Pins and Needles

Since I first started getting acupuncture done, a lot of folks have asked me for details. How does he know what do work on? [we talk about it at have a mini therapy session at the start of every treatment] What parts of your body do the needles go in? [depends on what he’s treating that day] Do they hurt? [nope!]

It’s a weird experience – and one that I detailed in depth in my first post about it last month – but I’m happy to chat about it as much as possible, if only to spread the word that this stuff is pretty magical. I know some folks might be skeptical about it, and that’s fine. Hell, I was skeptical too, before I tried it. But I started noticing a positive difference immediately after my first session and it’s only gotten better with more treatments.

Last night I had my third session, where we worked a little more on my anxiety and depression points (wrists), appetite control (ears), and continued treatment on my knees for pain management and increased energy overall. In my second session 2 weeks ago he introduced the concept of focusing on drawing in the energy while I sit with the pins in my body – “Think of the pins as little antennas, drawing in the energy” – and while I kind of made this face at first…

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… I decided to go with it and found that it kind of worked. When I went on my last long-ish run this past weekend, I started to feel the usual twingey feeling in my left knee at around mile 3. So I stopped to walk, stretched a bit, and focused on the spots those needles sat in during my last treatment, along with some breathing exercises that the doctor taught me. While it didn’t erase the pain (I mean, nothing will), the pain didn’t last as long and didn’t return when I stopped for the day. I had a few little pinches and pops here and there but nothing lingered. I’ll take it!

And I know I’m a broken record about it, but I can’t overstate it: the appetite suppression points he worked in my ears are unbelievably effective. I haven’t binged in almost a month and have lost between 8-10 lbs depending on the day. The urge to turn to food when I’m stressed, bored, or upset is simply no longer there. Sure, I get the usual pangs if I’m truly hungry (4 hours after a smoothie and an hour past my usual lunch time when I’m stuck in a webinar). And when I finally get the chance to eat, I also don’t find myself so ravenous that I reach for the first bad choice. Smarter choices are easier to make.

I’m super excited to see what this means for my half marathon training. Even though I only just started, the added energy, weight loss, and anxiety relief is sure to help across the board. I’ll be sure to post more about it as I continue both my treatments and my training, but in the meantime consider this a resounding endorsement for pins and needles!

What do you think – do you do acupuncture? Or do you rely on any other alternative treatments like it? Share in the comments!

 

Make Stuff Happen

I’ll write a full post about last night’s 2nd acupuncture appointment this weekend, but long story short: it was another home run. We started treatment on my knees and while the affects aren’t as immediately as apparent there, he did continue to work on my anxiety and over-eating pressure points, and those two areas of my life still feel like they’re in perfect harmony for the first time in more than a year. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to keeping it up throughout this winter, especially now that we’re about to be hit with a snowstorm that will keep me in my house (where the junk food is) for the next 48+ hours.

After my appointment I went to bed at my normal time and slept so soundly that I didn’t open my eyes again until they popped open at 5:45 all on their own. It was like a switch was flipped and I went from “OFF” to “ON” and I was ready for anything. So I decided that instead of rolling over and fighting to get back to sleep for one more measly hour, I’d go to the gym for one last run before the snow keeps me in the house for the next 48-72 hours.

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Evidently only about 6 other people had the same idea. Nutjobs.

I wasn’t going out for any records with these miles – while not technically junk miles, they were more of a test to see how my knees would fare after their first acupuncture treatment. My doc had warned me that they might still be tender but harmless, so I wanted to see for myself what that meant.

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The earlier the workout, the louder my tights get.

As it turns out, I barely felt a difference at all – at least I experienced no NEGATIVE side effects. I hopped right on my favorite corner treadmill, turned on my tunes (the same random rockin’ playlist from the Joe K 10K) and after only about 3 minutes of warming up, I broke into a smooth 11:32/mile pace and stayed there for 2 solid miles. Not bad!

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The extra time was that silly warm up – I need to remember to stop and re-start to get accurate times on the treadmill!

I could have kept going. I even had about another 10-15 minutes, enough for another mile, but I just couldn’t help myself – the sunrise was too inviting, and I decided to do something different and shake up my routine.

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Could you stare at that and not want to go out and breathe it in??

I hopped in my car, pulled out of the gym and into the park’s parking lot (they’re right next to each other) and drove right to the edge. I parked, walked out to the beach, and just breathed in the frozen air while the sun rose before me.

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It was super cold – about 18 degrees – but I couldn’t help myself. I stood there like a fool for those full extra 10 minutes, smiling the whole time. It felt so good.

It hit me then that I never would have seen this – never would have felt this peace, gotten this fresh air – if I hadn’t gotten up out of bed and moved. I was so tempted to roll back over and sleep another hour. But that’s not what this whole thing is about, is it?

Too often we complain about not having time to make stuff happen. We’re “too” everything. Too tired, too busy… But after riding an emotional roller coaster for the past few months, I’ve realized that the only way to make shit happen is to make it happen YOURSELF.

No one is going to walk up to you with a free hour and tell you to do whatever you want. You need to make the time. Sure, you’re not going to feel like climbing out of bed an hour early. But once in a while, if you push yourself to do something that’s not on the schedule or that takes you off your usual course – even for 10 minutes – you just might surprise yourself.

My First Acupuncture Session

After reaching out for help when I was having a tough time last month, I found a lifeline in a completely unexpected place: acupuncture. I’d never considered it for things like depression or anxiety, but this guy came so highly recommended by both my mom and dad that I figured why not??

I treated my appointment like I was taking my car in for an oil change: while you’ve got the hood open, you may as well take a look at EVERYTHING that’s wrong, right? So I went in with a list of issues to treat: anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation and energy, and food cravings & weight gain. Who knew if he’d be able to treat it all, I thought, but it was worth mentioning everything while I was there.

Once I got in and filled out the paperwork, we settled in and he asked me one simple question: What’s bothering you?

Would you believe I started crying immediately? It was pure relief: here was a skilled professional – with a background in psychology, no less! – asking me to spill the beans so that he could make it all better. Relief doesn’t even begin to explain it.

So he worked through my issues by asking smart questions that, in some cases, really made me think. He didn’t just ask “What makes you happy?”, but “Why does that make you happy?” It was truly fascinating stuff that challenged my thinking and forced me to open up in ways I didn’t expect to so soon after meeting this guy!

But after about 10 minutes of discussion, he got to work with his hands. I laid down on the table under heat lamps (mmm) and he did something called “palpating”. While it felt like he was massaging the tense spots in my back or on my ankles, he was locating the points that needed needles. This was where his skill was immediately apparent: he’d touch one spot and say, “No, right?” and I’d feel nothing. Then he’d move his fingers a millimeter to the right, send a shooting pain through my back, and go, “A-ha! There it is.” Whaaa??

It was like he didn’t even have to try! With a few simple touches he knew just where I was holding onto my tension and where the needles would be most effective. I was blown away. He focused on those 3 issues in 4 different spots: the anxiety and depression on two separate points of each wrist and in my back; the lack of energy in my calves and ankles; and the food cravings in my ears! Eek, right? The outsides of my ears, but still!

He did all of the stuff in my back and legs first, and all I had to do was take my shirt off, lay face down on the table, and he got to work. Before he’d place each needle he’d say where he was going and what each needle would do, and I honestly felt NOTHING: 8 in my back and 5 in each leg. But once he got to my wrists, things got interesting. “Here you’ll probably feel something, just warning you,” he said. I steeled myself and told him to go ahead, and while it wasn’t pain, it certainly was… something. Warmth, pressure, slight stinging. And while he put two needles on either side of each wrist, I felt it more in my left wrist.

Once he was done he told me to relax for 10 minutes and let the needles do their thing – “Even fall asleep if you can! It helps if you can relax as much as possible.” As relaxed as you can while laying topless and facedown in a stranger’s home office covered in 20 needles, I thought with a laugh to myself as he walked out of the room and let me be.

I tried to let my mind wander, and while I didn’t fall asleep, I definitely relaxed and focused on the sensation in my wrist, breathing deeply. After what felt like a very quick 10 minutes, he came back in and gently told me he’d start removing the needles. He painlessly plucked each one out, then started a semi-painful massage to release all the energy that the needles had drawn out. I say painful because he DUG very deep – it took my breath away! I told him at one point that it hurt, and he apologized and used a big vibrating pad instead for a few moments, saying that it wouldn’t be AS effective. I didn’t want that – I wanted the full effect! So I sucked it up and told him to keep using his hands, and he did with a laugh and some encouraging words. Score one for putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it! After a few more minutes of massage, he had me put my shirt back on and laid me down on my back to do my ears.

I’ll be honest: the needles here didn’t hurt a bit, but these were the most painful for him to discover. He used a dull cotton swab to find the points in my ears (because his fingers were too big!), and the painful spots he found were SO MUCH MORE ACUTE! If you’ve ever gotten a pimple in your ear, you know the shooting pain I’m talking about. But he was “pleased” to find that each ear only needed 4 needles – most people need many more, he said!

So he popped those 4 needles in each ear and left me once again to relax. This time I really did almost doze off; thanks, heat lamps! When he came in 10 minutes later I needed a moment to come to. He took those needles out and placed cotton balls in my ears (I later discovered he did that because there was a tiny bit of blood, which is normal), and sat me up slowly, talking me through the physical things that I might feel as a result of this session: small bruises, tenderness, maybe even some warmth, especially in my wrists because those are the major points that everyone experiences something with. That would be the leftover energy, he said, and it was normal. I thanked him profusely, made my next appointment (for this Thursday!), and left.

And this is where it gets weird: as soon as I walked out of his office, it’s like a switch was flipped in me, and the fog had lifted. The whole drive home, I smiled to myself and soaked everything around me in with a peacefulness that I can’t really describe. The strangest part, though, was the sensation in my right wrist and arm. When I moved my wrist in one way (trying to grab my purse, for example), a warmth throbbed through my muscles all the way to my elbow. It wasn’t bad at all – it was just.. interesting! I can’t describe it.

I got home and had a great night; ate a very light dinner, got my outfit ready for the Joe Kleinerman 10K the next day, and didn’t have any of the usual cravings I get before bed to stuff everything in the snack cabinet into my face. I didn’t experience the usual pre-race jitters, and when I laid down for bed I felt myself tear up a little at how utterly calm I felt. It was like I finally realized that everything was going to be OK, after being so anxious for so long. And while I haven’t written my race recap yet, spoiler alert: it was my best race yet. I didn’t PR but I smiled and breezed through every step, no usual race-day tension or doubts or emotional roller coaster.

Could it have worked that fast? Was it all in my head? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that it’s been a little more than a week and while I’ve had minor moments that caused me the usual tension (work, life, etc), that overall peaceful feeling always comes back. I’m more motivated to do even little things like clean the fridge or cook dinner. And the most obvious sign? My appetite isn’t as ravenous as I used to feel, I haven’t had one sugar craving, I’ve avoided every temptation without a hint of stress, and I haven’t binged once (where I’d usually binge 4-5 times in one week). I feel less bloated and have more energy, even with a sinus infection this past week.

So that’s my (so far) positive experience with acupuncture! I’m looking forward to this week’s session – he’ll focus on my knees in addition to everything else. So here’s to keeping the good vibes flowing, whether they’re all in my head or not!

Have you ever had acupuncture before? How did you like it? Tell me in the comments!

You’re the Best

First off: I didn’t realize that yesterday’s post would start a chain reaction of warm wishes and personal story sharing that totally turned my day – hell, my MONTH – around.

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Thank you all so much for your comments, emails, texts, Facebook posts, etc – each new note brought a smile to my face (and yeah, some tears too, because I’m still a little weepy). You guys are really the best out there. The fitness community is so much like a family, and it’s so comforting to know that when things get dark, just throwing a tiny lifeline of a blog post out there into the ether will sound the alarm and bring me a world of sunshine.

To answer your next question: I AM feeling a bit better, every hour and every day. Thank you! The old saying to “fake it till you make it” is my unofficial mantra these days, and it’s working. It’s good being back at work where my brain is busy and doesn’t have time to focus on negative thoughts. I’m trying not to numb myself in front of the TV and pushing myself to do little tasks like clean out my home office and reorganize photos. I went swimming and did yoga last night to keep my  body moving, and it felt GREAT.

But when I tried to run again yesterday, it was extremely slow going – while I felt like I was pushing at full intensity, I was only going about 13:00/mile, which was soul-crushing to see. So I’m instead focusing on getting my blood pumping in other ways, any way I can manage. What this will do to my performance in this weekend’s race, I’m not sure. I’ll try to run today and tomorrow, even a mile. But come Saturday morning, I aim simply to finish. Those Central Park hills are unforgiving, and everything is an effort when I feel like this. I set some big goals when I signed up for this race a few months ago, but when life gets in the way and puts a roadblock there, you’ve got to adapt and overcome any way you can!

So thank you all once again for your kind words, for sharing your stories, and your heartwarming support. It really means the world to me to have you with me on this crazy ride!

An Ode to Vitamin D (aka Spring Running is the Best)

Now that it’s still light enough after work for me to get some miles in, I’m 100% loving it.

Last night I went for an easy 4 miles after a particularly tough work day. It was a bit chilly, and I am admittedly a big baby when it comes to the cold weather, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sunset was shaping up to be a beauty. So out I went.

The first few miles were my typical post-work weekday training miles: full of huffing and puffing for the first three quarters, with a final mile of bliss. I trudged through the creepy tunnel next to my house and up the hill to Broadway, adding some distance going up and down the side streets as I went. This slightly different route got me to the waterfront park just in time for sunset, and it turned out to be one of those moments that makes you grateful to be alive:

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Seriously though – I don’t know if it was the runner’s high creeping up on me, the extended sunshine, the impending warm weather or what, but it was pure bliss. This week at work has been particularly stressful and I’m not even very well rested either. But it was all forgotten once I got to the gazebo up there and took a minute and breathe in the air, listen to the sea gulls talk to each other, and capture the moment.

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In past training cycles, I found myself getting so caught up in the number of miles that I “had to” run that I ended up losing the joy of running. I just ran to get the miles done and that was it. The faster I got it done the sooner I could go home and relax. Not this time around.

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I’m pausing to take the photos, stopping to listen to the waves, taking that side road to see where it goes, even if it adds mileage or keeps me out a half hour later and pushes dinner back a bit.

As I pile on the miles and fall into a more regular running/training routine, I find that I’m more psyched up to run and less inclined to be lazy. On the contrary, it’s like a positive feedback loop, where the more I run, the more I want to run. It really is true what they say about running: you get out of it what you put into it!

What about you: Have you been feeling a pep in your step because of all this extra daylight we’re getting? When was the last time you stopped during a run to take a nice picture or really soak in the moment? What did you find when you did? Share!

Celebrate You (now with 100% more Jim Carrey)

While I’m sure we all try to be positive people, sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and down on yourself.

I don’t know about you, but all it takes for me is one “bad” meal to get sidetracked and fall into the labyrinth of self-doubt and regret: You’re such a freakin’ pig. You can’t even stay on the wagon for one day. Did you really need that slice of cake? And you wonder why it’s so hard to break a 10-minute mile. It’s because you can’t keep your trap shut after a normal amount of food.

hard timeAnd so on.

Sometimes I get so into beating myself up over my failures; but how often do I actually congratulate myself on my accomplishments? Think about it – when was the last time you truly patted yourself on the back for a job well done, whether it was at work, or in running, or even just for checking everything off your to-do list over the weekend? Go ahead, think about it. I’ll wait.

andyYou’re having a hard time thinking of something, aren’t you?

I say no more. Our society praises success against all odds and achievement above all else, but who’s actually holding the measuring stick?

Screw it. I’m going to be proud of my accomplishments. Every day, I’m going to try to find one thing to be proud of – to show myself that I can finish what I start and be successful, even if “success” that day is putting on pants not murdering anyone in traffic on the way to work.

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…the power to not kill people!

Today, I’ll kick off this new positive outlook by looking back at how far I’ve come on my weight loss journey, with the only non-Jim-Carrey picture in this whole post:

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In 2003, I weighed over 267 lbs, I was miserably uncomfortable in my own skin and I had a severe anxiety disorder. The following summer of 2004, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (and later beat that cancer’s ass, hooray!!). That’s when I realized that I had to turn my damn life around. So I started running. And doing yoga, and kickboxing, and the elliptical, and the bike, and weight lifting, and I stopped eating every damn thing in sight. And after 5 years, I lost over 100lbs. And I’m not planning on going back to that size anytime soon.

I do have days (weeks even) where I feel like that girl on the left again. When I eat too much for a few days in a row and slack off on my workouts and call myself a failure. But that’s when I look at that picture up there, then glance in a mirror. I’ve come a long way. A really long way. I worked hard to get here. But dammit, I did it, and I can keep kicking ass because I’m a winner and that’s what winners do.

be positiveWe wear bad wigs and plot revenge against Bruce Wayne.

So today I encourage you to do the same thing. Think about something you’re really proud of. Something that it took effort to achieve. Have you run a full marathon? Cleaned your whole house lately? Raised a family? Are you wearing a bra today even though you don’t want to be wearing one?

feel the loveOr are you flexing your freedom muscles and going bra-less?

Tell me about it. I want to feel the love like Chip Douglas up there. Shout out how proud you are of your accomplishments and let’s share the happies!