Gym Lessons Learned


My gym experience is relatively limited. And by relatively I mean the only gym I frequented was the one located on my university’s campus. Where I grew up I’d need to drive 20 minutes to even get to the gym and that was just not happening. Now that I’m trying to juggle a “big girl” job, grad classes at night, and somehow keep dishes from piling up in the sink my waistline has expanded to a point that I feel like a squishy plush-doll version of me. Therefore, to the gym it is. Here are some things I’ve picked up on my adventures.

All gyms are not created equal.

Picking the right gym is essential. I cannot emphasize this enough. Some questions to ask:

Is this in my budget? If you can’t afford to eat, going to the gym will be pointless because you will either starve or be forced to eat off the $1, which is a bajillion calorie diet. The Y has some great equipment. It may not have fancy glass stall shower doors with prima donna style locker rooms, but it will do the job. Live realistically.

Can you touch things? This sounds weird, but seriously ask yourself if a gym is gross. Note that being old does not equal gross, but you don’t want broken down equipment. Patrons are responsible for wiping down equipment after usage- do people do this? Observe. Do a walk through. Also, look at the showers. Don’t just glance at them and avoid thinking about them. Is there mold? Are people avidly avoiding the area like it’s radioactive?

Will you actually go? Distance is everything, people. Think about when you actually have time to go to the gym. Is it before work, after class, or in the evening? Choose a gym close to your location. Mine is between work and class, which is coincidentally when I normally go. It means I’m going right by it and have no excuse. The guilt will make you go.

At first, everything about showering is awkward.


The first few times you go to the gym and shower you will probably forget something. Or maybe I’m just a forgetful person who is unaccustomed to showering in various locations.

Can I strip here? But actually. I’ve been to band camp, sleep-away camp, and lived in a sorority house. There are different rules for where you can or cannot strip based upon sensitivities.  Subtly observe where people are changing. Are they changing in the actual showers? Stripping in the middle of the locker room? Different gyms have different cultures. You may not get it right the first time, but try and pick up on the norm. Soon enough you’ll be a regular and feel comfortable with the new routine.

Do I have shower shoes? These are important. They protect you and they also protect other people from you. I forgot shower shoes after a workout and once had to parade around in my socks. You know what’s uncomfortable? Soaked, soapy socks. Invest. They’re all of $5 because you just need something plastic that can be slipped on and off. Plastic is a key word here. Don’t get some cushy material because it’s important that these shoes dry quickly. Otherwise, you have moldy, smelly shoes and that defeats the purpose of showering altogether.

Did this towel shrink? No, it did not. My gym has towel service. It says so on their website (this is a great thing to check for, by the way). It’s nice because I don’t have to schlep a towel back and forth. I also don’t have to worry about it being soggy and gross in my gym bag. On the other hand, it is ridiculously tiny. I have yet to see a gym towel that successfully covers me appropriately (although I dream that I will one day be “gym-towel tiny”). If you’re uncomfortable with being in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny towel, you may want to bring your own.

I hope the things I’ve learned on my gym adventures will serve you well, but I’m sure I missed some. What gym lessons have you learned?


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Giving a Voice to Invisible Illness

I participated in this incredible project where a group of individuals across the United States and Canada read a poem. We tried to shed a little light on the invisible illnesses, diagnosed and undiagnosed, that we deal with every day. You can learn a little more about each of us here. Many thanks to Leah Holstein (who has a second blog about all things Disney because she’s awesome) and Catherine Richardson for crafting the poem and bringing us all together.


Protect the Herd!

It’s the season for sneezing, puking, and coughing, aka flu season. I, like everyone else in my family, got my flu vaccine early and have so far managed to avoid the plague that is going around my office. Vaccination has been a hot topic this year, and the fact that we guessed the wrong flu strain has certainly not helped the public outcry (Pipe down, Buster, you try predicting an ever-evolving virus!). But the fact is I don’t get vaccinated for me. Yes, with my chronic illness it is intelligent for me to get vaccinated. Yes, my immune system has significantly improved since introducing the yearly flu vaccine into my life. And yet, it is not the reason I’m so diligent about getting my yearly flu shot.


credit: somethingofthatilk.com

Here’s a fun fact about me: I am much better at taking care of others than taking care of myself. As a caregiver, I give myself a B+ (I don’t hold back hair well). As a self-regulator I’m more in the C range. Luckily, my incredible fiance tends to keep my ass in line. But the fact remains that in stressful or busy times I may let my own health slip while trying to ensure that everyone else is running at optimal efficiency. I’m working on it.

Let’s put aside the flu shot for a moment and look at the more standard array of preventatives. Vaccines, in general, create antibodies and help reduce the number of infections for a particular illness. During childhood I was stabbed with a million of them and received oh-so-many wonderful boosters when I went off to college. There is no proof that vaccines cause autism or other mental disabilities. Andrew Wakefield’s study people are always quoting? It can’t be replicated. That’s right. And the patients’ data? It may have been tampered with.  It’s not fun having a needle (or three) poked in your arm, but it will not irreparably harm a child (allergies excluded).


When my sister was born, she was extremely ill and had to be sheltered from as many diabolical ailments as humanly possible. A cold could send her straight to Children’s Hospital for days or weeks. If she had been exposed to the measles or mumps she could have died. Interestingly, our school district required vaccination except in the cases of medical conditions. For example, a child who has cancer may not be able to handle the vaccine being introduced to their body, but that’s when something magical happens. It’s called herd immunity. This means that so many people are vaccinated and the illness is so rare that exposure almost never occurs. So despite the fact that the child cannot directly be protected, they are guarded by the diligence of their peers. It’s brilliant! And, best of all, even if you’re not ill, it protects other vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. And, hopefully, we’ll all get old and benefit. I know that’s my plan.

Vaccination is a personal decision and should be discussed with your trusted medical professional, but perhaps keep in mind that your decision doesn’t just effect you. Your decision impacts your neighbors and community at large. Stay healthy!

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Spoon Shares: Sometimes our issues are more serious and impact the way we live day-to-day. Spoon shares is a great place to share, connect, and learn tips and tricks from others with a variety of maladies.


Tis The Season For Withdrawal

Fa la la la laaaaa la la la laaaa

Happy New Years Eve! As the holiday season comes to a close, I wanted to touch on something rather important. As hectic as the holidays are for the everyday person (A fever? Why, you shouldn’t have!) and the amount of time spent with family is often cited as the reason for madness (Grandma got run over by a reindeer…or a chevy), individuals with chronic illness face unique challenges that mean the holiday season is filled with both joy and pain.


For example, Maverick is joyous over the attention and yet almost painfully afraid of Santa.

The insane switch from Thanksgiving to Christmas leaves even the most sugar-rushed individual feeling tired and in need of a drink or 3. When your own body is fighting against you and 7-8 hours of sleep a night are non-negotiable, those 4 weeks become a marathon. In spite of proper rest, monkey wrenches might just throw themselves in ones path as well. You wanted mom’s homemade kielbasa? Here’s a flare instead. Until you can’t eat, you don’t necessarily realize how much socialization is centered around food. When one can’t partake it can leave a bereft feeling. Especially if it’s a tradition that holds value to the individual unable to participate.

This year, my own holiday hurricane came in the form of a medicinal withdrawal. I’ve been weaning off of an old medication for weeks but 2 days before Christmas Eve was day zero. I was completely unprepared for the symptoms that were to follow. At work I was dizzy and nauseous with a rather annoying headache. When the symptoms first appeared, I thought that I must be hungry or suffering from one of my awesome migraines. And then came the strange disjointed vision. Followed by an inability to regulate my body temperature. I called my doctor, but alas they were already closed for the holiday.

Despite my fiance’s wise advise, we drove 3 hours to see my side with the assistance of Dramamine. After product-detail-dramamine-drowsy-packagea visit from ole Saint Nick and taking pictures where I look abnormally large due to bloating, the night ended with frequent sprints out of bed and uncontrollable shaking. But I’m what many people would possibly describe as stubborn, and I was determined to have a great Christmas. Desperate, I thought, perhaps it was a weird stomach bug, but the symptoms didn’t cease. Things were temporarily easier upon waking but any attempts to eat or drink ended in miserable failure. Luckily, God said let there be Zofran and that shit is good (This is the Bible according to Sam). But, sadly, even Zofran can only do so much. On the verge of needing ER care the day after Christmas, my doctor was able to contact me and wanted me to alternate my med for another week to lessen the symptoms. To clarify, that would be my terminated med that was innocently sitting at home 3 hours away.

With the patience of a saint, my fiance drove with me in a ball huddled beside him in the passengers seat in day-after-Christmas traffic for almost 5 hours. I was then instructed to sit on the couch and stay. Considering I felt like a zombie, this wasn’t really a hard command to follow. It took over 2 days, and therefore 2 doses, for me to be able to eat without a nausea aid or intense abdominal cramping. The shaking ceased slowly over time and eventually I was able to remain awake for an entire day without severe consequences.

The point of my story isn’t to inflict guilt on the healthy individuals of the world, but simply to raise awareness. Chronic illness is a ripple, a difficult, uncommunicative, wave that touches family, friends, and even acquaintances. The strain from being sick is felt, for me, most poignantly during this time of year, and I know I couldn’t have made it through Christmas alone. Without my family and fiance I probably would have landed my pale, shaking ass in the hospital, but in spite the pain I was able to remain home for Christmas.

There are amazing resources and support structures popping up every day for individuals dealing with a vast array of illnesses, visible and invisible. Some of my favorites are Spoon Shares and Just Mildly Medicated. You may notice, I prefer a heaping of humor along with any advice. Have a safe and happy remainder of the year, and cheers to whatever 2015 may bring!


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I’m Tired and I Don’t Want to Cook!

From the time I leave my front door in the morning to the time I get back, approximately 11 hours have gone by. The temptation to give in and dial that handy dandy delivery number is so tempting. It probably doesn’t help that my natural cooking abilities are limited to putting noodles in water and boiling. My fiance has most definitely suffered from my attempts at “gourmet” cooking, aka the balsamic green beans gone wrong.

So here’s what I have! A short list of tips that have pushed me into cooking more and dialing my favorite Indian restaurant less.

1. Think Before You Buy- My fiance and I now create a list of our week’s meals before hitting the grocery aisles. A lot of times I’ll scan through the papers, see what’s on sale and create my meals off of the best deals so I’m saving money and making myself accountable for what goes in my cart. The important part is including every element. Don’t just write “chicken,” put down Italian seasoned chicken breasts with green beans. This will help you remember other items you may need to pick up in order to make the meal. No excuses.

2. Mix It Up- It’s crazy to believe that everyone has the energy every night to be Rachel Ray in the kitchen. I know I just can’t pull that off. I might add in 2 meals a week that are fairly labor intensive, sprinkle in some mid-level stuff and then always keep an easy meal within the rotation. This is absolutely key because plans are made to be foiled. By giving yourself the ability to adapt to unexpected changes you can move that eggplant parmesan to Wednesday and throw in 2 slices of fish with some chopped up potatoes and commence running around or collapsing on the couch in exhaustion until it’s done.

3. Delete Dishes & Browse Often- You could use 1 dish or 3. I’m far more inclined to cook if there’s only one dish involved. The chaos that can ensue in the kitchen is contained and the clean-up time is lessened. And that makes me happy. Look out for recipes you might enjoy on pinterest, but don’t be fooled by some of the sites that advertise their recipes as “few ingredients” and then list spices that you’ve never even heard of before and ask you to do a rain dance at precisely 5PM. Easy recipes do exist. Some of them I find online, but I’ve found quite a few in cookbooks. In fact, Cooking Light has been a GREAT resource. I highly recommend it.


And if it takes a little wine to get dinner made…well, Wegman’s has great sales. Cheers!

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