Mindful Movement, Trying New Things + An Honest Cyclebar Review

Hi, Friends!

HAPPY FRIDAY! Hope you’ve had/are having a pretty great week. This week has been a quick one, despite long days at work, and I’m so pumped about it because we will be jet setting for Dallas (again) this weekend to celebrate my sister’s 25th year of life!

Something that’s been on my brain lately is “mindful movement” and “try new things”. In my last post I mentioned that I had been taking barre and yoga classes, and I’ve been really enjoying them. I easily feel like I could be hooked for life. Barre and yoga break up the monotony of the work week and give me a challenge to look forward to after work before coming home and crashing. My body seems to be responding well to both yoga and barre (although they’re notably different), and I’m loving feeling stronger in my hips, legs, and abs, even mentally (thanks, yoga. namaste).

About a month ago in light of my “try new things” mantra, I purchased a groupon for Cyclebar classes. I had previously experienced Cyclebar as a charity event rider raising funds for cures to Crohn’s and colitis, and I knew that Cyclebar was a clean, welcoming place. When I happened upon a discount, YASSS GIRL! Sign me up! So here’s my honest, unfiltered review:

My first night at Cyclebar in OKC was a bit of a dud, but that wasn’t Cyclebar’s fault. I was INCREDIBLY symptomatic, but I desperately felt like I needed to move my body. Unfortunately, I was legitimately concerned about the real possibility of crapping all over myself and the bike and causing a scene, so I didn’t push my body very hard at all…but it was so nice to move. Since I have been feeling better after my infusion, I thought I’d redeem another class purchase, and I headed to Cyclebar yesterday evening after my twelve hour shift at the hospital.

First thoughts:
“Is it 80s night? Did I miss the memo about the blue eyeshadow and the leotards? I definitely did.”
The studio is bright and clean, full of fit and friendly faces, and there’s chilled filtered water with a spread of bananas and free glow-sticks welcoming me. I grabbed my size 6.5 black leather complementary cycle shoes, filled my water bottle and headed to the dark “theatre”.
I hopped on my bike and slowly started pedaling. This particular class had a d.j. and I was genuinely offended that he remixed Michael Jackson. Who DOES that? I managed to forgive the d.j. once he played some Sublime and Nirvana, sans remix.
I know what you’re thinking: Sublime and Nirvana aren’t 80s? I know. I know.
I feel old and thoroughly confused about the leotards.

I REALLY enjoyed the instructor. Katie was her name (I think). She gave just the right amount of motivation without sounding like an irate drill-sargeant. I spent entirely too much time wondering how she managed to get her fishtail braid so gosh darn perfect.

I felt like I kept up with the class fairly well, making sure that my resistance on the bike was within the recommended ranges as instructed by Katie. It took me a hot second to realize that I should’ve been aiming for higher RPMs, because I mistook that recommendation for another reading on the monitor and oops…oh well. My quads were burning, my heart was pumping, and I was sweating like a very fat man in a very hot and crowded room.

My sweat towel dropped on the floor, but I can’t reach it. My feet are strapped in, and I can’t get them out.

Mid-class:
BORED SO BORED.  30 minutes in and I AM STILL ON THIS EFFING BIKE.
Epiphany: cycling isn’t for me.  I think in my earlier twenties I thought that I needed intense, push-it-to-the-limit workouts, but I don’t feel like I need that right now, and I get a special kind of anxiety in a dark room with really loud club music while my feet are literally strapped onto a bike that I know I am too clumsy to actually appreciate.
I notice the discomfort concerning my feet being strapped in is crescendoing into full-blown panic, and about that time, my calves and feet begin to slowly, ever so slowly, cramp.

By the end of the class both of my feet and calves are completely cramped- definitely should’ve had more water in the last 24 hours.  I can’t get my feet off of the darn bike because of the shoes being clipped in, so I just decide to leave my shoes in the pedals. Screw it. I un-velcro myself to sweet, sweet freedom, and I hop off the bike to stretch with the class. My shoes are still pedaling along slowly on the bike without me in my periphery.

After we are done stretching, I drop to my knees and physically wrestle with the pedals and the shoes. I know what you’re thinking: it really can’t be that hard to get the shoes unclipped, Stacey. And I agree. It shouldn’t be this hard. CLEARLY I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Brad (not sure if that’s his name) comes over about that time and helps me unclip my rental shoes from the bike pedals, smiling patiently.
“Oh I see! So it’s just like skiing?” I say.
“YES! Exactly- it’s just like skis!” Brad concurs.
But in real life I have only been skiing twice, and I can’t even manage to clip my shoes in and out of skis either. I am such a fraud.

I grab my purse, keys, and RX Bar out of my (really clean) locker and immediately reach for the bananas for some much-needed potassium and magnesium, and I head to my car. I’m thankful that I am experiencing new forms of movement, and I will happily return to Cyclebar in a week or two to fulfill my groupon purchase…but I won’t be committing to a membership (which is quite an investment anyway).
It’s not you, Cyclebar, it’s me. And I am not a cyclist.

Cyclebar is for you if: 
-you like friendly people, and you don’t mind them greeting you
-you aren’t working out alone (this place is a little awkward to come solo. It feels very happy hour-esque)
-you like clean showers, restrooms, lockers, etc.
-you like fun, themed workouts (e.g. 80s night, Madonna Concert Series, etc.)
-you’re cool with instructors yelling at you through a microphone
-you don’t get offended by 90s music at 80s night
-you want a really good cardio workout with fun resistance thrown into the mix
-you like to sweat like a mofo
-you like to track your improvements (stats are emailed to you after each class!)
-bananas

By trying new forms of movement I’ve discovered that while I don’t like spin classes all that much, I’m 100% on team yoga and barre, which have been excellent cross-training for my one true love: running. My runs have been faster, and my hips don’t feel tight for the first time maybe ever. The pain that used to plague my right IT band isn’t there (although to be fair, I’m running short distances currently).  Yoga and barre are both challenging in very different ways, and I love knowing that I’m growing and changing with each class.

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^this morning’s tempo run, 35 degrees and beautiful.

I’m not a person who easily falls into and appreciates routine; I’m all over the place. I run because I can, and because it has always challenged me. Knowing that I have completed a training regimen and raced is such a feeling of accomplishment. But recently I began to feel guilty once I realized that I wasn’t looking forward to my runs, staring back at my calendar with dread instead of excitement over training for new races. I knew this needed to change (because I want to want to run, ya know?), and thankfully, I still VERY MUCH love running. I simply needed newness to break up the monotony. I needed to know that I was capable of being strong in other ways, and thankfully, this has made me a stronger runner, too. Life has been exponentially more flavorful and fun simply by listening to my body, satisfying it with the form of movement that it has been craving, and watching it respond accordingly. I’m thankful to be on the up and up.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run some errands after chowing down on this very non-instagram worthy picture of my very purposeful and fueling food choice for this morning.

Go have a good weekend 🙂 Keep moving forward.

xo, Stacey

 

 

Questions:
How do you break up the work week or workout monotony? 
Do you appreciate routine, or do you you like to switch it up? 
Do you like bananas? How about pina coladas? Getting caught in the rain?

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Workout Wednesday + Antioxidant Smoothie

Hi, Friends!

Hope you’re all having a great Wednesday.

Last night’s workout took no time at all but left me feeling accomplished, and here it is:

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I loathe burpees, and today I’m having trouble walking…that’s about all I have to say about yesterday’s workout :). Really good for the legs and REALLY gets the heart rate up.

Antioxidant Smoothie Stuff

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Here’s a great recovery smoothie recipe!

-1/2 C almond milk

-1/2 C yogurt of your choice

-1 tbsp coconut oil

-1/4 C rolled oats

-1 scoop protein of your choice (choose one with glutamine! It’ll  help with muscle recovery. Here’s one of my favorites by Vega).

-handfull of spinach

-3/4 C frozen blueberries

B L E N D & serve

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Enjoy 🙂

We may have our first bout of “severe storms” this week in Oklahoma. How to deal?! Tornados are a thing I have no experience with. Fingers crossed!!! Words of advice welcomed…

-Stacey

A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

The question I get asked most often by friends and strangers alike is, “How did you know something was wrong?”

Please don’t use my experience in lieu of a doctor’s professional opinion. If you think something is wrong…go get checked out! 

Okay. Here’s my story:

Once upon a time in early Fall at a coffee shop on campus at The University of Texas at Austin in 2012, I began having excruciating stomach cramps. When I say the word excruciating, I mean excruciating. Unbearable. The BEST way I can describe the pain for the sake of being relatable…have you ever had a violent stomach virus? Multiply the frequency of your symptoms to several times a day and night, for weeks. Then you get me.

I excused myself a couple times over the duration of my brief meet-up with a friend at the coffee shop. “Guess I should switch the chai lattes to soy,” I thought to myself.

But the pain and the symptoms weren’t alleviated by omitting dairy. Within weeks even ice chips resulted in pain, followed by 10-15 wind sprints to the bathroom.
X rated version: I knew something was wrong when I noticed that my stools consisted almost entirely of blood, and nothing seemed to offer even a hint of relief (not even drinking imodium from a straw…not recommended, by the way). 

About a week and a half later, I made an appointment with University Health Services; they accommodated me quickly when I described my symptoms. They prescribed me high-powered antibiotics, which didn’t phase my symptoms. “Come back in 8 days for a follow-up.” I noticed that I had already lost twelve pounds when I weighed in with the nurse before my appointment.

I found a local gastroenterologist, without a referral from a professional. Something had to be resolved fast.

At the time I would wake up two hours before class began (after a night of restlessness because of constant stomach cramps and running to the bathroom), to ensure that I would arrive to class in time, allotting plenty of time for bathroom stops in the buildings on my way to class until I was finally able to make it to my class. I received permission from my professors to record their lectures during this time, because I would have to sneak out of class three or four times to be sick. This went on for a few weeks.

During my first appointment with the gastroenterologist, he scheduled a colonoscopy for the next day, and so began my life of poking, prodding, stool samples, blood samples, and biopsies. The prep juice wasn’t bad because I was pretty clear from shitting thirty times a day…still not entirely sure what the big fuss over colonoscopies is all about.

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THE DIAGNOSIS
After my colonoscopy the doctor read my diagnosis, “You have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. There’s no cure, but there are treatment options. You’ll be monitoring this disease for the rest of your life.”

Honestly, I was pretty certain that I was dying of cancer. When I was diagnosed, almost three weeks beyond my very first noticeable symptom at the coffee shop, I had lost twenty-five pounds. I looked like a bag of bones.  I was weirdly relieved to have “ulcerative colitis” as a diagnosis. Having answers makes all the difference.

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Taken two days before my scope at 102 pounds

(During this time I got recruited by Abercrombie model scouts on campus for a live audition. They were quickly educated…thanks to the prednisone and my lack of sleep.)

All that I had heard about “ulcerative colitis” was a brief overview in a pharmacology course, and I knew that Crohn’s was its cousin, both under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)…not exactly enough for me to understand what the heck the doc was talking about. He explained that my immune system was hyperactive, recognizing even food as a foreign substance that needed to be expelled immediately.
Not cool, immune system. Not cool.
My body was rebelling against my colon. Why? Could be genetics, or the environment (e.g. toxins, antibiotics altering gut bacteria), or an interaction between the two.

“What can I eat?”

“Eat whatever you want. Since you’re a bit underweight, drink as much dark beer as you want. Eat burgers.”

^ Never made sense to me. UC is an autoimmune digestive disease in my gut, where most of the immune system is located, and I’m being told to eat whatever I want? Too good to be true. I knew immediately that dairy and beef physically hurt to eat, so I eliminated those. Next to go was processed meats and fast food, because no way are those beneficial. To my surprise there were still plenty of good options to eat, despite being in college and on a budget. Good food didn’t have to be expensive. I began researching which foods to eat to help with inflammation, since UC is an inflammatory disease, and I tried to eat more of those helpful foods: leafy greens, grilled fish, lean meats, and blueberries became my go-tos. And so began my interest in nutrition. I watched it help me, change me, and I dreamed of how it could help the people I love. Present day Stacey is in school again pursuing a dietetics degree.

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THE MEDS
After my scope, the doc handed me a paper folder full of info pamphlets and immediately prescribed me an IV biologic & immunosuppressant: Remicade. MANY people ask, “Why did you decide to be on such a high octane medication?” At the time I didn’t feel a like I had much of a choice. Looking back, I still would’ve agreed to such aggressive treatment, because I felt (and looked) like I was actually dying. It’s different for everyone, but for me it was serious at the time. I mean. I LOST OVER 25 POUNDS IN THREE WEEKS, PEOPLE.

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I remember my first infusion, walking into a dimly lit infusion suite with recliners bordering the walls, each with a patient hooked up to an IV pole. Some were asleep, others read books, flipped through their phones, and a few watched HGTV buzzing in the background on the televisions. Not all the patients had Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, some had rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and a host of other autoimmune conditions. This was the first time I realized that my life would not be the normal I remembered. I needed medication from an IV so I could live life like I remembered living. Weird.

Overnight, I felt like I had gone from being a normal, healthy, social college student to a smaller, weaker shell of myself: spending more time alienated by my symptoms; a more vulnerable person, more medicated, with less autonomy over my own health. I bought a pill pack from the pharmacy store that looked like the one my grandmother carried in her oversized old-lady purse, so I could keep up with my new lifestyle.

In addition, I was prescribed pain and sleeping aids (which I never took), along with a hefty dose of Prednisone, a corticosteroid. Jesus and steroids saved my life, and I honestly believe that. Prednisone was the only oral medication that seemed to ever work.
But I hated it.

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On the left: steroid-free! Right: “Moon Face” side effect in full swing after a flare, taken seven months apart

Steroids were great in college, because I felt very energetic (almost jittery) while taking Prednisone, so even on little sleep I was able to get a lot accomplished. However, the mood swings made me feel like a crazy pants to say the very least, so I avoid Prednisone at all costs today. I also like to sleep…and I have the hardest time sleeping when I’m on the ‘roids (disclaimer: not the same anabolic steroids that give you muscles…womp womp)

LIFE AFTER DIAGNOSIS
Slowly but surely, my energy levels began to creep back up to normal. I got my life back.  Sure, I had to make some adjustments here and there (still learning), but heyyy I’m alive!

I graduated with a pretty decent GPA, even with a hospital stay, despite my family’s pleading for me to take a medical leave of absence from college. I never asked for a project deadline extension. I honestly look back on this time in life and think, “How?” But I was in survivor mode. Don’t say “I could never.” You could. And you would.

I got into the working world, took some time to get a Crohn’s diagnosis, had a doc switch diagnosis back to “ulcerative colitis”, changed shifts, changed jobs, conquered anxiety, and got to know myself really well. Wasn’t glamorous, and wasn’t what I anticipated, but it’s okay! I’m okay.

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LEARNING TO COPE
1. Haters Gonna Hate
People will criticize you whether or not it’s warranted. I have been criticized for being a “pill popper”; for “taking the easy way out” with the infusion (that one is beyond me); for being “too stressed”; for not taking a medical leave of absence from college; for drinking beer; for the way I eat. People don’t mean to be as nasty as they can be sometimes; they simply don’t know your situation. I control as much as I can with diet, but I’m also human and sometimes I slip up or make conscious decisions to indulge. The meds help where nutrition cannot for me. My dream is to be 100% in remission with diet, but I’m not there yet. I can’t advise YOU if you were recently diagnosed on which course of action you should take. This disease is different for everyone. What works for one person may NOT work for another. It’s all about figuring out what works for YOU until there’s a cure. But shake off the negativity. You’re living with this- YOU are the badass.

2. Keep your people close
There will be people in your life who are with you during your diagnosis, and I don’t just mean the people who happen to be around. Who is WITH you? Who is there keeping you strong? These are the people you want around forever. For me that’s my sister, my college roommates, and my Zack. Story time 2.0:

One night in my apartment that I shared with friends, I was THE most physically ill I had been in my life, sick from both ends for hours and hours (pretty, huh?). I called Zack and begged him to come over. He spent the entire night on the phone with pharmacists, arguing with my doctor about medications, all while I slept on the bathroom floor in between being sick. Finally, around 4am, after much harassing Zack managed to get me some anti-nausea meds. My gawsh, the guy is a saint.

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 He fought with me. He went to bat for me. He never judged. He didn’t do good things for reward. He was just there, beside me, gutting it out with me. And so were my roommates. The BEST people I know.

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After Roommate Haley’s UT Graduation, the Spring after the diagnosis. We rewarded our girl bossery by finishing a sprint triathlon

I promised myself that if I ever had the energy again to move, then I would. Sounds overly emo, I know. But y’all. I really struggled with weakness for so long. So my roommate and I did this thing ^. Not pictured: Roommate Becca, still one of my greatest friends, probably drinking a mimosa at the finish while snapping this photo. 
KEEP YA PEOPLE CLOSE.

3. It gets better
There will be times when you think, “TF HAPPENED? I was doing so good! Where’d these symptoms come from?” This will pass. It will get better. You will prevail. You’ll come out stronger with every flare. You’ll live to tell about it, and you’ll develop a pretty damn good sense of humor from it, too.

4. Find your silver lining
There may be days when you shit yourself in your car while in traffic. It’s okay to cry about it, but then try to find some humor in that.  When you’re in a flare and EVERYTHING makes you sick, think about all the amazing Netflix you’ll be able to watch. “I won’t be able to do this when I’m better.”  Think about all the food you CAN eat. If none of those options work, recognize how this has changed your life. I wasn’t interested at all in nutrition before this disease, and now it is my life. I sho wasn’t going to run before UC, and now it’s my hobby.

5. You’re still you
You’re still you, but you’re more relatable. You’ve seen struggling, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are struggling. You’ve seen sickness, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are sick. You’ve seen recovery, and people NEED to find their strength to recover. Help them find it. See this as a weird superpower. This disease doesn’t define you, but if you let it, it will make you a better, bigger, badder, stronger, gassier(?) version of you. You’re still you, only better.

Please let me know how any unexpected life situations have changed YOUR life!  I’m with you. Solidarity!

Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey

OH! And have a great Monday! There is such a thing, I promise.

Slow-cooker chicken breast recipe (low FODMAP friendly)

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-1.5-2lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast (mine was frozen, and that was fine!)

-2 large Idaho potatoes OR 4 new potatoes, diced with skin on (I used Idaho potatoes because it’s what was in the pantry, but I think new potatoes would be even better)

-2 tbsp of garlic-infused olive oil

-2 large lemons, juiced

-1/2 tbsp rosemary

-1/2 tbsp oregano

-dash of black pepper

Mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice (NOTE: don’t use the lemon juice that comes in the crappy plastic lemon and expect this to taste just as good), rosemary, oregano, and black pepper. Pour about 3/4 over chicken in slow-cooker, and pour the rest over the diced potatoes layered on top of the chicken. Close slow-cooker and set to high for four hours, or low for 6-8 hours.

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If you want to make this and you’re not following low FODMAP, feel free to add minced garlic and some diced onion to this recipe! Very aromatic, and you’ll come home from work feelin’ 50 shades of accomplished!

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This could also be layered with green beans and be delicious. I steamed some broccoli separately, and it made for an easy meal.

I intend to make some chicken salad with the leftover chicken. mmm.

Let me know if you try this recipe! Feel free to tweak it! Confession: I have a *hard* time measuring ingredients. I’m more of a pinch and pour kind of cook, so if you feel like it needs more or less of something, make it your own! It’s YOUR kitchen! Go crazy.

Hope you have a great Wednesday 🙂

-Stacey

Recovery Smoothie (Low FODMAP compliant)

Recovery Smoothie (Low FODMAP compliant)

Hello!

Hope you’re enjoying your Wednesday! This week is flyin’.

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Smoothie time.

It’s important if you’re working out, you realize that you’re putting (good) stress on your muscles, which can sometimes lead to oxidative stress. To help optimize your body’s recovery process it’s important to include some antioxidants, like blueberries, dark green veggies, or nuts to help combat that oxidative stress. This smoothie is high in antioxidants  AND protein, and it makes for a great recovery snack.

The deets: Did I just say “deets?”

-1 scoop Vega chocolate sport protein, 30g protein (for low FODMAP take a little less than half of the scoop so the pea protein is still compliant, and add some liquid egg whites for extra protein if needed)

-1 tbsp PB, 4 g protein; 8 g (good) fat (over half is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat; and ~30% is polyunsaturated fat) source

-1 cup blueberries

-1/2 cup raspberries

-handful of leafy greens

-1/2 cup plain, lactose-free yogurt (for low FODMAP) OR probiotic Greek yogurt

-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (vanilla almond milk is good, too)

BLEND & serve 🙂

Top with some almonds and strawberries for fun

Hope you enjoy your day! Today is nutrition homework day for me. Keep moving forward!

-Stacey