Monday, September 29, 2014

Propranolol Weaning and Heart Rate Exploration Project - Part 3? 4? I can't fucking remember...

What I last spoke about my Propranolol weaning, it was the beginning of August, and I was excited about the changes I was seeing in my heart rate activity. I was also feeling encouraged about my ability to wean off the meds without having a terrible time of it.

I have had one cluster attack in the weaning period. It wasn't too terrible, though. I was able to kill it with a dose of my pain meds on the 2nd day of it. Since then, I've just had standard headaches that respond fine to Advil.

So. I'm down to taking 2 doses of Propranolol per week. I'm pretty sure I've been doing that for long enough now, and next week, I'll go ahead and transition to just once per week on Fridays. That way, it won't affect any of my "big" workouts with my trainer (they're my high calorie burning workouts), and I'll have a relatively quiet day to deal with side effects, which are pretty pronounced at this point in the weaning. (The sleepiness is the worst. I often can't make it through the day without one or two long naps on the days that I take it...)

That said, here's how awesome things are, heart rate-wise:
Early - Mid August: Maintaining an average HR of 110 throughout workouts; Max HR peaking at 129
By Late August: Able to maintain an average HR of 114.5 throughout workouts; Max HR peaking at 142.3
Throughout Sept: Average HR is 113.6 throughout workouts; Max HR is averaging 139.3

I work out for anywhere from 4.5 - 7 hours per week. Usually on 4 - 5 various days throughout the week. I see my trainer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and those workouts have average HR of 122 - 126, and max HR levels of 151 - 163. We're supposed to be keeping it between 126 - 153 on those days, so we're really working at that when we're together. He prefers for me to go as high as possible because CALORIE BURN, YEAH BABY!, and while I want to agree with that, my genetic tests said I should not go above that max, max heart rate of 153. If I do, I'm pushing my body too far which will lead to me releasing more cortisol into my system, which signals my body to start holding onto the fat. And that's kind of what we're trying to avoid, here! So we're working really hard at staying in those limits.

On my other workout days, I walk the dogs, I use my treadmill, I do pilates or yoga...and I'm averaging a heart rate of 98 - 117, and maxing at about 120 - 144. I should be keeping it much lower than that (between 90 - 117), but it's so haaaard! Especially when I'm walking 3 fucking dogs at the same time! That's a hoot and a half, lemme tell ya. But I'm still working on it.

I took my Propranolol on Wednesday last week, and then saw my trainer for a workout on Thursday morning. I was busting my nut, and was huffing and puffing with a heart rate of about 120. And I told him that it was certainly an eye opener to feel like I was achieving a max HR of 155 - 160, but only actually being at 120-ish. I'm really hoping all this "research" I'm doing on myself will help him with other clients he might have, now or in the future, that take meds that affect their heart rate. Because here I am feeling like I'm at my max, but according to my monitor, I'm barely getting my heart rate up at all!

And that is absolutely NOT the case.

I'm seeing a small change in my body at this point. I feel tighter. I'm down to 216 pounds from the 219 I was at a couple of months ago. This week, we'll measure at the gym and we'll see if there are any "official" changes to my size...I feel like there have been, but the tape measure doesn't lie as much as my jeans with Lycra might! ;)

I'm feeling really positive over all about it, though. And I'm so grateful that the weaning off the meds is going as well as it has thus far. Here's to hoping that I can continue down this path!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcome To Our New Basement!

Clearly, it's been a while since I posted any pictures of the basement progress. Lots of reasons behind that...it wasn't decorated completely, we were traveling a lot, I have lots of insecurity when it comes to using my new camera (new being a relative term, as I bought it last September, and all...), etc...

But here I am, finally in the mood to take photos, edit them, and put them into little collages of "before" and "after" shots, so as to more accurately describe why it took 4 months to complete this project, construction-wise. 

Art has been hung...pillows have been placed...all the games have FINALLY arrived. And so here we go! I don't know how best to caption these, so I think I'll describe them at the top of the photos, and then you can scroll down to see what I mean. (You can also click on the photos to make them a bit bigger...)

This was what you saw as you originally entered our basement...it was The Bar Area, and we had a game table there, along with some sorta useful closets. As you can see in the photos of the construction, we tore out the bar, built a half wall, and tore out the closets in that space. We converted it to our TV area instead, moved our couch over there, and built a seating area at the half wall for additional seating aside from the couch, giving us an area to eat, hang out, use as a nerf gun shooting gallery...
This was the old TV/couch area. Over by the windows. We converted that space into a "game room" area, with the fireplace. We had a small amount of confidence that the bump-out behind the couch there in the top photos had a fireplace hiding in it. We knew we had 3 flues, and only 2 fireplaces upstairs, so it was just our logical conclusion. We were wrong. But, hey, we WERE right about the flue thing! So we just had to knock out some cinder blocks, install a fireplace, hook up the vent, etc, etc... ::sigh:: Anyway, this area wound up being much more labor intensive than we expected.
Quickly, let's look at the changes made to the office...I don't want to shuffle pictures around in this post because I'm feeling lazy, so this is a little break from the other rooms. We didn't do much in the office. Painted the walls, and finished the ceiling, and put in new lighting. It wasn't offensive at all before, but I DO like it better now that it's a darker color, and has better lights. WAY better lights. Fluorescent lights are of the devil, dammit. That said, our desk areas are a mess. So ignore that, and just look at how much nicer it is all around the mess, mkay?
This last area was another huge part of construction. Our utility room was large, and while it was handy for storage, it was usually just in a perpetual state of messiness. We took out the tank water heater, put in a tankless one, and then closed in a much smaller utility room that has our ginormous furnace, our crazy electrical panels, and some other bits and bobs that aren't important or interesting. The new space became the hallway that fits our shuffleboard table perfectly, and where our new bar area is located.
Here are some detail photos that help you see some of my favorite design elements...look to the captions for more info.
This wall came together perfectly. The sunset photo on the left is one I took during our last trip to Hawaii. Got it blown up, printed, and framed through Art.com. I fuckin' LOVE that website!
I finally have my secret bookcase door! FINALLY! It is so cute, y'all. 
This is the view into the office when the bookcase is full open. 
The fireplace area is so, so, sooo pretty! I can't wait until we get colder weather, and I can flip that baby on, and sit there to read a good book/do some needlepoint. Knocking into that wall was well worth the effort!
More seating for having lots of friends over to watch football games? YES PLEASE! The mismatched stools are um... eclectic. Yeah, we totally mean for them to look stupid like that together, and shit. :/ (They are hateful, but they serve their purpose. In the future, when we haven't just spent an arm, a leg, and half a torso on a basement remodel, we'll get ones that all match each other, I swear!)
Our TV wall went through a few different design changes. This one that we wound up with is parfait!
We need to mount that speaker on the wall under the TV, but for now, it sits on a decorative box and does the job. It doesn't take away from the cool-ass panels that are on the wall behind the TV and shelves, and that's all that matters. That was our architect's/lead contractor's design idea. It is fabulous.
Lastly, we have the workout room. We changed the lighting in there, but didn't finish the ceiling because it's under our master bath, and it's just too damned convenient to have access to all that plumbing. We don't want to close that off for any reason. It wasn't worth the cost, either. It's just a workout room/storage room. I can't find any of my "before" photos of this space, but it was pretty much the same, except there was an unfinished wall, and the rest of the walls were painted yellow, which is my most unfavoritest color in the whole world. Paint-wise, anyway. So now it's gray, and the walls are all finished, and it has better lighting. And it's crammed full of my staging stuff for my business. OH! AND it has beautiful new carpeting. It's the only room that got carpet when we redid everything. Softer for yoga, and stuff.


And there ya have it! The completed basement. I love, love, LOVE it. Living in this space is so delightful, and the contractors were so awesome (as usual!), and I am so glad it's all done. Let me know what you think! And if you want better pictures of anything, let me know that, too. I'll be happy to update with more details. Happy Friday, all! Have a great weekend...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not much of anything...

I need to do stuff that has to do with money. (Budgets, and such.)

But instead, I just want to read things on the internet and eat popcorn. This is pretty much the entire gist of my life. :/

I also need to take pictures of the completed basement to share out here. It's something I think about every day, I swear. Hopefully, that means something...in the long run.

Someone light a fire under my ass, would ya? Geeze!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Update on how the weaning is going/heart rate saga is continuing...

Since I've been weaning off the Propranolol, I've noticed the side effects of the meds a bit more. This is the 4th week that I've been working myself off of the meds, and I'm officially one day on/one day off at this point. Yesterday: no dose at all. Today: one dose of 80 mgs tonight before bed. I had been taking it in the mornings, but I think that exacerbated the side effects I was feeling. (It causes dizziness, excessive tiredness, stomach issues, etc...)

I had a fucking GREAT workout on Tuesday this week, during which I got my heart rate up to 161. ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY ONE, BITCHES! It was FABULOUS. My average during that workout was 122, which has been unheard of for several years.

But. After the workout was over, and we were driving home, I almost thought I was gonna have to roll down my window to throw up. Fortunately, some slow breathing and happy place thoughts saved me from that mess, but still. It freaked me out.

I've had monumentally better workouts these past couple weeks, though, so I'm trying to focus on that magic of it all. I've been tired, though, so I've taken a lot more off days than I had been for a bit. Thursday and Friday this week were off days. Today was a better workout, though. Maintaining an average heart rate of 124 for almost 40 minutes, and reaching a peak of 141. I'm burning more calories in less time, and that is exactly what my goal is, folks.

I can't wait until I'm 100% off the drug. I'm giving it another week of one day on/one day off, and then I'll do a couple weeks of one day on/two days off, and we'll see how that goes.

I'm getting very mild, low-level headaches daily, but I'm just trying to stretch, and massage, and relax my way through them. I haven't had a cluster hit yet, and that is VERY encouraging.

I am at my heaviest weight again, though (219), so that's a bit ugh-worthy. I might go on Jenny Craig or something. I dunno. My goal isn't to be the perfect, skinny chick. My goal is to be healthy and happy. But every once in a while, I think back to the days when I was a skinny chick and remember how great it was. I mean, I was an emotional mess, but I looked so pretty! :/

::sigh::

I'm getting there, I think. I'll figure this whole "me" thing out eventually. But for now, I think I'll just be proud of the steps I'm taking, and leave it at that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Was it a lifesaver? Or was it a small curse?


Remember back a few years when I was dealing with debilitating headaches that it seemed like no one would be able to figure out? (April and May of 2009, to be exact.) After a relatively short period dealing with the unbearable pain (about a month…but it felt like an eternity!), I finally saw an ENT that diagnosed me with Cluster Headaches.

After the diagnosis, I was prescribed a drug called Propranolol, as well as given some pain meds that go right to the source of the pain and knock it out when it attacks, and life moved on relatively pleasantly.

The propranolol was the key, though. It’s a beta blocker that acts as a prophylaxis to my headaches. For some unknown reason, it keeps them from happening. And for that, I've been very, very grateful! (They don’t know what causes Clusters. Whether it’s a stress thing, or a tired thing, or a food thing. So it makes it tough to treat them, I guess.)

One of the “side-effects” of propranolol is a lowered heart rate. I don’t want to get all medicalish and shit in this post, but this is an important fact to note. I have been taking 160 mgs of propranolol every day for the past 5 years, because when I try to back off and take less of it, it’s not long before I start having regular headaches again…and not long after that before they become debilitating.

Since that time, I have been gaining more and more weight. However, I work out regularly. I eat pretty well a majority of the time. But I continue to get bigger and bigger. I wrote a post recently  about how frustrating it can be to be in a body that just doesn't seem to respond to anything I try to do to make it healthier. I've written posts like that several times throughout the years that I've been blogging, hoping I can help make a small difference, I guess. But also, they’re a little cathartic. ::shrugs:: Meh.

I've been thinking a LOT lately that my propranolol might not be helping. So I tried looking it up online…checking to see if there’s any info out there about how propranolol affects the standard workout for an otherwise healthy adult. And I found NOTHING. Lots of articles and tidbits about how it will affect your heart rate, obvs, and even questions from people wondering if they can workout while they take the drug. (The answer is generally, yes…depending on why you’re taking it, of course. Some people take it for blood pressure issues, and hypertension. Those folks should totally consult with their doc before they start a workout regimen!) But nothing about how a standard workout for an otherwise healthy individual might be changed by the drug.

Apparently, I was going to need a heart rate monitor in order to see what was happening, specifically, during my workouts. I asked my personal trainer for suggestions, and he said he had a couple of clients that used a model from Polar that had worked pretty well for them, so I went ahead and got one of those babies for myself.

Everyone has a maximum heart rate they should be keeping in mind when they’re working out. We all start at 220, for some reason. It’s based on something called the Karvonen formula. I don’t understand where it came from, and Google isn't entirely helpful with it, but it’s what a lot of gym-goers use as their basis for calculation, so I’ma stick with that for the purposes of this post. So we subtract my age from 220, and we come up with a max heart rate of 180.

Technically, according to some genetic testing I've gone through the trouble of having done (I've gone to great lengths to try to figure out how to deal with this weight issue in as natural of a way as possible!), I should be working at 70 – 85% of my max heart rate 40% of the time, and 50 – 65% of my max heart rate 60% of the time. Since I work out with my personal trainer twice a week, we count those as the 40%, and then the rest of my workouts (3 – 4 times on other days of the week) are the 60%. They mostly consist of a great deal of walking, but can also include some tougher yoga or Pilates classes/videos.

Looking back at that math up above, the targets are as follows:
40% of workouts = working towards a heart rate of 126 – 153
60% of workouts = working towards a heart rate of 90 – 117

Unfortunately, with the propranolol in my system, my max heart rate I could reach during a heart rate test on the treadmill was 128.

128. That was IT.

My first training appointment when I wore the monitor, I worked out for 44 minutes, and burned a total of 173 calories.

That? Was depressing.

But it was a step towards figuring shit out. I set the monitor to work for Leo one day, so he could see how high his heart rate was getting during his workouts with his personal trainer. I was on the treadmill at the gym while he was doing that, and when he was done, he came over and said, “So, is this right?”, showing me the results from the monitor on his arm. He had worked out for 41 minutes, and burned 384 calories.

Not gonna lie, I went to the bathroom after that and started crying. It just was not fair. I worked out longer and harder than that guy a majority of the time, and fuck if my body just wasn't going to let me see any good result from it! (And yeah, he’s a dude, and their bodies are different from a woman’s, and he’s 3 years younger than me, too, and blahblahblah…it still sucked to see those numbers, ok?)

Maintaining the 90 – 117 heart rate level during my 60%-of-the-time workouts was easier. I achieve that without issue by doing interval training on hills and with speed adjustments while on the treadmill every time I work out.

But it very quickly became clear that there was no way in hell I would ever be able to achieve that 85% of my max heart rate at 153 beats per minute! Not while I’m on the propranolol. And I’m pretty sure that without being able to work up to that number, those workouts with my personal trainer twice a week are pretty much a waste of time. (Not 100%...don’t get me wrong. I know they’re helping me to build strength and keep healthy. But as far as seeing a better result? Not gonna happen!)

So I’m weaning off of it again. I've tried this once before, but it didn't go very well. However, I’m in a completely different place with my brain now. I see my hypnotherapist once a week and we’re focusing on the headaches (as well as the hemifacial spasm) during our current sessions. My nutritionist has a supplement called “Migranol” that hopefully will help during this weaning period. And I see my chiropractor/acupuncturist every week as well. He can help with this sort of shit, too.

Western meds aren't always the answer. And I don’t wanna be stuck on a medicine for these headaches for the rest of my life, anyway! So we’ll attack them in an alternate fashion, goddammit.

As of today, I have been weaning off the propranolol for 1 week. I expect it will take 4 – 6 full weeks before I can stop taking it all together. But, surprisingly, it’s already having an effect on my workouts. The day after I skipped my first evening dose, my heart rate went up to 132 during my workout with my personal trainer. Tuesday, I worked out for 1 hour and burned 273 calories. My heart rate got up to 134 that day. The previous week, I worked out for 44 minutes, and burned only 189 cals, and only got to a max heart rate of 124. Yesterday (which was one of my 60% days), I worked out for 1 hour 22 minutes, and burned 357 cals with a max heart rate of 123 achieved.

Clearly, this heart rate thing makes a difference in calorie burn, is mah point.

For some reason, even though I’m somewhat overedumacated when it comes to my health and exercise and all that good stuff (I've been working at remaining as fit as possible, off and on, since I was a kid. I attended a fat farm/weight loss camp when I was 12. I started doing Jazzercize with mom when I got back from camp that year. I went on Jenny Craig for the first time when I was 15. It’s been a long road filled with all the info you can imagine would be related to eating healthy, working out, and living an active life), I have not made that heart rate connection with my failing to lose weight in spite of my consistent workout routine for the last 3 years.

I wanted to get this info out there so others dealing with this shit have a resource to turn to. At least a beginning to work from, if nothing else. It’s not an excuse…but it IS an explanation. A scientific one, no less! And we need more studies on this stuff, I think. More information to be able to help propranolol users maintain an optimal health level while they’re using the med. Or at least to help them realize the full impact it will have on them while using it.

In my case, the propranolol basically saved my life when I knew of no other way to save it. But it’s also keeping me from being able to burn fat, and God knows what else my body is failing to do properly without being able to reach those higher heart rate levels. (Well, and science knows, too. I’m sure science is well aware of all the things my body can be doing more optimally when I reach a higher heart rate level during my tougher workouts twice a week, right? I just don’t know how to look all that sciency stuff up. But if you happen to know it, and can tell me in layman’s terms what else it might be doing for me, feel free to share!)


Maybe I’ll always have to be on some small amount of propranolol. But maybe not. I sure hope not! In the meantime, I think I've won this one small battle. And that gives me hope for the future ones I have in store. Being positive is half of the battle, anyway, right? And now that I have that positive outlook? The war might need to just watch it’s back, honey…

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Regular Ol' Blog Post

It's been a bit since I posted, I know. I've been wanting to write a few things, and I plan on putting them up over the next couple of weeks, but I haven't quite gotten around to it thanks to traveling, appointments when I'm home, traveling some more, and then there was that whole basement remodel thing...

All of that is done for a bit. The remodel is finished. I haven't put up final pics yet because, while we've officially "moved" back in down there, we haven't officially decorated. So art is all over the place, and the furniture isn't in it's final resting place, in some cases. And then there's the shuffleboard table, which was delivered, but then taken away because it was BROKEN, and now we're waiting for the new one to come in, so the space it's supposed to be in looks very empty and sad without it.

But in good time, I will get those photos up, I promise! We are very, very, VERY happy with it. I had my first official workout in my updated workout room today, in fact, and it was wonderful. The storm that moved through earlier this week was barely audible from the new TV area. Last week, when we had friends over for the 4th of July, we were all able to head down there after we'd had enough of the outdoors, and play pinball, darts, and watch a little Eddie Izzard to finish off the night.

I have yet to get our office set back up, though. So that's still in the works. And we need to figure out some temp shelving to put up in the workout room that we can use until we can allow ourselves to get a real cabinet system installed in there somehow or another. That's less fun than needing to hang art up in the main living space, not gonna lie!

All of our traveling is slowing down a bit, too. We'll be at home a majority of the time for the next 2 months, for a change. Yay! We really love traveling and visiting and all that good stuff, but it's funny how being away can really mess with a daily routine!

So, back to the basics, friends. I hope everyone is having a great summer so far! I'll put up a new post again soon...


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Basement Update - almost to the finish line!

The basement is...ALMOST FINISHED! 

Still not 100% yet, but we're at the finishing stages now. We hung the TV today and we're going to start moving some pieces of furniture today. So the next pictures I put up will be of the space in it's completed form. We're still missing a few cabinet doors (they got warped when they went through the sander, so they had to be re-done), and have to finish the workout room, but we can start living in there again as early as the first part of next week! ::cue the choir of angels::

Here are the finished areas:
The bar! There's sparkling wine all up in that fridge already...we're moving glasses down in there today.
This hallway is getting a shuffleboard table put in it today...WOO!
I took this picture last week, so it looks a bit different than it does now, but that there, my friends? Is a Secret Bookcase Door. THAT IS RIGHT. 
Here's what the fireplace looks like now that the wainscot is in, and the lighting is installed (albeit temporary lighting as far as sconces go...), and with the bookcase door opened.
This is how much space the fucking television takes up when it's lying on the floor waiting to be installed. Oh, and that's more of the special wainscoting we had installed.
Here's the game room area. Temporary sconces over the fireplace aside, I think it looks FAB.YOU.LUSS,
So that's how we head into the weekend. Ready to move stuff back down the stairs. I can't WAIT to just hang out down there, guys. I can not WAIT!