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Skwigg Blog
Saturday, 17 March 2007
Happy Birthday Indeed!
I just walked! EEEEHeeHeeHee!! I walked! Yesterday, they unlocked my brace and told me that I could put as much weight on my leg as it would tolerate. So, today, still using the crutches for balance, I'd been carefully putting more and more weight on it. Well, just now while feeding the dogs I took a step without putting the crutches down, and then another and another and another, and then I was off like a herd of turtles! Back and forth, back and forth. I am a walking machine! Go Skwiggy! It's your birthday!

Posted by skwigg at 6:23 PM CDT
The Big Four-O

It's B-Day. As you may recall, my 40th birthday present to myself was going to be a black belt. Instead of a black belt I got bird legs and a handicapped parking tag. I'm trying not to wig about it. My present will just be slightly belated until I can walk and kick ass again. I am well on my way. GUESS what I did for the first time yesterday? Squats!!! I did squats and I rode a bike. I nearly had a tears-of-joy episode after the first set of squats. And when I got on the upright bike, most ACL patients don't have enough knee flexion to go all the way around at first. I guess I was only expected to rock the pedals back and forth, coming up as high as I could without going over the top. I rocked three or four times and over I went. I was pedaling! Physical therapists were cheering. I was grinning like a crazy woman. Cue the Rocky theme song!!

It sounds nuts to say that I'm grateful for a horrible injury, surgery, a month of disability, but in a way, I'm grateful. I was so driven and I'd put myself on such a tight training and work schedule that life was becoming one big blur. I was zombie Skwigg. I couldn't truly enjoy or appreciate anything because I was always late for something else. And there was not a chance in hell I was going to back off. I literally had to break a leg in order to slow down and snap out of my trance.

The first week that I was forcibly rested, I was pretty much freaking the hell out. Still cracking jokes, but freaking, trust me. I was scared and hurt and disappointed. My routine had collapsed. My timetable was blown. My identity was scrambled. Because if I can't workout and hit people and jump around with a sword, who am I? I was forced to re-evaluate. I realized that all of my daily top priorities - going to the gym, going to work, walking dogs, buying groceries, checking e-mail, cleaning house - were stupid. I'd been busy and rushed and blinded by stupid stuff. Do you know what happens if none of those things get done? Nothing. It turns out you can take weeks off work, exercise at home, ignore your e-mail, go to the store whenever, walk the dogs or not, and screw the housecleaning. This realization has been very liberating indeed. All that stuff I did every day isn't who I am. It's just stuff.

Take away the daily clutter and you get a true picture of what's important. The things we take for granted! I'd never been grateful that I could walk. Never gave a lot of thought to 17 years of happy marriage. It hadn't occurred to me to be genuinely grateful for my stupid dogs, who are such a source of joy and unconditional love. My extended family who I hardly see because I'm so busy rushing around. My tiny house overflowing with love and laughter. My health. My financial security. Insurance! Jeez, do you know how much knee surgery is? $12,000 not counting leg braces, physical therapy, office visits, x-rays, and MRIs. All told, this has probably been about a $20,000 mishap. If I didn't have insurance and the ability to take weeks off work, I'd be so screwed. I'm beyond grateful to my surgeon and physical therapists who put me back together. My Sensei who shut down my pity party and taught me to kill someone with my crutches. I have a whole new appreciation for my friends on and offline who made me laugh and listened to me whine. Lately, I am in awe of every little thing. Springtime, birds, flowers, green grass, blue sky, Cadbury Creme Eggs - all fabulous.

I had a pretty big woo-woo fit about this injury when it first happened. I thought it was going to wreck my life and now I realize it's been a tremendous gift. So, uh, happy birthday!

Posted by skwigg at 12:51 PM CDT
Thursday, 15 March 2007
One of Them

I've been doing a lot of online shopping lately. Searching for just the right product, clicking the "buy" button, and watching for the UPS truck is high-quality entertainment for somebody stuck at home all day in their pajamas. I've ordered protein powder, makeup, shoes, purses, guitar parts, office supplies, and little outfits for my Blackberry. From Amazon, I got a book on women's boxing called Without Apology: Girls, Women, and the Desire to Fight, I also bought The Secret (Unabridged, 4-CD Set). So, believe me when I tell you that I get VERY excited when I hear the doorbell.

The only problem is that, by the time I stumble to my feet, grab my crutches, and make it to the door, the UPS man is usually long gone, and he's usually left my presents out in the yard behind a shrubbery or a potted plant. I desperately want to go and get them, but I know I can't possibly make it up the porch steps on crutches with a big box in my hands. Plus, I hear my husband's voice echoing in my head telling me not to do anything stupid while he's at work, you know, like falling off of the porch, blowing out my knee, and landing face first in the thorn bushes. So I wait hours until he comes home and retrieves my goodies for me. Not fun.

Yesterday, I decided that I would be ready. I was dozing on the couch when I heard the truck coming. I sprang into action, grabbed my crutches and hippity-hopped to the front door. I backed up the hounds and put a baby gate in the entryway so they couldn't crowd me at the door.  I leaned my crutches against the wall so that I would have both hands free to accept my miraculous treasures. I peered out the window grinning like an expectant idiot. He jumped out of the truck and ran... up my neighbor's sidewalk. It's ok. He's got something for me, I know it. He runs back to the truck. Oh, look! He's scanning something! He's rummaging around. He's opening the back of the truck! It's big! Here he comes! And he took the huge box across the street, jumped in the truck and drove off. SON of a bitch.

See, I'm becoming one of the dogs. The high-points of my day are - eating breakfast, waiting for the mail man, listening for the UPS truck, and squirrel watching out on the deck.

Speaking of dog hounds, people keep asking me how they're doing now that I'm injured and they don't get their big daily walk anymore. They're doing amazing! So much better than I expected. I really feared dog fights, power struggles and aggression problems but there hasn't been a single incident. I think one reason is that they still get a lot of exercise. They run each other ragged in the back yard, and I'll play fetch with Nigel until he collapses. It's not the same structured exercise as a walk, but it tuckers them all out. Then there's the fact that I'm at home, calm assertive leadering them all day. They have to move aside when I come through on crutches, sit before I put the food bowl down, wait as I open the back door, off when I drop my lunch on the floor, quiet when they woof at the neighbors, stay before I give them a treat, down when they're blocking my view of the television. They're doing so much daily obedience work it's like they're being homeschooled.

So, they're still getting exercise, discipline, affection in the right order. I think that if the injury had happened back when I was a clueless and having outrageous behavior and aggression problems, the whole thing would have collapsed into bloody chaos in a matter of days. I'm extremely grateful to Patricia McConnell for her wildly effective positive training methods, and to Cesar Millan for teaching me to be a calm assertive pack leader instead of a shrieking mess. Although, I may be taking this dog pack thing a little too seriously. WOOF! Here comes the UPS Truck!

Posted by skwigg at 12:56 PM CDT
Tuesday, 13 March 2007
Three Pound Question

Q: I have a question for you. I bought the Afterburn program and followed it religiously for three weeks and have gained three pounds. This totally freaked me out. I wanted to lose weight. Now I weigh 170 and want to get to 150-155.  I ditched the program for now and am going back to my tedious point counting weight watcher program and yoga and lots of elliptical and maybe will do this program when I get to my goal. Do you have any clue why I always gain so much weight when I do weight training? This happens to me every time and I am just not willing to take the risk of having the scale go up even though I really want a lean muscular body. This has me totally freaked out.

A: Oh my, how to answer this question without yelling and shaking you. :-) 

Going back to a familiar and ineffective routine isn't going to miraculously get you a hard body. You can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. If you want dramatic change, you have to challenge yourself, and you have to do it for more than three weeks in a row. I could eat a salted peanut and gain three pounds. That's why you quit strength training??? Are you serious??? You're going to give me a keyboard imprint on my forehead!

Weight fluctuates 2-3 pounds a day for NO REASON AT ALL. Every person, every day, up and down. That's totally normal. Gaining a few pounds of water and glycogen (stored carbohydrate) in your muscles and liver when you start strength training and eating well is totally normal. It's not fat. Do you honestly think that lifting weights is going to make you big and heavy and fat? That it's something risky you should avoid?

You have to give some serious consideration to what your goal really is. If you want to lose scale weight but still be big and soft and have muscles like a fatty, mushy, marbled pot roast, then you are on the right track. You can lose 20-30 pounds and still jiggle like hell and have the metabolism of a little snail. If you want a fast metabolism and a tight muscular body with compact, dense, lean little flank steak muscles, then you need to change your approach completely -  REGARDLESS of what the scale says. The scale will go up down and around in circles. That's what scales do.

I don't know how tall you are, but this is what 5'8" and 170 pounds looks like on a woman who lifts weights and eats:

Tonja 1

Tonja 2

Compare that body to every 170 pound Weight Watcher progress photo you've ever seen. Dieters who don't strength train will jiggle and have fat rolls and look like hell in a bikini no matter what they weigh. Strong, lean women will look completely fabulous at scale weights that would scare the bejeezus out of a Weight Watchers counselor.

As long as you're measuring your success by the scale, your success is going to be severely limited. Use a tape measure, percentage of body fat, a pair of tight jeans, the mirror or photographs. I know that if you've relied on the scale your whole life it's hard to part ways, but I'm telling you - part already! Give the program a chance. You didn't even make it to the 4-week freakout before you freaked. You aren't always going to see big changes in days or weeks. You have to be prepared to do a fitness program consistently for MONTHS to see a huge payoff. Changing your body composition is not like a quick weight loss diet where the scale goes down every week. Totally rebuilding yourself takes time and real effort.

Posted by skwigg at 7:22 PM CDT
Sunday, 11 March 2007

My right quadricep has vanished. No sweep, no teardrop. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. My thigh looks like it belongs to one of those models in Shape magazine with no visible muscles. That used to be the leg of my dreams so I'm trying not to freak. And I'm not too terribly mismatched because my left leg has gone all bird-like too. I may as well be in outer space for all the weight-bearing I've been doing lately. I haven't walked in 7 weeks now. Yikes! Well, I'm starting to walk slowly with crutches, but it's still sort of pathetic. Soon I will be able to run and squat and do a bulking cycle. Something to look forward to this spring!

People I haven't seen in ages keep cautiously asking me how much weight I've gained since the injury. Silly people. I always lose weight when I'm sick or injured. Remember bronchitis a couple of years ago? I dropped 9 pounds in 7 days or something crazy. I think there are ectomorph genes at work. If I'm not eating a lot of calories and lifting a lot of heavy stuff, I start getting twiggy. I also realized that I'm not an emotional eater anymore. If I were still using food to entertain and comfort myself, a month at home in front of the television would be a disaster. After a few weeks, I'd become Larry, with a bucket on a rope to reel in takeout. As it is, eating is mostly a nuisance. I can barely carry anything on my crutches, and cooking is pretty limited. I can't stand at the stove for very long, and I've been forbidden to crutch with the butcher knife, boiling water, or glassware. Lately, I crutch-shuffle to the sofa with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my plastic Scooby plate, and then I don't bother to eat again for six hours or so. Not real conducive to muscle-building.  

Since I noticed the quad situation, I've been making an effort to eat more often and keep my protein intake up. Yesterday, I stirred together tuna, apple, raisins and light mayo - the meal that most weirds out my husband. I've also become a big fan of these BumbleBee chicken breasts. They're fully cooked and come in a pouch like tuna. I can easily microwave them and stick them in a multi-grain wrap. I like the southwest one with lettuce, salsa, sharp cheddar, and a little sour cream. I eat the garlic and herb one with lettuce, swiss, and dijon mustard.

Oh, and I did a little crutch dance of joy at the grocery store today when I saw Chuck Liddell on the cover of Men's Fitness. Cool, eh?

God, I just had an idea. If I had a bucket on a rope, I could drag my food out of the kitchen instead of trying to carry it on crutches. Of course, the dogs would eat everything out of the bucket on my way to the living room. Maybe if my bucket had a lid...

Posted by skwigg at 10:59 PM CST
Thursday, 8 March 2007

I tipped over the recliner this morning. I sat on the edge of the seat to take my brace off and realized it would be easier with the foot rest up. I reached back and hit the lever, the foot rest sprang out, and with all the weight on the front of the chair, the whole thing flipped forward and hit the ground. I shrieked. From the basement, my husband yelled, "Are you alright?" Ripley, my supervisor/nursemaid/self-appointed bodyguard came running. I don't know what was going on in her little speckled squirrel mind, probably something along the lines of, "I'LL SAVE YOU, MAMA!" She made a flying leap into my lap. The weight and momentum of the airborne dog flipped the chair upright and it hit the ground with a huge thud. From the basement, my husband yelled, "What the hell was that?" and came running. Of course I couldn't answer him because I was having fits of silent stage laughter and there was a huge stupid dog standing in my lap licking my face like a maniac. Crazy Ripley. It's weird how closely she watches me now. It's like her new job. Every time I wince or gasp she comes running, and she really gets worked up if I tip over the recliner.

Do you know what my morning ritual is now? I get up, do my knee exercises, make breakfast, feed the dogs, take a shower, and all of that takes so long and so totally exhausts me that I then fall asleep in my recliner for two hours in front of Home & Garden Television. EVERY freaking day this happens. My brain cells are disintegrating right along with my leg muscles. I've become totally hooked on Real Housewives of Orange County. I stare glassy-eyed at Trading Spaces, Moving Up, and Flip That House. I yell out answers to 1 vs. 100 and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader. I'm totally turning into a nutty shut-in.

Did anybody else see I Eat 33,000 Calories a Day on TLC? There's this guy, Larry, who weighs over 700 pounds and hasn't left his apartment in ten years. If friends and relatives don't feed Larry enough, he calls for takeout on his cell phone. Larry can't get up and walk to the door, so he lowers a bucket on a rope out his apartment window. The delivery guy takes the money out of the bucket, puts the fast food in, and Larry reels his late night snack back up to his apartment. How crazy is that? And there was this other bedridden guy who was spending something like $28 a day on candy bars alone. And women who were eating enough food to gain three pounds a day, every day. They all assumed they were only eating 2,000-3,000 calories a day, but when you add everything up it was ten, twenty, thirty thousand calories a day. The whole thing freaked me the hell out, and made me kind of hungry for fried chicken.

Hey! Liz is back! For those of you who loved Granny Vibe, Liz has another blog called As the Tumor Turns. Yesterday, I turned off the television long enough to read every single entry starting from last November. I also fiddled around in my store and added some free e-books for your downloading pleasure. They're both by John Berardi. One Is PN Strategies for Success, which is a 43 page overview of Precision Nutrition, and one is Gourmet Nutrition Desserts, which is another 40 or so pages of healthy high-protein desserts. It's an add-on to Gourmet Nutrition, which is where I originally found such wonderments as S'mores Bars and Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Bet you didn't know you could eat that stuff and still have abs! JB also posted a good Q&A in his blog about nutrient timing. I used to get a lot of questions about his recommendation to only eat starchy carbs post-workout. I personally eat starchy carbs whenever I feel like it on PN and still have great results. Finally, he explains the phenomenon.

Posted by skwigg at 10:55 AM CST
Sunday, 4 March 2007
Bread and Pain Pills

I saw my surgeon Friday and he gave me color photos of the inside of my knee! I have a before pictures of my ratty torn acl, and after pictures of my sturdy new hamstring graft in place. I have not posted these, partially because my scanner is acting flaky and partially because, well, it's blood and tendons.

The knee is feeling quite a bit better. I'm not yelping and twitching and miserable like I was the first week. I'm only taking pain killers at night and, for the most part, I'm comfortable. The biggest hurdle right now is that it's my right leg. I won't be able to drive until I can bend my leg and slam on the brakes. If it were my left, I'd probably be going back to work at the end of the week. Since it's my right, I've got a couple weeks of physical therapy before I'll be on the road again. In addition to the leg being weak and wobbly, occasionally I have a nerve torpedo where a burning pain zings down the back of my leg and explodes in a giant fireball when it reaches my toes. This causes me to thrash and cuss and hit myself in an attempt to put out the invisible fire. Michael witnessed one of my Tourrett's-like outbursts yesterday and goes, "Ok, I see why they don't want you driving."

I haven't exercised all week except for my physical therapy. And I've developed a very un-Skwigg-like new habit of eating a piece of bread every time I take my pain pills, even if it's 2:30am. It totally settles my stomach, and Nigel loves the wake up at night and eat bread ritual. I learned the hard way that you don't want to take four ibuprofen on an empty stomach and wash them down with orange juice and diet pepsi. Gah! Talk about heartburn! It was like the fires of Mordor!

With all the reclining and bread eating, I was getting worried about my body comp. I'd been afraid to get on the Tanita scale with my metal leg brace. I thought for sure I would short circuit it and sparks would fly out of the top of my head. Today I ditched the brace and checked the damages. There weren't any. I'm still at a fairly birdy 138 pounds and 18%. Maybe in a few days I'll lift some weights. For now, the constant crutching seems to be keeping my upper body pretty buff. My right leg, of course, is totally disintegrating. I'm developing the bizarre deformity known as "camel knee" where my knee is wider than the rest of my leg. Pretty.

I saw a totally fascinating article this week called, The Fashion Week Food Diaries. Two models, an editor, and a show producer wrote down everything they ate all week. There are 4 pages to the article, be sure to click through all the pages using the link in the bottom right. Really fun stuff! I LOVE seeing what other people eat. I marveled at the fashion editor who seems to live on nothing but supplements and alcohol. My eating most resembles that of the male model. Although, he wasn't having bread and Percocet in the middle of the night.

Posted by skwigg at 12:01 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2007 12:03 PM CST
The View from the Recliner

Here's my beat up little leg and googly-eyed Nigel setting his cow on the foot rest for me.

Posted by skwigg at 10:41 AM CST
Thursday, 1 March 2007
No Such Thing as Dull Pain

This is going to be quick because it's impossible to make my big dumb club leg comfortable while sitting at the computer. I have become one with the recliner. Through the magic of reclining, I can get my knee higher than my heart and get a little relief from the zinging, throbbing, aching, annoying, non-stop pain. Remember how a few days ago I was gushing about my fabulous doctors and the miracle of modern medicine? Forget it. They're bastards. LOL

A couple of days ago, I forgot to take a dose of pain medicine before bed. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and it felt like a large animal with big dull teeth was CHEWING on my knee. I have a pretty stupidly high pain tolerance, but my head nearly spun around and flew off during the 20-30 minutes it took for the pills and ice to kick in.

I spend most of the day attached to my Polar Care cooler that circulates ice water around my knee. I load it with ice and water, plug myself in and turn the pump on. I feel like an aquarium. Last night I had a little mishap when freshening up my fish water. I pushed the cooler to the sink using my crutches. I set it on the counter, took the lid off, and attempted to pour the frigid water into the sink. Instead of pouring slowly, I dumped it, and a big tsunami exploded into the sink, over the kitchen counter, and all over me. I stood there dumbfounded and afraid to move. I was soaked and standing in the middle of an icy lake on slippery tile. My Keds were wet, my crutches wet, the floor wet, my teeth chattering. What to do? What to do? As I was standing there puzzling about how to move without breaking my neck, my husband came home and saved me. He has been promoted from helper monkey to knight in shining armor.

I started physical therapy. Good news there. I think the goal was to get my knee to 90 degrees flexion by the second week. Mine was already able to bend to 102 degrees just three days after surgery. Also, my quads work. Some people need electrical stimulation to get them to fire. Mine came on just fine as soon as the nerve block wore off. They feel a little wonky but they're strong and I have pretty good control over them. I see my surgeon tomorrow. Hopefully, he'll tell me that I need to take the entire month of March off work. ;-)

Posted by skwigg at 1:07 PM CST
Sunday, 25 February 2007
Apparently I Did Have Knee Surgery

Yesterday afternoon, the nerve block wore off, the anesthesia drip quit dripping, and I felt my reconstructed knee for the first time. May I just say, yeeeeow! And also, thank god for narcotic pain killers. They totally eliminate the pain if I take them on schedule, but I feel all floaty and twitchy and itchy. And as an added bonus, I have the hiccups. It's lovely.

I posted a new article last night called The Evolution of Cardio by Craig Ballantyne. It's about how he created Turbulence Training. The idea is to maximize results while spending as little time as possible in the gym. At the time, he was a very busy grad student. His schedule didn't allow for a traditional bodybuilding routine with multiple sets per body part, and there was definitely no time for long cardio sessions. He had to come up with a routine that could be done in minimum time with the biggest metabolic disturbance - so that he was still burning calories when he was back at his desk. Good stuff. I can't WAIT until I can try some of his complete routines. I also found over 100 Alwyn Cosgrove workouts on WorkoutPass. It's making me crazy that I hit the mother load of brilliant fitness programs at a time when I can't possibly do any of them. I'm going to have to be patient until I'm no longer crippled and hopped up on goofy berries.

I found a link to the 2007 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue . Ever since I was a teenager I would look to the swimsuit issue for examples of the "ideal" physique. I'd tape them to the refrigerator as a deterrent to eating. Well, now all of these beautiful women look a little odd to me because they don't have any muscles. Perhaps all the years of working out and reading fitness magazines have warped my brain. At least Beyonce was included - someone who's not a model and clearly eats. She could still use some biceps and delts though. ;-)

Here is my sideways desk set-up, and my dog helpers attempting to mooch my cereal. 



Posted by skwigg at 11:29 AM CST

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