Step Three of Perfect Workout: Corrective Exercises

Now that you have rolled for five minutes (see here), and done ten minutes of mobility work (see here), you are well into your workout and have yet to do any “exercises!”  It’s time to start working your muscles.  Corrective exercises are best done now, while you’re fresh and sufficiently loosened up.

Corrective exercises are meant to do exactly what you would guess, namely to “correct” any structural imbalances which lead to vulnerable muscle groups. These types of exercises have also been termed “prehab,” with the idea that if you do them, you avoid injury, pain, and the need for “rehab.”  Why would imbalance lead to injury?  I’m glad you asked.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we all (and by “we” I mean those of us with CF) tend to develop a somewhat kyphotic (hunched forward) upper back, and usually the end result of this is an overarched, or “lordotic,” lower spine.  This lordosis combined with  hours and hours of sitting lead to tight hip flexors (the muscles that work to hinge your hips forward—think bringing your thighs to your belly-button).  Tight hip flexors tend to go along with weak gluteal muscles. This stick figure here shows the problem.  Tight low back and hip flexor muscles along with weak abdominals and gluteals.   The picture of imbalance.  This is a set up for low back pain.

These are the areas that I focus on in my “prehab” work.  I do exercises to strengthen my gluteals and abdominal muscles, and work to stretch and strengthen my hip flexor group and low back extensors.  In the YouTube video below, I go through a few of my favorite “glute” activators, and some good abdominal exercises using a stability ball.  Try these, and let me know what you think.

In the next post, I’ll talk about some corrective exercises for that pesky hunchback.

 

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Step One of Perfect Workout: Rolling

In a previous post I discussed my version of the Perfect Workout, which consisted of eight steps.  The first step is to deal with soft tissue abnormalities that lead to pain and/or poor movement patterns.  Here, I discuss this further.

Unless you are a newborn, when you walk into a gym — quite a feat for a newborn — you are going to have some muscular tightness…some tension or “knots” in muscles that occur from chronic movement patterns that are less than ideal.  We all have less than ideal movement patterns.  This is not a judgment…it’s just a fact.

Those of us with chronic coughs especially develop tightness and tension in the thoracic spine, and neck.  Those who sit at work or at home at a computer for many hours a day can also develop muscular tension in the neck and back, as well as tightness in hip flexor muscles and hamstrings.  A good way to think about this is that over a long time sitting in a chair, your body tends to become “chair-shaped,” i.e. short and tight hamstrings and hips.  If that’s not scary enough to imagine (a chair-body), the ugly truth is that muscles don’t live in isolation from their neighbor muscles.  The entire soft tissue system (muscles, ligament, tendons and fascia) is all interconnected.  So a tight, knotted muscle in one area very definitely affects muscles, tendons, etc. both upstream and downstream from it.

This is why a knot in the middle of your back can cause pain all the way up into the back of your head.  Or in my case, this explains why spending a few minutes rolling the bottom of my foot around on a lacrosse ball can help me loosen up my ankles and calves.

So why do we care?  We care because it isn’t just that pain in one area leads to pain in another, but muscular weakness (resulting from those painful knotted tissues) leads to imbalance and weakness elsewhere, which leads to improper movement.  Somebody famous once said, “The body does what it does perfectly.”  So if the body moves imperfectly, it then perfectly continues to move imperfectly.  And if we, for instance, go for a walk or add resistance to imperfect movement, we solidify that pattern in our brains, and become nicely set up for injury…and more pain!

So what’s a (tight and knotted up) body to do? Well, before asking the body to work, it is nice to do whatever you can to lengthen and unknot the muscles that need attention.  This does not have to be a long process, and you don’t need to spend 30 minutes on your foam roller, thus using up your workout time allotment.

I have three favorite tools that I use for this purpose.  First, the aforementioned lacrosse ball is a must for my feet, and occasionally for very tight knots in my back.  If a lacrosse ball is too hard (and you will definitely know this), you can start with a tennis ball and move to a harder ball as your tissue gets more pliable and your nerve endings get used to the process.  For my feet, I simply stand up and put one foot on top of the ball and roll it around.  You will automatically gage how much weight to put on the rolling foot (by how much pain you can tolerate).  When I started this process, I could barely tolerate any pressure—I have very tight feet. But I persisted, 5 minutes every day.  After a couple of weeks, I didn’t mind it at all.  Now this actually feels good.  I don’t usually do this at the gym.  Instead, I have found that the easiest time to do it is when I do my treatment every morning.  It’s like giving myself a foot massage!  I also keep a lacrosse ball in the bathroom.  You figure it out.

The second tool I use is the foam roller.  You’ve probably seen these around.  Most are about six inches in diameter and about three feet long.  They are made of Styrofoam, and have lived in the gym scene for years now as a favorite instrument of torture.  I say this because they are used for “self-myofascial release,” a process that is slightly uncomfortable, especially when it is really needed.  I roll my calves, hamstrings, gluteals, and if I’m really feeling masochistic, my quadriceps over such a roller.  You will know what you need to roll by how painful it is.  The more it hurts, the more you need it.  You simply modify the move to a tolerable level of pain by taking some of the weight off the body part being rolled.  I generally spend five minutes or so rolling as the very first part of my workout.

Tool number three is a very expensive, intricate and complicated instrument.  Kidding.  It’s called a “peanut,” and is comprised of two tennis balls duct taped together to form a peanut-shaped duo.  This handy little tool sets my thoracic spine back to where it’s supposed to live every single day.  The maneuver is simply to place the peanut on the floor under your lower ribcage, and lay back on it so that the groove in the peanut is directly under your spine.  This places each ball of the peanut perfectly under the bundle of muscles that lie adjacent to your spinal column.  You simply roll back and forth on the peanut several times in the position, then move it up the spine about an inch and repeat.  Moving this way all the way up to the level of the big protuberant bone at the bottom of your neck takes only a couple of minutes, and is one of the best things you can do for knots along the spine as well as mobility of the spine (to be discussed in a later post).

That’s it!  Soft tissue rolled out…now it’s time to move on to mobility work.

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The Perfect Workout

 

After living 50 years as a fitness nerd, I have a few ideas about what constitutes a perfect workout for me.  Of course, this all depends on which “me” shows up to exercise that day.  Is it the “feeling great” me, the “getting back up on my horse after a round of IV’s” me, or the “not exactly sick, but not feeling at my peak” me?  The right workout for each situation will be vastly different, but the basic constituents of the hour or so at the gym are the same.

Is there a “perfect workout” for you?  Yes, but I guarantee it is unique to you, and unique to you on this particular day.  From the 10,000 ft point of view, the “perfect workout” is the one that you will do, consistently, and if not enjoy, at least not abhor. It should leave you feeling tired in a good way, so that you know you did some work, but not so exhausted that you dread the next encounter with your inner athlete.  And if you live with CF or some other chronic illness that waxes and wanes, the perfect workout is a moving target. Some days, 20 minutes on the elliptical is the right amount, while other days, 5 minutes on the stationary bike is what your body needs.  On really awesome days, a 5-mile hike in the woods fits the bill perfectly.

But whatever state your body is in, the components of each workout should be the same, modified to suit your body, with its particular issues.  Each component is important, and the order that you complete each component matters.  I’m going to run briefly through each, and offer some suggestions for specific exercises that work for me and might also benefit you.

The order is as follows:

soft tissue work

mobility exercises

corrective exercises or “pre-hab”

movement preparation or active stretching

strength training

cardio or “metabolic conditioning”

stretching (passive)

nutrition

 

Yes, I put nutrition in there at the end, because at least for me, it is vitally important to feed my muscles nutritious food including both carbs and protein very soon after exercise.  Experts say a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrate to protein is what you should shoot for.  You can do this very easily by drinking some chocolate milk, or eating a peanut butter sandwich.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to happen.

So, let’s go through the actual workout.

Soft Tissue:

This consists of a:bout 10 minutes of foam rolling or using a tennis or lacrosse ball in areas of muscle and connective tissue that is excessively tight.  You know an area needs to be rolled when it is uncomfortable to do so.  If you don’t feel discomfort, you are good to go on to the next spot.  I generally start with a ball to my feet (ouch), and then go to the foam roller for calves, hamstrings and glutes.   I then flip over and do my quadriceps.  Then I take out the magic “peanut,” my extremely complicated and expensive device that I now absolutely cannot live without.  With this, all my tension dissipates from my back, as it remembers how to extend after my day of sitting, coughing, and typing. That’s it!

As I said, I’m fifty.  I have accumulated a lot of tight areas.  You may not need this much, or you may need more.  Only you will know, by trial and error.

Mobility Exercises:

This is also not complicated and we are talking about joints here. Having good mobility simply means that you are able to take each joint through its natural range of motion.  Each joint is different, of course.  The knee joint shouldn’t be able to traverse a circle, while the ankle joint should (ha…tell that to my ankles!).  Take a survey of your body.  You will be able to tell which joints are tight.  Work on those.  Also, do some range of motion in the joints that you intend to use in your workout.

Corrective Exercises:

These are also referred to as “pre-hab” exercises, presumably because if you do them, you won’t ultimately require “rehab” exercises.  Simply put, the idea is to strengthen weak areas that contribute to unhealthy movement patterns or poor posture.  In my case, and likely in the case of anyone with CF, this is primarily my thoracic spine.  Lung disease and chronic coughing cause the biomechanics of the chest wall to get messed up (to use a technical term).  The result is the “hunched” back and rounded forward shoulders we commonly see in each other.  Corrective work for this focuses on opening the anterior chest and shoulders with active stretching, and strengthening the muscles of the back that pull the shoulder blades back and down.

Movement Preparation (AKA active stretching):

This is the “warm up” part of the workout.  The goal for this portion of time is to actively work the areas of your body that you are about to engage.  You slowly start asking more of the heart and lungs as you begin using large muscle groups in a similar way to what you are about to ask of them.  For example, if this is a leg workout day, you might begin with some lunges, or body squats and add in some walking hamstring stretches.  If you are going to focus on bench pressing, simply pressing a very light weight for a few sets of 5-8 would be a great warm up.  If you are going for a walk or jog, beginning to do that exercise at a slow rate for a few minutes is the way to go.  It all depends on what you plan to focus on that day.

Strength Training or Cardio (metabolic conditioning):

I put these in the same category because I would suggest focusing on one or the other during a workout.  You can do this by alternating lifting days with cardio days. Alternately, you can do both at the same time by doing weight training in a circuit fashion, with little rest between exercises.  My favorite way of doing this these days is with kettlebells, which I will discuss in another article.

The main thing to remember here is to start small and slowly progress as your body adapts to the challenge.  If you want to be able to run a 10K, that is awesome, and you can do it!  But start with walking/jogging intervals which feel like work, but also feel good!  There is no better way to sabotage yourself than to rush your body faster than it can go.  How will you know if you are?  You won’t want to keep doing it.  When you start dreading your daily jog, you know you are pushing too hard.  As you very slowly start adding time to your workout, or lesson the periods of rest (if you are doing intervals), you get stronger and stronger.

Stretching (Passive):

Ah…this is what you’ve been waiting for.  The end of the workout!  You’ve done your last set, or run your last interval.  You want to grab your stuff and go fall on your couch.  But wait!  There’s more…

This is the time to do just a little bit of flexibility training.  Your muscles are warm and pliable…a perfect set up for some passive stretching.  Passive stretching just means holding a muscle in the stretched state for about 20-30 seconds.  This is what we normally think of as stretching. Spend just 5 minutes stretching those areas on your body that tend to be tight.  You don’t need to go through a whole yoga series here.  You know what you need.  I almost always need low back and hamstring stretches at this point.  I also find that this is the perfect time to lay across the foam roller lengthwise (so it is under my spine from my head to my butt) and open my arms to the side and let gravity open my chest.  Some deep, meditative breathing in this position is the perfect way to conclude the workout.

And before you hit the couch, don’t forget to eat!

 

 

 

 

 

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My Weekend at the RKC

weekend constant companions

Today is a new day, and instead of focusing on what isn’t working (most of me), I am going to write about my experience at the RKC in Minnesota just two weeks ago (it seems like two years ago at this point).

For those who don’t know, RKC stands for Russian Kettlebell Challenge, and the weekend certification is an intense three day immersion into technique and proving that one is “worthy” of the title “RKC Instructor.”  It is not for wimps.

Kettlebells have been around for hundreds of years in Russia, but are relatively new to the scene here in the US. They were brought here by the Evil Russian, Pavel Tsatsouline, a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor.  He is known now as the modern King of Kettlebells, and it is his methodology that is taught by “official RKC’s.”  Since bringing the kettlebell to this country, Pavel’s proteges are found on the Secret Service, Counter Assault Team, among US Navy SEALS and Force Recon Marines.  And then, there’s Julie.

Now you may wonder, why would a 50-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis want to be in the company of men and women who are either hard core trainers or athletes or counter-terrorism experts?  Kidding on that last one…

Yeah…I wondered that, too.  Especially at the meet and greet that happened the night before it all began.  I was there by myself, of course (who would accompany me to this?).  I stood in the room looking around at the healthy, muscular men, all many many years younger than I, and the equally healthy and fit, excited young women…I was looking for some older faces.  Please God, don’t let me be the only old person AND the only half-assed lung person.

Don’t get me wrong.  People were friendly.  Everyone was incredibly friendly to me.  Not just friendly, but reassuring me that I wasn’t crazy to be there (oh, what they didn’t know).  Many, many older people come to these certifications, they assured me, and some even came just to meet a personal goal, like me, rather than to be over-prepared for their upcoming SEAL training.

Needless to say, I went to bed with just a mild bit of trepidation.  Would I pass?  Pass…hell, would I live through this?

When I say, “pass,” what I mean is to meet all of the requirements of the weekend.  This is not just to pass the dreaded “snatch test,” (A snatch is a move where the bell is brought -with one hand-from between the legs to over the head with a strait arm in one fluid motion. My challenge was to snatch a 12 kg kettlebell 100 times in 5 minutes, switching arms as needed.  BTW–12 Kg = 26 lbs).  Just FYI, if I were to go to the garage right now and try to snatch my 12 kg bell for reps, I might get in 3 or 4 before I had to stop and gasp for air).  The snatch test is what everyone fears.  It sucks.  Seriously…even for healthy people.  It is a test of muscular endurance and aerobic capacity for which one must train for months in advance.  It’s also a test of sheer will, and the ability to endure pain.

But wait, that’s not all.  In addition to the snatch test, women must do the arm hang for 15 seconds (cake), and a woman of my size has to show perfect technique in the double kettlebell  (52 lbs) swing, double clean, double squat, double press, and the  single snatch…all for five consecutive reps. In addition, one must show perfect technique on an unusual exercise with an equally unusual name, the Turkish Get-Up.  None of these were cake.  Instructors were very picky about perfect form…for good reason–if they were to send people out to teach with sloppy form, the whole RKC brand would be harmed.  Form is everything…it prevents injury and promotes safety.  Nobody passes without perfect form.

But even that is not all that is necessary to pass.  The hardest thing required is that you actually have to get through each day of grueling practice, random “punishments” for the whole group if someone messes up by wearing the wrong shoes or sitting with a flexed spine.  I’m serious…they are very serious.  The first of such punishments come early on Day One, when we had to walk around the block carrying our snatch test bell.  This is way harder than it looks. Here we go, with yours truly leading the pack:

yep, that's me in front

And finally, there were “workouts” scattered throughout each day.  Each were short, only 10 to 20 minutes, but can you spell i-n-t-e-n-s-e?  I’m  blanking on most of them…I’m sure my brain is trying to spare me the memories.

Another requirement for passage was to demonstrate on the last day that we were capable of teaching what we had learned to bussed in “victims.”  These were volunteers from the community who “wanted” (read: they were bribed by great discount prices on Dragon Door products) to learn from newbie instructors about the latest greatest exercise craze.  We each got a victim to teach for 45 minutes, and then to workout for 10 minutes.  I had a great guy who already knew a fair amount.  I got lucky.

Finally…the last requirement…the “graduate workout.”  If you don’t complete it, you don’t pass.  It can take you all day if you need it, but you and your kettlebell (now your best friend) make your way up and back a huge field, stopping to swing and snatch away.  It took 40 minutes.  It was cold…I swear I saw snow (May 1, in St. Paul, MN).  I couldn’t feel my feet.  But when I completed that last swing, I was the happiest girl in Minnesota.  Heck, I wasn’t even the last one to finish!

Following the Grad Workout, we all waited with baited breath for our one-on-one meeting with our team instructors, for overall evaluation and the final decision…pass or “you’re fired!” (not really, if you don’t pass, you get a chance to work on your flaws and send in a video of you correctly performing the required exercise).  About 30% don’t pass.  These are athletes!  Seriously.

So, long story short:  Here is the evidence that I gave it my all:

 

This is after Day One.  I read somewhere that we did about a thousand swings on Friday.  I didn’t count, but I would believe it.  After I took this picture, I ordered room service because I literally could not move from the chair.  The bummer was that I could not sleep, 1) because I was on California time, and 2) I went into the weekend thinking the snatch test was on Day One.  Turns out they moved it to Day Three…so I was still nervous about whether I could do it…even more so actually, because I knew that by Sunday I might not be standing.

The morning of Day Two, I got out of bed with nary a single silent muscle fiber.  They were all screaming at me.  It reminded me of the day after the first day of basketball practice when I was in high school…only worse because I don’t believe I was fifty years old back then.  It didn’t help that I had to get up an hour early to do my treatment.  Yes…I did them all … except one.

Day Two went from 8 am to 7:30 pm.  Yes it did.  There was a 45 minute break for lunch and scattered water breaks through the day.  Also scattered through the day were more workouts, and more punishments.  Is this what military boot camp feels like? Learn and practice, all day, the clean, the press, the front squat, the snatch.  A favorite workout of mine this day (not) was called the “breathing ladder.”  Basically, it consisted of swinging the kettlebell for a given number of reps and then only resting for as long as it took to take a given number of breaths.  The reps increased, as did the number of breaths allowed, until we were all dying (not really). The purpose was to teach you how to slow down your breathing when stressed and breathe from the diaphragm.  A laudable goal, yet I don’t recommend this for anyone with a lung disease.  I did it, but the whole time I was wondering if I was about to desaturate right there on the floor.  I collapsed in the bathtub that night, wondering why the Holiday Inn bathrooms didn’t have those little strings you could pull for help, like they have in hospitals and assisted living centers.  I had only myself to blame.  No sleep again, but this time it was due to Prom night, and the collection of very drunk women who wanted to party in my hallway at 3am.  They were actually yelling.  I hope I never acted like that.

Day Three was there before I knew it.  I woke up determined to tape my hands in a way that would protect them from inevitable tearing during the snatch test.  I had read about this technique, and had brought with me all the requisite medical equipment.  I was a doctor, dammit.  I could help myself out a little.  Here is my beautiful tape job, done while inhaling salt (this is tricky, if you think about the number of hands required to 1) get taped, 2) do the taping, and 3) hold a nebulizer).

Do you realize how long this took?

So when the day starts, we all gather in our teams, and our Team Leader, Andrea Chang, says, “I need to see all hands.”  I hold mine up, proudly.  She looks at me and says, “Take it off, I have to see the skin.”  What?  I was chagrined. My masterpiece…in the garbage.  Apparently, they needed to see intact skin before the testing was to commence.  If anyone had an open wound, they had to be taped.  This is where you might say…but you were taped, Julie.  Yes…  It didn’t help that when she looked at my hands, she said, “You don’t need tape…you’re good.”  Ha!  Good… At this point of the weekend, I was not good.  My lungs were GREAT, but everything else hurt like hell.

Go lungs.  And they did.  The tests came, and went.  Technique tests were a bit nerve-wracking, because you know they are watching every single hair on your head, every angle, every point of contact with the ground, every joint position.  It was more of a mental test than physical.  But, then came the moment of truth.  I run outside to do the snatch test…remember, 100 in 5 minutes.  I had done this once before, so I had a modicum of confidence.  Yet, this had been before my most recent bout of pneumonia, so it was a very tiny modicum.  I really didn’t know if I could.  I remember thinking as I bent down to get set up to start, (and I know this sounds corny, but it’s true), Kathy…Tom…I’m doing this for you guys, too.  And I started.  I don’t remember it really.  What I remember is that with 10 seconds left, I had to go ALL OUT to get the 100th done.  But, I did…there was no way I was going to end up with 97, or 98, or,God forbid, 99. And then I seriously sucked air for many, many minutes.

When the Graduate Workout time came later that day, I knew I could do it.  If I could pass the snatch test, I could do anything.  I had a lot of folks cheering me on, by this point.  It felt unbelievable.  I was strong. I was woman.  Did you hear me roar?

The whole thing was surreal.  The feeling of pride that came over me after the last swing was more immense than when I graduated from medical school.  It was the hardest thing I have ever asked my body, and my will, to do.  And I did it as a 50-yr-birthday present to myself.  When times get tough, as they kind of are now, even reading what I have written cheers me up.  I am tough.  I am a fighter.  CF will never win.  I will decide when to go back to my corner.

R…K…C!!!!

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CF Wellness Boot Camp – Introduction

by on April 18, 2011
in BOOT CAMP

What is a “boot camp” and how can it help me?

A traditional “boot camp” is an intense training program for military recruits.  Fitness professionals everywhere have stolen this idea.  Now you can easily find an early morning community “boot camp” style exercise class at your local community college or gym.  They are basic, nothing fancy, no frills sessions complete with old-fashioned calisthenics, running, jumping, climbing, grunting and sweating. New friendships are forged each session as groups of people meet at ridiculous o’clock in the morning in ungodly weather with the mutual goal of becoming fit.

It occurred to me during a recent exacerbation of my cystic fibrosis that the concept of a “boot camp” could be extremely beneficial to people dealing with the ups and downs of living with chronic disease.  In this series of posts, I discuss how a focused period of intense attention to health and lifestyle improvements can assist in “coming back” from a CF setback, but the idea can really be applied to any ongoing health problem characterized by exacerbations and remissions.

In the first rendition of this chapter, I had come up with a three week plan following a course of home intravenous antibiotics which I needed for a basic “tune up” following a series of upper respiratory infections.  I felt less than energetic, and was coughing more than usual, but certainly was not so ill that I couldn’t set exercise and nutrition goals with full confidence that I could achieve them.

Then, as fate would have it, the program AND the book got put on indefinite hold as I became extremely sick, hospitalized with acute pneumonia and needed another full four week course of treatment.  I lost seven percent of my bodyweight, probably all from muscle mass since I didn’t have much body fat to start with.  Suddenly, it was “exercise” to get up from the chair and walk down the hall to the bathroom.

My confidence was shaken, but the end result was a slightly different perspective, one that is more in line with the majority of adults with CF.   The “boot camp” plan that follows is one based on the very real fact that when you are coming back from getting knocked down, there are two important principles to follow.  First, you must have compassion for yourself and for what your body is dealing with.  Second, you must be patient and persistent.  And never give up.

As a wellness coach, I have helped many people come up with “wellness visions” and design strategies to achieve them.  I work mostly with people with serious health problems, and it is essential for me to remind people to have big goals, but to go slowly and carefully toward them.   This is what I have tried to do with the CF Wellness Boot Camp.

The intention is that you will do this after treatment for an exacerbation.  This is because I know you feel better and stronger than you did a few weeks ago.  I know your lungs are as clear as they can be, and your energy level is optimal.  Now is the time to act.  If there is ever a time to get healthy in ALL areas of your life, it is now.  USE the benefits that modern medicine has provided through that IV tubing, and SUFFUSE the rest of your life with wellness.  Now, if you aren’t coming off of IV’s, that is no reason not to do this boot camp.  This program is designed for anyone who wants to achieve optimal wellness, regardless of where he or she is starting.

So dust off your Vest, find your flutter, and recommit to hypertonic saline. You are about to learn a new response to this thing called Cystic Fibrosis.  It may knock you down again, but you’ll get up again, and again, and again as you refine your own personal “boot camp” to meet your needs.

Overview of Program

This program is designed for people with cystic fibrosis.  It is especially useful if you are recovering from an exacerbation. This is intentional.  I know from personal experience that following a “tune up,” people feel the best, and are most interested and motivated to do what it takes to KEEP feeling good.  With memories of the hospital fresh in their minds, they are also more likely to take on new practices that may help keep them out of the hospital for a longer period of time.

It is said that three weeks is the minimum time it takes to establish a new habit.  From Day 1, you will be asked to make small step improvements in the areas of exercise, nutrition, rest, and stress management.  Hopefully, by the end of the 21 days, these practices will be on “autopilot” just as brushing your teeth twice a day is something you simply do.  You don’t need to get psyched or motivated to brush…it just happens.

In addition, during the 21 days you will explore other practices that you will hopefully find enjoyable.  Not only are many of them fun, but they are also good for your health.   You may also want to incorporate some of these into your daily regimen.

Think of this three week period as an intense “time-out,” with the goal to focus completely on your well-being, and how you can learn to extend the “post-antibiotic” high as long as possible.

There will be specific activities to do each day (created by you), as well as daily introspection exercises, either by journaling or with online activities designed to teach you something about yourself.

One of your first journaling activities will be to create a “well-being” tracking sheet.  Here, you will list 5-10 things YOU KNOW would be beneficial to you health to do on a daily basis. After a careful consideration of what your body needs and what your goals are, you will consider seriously what areas of your life could use some tweaking.  It may be adding more (or, some) exercise to your days.  It may be getting more rest.  It may be reconnecting with friends.

I will ask you to envision exactly what you want your life to look and feel like one year from Day One of the program.  This will be an exercise in imagery.  You will imagine you as your best self, and paint that picture in words in your journal.  Then, you will set some long-term goals that will enable that vision to manifest.  These goals will be behavioral…they will describe what you are doing, regularly, 1 year from Day 1, in the areas of exercise, nutrition, stress management, sleep, disease management, and social connection.

Let’s say that in your vision you are climbing Half Dome with ease.  Behavioral goals to support that vision might include building up to this level of fitness and stamina by doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times a week at an intensity of 75% of your maximum.

Or maybe your vision is that you are 10 lbs of pure muscle heavier than you are now.  A behavioral goal in line with that vision may be that you are lifting weights 3 times a week for 30 minutes and eating protein with meals six times a day.

You will create S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Bound) goals that are relatively long term (12 months), and then create your list of five to ten things that put you on the direct path to those goals.  By the end of 3 weeks of doing these things, you will be well on your way to achieving your vision.  You will also know in your bones that you are capable of making a difference regarding your health, because as you begin to achieve your behavioral goals, you will begin to see real results in the way you feel and look.

The beauty of the Boot Camp program is that it can be used over and over again.  The reality of Cystic Fibrosis is that this is exactly what we need. We get sick, over and over again.  When we do, instead of thinking, “Arrrg, I have to start all over again!” we can think, “Oh boy, I get to do Boot Camp again!” Each time can be tailored even more specifically to you and your body as you learn what works best.

Tomorrow’s post will focus on preparation for the following three week program.  For now, try thinking about what areas of your life could use some mild tweaking.  Your body knows, and so do you.

 

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