Be Courageous

Everyone’s experience of trying to conceive is unique. Whether it’s months or years, there’s a common theme – resilience:

The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

At the heart of resilience lies strong relationships. A support team of wonderful family and friends that can provide a security blanket of warmth and comfort when you need it most.

When we first started treatment, a few years ago now, I kept myself to myself. It can be an alienating experience from your nearest and dearest, including your partner.  I didn’t read the baby forums or community pages. For a start there were too many acronyms and at the time I didn’t take comfort from other peoples journeys. I found it disheartening. I read of couples that had sadly separated. I could see how it could damage even the strongest relationship. Ross felt helpless and didn’t know what to say alot of the time. He wanted to solve things for us but there was no quick fix. I on the other hand wanted him to feel what I was feeling. I wanted comfort not solutions.

It can become hard to relate to one another as your experience and how you deal with it will be entirely different. I found it difficult to explain the sense of loss. An unexplainable grief. I have felt like I have lost babies that I’ve never technically had. Your partner won’t share these feelings or understand them. So try not to kill them when they say they would be happy if it’s just the two of you. I knew I needed an outlet to process what I was feeling. I was lucky to find a local psychologist that I could confide in. It was a safe and friendly environment where I knew I wouldn’t face judgement. Ross and I went together on occasion which gave him a better understanding of how I was feeling. She helped us identify each others coping mechanisms and how to talk through our feelings without it ending in tears. Literally. It was such a valuable and positive experience for us. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a therapist. Sometimes it’s not always possible to get through the hard times on your own. Sometimes we don’t know how to. Find that support group, person/s or therapist who you find to be understanding, nonjudgmental, and supportive. Let these individuals know when you need help and support. Let them know how changeable these feelings can be day to day during your treatment. Reaching out doesn’t make you needy or weak. It makes you COURAGEOUS.

A person who has more recently become a friend of ours took my hand a couple of weeks ago and told me he had read my blog and offered his support to us in any way we should need it. There was a genuine connection in that moment. I had that feeling of being held up and comforted. I wasn’t feeling down or upset at the time but regardless I felt like I could stand taller. I can’t explain it anymore than that.

The more I talk about infertility the less I fear. I talk about appointments or procedures like I’m going to the dentist. This is my normality and for so many others it is too. I have found it to be empowering supporting others, even when I feel in need of support myself. It’s a real reminder of my own strength when facing adversity.

I promise you will be in awe of the support that is around you if you just open yourself up to it.

Ready.. steady.. IVF

I remember saying to Ross only a few weeks ago, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so calm.” I had a glass of wine in hand, chilled tunes on and was feeling very zen. After the last course of treatment we packed up the car and took a trip to the West Coast for a week. It did us the world of good. The hormones, anticipation, frustration and tiredness to name a few, is a huge strain on your relationship (understatement). Timeout together is really important, whether it be before or after treatment. It’s an opportunity to talk through how you’re feeling and make future plans. I’m not sure why but I always feel like we can talk more openly and calmly out of our home environment. Less distraction.

Literally as soon as our IVF appointment and paperwork came through my nose started twitching. I have this annoying twitch that started during our first round of IVF. It’s like a tingly feeling over the bridge of my nose that comes and goes depending on my stress levels. It’s not visible to anyone else but to me it feels like my nose has a heartbeat. I felt like I had all of this under control, but the feelings quickly come flooding back. I kind of expected it to though, I don’t think you ever really rid yourself of anxiety, more keep it at bay.

We have two appointments scheduled in June. The first being a patient information evening, which is compulsory for all patients and partners that are embarking on the IVF programme. There will be approximately 30-40 in attendance for further information about the treatment and to meet the staff. This is a good opportunity to make some IVF buddies! When you’re in the clinic during treatment it will be nice to see a familiar face. Someone to make small talk with to pass the time whilst you wait to be seen. Warning: there’s so much waiting. The second is a consultation with the Dr/Nurses for initial tests. There are fairly strict guidelines in place for IVF treatment under the NHS. This includes being a healthy BMI and a non-smoker. You can find more info here: IVF criteria. Tests will be done to cover these (height, weight, smoking status assessed) and routine bloods to check my hormone levels. That’s what I expect to happen. Our first round of IVF was carried out privately in the States so protocol will be different I’m sure. We should receive our treatment plan and know our exact start date at that point. The butterflies are growing by the day!

During my first round, I gave it my everything and threw all my energy into being the perfect IVF candidate. I had to make it a success. But the reality is that it is out of your control. It’s down to science and luck. It’s not natural for your body to harvest multiple eggs, nor is it natural to be implanted with a fertilised embryo, so it’s not surprising that your body would reject it. I can’t solve my problem. My health has always been a priority of mine and I don’t think there’s anything else I can change or want to change that will actually make a difference.

If you are overweight, drink excessively, don’t exercise and your stress levels are high then yes there’s an abundance of things you can do. The majority of recommendations that I see for IVF patients regarding diet and wellbeing are those that I give to all of my clients. Eat a balanced diet, avoid processed foods, limit sugar intake and so on. There are several alternative healing therapies that are also recommended for IVF treatment that will help you throughout your journey. Acupuncture, Reiki healing and morning meditation all help me mentally and emotionally so they have become part of my life and routine.

My approach this time is a relaxed one! It actually makes me laugh (nervously) to think about how crazy you get from all the hormones. It’s so stressful. There will be no complete bans on things. Away with the no caffeine, no added sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, no high intensity training sIMG_6063.jpgessions, no heavy weights sessions. Undoubtedly my gut would be singing “hallelujah” if I stuck to the above, but mentally it’s too much. This doesn’t mean I’m going to drink a bottle of wine every night. Far from it. I don’t drink much anyway. But I’ll leave any alcohol for special occasions and during injections I won’t drink at all. I’ll continue to have my morning dark roast coffee until the day I’m pregnant because I enjoy it and I don’t want to deprive myself from life’s pleasures. It’ll only stress me out more.

In January I met with a Registered Dietician and discovered I had the following food allergens: eggs, wheat, carrots, cows milk, sesame, peanuts and hazelnuts. I’ve eaten eggs everyday for the last 5 years!! Initially I removed these foods completely and followed an elimination diet to reduce inflammation and heal my gut. My stomach troubles definitely improved. Secretly I hoped that a healed gut would lead to fertility. Sounds silly I know. But it was stressful to maintain and it affected social situations. 30% of the time I don’t worry about food intolerances/allergens and I enjoy eating out with friends/family. The rest of the time I cook from scratch and avoid them. Having a cream tea scone (my fav) will NOT be the cause of a failed round of IVF. If you have set some ground rules then I suggest giving yourself a break and stop being so hard on yourself. If you set too many boundaries you will fail. Feeling like a failure will only add to your stress.

Look at your work-life balance and how much time you’re taking out for yourself. A few months back I changed my working hours. Since I became a PT, I’ve trained clients from 6am. Early mornings have never really bothered me but this last year I’ve felt them taking their toll. Now I begin clients sessions from 8am and I’ve noticed a big improvement in the quality of my sleep, energy levels and generally I feel happier. I’m more in sync with Ross too. We relax in the evenings watching tv or workout together before dinner. I was always conscious I needed to be in bed for 830pm so I never fully relaxed in the evenings. I’ve no doubt lost potential clients because of this but I’m allowing myself to come first. Be selfish and look at your routine. Are you putting others before you?

Whatever the outcome of the treatment, I want to feel like I have given it my best shot, that I’ve given it my all. I don’t want to blame myself anymore than I already do. Spend time revelling in the positive things in your life in the lead up to treatment. Create a more calming environment and be kind to yourself because it’s having the mental power to get through IVF that’s key. Other than that you are in lucks hands.

Thirsty?

It’s a common myth that thirst is a good indicator of your hydration.
When you develop a dry mouth and feel thirsty you are already DEHYDRATED and a glass of water is not a quick fix to rehydrating your bod. Exercising when you’re dehydrated can lead to headaches, dizziness, poor performance, tiring early and cardiovascular stress. It’s gonna be a struggle!
Water makes up approximately 60% of the adult body by weight and you can only survive a few days without it. NASM indicates that a fluid loss of even 2% of your body weight will affect circulatory functions.

TIP – IF YOU ARE TRYING TO LOOSE WEIGHT – Drink an additional 8 ounces of water for every 25lbs above your ideal weight. 

So what can you do to avoid dehydration?
  • Drink regularly throughout the day – get creative and add fresh berries or slices of lemon and lime to your water beaker for added flavour.
  • Eat an abundance of water-rich foods like fruits and veggies – watermelon, melon, pineapple, zucchini, celery tomatoes and spinach.
  • Studies have shown it takes approx 2 hours to hydrate. To avoid a heavy belly of fluid sloshing around during your workout DRINK 2HRS IN ADVANCE.
  • Drink 6-12oz’s of fluid for every 15 to 20 mins of exercise. Stick to water rather than a sports drinks unless you’ve been exercising OVER 60 minutes. 
  • Sports drinks are for endurance based exercise. If you need one, choose one containing up to 8% carbohydrates. Read the small print and watch out for added sugars.
  • Your hydration goal after exercise is to replace sweat losses! 
There is no one size fits all for water, but a standard guide recommended 3L for the average male and 2.2L’s for women. This is for the sedentary person. Therefore drink over and above this if you exercise regularly or live in a hot climate.

TIP – If you take your average daily weight and use this number as your euhydrated (NORMAL) state. Weigh yourself after exercise and ingest 16-24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost! This is a great method for any endurance athletes out there!

Hello foam roller, goodbye knots

A wee while back I posted some info on foam rolling onto my Facebook page. Since then I’ve encouraged several clients to treat themselves to a foam roller and incorporate it into their regime, so I thought I’d repost.  The foam roller is used for self-myofascial release – self massage to you and I! It’s an inexpensive tool that will have a huge impact on improving your mobility. By foam rolling and applying gentle force across the body, you will loosen up tight knotted areas that may impact your range of motion and flexibility. Exercise, sitting at a desk, poor posture and old injuries can and will lead to adhesions (tight spots). This will affect how other muscles in the body function, causing pain and eventually injury. Foam rolling is highly effective before and after exercise. Target the entire body starting with the calves, working your way up, roll back and forth 10x – hamstrings, quads, glutes, back, lats and shoulders. When you come across a tender spot, hold the pressure there for AT LEAST 60 SECONDS. It will hurt to begin with but I promise you it will become less painful the more you do it. It only takes a few minutes each day and can be done whilst watching TV! It feels awkward to begin with but there’s really no wrong way to foam roll – just avoid going over your knees.
My shoulders and back house rock solid knots from poor posture and no doubt years in a desk job. This has helped with pain relief and has improved my mobility massively. There are great youtube videos on techniques if you’re stuck. If you need any further help, let me know!! 
 

The doom of DOMS

unnamed-4We’ve all had those days where we’ve woken up the day or the second day after a heavy workout and can barely walk as your body is in bits. I used to like those days, not because I couldn’t move without wincing, but because I felt like I must have worked so hard to be feeling this way and I’m on a fast track to hitting my goals. Maybe not so wise.
That pain is known as DOMS – Delayed-onset muscle soreness. It can appear about a day or so after exercise and can last up to 4 days. A strong indicator of DOMS is extreme tightness/soreness in your muscles and joints – sitting on the toilet, walking down the stairs or brushing your hair can be a real struggle. Generally DOMS will occur when you’re new to exercise, trying out a new form of exercise, increased the intensity of your training or you’ve had a nice long break from your regular routine. What’s important to know is that it is NORMAL, however DOMS is not necessarily a sign of having had a great workout! The reality is that you’ve traumatised your body somewhat and it hasn’t been able to heal and repair itself. Muscle tears, tissue damage, muscle spasms or inflammation can produce DOMS. None of the above are favourable. At times it can be unavoidable as yes you should be ramping up the intensity of your workouts, switching it up and trying something new and obviously taking breaks to allow the body to fully rest. My point is that this feeling of soreness shouldn’t be something that you strive for after every workout. If it is, and you feel this way then it’s likely you’re overtraining. It’s completely normal and OKAY if you have an awesome session in the gym and then wake up the next day feeling great and not sore at all. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t work hard enough. NOT AT ALL. Your body can’t handle continuous stress (overtraining), at some point it will crumble under the pressure and you’ll injure yourself. We want to avoid injury at all costs as it only leaves you out of the game for weeks on end whilst you recover. If you’re a fitness junkie, taking time to heal an injury is SO FRUSTRATING! It feels like the world is going to end.
Here’s a couple of things you can do to either help prevent a serious case of DOMS or help with the aftermath..
* FOAM ROLLING – Get your foam roller out before and after your workouts. It’s a form of self massage that’s amazing for releasing tension in muscle tissue across the body. Here’s a good article on how – FOAM ROLLING
* PROGRESSIVE TRAINING – Take things slowly. If you are increasing the intensity of a workout, progress at a reasonable pace, introducing increases gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day.. you won’t look like the Rock either after one big session lifting weights.
* EAT EAT EAT – Repair and recovery of the body will ultimately depend on what your feeding yourself! Eat a snack 30mins-1hr before your workout – click here for some ideas to FUEL YOUR WORKOUT. Post workout – eat a balanced meal as soon as you possibly can – ideally within 30minutes. Shakes are a convenient method of replenishing your muscle stores. Hit the gym prepared with a shake containing protein, carbs AND fats.
* ACTIVE RECOVERY – Yes you’re body needs to rest, but it can be worthwhile engaging in some form of active rest such as yoga, light jog or hike to loosen up some of the tension.
* SPORTS MASSAGE – A personal favourite of mine but it comes at a cost. Not only can they be expensive but they are painful and not for the faint hearted. The feeling afterwards however is second to none!
* STRETCH – It’s easy once you’ve finished a workout to want to get the hell out of there and relax.. I feel that way too. But it’s so important to allow the body to cool down slowly and take your body into a relaxed state. Stretch your major muscle groups, holding your stretches for 30secs min and then finish off with a blast on the foam roller to maintain and improve flexibility. 
SO take it easy, make sure that not all your workouts are hardcore and eat an abundance of unprocessed nutritious foods so that you body has a chance in hell of recovering from those sessions that you do end up killing it!!