if you could work out for 10 minutes a day instead of losing a whole hour to exercise?

A new study was released by graduate students from McMaster University that indicates 60 seconds of high intensity workout training followed by recovery exercises has the same impact as 50 minutes of endurance training.

Twenty-five men were divided into two groups — endurance and SIT — and observed over a 12 week period. The endurance training group would workout for 50 minutes with a warm up and cool down period before and afterwards. The men participating in SIT would do intensive exercise for 20 seconds followed by two minutes of recovery and then cycle through again for a total of 10 minutes.

It was concluded that “twelve weeks of brief intense interval exercise improved indices of cardiometabolic health to the same extent as traditional endurance training in sedentary men, despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment.”

It appears that SIT could be beneficial for people on a time crunch and can provide similar health benefits to longer exercise.

Though SIT has potential time-saving benefits, I have concerns about embracing this new exercise fad wholeheartedly without critical inspection.The intense exercises have the potential to remove the natural high that is created in fitness activities. It becomes an almost cathartic and relaxing escape from deadlines and helps to relieve stress and release endorphins. Will fans of the gym achieve the same level of happiness if they constrain their workout to a 10-minute routine? Joy is, arguably, an essential result of daily exercise. It would be interesting to analyze the level of satisfaction for both study groups in their respective exercises.

Another concern is the level of skill needed to participate in this intensive fitness activity — there is no need to lose a limb. Pushing yourself to your absolute physical limit to ensure you are getting the most out of your one minute of exercise may be a recipe for pulling a muscle, or having an asthma attack. Endurance training helps to slowly adjust your body to working out and doesn’t endanger you, or push unnecessary limits.

The study also includes 25 men and NO women. It is unclear whether fast-paced exercise would be appropriate for both sexes, and it is interesting that they were not a part of the primary study in the first place. The students did mention that a second study is underway for women. The experiment also did not indicate whether people with chronic injuries or women who are pregnant could do SIT.

The 60-second exercise phenomenon appears to be an exclusive trend that includes men who want to push themselves to the absolute brink of their physical limits and not waste time, or enjoy their workout. I think it is safe to say SIT training can get up and walk out the door to join other failed workout fads.

What happened when I cycled to work

Now that the weather is warming up (with small bursts of snow-filled fury), I decided to pull my bike out of the cobwebs of storage and starting cycling to work.

The first step was to plan a safe bike route so that I would have as little interaction with vehicles on the road as possible. Luckily, I found a cyclist’s dream: a nice cruise along the waterfront trail and then north on Sherbourne to Bloor. The route is about 20 km and would take me about 40 minutes each way. Sherbourne has a well-placed bike path and it appeared to be the perfect journey.

I checked over the tires and brakes before setting off and made sure to wear spring appropriate weather gear. I wore harem pants, and a tank — what I hoped would be appropriate for work and comfortable enough for my commute. I started my ride and all seemed well. The waterfront trail was relaxing and not as packed with bikes as it always is in the summer. This route is quite flat and, besides a windy portion at Ontario Place, it is a nice ride into downtown. It also feels satisfying cruising past all of the vehicles stuck in traffic on lakeshore while taking the environmentally-friendly and healthier commute option.

All was well until I reached Sherbourne St. The bike path itself is well-engineered and cyclists can only travel one direction on either side of the road. This limits collisions with other cyclists. The lifted curb keeps motorists from entering the bike lane and cyclists are safer. I believe lifted curbs on bike lanes are a must-have and a relatively inexpensive solution to sharing the road.

Going up Sherbourne, the treats I had consumed in my winter hibernation caught up with me. I began huffing and puffing as I slowly ascended the street and my legs began to ache. Soon, I was in fiery pain and I decided to disembark at Carlton St. I walked my bike for a few blocks, shamefully hanging my head as other cyclists whizzed by as if they were going for a casual uphill stroll. I rode on to my destination after a break and was proud I had succeeded, even if it was a struggle.

On my ride back, I rode downhill as if cruising on a cloud. It was almost worth the struggle on the ascent, although my aching knees would disagree. Then the weather hit and it began to snow when I got to the waterfront. The wind nearly blew me off my bike and I slowly made it across downtown to my destination. My spring gear was not sufficient for this change in the weather.

Though my first journey to work on my bike had its tribulations and moments of difficulty, I look forward to continuing my cycling adventures. A few tips from my first day: always stretch prior to biking a long distance and bring weather protectant clothing in case of a spring blizzard. Eventually, I hope the huffing and puffing will stop and I will cycle blissfully to and from the office.