Recovering from Chronic Tennis Elbow

I know this post won’t be for everyone, but for anyone else out there who’s dealt with chronic tennis elbow and had a hard time finding a way to fix it, this is for you. This is the type of post I wish was out there when I was going through my never-ending search for a way to fix my elbow. It can be a frustrating injury to say the least, and even downright scary at time if it’s your dominant side. Everyday tasks you take for granted, such as driving, writing, holding a mug, or opening a door, are suddenly a challenge.  No matter how long it takes you (it took me over 1.5 years!), you can get better!

Last year will forever be the year of injuries. I ended up going to physical therapy for a total of three different problems. In case you forgot or you’re new to the blog, I’ll give you a visual.

Injury collage

The latest stint at physical therapy was for my seemingly never-ending tennis elbow saga. I was actually discharged back in early September of this year, but have been wary of proclaiming myself officially discharged since it’s been such a relentless injury that didn’t respond to anything. A quick timeline:

  • April 2013: Injured; PCP thinks my blown-up elbow is from an infection since it came out of nowhere so I get 10 days of antibiotics.
  • May 2013: Elbow still bothering me and chiropractor mentions that the inflammation could have been from tennis elbow. Schedule appointment with orthopedist who confirms I have lateral epicondylitis with calcific tendonitis (tennis elbow with a calcium deposit). Receive cortisone injection.

Calcific tendonitis elbow x-ray

  • June 2013: Cortisone didn’t help, but decide to forego all treatment suggestions at the time as dealing with my glute injury
  • September 2013: Seems to be feeling better after resting it through the summer, so I start trying to use it again
  • December 2013: Injury is back with a vengeance
  • January 2014-June 2014: Try multiple modalities (see list below) while on and off resting right arm
  • February 2014: Get MRI, doesn’t show anything new
  • July 2014: Elbow gets even worse, have a freak-out session because I’m hardly able to use my dominant hand and wonder what the future holds after trying so much and it still isn’t better
  • Mid-July 2014-early September 2014: Amazing physical therapists try all kinds of techniques to fix me and it seems to work! I start slowly working out my arm again…

Tennis elbow fixed

All of the modalities I tried in chronological order:

Corner desk set-up

Things I looked into or was suggested to try but didn’t:

  • Second cortisone injection (I was very opposed to this)
  • A second round of occupational therapy
  • Prolotherapy (6 month waitlist to see the doctor PLUS not covered by insurance)
  • Dry needling (not legal in Massachusetts?)
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Somatics
  • Feldenkrais Method
  • Platelet rich plasma (also not covered by insurance)
  • Surgery (last resort)

I had a two-week check-in with PT after being discharged and I was really glad because my elbow was starting to bother me again after two weeks. I thought, “Oh, no, here we go again…” But a quick consult and taping and I’ve been pretty good ever since (knock on wood). It hasn’t been a linear improvement, more of an inclined squiggly line, but at least I’m going in the right direction. It may not feel perfect every day, but I try not to panic when it’s feeling less than fansastic and ease off exercise. I was injured for 1.5 years, so I don’t expect it to be as good as new overnight.

So why did physical therapy help when all else failed? I think a big part has to do with my specific therapists. They understood what I was going through in a way that only someone with tennis elbow would know. How is that possible?! They treated both my body and my mind and I think I really needed both to be able to move toward recovery. All of the doubts, the fears, the past failures were haunting me, but they found a way for me to believe in the treatment.

Also, they focused on my entire body, not just my elbow. Turns out that my wonky shoulder had a lot to do with it. I’ve had an issue with my right shoulder (same side as my elbow) ever since I injured it playing a Wii game over five years ago. Yup, you read that correctly. I hurt myself playing a video game. I was acting like a goof wielding a light saber in some Star Wars game. There just so happens to be photographic evidence of that fateful night:

Wii shoulder injury

When I woke up the next morning my shoulder was killing me and I had limited mobility.  It got better over a few days but I continued to have issues with it over the years. I would baby it so that (unbeknownst to me) it progressively became weaker. I would unknowingly use my forearm muscles instead of my shoulder muscles, so that I overloaded my forearm and eventually something had to give. I’m sure doing tons of plank variations also didn’t help.

The taping techniques my physical therapists really helped. The first technique they tried is the one you saw in this post. This one didn’t do as much as we hoped, but I wanted to show you anyway. I found a picture (below) that shows a better angle.

Tennis elbow KT tape

The taping method that worked like a charm is the one shown below. It’s a bit of an odd method and uses regular old athletic tape because you actually don’t want the stretch; you need the support of the stronger tape.

Tennis elbow rigid tape

And here’s another angle to show where the tape starts and ends on the arm (had to zoom in on an otherwise very pretty picture from our trip to Colorado this summer):

Taping for tennis elbow

What I continue to do now that I’m done with physical therapy:

Below is a picture of the strengthening regimen that I was prescribed in addition to a few other moves for my forearms and shoulders. I do this routine 1-2 times a week.

Physical therapy for tennis elbow

I also do stretches for my forearms, shoulders, chest, and neck, such as:

Forearm stretch for tennis elbow

 From one of my favorite PT resources, PhysioAdvisor.au

I always do the stretches 1-2 times each and hold them for 20 seconds each time. Another great resource for tennis elbow stretches and strengthening is this one and closely mimics what I do.

I’m also sure to keep up with ice massage. I use the same technique as I showed you in this post about icing for plantar fasciitis, but use it along my forearm muscle and up into the elbow joint a little bit. It’s important not to push it in too hard because you could actually end up irritating the tissue as I did early on. I try to do it after any exercising that uses my arms, and though this has been tough to want to do since the weather has gotten colder, I know as long as I keep at it, I will continue to not only feel good, but keep getting better.

Ice massage cup

Finally, I’m sure to take it slow and easy as I build my strength back up. I may not do every single down dog in yoga or every push-up that Jillian wants me to. I’m careful not to workout my arm two days in a row for now (for example, no upper body exercising the day after yoga). I’ve tried to restrict my evening and weekend computer use as this tightens up my neck, shoulders, and forearms, and I believe definitely contributed to my tennis elbow pain lingering. After dealing with this for so long, I’m happy to just not be in any more constant pain, so I’m just fine with taking it slow.

I hope this helped anyone looking for answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself! This is your body, after all, and you know it better than anyone else. I finally asked my orthopedist if he could just send me to physical therapy even though he never mentioned it as an option in the year I had been seeing him.

Questions: Have you ever had tennis elbow or another injury? Have you had a chronic injury? How did you deal with it? Have you ever had to really speak up for yourself with a doctor?

Quick Tip: Take Off Your Shoes

Hi all! I know it’s been a while, but I am still here and still dedicated to this blog. I’m just trying to figure out a schedule that will work around my life. I’m back in class (microbiology) and fall is a busy time of year, but I do miss interacting with all of you and sharing ideas on how to live a healthy life.

That being said, today’s tip is something I’ve adopted over the past few months. I told you how much I enjoyed the Not Just Paleo podcast with Dr. Ray McClanahan and how it really got me thinking about foot health and shoes. It influenced me to adopt more of a shoe-free lifestyle (when appropriate). We’ve always had a no shoe policy in our house to keep down on tracking in dirt, allergens, and any nasty chemicals. Our shoe collection by the door can attest to that:

Shoe tray

In the warmer months, we just take our shoes off and walk around the house barefoot. Yes, this flies in the face of advice I was given and have given for anyone with plantar fasciitis. In fact, I’m kind of convinced that my podiatrist’s advice to wear shoes in the house may have made it worse/prolonged it because I found that my ankle mobility decreased. Since kicking the shoes off and keeping up with my exercises, my ankle mobility has increased.

Bare feet on wood floor

Bare is best!

In the cooler months, we have our slippers waiting for us by the door. Our slippers are fit loosely, have minimal support, and wide toe boxes. We’ll be breaking those out soon given the recent decrease in temperatures we’ve had here in Massachusetts!

I even make a point to walk around our yard barefoot and do some sprints, or “strides” as runners call them, across the grass. I walk across dirt, stones, you name it. It’s healthy for our feet to have a variety of surfaces so we can develop muscles that have been weakened through our shoe choices and the fact that we do need to wear shoes in our modern day.

Running barefoot on grass

Source

Next, I’m going to experiment with more minimal/barefoot shoes. That will be a post all on its own once I have enough data for you. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

Questions: Do you make a point to go barefoot? Do you have a no shoe policy in your house? Do you run around outside without shoes? Is foot health important to you?

School’s Out For Summer!

Hi all!

I’m so excited to be back! It’s been a bit of stressful summer, but I wanted to pop in to tell you I’m hoping to be back a bit more regularly. I’m not going to be posting as frequently as I was before because I want to enjoy what little is left of the summer. I’ve spent the past ten weeks reading my textbook, doing my labs, and writing up lab reports and papers. I can say with near certainty that I will not be taking a summer class or an accelerated lab-based class again unless I absolutely have to!

Gas mask for dissection

My summer in one picture

Though it’s been a rarity, I have had a few opportunities to enjoy some beautiful summer days. I made it up to the lake house a couple of times and hope to go up again soon!

New Hampshire lake scene

Peaceful early morning at the lake

We had a quick weekend getaway to Boothbay, Maine for a family wedding. If you’re ever in the area, check out the Botanic Garden. It’s gorgeous!

Coastal Main Botanical Gardens

I got to see Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails last week and the night couldn’t have been more perfect for an outdoor concert! I was lucky enough to tag along with my husband and his two good friends.

Comcast Center Mansfield Massachusetts at night

Oh and see that KT tape on my right hand?

Soundgarden NIN KT tape

Yeah…so…I’m back to getting my tennis elbow treated, this time in physical therapy (yes, this would make physical therapy stint #3 in a year and I’ve lost track of what treatment approach this is for the elbow). This would be part of the stress of the summer. I’m going to post more on that soon and what I think is going on with my broken body. There’s some conventional stuff in there, but in true Whole Health Dork fashion, there is also some unconventional stuff that I think makes a lot of sense and may be a big part in my recovery.

Most importantly, what’s going on with all of you?! I’ve missed you all! I hope you’re having a fabulous summer!

See you soon…

WHD

New Year’s Goals Check-In: May

Holy smokes, it’s June! We’re nearly halfway through the year. How the heck did that happen?

You know what a new month means: a breakdown of my goals for the New Year. A lot of my answers to my goals are, “classwork is my focus right now” and I’m fine with hat, especially given that the A&P II I’m taking is only 10 weeks long, compared to the usual 16 weeks, so I’m cramming in a lot in a short time. I’m already feeling the pressure and am doing my best to balance life.

That being said, here’s how I did in May:

Personal Goals

  • Try a new trend/clothing item I wouldn’t normally: A

Even though I gained some items after going through a pile of too-big clothes I had put aside, I still have no casual/weekend clothes. I finally bit the bullet and signed up for Stitch Fix and hope that although they will have my style profile down, they push me outside my comfort zone a bit as well. I won’t receive the shipment until July and I can’t wait to share with you!

Stitch Fix Logo

  • Take more pictures: B

Picture taking has been mostly for blogging, but it’s becoming more and more of a habit, so I’m happy for that. Once my class is over, I want to go through our vacation pictures more thoroughly to organize and make notes on them as well as get them printed for a real photo album. And then there are our wedding pics…

  •  Make a new menu item weekly: B+

Another month without much meal planning, but we’re still eating plenty clean and healthy. WHH has been making up some of his own recipes, such as the sausage and pasta stir fry we had the other night that I was too hungry to take a second to take a picture of.

Something new that I did get a picture of was Brussels sprouts on the grill! I cooked them a bit in the oven first with some olive oil and garlic salt, and then onto some skewers and the barbie they went! We had to take off a few of the outer leaves on some of them, but they were delicious!

Grilled Brussesls sprouts

  • Travel: A

With our plane tickets to Colorado booked and filling in some details with my brother, we need to get a bit of a loose itinerary, and start to think about booking some places to stay when we’re not with my brother. This vacation is well-timed to be a couple of weeks after the end of my course. I will be wanting some R&R and to finally enjoy the summer!

  • Read more, especially instead of watching TV: A

I made a conscious effort at this one this past month. Instead of eating weekend meals in front of a screen (whether the TV, my phone, or my computer), I’ve made myself sit down and read a magazine or a book. I’ve enjoyed this immensely and found a lot of satisfaction in finally being able to read something other than my textbook or A Storm of Swords (as much as I enjoy the series, I’ve been reading it since late last fall).

Check out this interesting stat I came across in my Women’s Health Magazine.

Americans ate 118 fewer calories in 2010 vs 2005

This month has consisted of nothing but the necessary, so a no-go on the Pinterest board. I’m scaling it again because of classwork.

  • Simplify house further: B+

Another bag of items went off to be donated as well as another Thred Up bag in the mail! We’re getting there, little by little!

  • Meet with financial advisor: TBD

As I said last month, I’m scheduling this for the end of the summer when I will be done with classes for a few weeks and can properly concentrate. This time I just took it off so it doesn’t affect my GPA. 😉

  • Write reviews, such as for products and travel:C+

Have not done this, but scaled due to class. Will try to make a better effort this month and do it in small chunks instead of thinking of all of the different places I should review and get overwhelmed. As my co-worker says, you need to eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Elephants_at_Amboseli_national_park_against_Mount_Kilimanjaro

I feel as though I have a line of elephants to eat. Image c/o amoghavarsha.com

Professional:

  • Take co-requisite courses for nursing school: A+

I finished A&P I with a 95% average and am in the third week of A&P II. The weather was too lovely this weekend to be stuck in the basement, so I tucked myself into a little corner outside to do my endocrine system dissection. WHH admitted his sick curiosity had him peeking over at me while he was doing yard work. He gave some pretty priceless faces.

A&P II dissection kit

  • Start nursing school: TBD

Still on the wait-list for Fall 2014. Focusing on getting through A&P II, and then I’ll go from there.

  • Get better at WordPress and blogging in general: B

The blog has unfortunately fallen by the wayside a bit thanks to classwork. I’m okay with it for now since that is where my focus needs to be, hence why I’m not being harsher with my grading.

  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification: TBD

Constantly thinking about this even though I just need to concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s always in the back of my mind, though.

Health and Wellness:

  • Try a new physical endeavor as my body continues to heal from all of the injuries last year: B+

I finished the Return to Running program in May after six months of making my way back to running! I haven’t pushed my body much since that time as my plantar fasciitis has been rearing its ugly head a bit. It’s partially my fault–I haven’t been as religious with icing and massaging–and partially being on my feet for two weeks at work. Now that I’m back at my desk, it’s getting a little better. I’ve been varying my routes and surfaces a lot, so that has been fun.

New England white church

I love the quintessential New England sights during my runs.

Something that’s not so fun is my nagging tennis elbow. When I went back to the orthopedist earlier in May, he told me to take the next four weeks and stretch–that’s it. Well, I  have, and guess what? No difference. I haven’t stayed off of it completely because I don’t want the tendon to get tight from no use, but I don’t do anything that hurts it.

I go back to him on Monday and I’m kind of dreading it. I know he’ll offer me another cortisone injection and will make a convincing argument, but I don’t want it. PRP or prolotherapy are the last options before surgery, which I also definitely don’t want. While it’s holding me back from doing a lot of workout moves that I want, I am just going with the flow more than I used to.

  • Work on reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins: B+

We’re still conscious of the types of meats, dairy, and other food we buy. I’ve been going to Whole Foods more regularly to buy their organic almond milk, which is surprisingly less expensive than our usual grocery store. I go through a decent amount of it every week between smoothies and my new obsession, overnight oats.

Gluten free overnight oats

That brings us to the end. A recap my monthly grades for the year:
January: C
February: B-
March: B+
April: B+
May…B+! Still holding steady and I will take it!

For the past two months I’ve talked about how I want to work on slowing down. It hasn’t happened to the degree I would like, but both myself and WHH are conscious of taking small steps to make it happen. June isn’t quite as jam-packed for us as May was, but it is slowly filling up. It’s often WHH’s busiest month at work as the school year comes to a close and everyone’s rushing to get everything done.

Though he is technically off for two months, he will be keeping himself busy with some classes and curriculum planning because he finally got his dream job last month: a full-time high school art teacher. So proud of this guy.

Two thumbs up

Out celebrating last month

All in all, June is still looking busy, but we have time planned to kick back and relax, if only for short bursts of time. I know we’ll make every effort to enjoy those moments, no matter how brief, so that it recharges us to go on to the next thing.

Questions: How are you doing with any goals you set for the year? Do you have time planned in the next month to relax a bit? Any accomplishments that you want to brag about?

Mixing It Up

Hi all! I know it’s been awhile (or, at least, a little longer than my usual), but last week I said that I’d probably move to two posts a week and that’s where it’s at. I was hoping to do more of a Tuesday/Friday schedule, but that didn’t work out this week. So I’m mixing it up and doing Wednesday/Friday.

I’m also mixing up a lot of other things in my life right now. Or at least it seems like a lot for me being the creature of habit that I am. When I find something that works for me I like to stick with it. That being said, it is good to get some variety in your life and everything in moderation is always what I’m preaching, so I best be practicing it, too!

On the food front, I’m mixing up my breakfasts again. I had been sticking to a yogurt parfait in the morning for nearly a year. Yes, a year. I’d sometimes mix it up on the weekends and have oatmeal or go out for breakfast, but I always missed my parfait. You’d think I would have gotten sick of them, but surprisingly not.

Pumpkin parfait container

Then, a couple of months ago or so, I changed it up and moved to smoothies for breakfast. Except, again, every.single.day. I finally decided this week that I’m having a combination of items for breakfast throughout the week (smoothie one day, yogurt another day) and I should branch out and try a chia pudding or overnight oats. I’ll let you know if (when!) I do how they come out.

Almond Coconut Milk Smoothie

Also something I have nearly every single day? An apple with nut butter for my afternoon snack. Notice that I did say nut butter, which implies a little variety. It used to be peanut butter only, but I had branched out a while ago and have since been using sunflower and almond butter as well. Remember my stash that I keep at work (upside down, of course!)?

Peanut and sunflower butter upside down

I’ve recently started including pears (gasp!), watermelon (no!), and today, an orange (mon Dieu!)! I think I’ll have a handful of nuts with my orange, though. Doesn’t exactly go with peanut butter. Like, the one thing that doesn’t. Probably because nothing rhymes with orange. 😉

Orange with smiley face

I may have drawn on my orange…

That may not sounds like a lot, but for a type-A, sticks-to-a-plan person like me, this pushes me outside my comfort zone a bit. And is if that weren’t enough…

Ron Popeil but wait there's more

I’m also mixing up my workouts! With the week or so hiatus between classes, I made it to the gym a few times. I ran on the treadmill, did some Little-style walking hill intervals, and hit the heavier weights. I definitely missed the variety of the gym.

I’ll be back at home a lot now that I’m in the midst of a really busy 10 week class, so I wanted to be able to mix it up at home as well. I downloaded the Nike Training Club app after reading about it on Courtney’s blog. I did one of the 15 minute butt workouts, combined with the first five minutes of an abs/glute workout, and I’m still sore two days later! I love that you’re coached through each move and everything’s timed for you. The only thing I didn’t like was the inability to skip a certain move.

Nike Training Club app

I’ve also been expanding my yoga practice thanks to YouTube through my TV via our Wii. I’ll generally search for “yoga for runners” or “yoga for hips” and I’ll get some great results from that. I love the variety since my yoga library is limited both in terms of DVDs and what’s available on On Demand (we have the least expensive cable option) and I’m definitely not one to do my own yoga workout.

You know how else I’m mixing it up, but is actually not working in my favor? Being on my feet a lot more at work. With our medical record Go Live, I’ve been in the infusion room for the past week instead of my desk and I’m doing a lot of standing around. For some reason, standing, as opposed to walking, really bothers me and has made my PF flare up a bit. So I’m easing up on the running for right now so as not to aggravate it further. It wouldn’t be a problem except that it was like going from 0-60 MPH. I went from all sitting to all standing. This week’s been a better variety of sitting and standing, so thank goodness for that.

What prompted me being all kinds of wild and mixing it up? I’ve just felt a bit “off” lately. You know what I mean? My body’s been a bit fussy in terms of GI issues and generally feeling tight, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to make it better. I’ve also recently discovered the idea that gluten may not be the only issue for me–that FODMAP foods may also be to blame, hence the slight dietary changes. I’m not going all in just yet because that would be a lot of food to change up at once. Plus, it’s ice cream season.

Double fisting ice cream

Questions: Do you tend to stick to certain habits? Do you need to make yourself change things up or do you look forward to it? Is there anything you’ve changed up recently?

Friday Favorite: Return to Running

Can you believe we’re halfway through May? Where the heck did the past two weeks go?

May 16 2014

Maybe it was the craziness of the last two weeks of my class that made it go by so quickly (which I got an A in, by the way–good to know I’ve still got it!).

Final grade

 You know I’m rounding that up to 95%, right? 

So, I’m sure you probably saw today’s favorite coming from a mile away (or 3,446 miles for Karen). I’ve talked about my experience with the Return to Running program many times over the past six months.

Cool down walk

WHH creeping on me during a stage about midway through the plan.

For those of you who haven’t been following the whole time, it’s a program developed by PhysioAdvisor.com to help those of us who have sustained lengthened injuries to slowly and safely make our way back to running.

PhysioAdvisor.com logo

After I was discharged from physical therapy last November I had no idea how to start on my path back to running. When I had last tried getting back to running last August after recovering from my other injury, I developed the plantar fasciitis that landed me back in physical therapy through November. Needless to say I was a bit apprehensive on how to move forward. I needed a systematic approach, but what? That was when I stumbled upon this great program after spending a lot of frustrating time searching online for a solid plan.

Return to running plan

I followed it to a T. I had a few setbacks, figured out what the problems were, and then moved forward. I’m amazed I didn’t have more setbacks given my year of injuries in 2013. In fact, the last few stages flew  by with very few needing repeats. Though it took me six months, I finally made it to stage 19 on Wednesday!

Return to running all stages

It was really rewarding to see this on my RunKeeper when I finished:

RunKeeper fastest run

I may have been a bit too enthusiastic, though, because my knees became quite sore about halfway through. I think the problem was going a bit too fast for my first full run back:

RunKeeper splits

Unintentional negative splits! 

Thankfully, they didn’t hurt once I was done and they still haven’t hurt more than usual. Going to need to keep up foam rolling the ITBs and running on the grass.

Running on grass path

I would highly recommend this program to anyone trying to negotiate their way back to running following an injury. I couldn’t be happier with the results and am excited to move on to a more interesting training schedule (Tempo runs! HIIT! Hills!) and start racing again! I don’t plan on increasing my mileage by more than 10% a week, nor increasing the speed or intensity too quickly. It’s been helpful to reach out to Nora, who beat me to finishing the program, to see how she’s progressed in her runs.

For those who are coming back from an injury, but want to come back to a sport, PhysioAdvisor also has a plan for that as well. Additionally, they have tons of other resources for dealing with injury, from stretches for your particular injury, to taping technique. Some of the content is locked for members only, but for a nominal fee you can gain a lot of additional helpful information. I haven’t bought a membership yet, but I may to see if there is some extra helpful information for my elbow.

Well, in the words of my Welsh co-worker, there you have it and there you are. Hope you have a great weekend!

Questions: Have you had to come back from injury after an extended period of time? Are there any programs out there that you love, whether it’s a marathon training plan or a HIIT workout? Any fun weekend plans?

How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?

Happy Monday and Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to all of the fabulous moms out there. I don’t know how you ladies do it! I hope you all had a wonderful day. The weather was heavenly in Massachusetts, and as I predicted, it seemed we went right from winter to summer. It was in the 80s!

Crabapple blossoms

Crabapple tree finally blossoming about 2 weeks later than usual

We had a lovely brunch yesterday with my parents, grandmother, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, and my husband’s Grammie. It was such a whirlwind that I didn’t snap any pictures, despite making a point to take out our camera. The only thing I captured was cooking the veggies for the frittata the night before:

Veggie frittata filling

Everything cooked right in the cast iron. I love one-pot/pan cooking!

Today I wanted to talk about stretching because I have found it to be so beneficial for recovering from my injuries as well as staying injury-free. Since I’ve already shared my favorite stretches for the lower body, I wanted to specifically talk about how long to hold stretches* for because I’ve found people tend to rush through them. So,

How long to hold a stretch

My answer? At least twenty seconds. How did I arrive at this number? That’s how long my physical therapist told me I was to hold my prescribed stretches and I’ve been doing it ever since. When I first started doing this, 20 seconds seemed like forever. Now I’ll often hold a stretch for longer to allow myself to go deeper into the stretch. And, not only do I hold them for 20 seconds, but I often do two sets!

Quad stretch

To make the most of holding a stretch this long, use your breath to help ease you deeper into the stretch. Those that do yoga will know what I’m talking about, but for those who haven’t done it, use your inhale to relax your muscles while you’re in the stretch, and use your exhale to go deeper. Don’t force anything, because that can do more harm than good. Push it to where you feel it, but it shouldn’t be painful. I find it amazing how much deeper I can go as I relax the surrounding muscles and then use the exhale to stretch further.

Don’t forget to keep the rest of your muscles loose when you’re stretching as well. I sometimes find myself tensing up other areas of my body as I try to get a deeper stretch and have to constantly remind myself to keep it loose. As my girl Jillian likes to say when stretching the hammies,

Jillian Michaels streching quote

That being said, for anyone who does her DVDs, I would caution that she does not hold stretches long enough. Much of the time she seems to hold them for less than 10 seconds each. I have found this to be more of a problem in her quick workout DVDs such as 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30, probably to add to the speed of the workout. I always stop the DVD during the cool down and do my stretches. Don’t forget that you need to listen to your body and I’m guessing you’ll hear it asking for you to hold that stretch longer!

*Please note that I’m referring to static stretching. Static stretches are isolated stretches that you hold for a length of time and should be done at the end of a workout as opposed to dynamic stretching, or stretching that utilizes movement through the stretch and is done as part of a warm-up. A static stretch for shoulders, for example, would be when you pull the arm across the body to the opposite side, whereas a dynamic stretch for the shoulders would be arm circles.

Questions: How was your Mother’s Day? How’s the weather been lately where you are? Do you have a stretching routine? How long do you hold stretches for?

Friday Favorite: Yogi Tea

Happy Friday! This week flew by surprisingly fast. Although I should probably wait on that sentiment given that I’m training people on parts of our new electronic medical record all day today.

I’ll keep it short and sweet today given I had a really long April recap earlier this week. Today’s favorite is something I’ve been using for the past few years: Yogi Tea! One of my favorite flavors that I have been unable to find duplicated in any other tea is their Egyptian Licorice.

Egyptian Licorice Yogi Tea

I’m actually not a huge tea drinker (I love my bold, black coffee!), but I  have found myself drinking it more and more, especially in the colder months. I tend toward herbal teas as opposed to caffeinated/decaf teas. The Egyptian licorice flavor is silky smooth on the throat and nice and warming. I often find myself having it on afternoons at work to warm me up.

One of my other go-to’s is the Yogi ginger tea.

Ginger Yogi Tea

As you can see on the front, ginger aids digestion. Ginger is also a great anti-inflammatory. I find myself reaching for it when I’m feeling especially sore from a workout or if something’s not sitting well in my stomach. It’s spicy-sweet and definitely wakes me up a bit thanks to the spice. I’m not one for spice (thanks to my 1/4 Irish genes?), but the spice of ginger is different. It’s warming, but doesn’t linger in your mouth the way that chili-type spice does.

I love that Yogi Tea explains the benefits of their ingredients on the box.

Ginger Yogi Tea ingredients

They also include a yoga pose and the best way to brew the tea.

Yogi Tea yoga pose

And one of my favorite parts? The lovely sayings on the tea tags. I couldn’t find a picture of my own, but you can go to their website and get a piece of wisdom any time you want!

One of my other favorites is the Yogi Bedtime tea.

Yogi Bedtime Tea

Like the Egyptian licorice flavor, this has a nice, mellow, smooth and soothing flavor. It definitely helps me unwind at the end of the day and get my mind and body ready for sleep.

Of course, one of the best parts I haven’t yet mentioned is that most of their teas are organic. No need to worry about nasty chemicals on the herbs you’re drinking! They also go on sale frequently at my local grocery store and at Whole Foods. I always snag a couple of boxes when they can be had for less money!

In terms of a running update, I did stage 17 yesterday. I hadn’t run since last Friday because my funky knee felt a little wonky. I was out of work early because of the long day today. I had eaten lunch at 11:30 and grabbed a date with some peanut butter on my way out for my run around 2:30. I don’t know if it was the lack of food or the fact that my run started off with some pretty steep hills, but my legs felt like cement blocks despite a rest day the day before. I guess I now know that I definitely need something in me about an hour or so before a run.

My plantar fasciitis foot was feeling a bit tight last night, but I made sure to do my regular ice massage as well as slapping an ice pack on my foot while reading in bed. Still a bit tight today, but no pain. I need to get back to more regular use of the Foot Rubz and tennis ball to loosen up that fascia.

Foot Rubz ball

For this weekend, I’m looking forward to our annual Mother’s Day brunch that WHH and I host for our moms and grandmothers. I’m not sure of the menu this year, but I often make maple glazed bacon, baked French toast, veggie frittata, a large fruit salad, and mimosas. Mmmm…

Martha Stewart Maple Glazed Bacon

Questions: Do you drink tea? Caffeinated, decaf, and/or herbal? What are some of your favorite blends? Any weekend plans?

 

New Year’s Goals Check-In: April

Happy May! How did the month of April look for you? Anything you’re looking forward to in the next month? Here’s a breakdown of my goals for the New Year and how I did in April:

Personal Goals

  • Try a new trend/clothing item I wouldn’t normally: N/A

After putting away the winter clothes and taking out the spring/summer clothes, I’m good for now, though I will probably need some summer clothes since I was running low last year. I also remembered a bag of clothes I had put aside from the tailor when I lost too much weight. I tried the clothes on and three of the five items now fit well enough that I don’t need them taken in. Still tempted to try Stitch Fix.

  • Take more pictures: B

I’m still taking a lot of pictures and keeping them organized moving forward. We received our Shutterfly book and it’s such a nice little memento to look through. I still want to go back through our vacation pictures more thoroughly to organize/make notes on them and get more printed for an old-fashioned photo album. And wedding pics? Yeah…

Shutterfly vacation book

A funny series of picture from the top of the incredibly sunny Jungfraujoch.

  •  Make a new menu item weekly: A-

This past month we’ve been flying by the seat of our pants a bit. It’s been crazy with work, studying, working out, and family/friends, so we’ve been less creative than usual and definitely have not done much meal planning. I’m going to curve this grade a bit, though, because class comes first and we’re still eating plenty clean and healthy.

One new recipe I did make? Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie from Cook Smarts. Yummy, yum, yum!

Deconstructed shepherd's pie

One thing I have been really good at: “use it up” recipes. That is, using up all of the leftovers in my fridge for a random meal. Last night I had some eggplant, pepper, shallot, Brussels sprouts leaves, stewed tomatoes,and tempeh that needed to be used. Et voila, a take on ratatouille:

Left over meal

  • Travel: A

Tickets to Colorado are booked! Now we need fill in the blanks of where to stay (hopefully with my brother in the Boulder area for a few days) and what to do (hiking, horseback riding, etc.). I would love any suggestions if you’ve been there before!

A trip to the Netherlands to visit friends is still possible later this year, though not probable.

  • Read more, especially instead of watching TV: B+

When aren’t I reading?! I feel like all I do is read! This month’s school assignments have included incredibly long chapters, as well as double chapters this past week. I’m a regular book’s worth (~300 pages) through A Storm of Swords (which is even longer!)!

TV has been average, with some of our favorite shows all back on at the same time (A Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Vikings, and Call the Midwife). We try to portion it out so we watch on weekends nights only. Do you watch any of these shows? We only know two other people who watch Vikings and can’t believe it’s not more popular given how popular GOT is. Lagertha is one of my favorite characters because she is so bad a$$. I could go on and on about how good this show is (not as good as GOT, though), but since this is my reading instead of watching TV goal, I’ll save myself the shame.

History Channel Vikings

Speaking of shame…I have a “french fry” (no good for me, but tastes so good!) show: Total Divas. I am absolutely fascinated by this world of tough, athletic women that throw themselves around. I may even follow the Bella Twins on Instagram and Twitter. I try to watch only when I’m foam rolling or icing, because I really don’t have time for this.

Total Divas

This month has consisted of nothing but the necessary, so a no-go on the Pinterest board. I’m scaling it because classwork is to blame (so she says after talking about TV shows!) and I’m not going to give myself a hard time for not getting to it when that’s what I’m spending most of my time on.

  • Simplify house further: B+

Yet another bag of items off to be donated as well as a Thred Up bag to be sent! Still no-go on the dreaded closet, but see legitimate excuse above.

Thred Up logo

  • Meet with financial advisor: C+

Still haven’t done this. I’m thinking I may move it to the end of the summer when I will be done with classes for a few weeks and can properly concentrate. Scaled accordingly.

  • Write reviews, such as for products and travel:C+

Ugh. I am seriously tanking this month. April obviously kicked my butt. Will re-assess the TV situation for sure.

Professional:

  • Take co-requisite courses for nursing school: A+

It’s my last week of A&P I (still holding a 95% average!) and A&P II starts in three weeks, so I get one week off in between.

Dissection for Anatomy & Physiology I

  • Start nursing school: TBD

Still on the wait-list for Fall 2014. My focus is on finishing A&P I, getting through A&P II, and then I’ll go from there.

  • Get better at WordPress and blogging in general: B+

I had my first guest post this month and was definitely better with posting at more consistent times and prepping more posts ahead of time, so I feel really good about that given how busy the month was.

  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification: TBD

Still not a focus right now, though it is on my mind a lot . A possibility for the fall…

Health and Wellness:

  • Try a new physical endeavor as my body continues to heal from all of the injuries last year: B+

No quite as good as last month. My focus has been mainly on trying to maintain a routine during some busy weeks, and to keep moving forward in my Return to Running program. I have ventured out on some trails, though, and have made a big effort to find new routes at every chance.

April train run

Friday’s run was stage 16! My right knee felt a little funny during part of the run, so I’ve been icing and taking it easy the past few days. It’s my weird knee that acts up from time to time. I think I overdid it during one of Jillian’s workouts that had a lot of plyo training. I just need to not do that anymore. My knees never like me after I do. Trying not to think too much about it.

Hill running

Lots of hills on Friday’s run. Kept saying to myself, “You can do this!”  instead of “When will this hill end?!”

I’m done with the 12 days of prednisone for my tennis elbow and while it felt fabulous the first few days, pain and stiffness shortly returned. After being in training all week last week and not doing much computer mousing, it definitely felt looser and I was able to do some wall and knee push-ups for the first time since December. I think that may be the key: keeping it loose long enough so I can strengthen it. I asked for another ergonomic evaluation at work, hoping that might help the situation. I go back to my orthopedist tomorrow and will probably refuse the second cortisone injection I’m sure they’re going to offer me. Second opinion is next.

  • Work on reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins: B+

We’ve continued to make an effort to buy more natural meats, whether they’re vegetarian-fed (the cheapest of the natural meats), grass-fed, and/or organic. I’ve also been checking out the 365 Everyday Value brand at Whole Foods a lot more and the prices are not only reasonable, they’re often less than Market Basket’s equivalent. Love it!

365 Everday Value logo

To recap my monthly grades so far:

January: C
February: B-
March: B+
And April…B+! Whew…I seriously thought it was going to go down. I’ll take a steady B+ for now given how crazy this month was.

Last month I mentioned that I wanted to focus on more on slowing down. That didn’t exactly happen and as this new month started I was thinking how every day was going by so quickly and I felt like I was doing what I could to just get through it, making sure to eat healthy, work out, get my school work done, and maybe have time to read for pleasure and/or watch TV, let alone get to house stuff.

We did have some fun, having friends over one weekend night, attending some family events, and then celebrating my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday in style at Nebo in Boston (delicious food, great service, and gluten-free menu!). But it’s still a lot. WHH has a lot going on, too, but I’m hoping as his school year comes to a close in the next two months and the lazy days of summer are upon us, we’ll find time to stop and smell the roses. For now, I’ll have to just enjoy the little moments, such as this beautiful scene I caught on my way to work this morning.

May sunrise

Questions: How are you doing with any goals you set for the year? Did April go by as quickly and crazily for you or were you able to stop and enjoy it?

What’s Working Lately

Happy Monday! This weekend flew by! The weather was pretty gross here in Massachusetts-back to the 40s, rainy, and just dreary. Though it made staying in and doing homework for most of it a bit easier, I suppose. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in another run in between showers. It threatened the whole time, but I outran the storm clouds!

April showers

As I was running, and feeling so grateful that I had made it to stage 16 relatively uneventfully, I was thinking about what’s been working for me lately to get me to this point. Of course, then I started thinking about all the things in my life that are just kind of geling, which then lead me to think about some things that aren’t. So, in true type-A fashion, I started making some lists when I got home. 🙂

What’s Working 

  • My current workout routine: This consists of running 2-3x a week using the Return to Running program faithfully. I’ve also made sure to incorporate one yoga routine a week, one barre3 workout, and strengthening.
  • Injury prevention: As I’ve been amping up the running, I’m sure to massage and do an ice rub following each outing. In addition to icing on the day of the run, I’ve also been icing my foot nearly every single night when I get in bed to read for about 10-20 min. Foam rolling 1-2 times a week, especially along the IT band and into my glutes, has helped keep my glute injury at bay.

Ice massage for plantar fasciitis

  • Running on varied surfaces: My feet really love me when I run on grass, so I make a point to have a trail run or a run along an area with grass in one of my weekly runs. I can really feel the difference and I think this has helped to keep the plantar fasciitis at bay.
  • Chipping away at homework: For the first half of the semester, I did the bulk of my homework on the weekends. Of course, this left me trying to cram a lot of information into a short time and not getting much else done on the weekends. I’ve been trying to make a point of doing one hour of homework every night. Breaking big jobs into smaller tasks is a concept I need to work on. I let myself get overwhelmed with the big picture, decide to tackle it all at once, and stress myself out unnecessarily.

Proper dissection safety

 Dissection time!

  • Getting to bed earlier: My energy has been so much better lately thanks to making an effort to getting to bed about 15-20 minutes earlier. It makes the evening shorter, but it’s so worth it!

Of course, this list leads me to consider the opposite topic…

What’s Not Working

  • My diet: I seem to be hovering a pound or two higher than my usual range the past few weeks. This wouldn’t bother me except that I feel uncomfortable and have a heaviness in my midsection. Is it true weight gain? Is it because of the time of the month? Is it irregularity? Is it the prednisone? Whatever it is, something needs to change. I’m definitely not my usual self. So I’ve decided to try to cut down my dairy intake a bit. I love my morning yogurt parfaits, but I shouldn’t have them every.single.day. I’m also going to refocus on my fruit and vegetable intake, decrease my sugar, increase my fiber, and double-check my calories as all this running has made me a bit rungry. I also ordered the RawJuvenate’s 2 Week Detox Kit through a Groupon (it includes that supergreens mix I loved from my Greatist box!). I’ll be having this for breakfast every day and am hoping it will help “reset” my system. My goal isn’t to lose weight, but be back to feeling myself.

Pumpkin, kale, and almond butter smoothie

This morning’s pumpkin, kale, & almond butter protein smoothie

  • My tennis elbow: The prednisone worked great for the first few days. I felt like a new woman! But then, even though I was still on it (two more days to go), I started feeling the tightness more and more. I’m not back to where I started, but it’s not near the result I was hoping for based on how I felt the first few days. I’m going to try some ART therapy tomorrow to see if I can loosen up the muscles before it comes back with a vengeance. If that doesn’t work, I’m going for a second opinion. I saw what life could be without the constant pain and tightness and I want that back!

On the Edge of Not Working

  • My current life pace: I feel like I’m right on the edge of being overwhelmed. I’ve been able to work everything in so far with taking class and having it fit into my life (that is, still being able to work out regularly, prepare fresh, healthy meals, keep up with the house, blog, and have a social life). But there are times when I feel like the balance could almost tip. In that case, I will need to assess what can go and what can stay because this path I’m on is important to me. Whatever is in the way of that will have to go, whether it’s changing up blogging to only twice a week, or giving up TV altogether.

That’s that for now. A bit of a mind dump, but I wanted to share what’s working for me in case there’s something there that could help you. I think it’s good to assess our day-to-day life to make sure we’re living a happy, healthy life. We only have this day, this moment, and we need to make the most of it.

Aim High graphic

Questions: What about you? What’s working for you lately? What’s not working?