Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Statin Myopathy, Cholesterol Level, Diet, AREC, and Running

Photo courtesy of David K. - AREC President
          Normally, I'm overly excited about rejoining AREC's Long Beach Marathon training, but due to my most recent muscle problems, this time, I'm just elated at making it there at all.
          Backtracking a little bit to give you some history: I had to start taking Lipitor again three months ago because my cholesterol level went up when I stopped taking the medication due to muscle pains as a side effect. How bad have the pains been? Well, if I do the same type of workout two days in a row, let's say for example- using the recumbent bike, my leg muscles are more likely to hurt. Giving myself a few months break while taking Coenzyme Q-10 supplements relieved the pain and enabled my muscles recover somewhat. Even though I only took half the dose of the Lipitor (20 mg.) and only 3-4 times a week this time around, I began experiencing the muscle pains again after just 3 months, mainly on both thighs. So I requested a cholesterol level test from my doctor before visiting him and later found out that even the lower dose of medication taken roughly every other day decreased my cholesterol level from 220 to 178. More importantly, my LDL also dropped and my LDL/HDL ration remained good. So the good doctor recommended that I further reduce the dose of the Lipitor to 10 mg. three times a week in hopes that my muscle pains would disappear. By the way, I walked from home to the lab and back for my blood draw and that made for a six mile workout :-) We shall see if the doctor's recommendation is effective in a few weeks.
          A couple of days after the doctor's visit, I showed up at AREC marathon training not necessarily to train with them but mainly to pick up the beach towel which is what we get for being a member this year (last year it was a windbreaker). How often do I go to AREC runs? Well I saw a woman with her husband carrying a baby last Saturday. I never even saw that woman pregnant last year! Anyway, the workout for the day was either 4 or 6 miles and I opted for the longer distance, thinking it would take me about an hour and a half to cover it. Of course a few people after seeing me walking asked if I was recovering from an injury and all I can say is that it's just SNAFU (situation normal, all fu.... up). Nevertheless, my pace felt pretty brisk but since I was the only walker who was doing 6 miles, I was in last place. So much so that when I reached the turnaround point where the water station was, I suggested to Tina and Rosie that they could probably start packing up the supplies because I was the last one . About a mile down the road, good old Dave, the club president was still taking pictures and waiting for the last person. Thank you Dave, for being such a caring president :) I wended my way through the streets of Naples (Long Beach) in the last two miles until I reached the finish area at Joe's Crab Shack. When I clicked off my stopwatch, it registered 1:18:32. Hmm, that seemed quite fast for 6 miles but I couldn't calculate pace per mile out of the top of my head. See, I haven't been using my GPS watch lately. I had to wait to get home to plug in the numbers in a pace calculator before finding out that I had walked at an average pace of 13 minutes and 5 seconds per mile for 6 miles! My goodness, I've never walked that fast before, with or without muscle pain! That was pleasantly surprising since if I'm not mistaken, my previous fastest pace was about 13:40 per mile. I haven't exactly done any roadwork lately other than my futile attempts to jog a few weeks ago before my thigh muscles began being affected by the statins again. I guess those treadmill hill walks must be helping. And I should probably also thank AREC and it's members for the motivation they provided. And to think that I even forgot to bring coughdrops which I suck on during workouts to keep my mouth moist. Maybe not carrying 2 to 3 pieces of candy lessened my load which enabled me to walk faster :) Now if I can only learn proper racewalking technique...
Always appreciating Dave's photos :)
          Going back to my battle with cholesterol - taking psyllium and fiber gummies weren't working by themselves. In addition to the lower dose of Lipitor, I also had to do other things like cutting the cheese from my diet, bringing my own turkey sandwiches to work instead of eating the ham and cheese they give out for snacks, substituting fat free sherbet for ice cream, and using imitation crab meat or tofu instead of meat for my barley and vegetables concoction. Other things I've cut out are hamburgers, hotdogs, fried chicken, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches except for an occasional jelly sandwich. One thing I can't let go completely though are the sweets, which is my guilty pleasure, and some of you may have already seen my dessert photos on Facebook.

          So two things to be happy about: being able to walk faster and lowering my cholesterol to healthy levels. To end this post, I decided to just focus on the things that I can do (like walking at a good pace) and be thankful for them rather than lament what I cannot do (like running).
Always try to look good when you see a photographer :)
Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SYTYCR - So You Think You Can Run

Apologies to the TV show So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD).
          I have been taking CoEnzyme Q-10 supplements for several months to counteract the myopathy caused by taking Atorvastatin for high cholesterol and thought that my thigh muscles had recovered enough to try running again. After a few weeks of dabbling on this running or plodding workout, I have come to either an assumption or conclusion. It's not a new one because I've been arriving at the same result for at least the past two years. I've already been content with my exercise routine in recent months without running, but for some reason I keep getting drawn back to give it one more try, not in the hopes of returning to previous capabilities, but just as another workout option. It worked for about three weeks, then not surprisingly, my muscle imbalances and statin related myopathy came back to spank my butt. As if it wasn't hard enough trying to run again.
          How did it happen this time? Was the cause due to restarting the Lipitor three months ago and the effect the return of myopathy even with the coenzyme Q-10 supplements? Or was the cause due to restarting running and doing 2 minute pickups too soon with the effect as being too much too soon? More likely, it is the combination of both. My muscles were already achy from just three weeks of running 2 to 3 times a week and the pickups just took it over the top. It didn't take very much - just 3 pickups in the last 10 minutes of a 40 minute run, but that's all it took to trigger the pain on both hips. I have already chopped my stride to lessen the impact but with the pickups I unintentionally extended the stride which I think started the pain. My hips don't lie when they say they're hurting. How do I know if it's really a bad injury? When I descend down stairs, it hurts like the dickens (I really don't know what that means). I have to hold on to the rails to keep my balance and so I don't fall. It's not the kind of pain that can be relieved by analgesics either. Believe me, that's based on experience and research. Would you believe the feeling of utter depression actually overcame me the day after and it lasted for several hours? Being debilitated made me feel that way. Fortunately I got over that funk the next day.
          So it's back to no running (or plodding). Is it safe to assume that I should stop making these comeback attempts? When something that give you most pleasure also gives you the most pain, then is it definitely time to stop forever? The problem with running is that it's like heroin which from what I hear, the detox and cravings are intense. Nevertheless, getting high on running even just for three weeks was worth it. SYTYCR? I cannot, or rather , should not. Until the pain dissipates and/or the cravings start again...
          How I wish someone had developed a training plan for people with myopathy, perhaps something similar to a beginner's guide to running. As far as Do I Think I Can Dance? HA! Let's just say that Elaine on Seinfeld dances much better!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Getting a Little High Then Overdosing

          Darn it! I was editing a draft of this post when the Polaris Office word processor app crashed and took all the edits with it, and just as I was getting in a flow. Unfortunately, it didn't autosave the work so I have to start all over. Believe me, that lost document was much better than this.

          Puff, puff, pass. If only it were that. It's feels more like huff, and puff, and pass out. Running can feel so rough when you haven't been doing it for awhile. Waking up with what are now daily aches and pains doesn't help any. I had one of those days and even considered not running that day, even though I had been looking forward to it in the days preceding.  But hey, I figured I ran three days ago in the afternoon after working 2 night shifts, I should be able to at least try running again after having the night off. So I laced up my running shoes and got out the door just planning on putting one foot in front of the other for what I hoped was at least 30 minutes. After all I had to work off the overdose of red velvet cookies I had the night before. That was my first overdose (darn it Von's, stop putting those things on sale!!!).

          Well, it was one of those runs that the body never got out of warm-up mode. The muscles and joints never loosened, the breathing was labored all the way, and hitting a good stride never happened. You've heard of a working stiff? Well, I looked like a plodding stiff. Remember when running used to be called jogging? Can I claim to have discovered a new aerobic workout named plodding? How can you look good while running very slowly? Right now there is no way and it's just plain running ugly. Since when did a gentle rise in the road not feel so gentle anymore? I used to attack those things. Attacking hills or even the flat road doesn't exist in my running vocabulary anymore due to a certain amount of fear of getting injured. I would have to be constantly in a 'protect mode'. While on this plodding workout, I saw a school bus full of children who were probably thinking "gee mister, you're so slow". Heck, I didn't care. After all, I was out plodding. And a tough plod it was. I should train my brain to think that every run is a good run regardless of how tough it is. If there is one advantage of running at glacial pace, it is that I am reaching distances much shorter than before, so it doesn't take long before I have to turn around and run back home.

          Hard days and easy days? Ha! They are all hard days. If I ran any slower, I'd be as good as stationary. My arm carriage is so high, it's like having a permanent shoulder shrug. Not very efficient or loose at all. Even with all that difficulty, I went out plodding again two days later and lasted for a full hour! What a hard way to get high. But it wasn't that which made me high, although it helped. It was checking my exercise log and seeing that I had done three runs in the past week. Hard to believe that I was capable of doing that anymore.

          Persistence, or lack thereof is probably one of the reasons people give up when they first try a new exercise program. For me, this plodding workout might as well be a new exercise program. Despite the difficulty I am having now, barring injury, I will persist until it starts becoming a habit again rather than a chore. For now, persistence is having managed to do three very slow runs last week.

          Apart from getting a runner's high and overdosing on red velvet cookies, I had a second OD last week which was caused by too much caffeine. I had such a tremendous buzz from overcaffeineation that it took more than 4 hours to come down from it. I needed some help from a little vino to come down and lots of water to decrease the caffeine concentration from the body, and so I could excrete it through urine. So how does one get overcaffeineated? The darn Gevalia coffee tasted so good, I kept sipping it without regard to the consequence. It was one of those times when I brewed it to perfect proportions as far as taste was concerned, but apparently too strong for my body to handle. If I were still able to run long distance, I might have finished a marathon on that buzz.
          So there it is - three high inducing runs, I mean, plods, two overdoses, and lots of persistence. You can't get any much higher than that. Anybody wanna join me start a new plodding boom? Then I can rename this blog -Thoughts About Life and Plodding.