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Blog: Sometimes You Just Need a Pacer

Darla shares a very personal story and journey from her client Jennifer, a 5-year cancer survivor who has surpassed her fitness goals while on preventative cancer medications.

I love this title (created by my fabulous client Jennifer). So many things come to mind when I think about Jennifer: fighter, athlete, determined, accomplished, motivational, inspirational, and a strong woman who has beat cancer and celebrated 5 years cancer free this year. 

Jennifer contacted me to be her accountability coach and help her get back on track with her overall health program and let me tell you, I was over the top honored to accept the role.  She was a woman of my peers being a registered dietitian and working in the fitness industry herself for many years.  I was able to share my Stay Healthy Food Guide with her, which she was very impressed by the simplicity of the presentation; this was a fabulous compliment for me coming from Jennifer.

Let me tell you, Jennifer and I made a good team armed with the best of the best nutritional knowledge and information which was used to get her caloric intake back on track, and to gradually boost her metabolism into letting go of pounds that had accumulated over the years battling the preventative cancer medications that she had no control over. We worked together to create a fine balance of the nutrition that was needed to sustain the demands of her activity.  

I was so excited every time Jennifer contacted me to share that she finished a walk. This is BIG stuff and each day seemed to progress in a positive energy direction.  I learned so much working with Jennifer and what she has gone through as a cancer survivor, the medications involved, the negative impact on the body and really how it makes a person feel - like an out of body experience - this is my body but it does not do what I want it to.  The energy levels can be completely depleted and each day a guessing game of, Will I be in bed today or yeah I have energy for my walk. This type of up down roller coaster ride becomes a cycle of frustration for many and especially extreme athletes such as Jennifer.  

I admire Jennifer for all her accomplishments and am so proud to have been and continue to be a part of her journey of healing through cancer.  Jennifer celebrated her 60th birthday recently and so much more. Jennifer has reached and exceeded her fitness goals and during the continuance of her medications, we both are celebrating this victory together big time! 

Jennifer continues her walk/jogs, eating healthy, involvement in running events and health conferences, and supports events for the fight against breast cancer.  She is one busy, beautiful lady who is a walking example that overcoming obstacles are things that indeed make us stronger.  Jennifer lives the Stay Healthy life every day and is a role model for all people as her Pacer I am very motivated.

Trainer Pride and Hugs…HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY Jennifer!

My Email Response to Jennifer (you will understand why I posted this here after reading her story):

Hi Jennifer,

First…let me congratulate you on all your successes, and the Biggest Win…Surviving Cancer.  Life takes us through journeys we do not always understand and fighters we must be to continue to be the BEST we can with the limitations handed to us.  I again applaud your determination & motivation to do just that.  I also understand the frustrations of not being or feeling “who you once where” as I also suffered an injury in 2008 and it strips the very soul from an athlete.  Most important however, is taking what seems to be such an unfair journey and becoming even stronger, better, & wiser from the experience.  Acceptance of the NEW athlete that you are and will always be.  Does it take work and perseverance….a BIG YES…but I am reading that you have an inner strength that will carry you through.  The beautiful thing about our bodies is that we can work them in ways that are not as demanding, get fabulous results, with reduced risk of the negative side effects that always seem to rear their ugly heads if “old workout” philosophies are implemented.  A balance needs to be created that enables you to feel accomplished with your fitness, but at the same time preserves the quality of your life. I would love to meet with you for a consultation and YES…that is the first step when selecting the BEST fitness expert for you.  Thank you for sharing your story, getting in touch, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sometimes You Just Need a Pacer

Here’s my (Jennifer) story. It made all the difference in the world to have Darla by my side! 

I am a registered dietitian, an aerobics instructor, and a marathon runner. I have had an active and healthy lifestyle for decades.

I am also a breast cancer survivor of 5 years and am currently finishing up a five year course of therapy which helps to prevent recurrence. One of the major side effects of this medicine for me has been fatigue. Enough fatigue that I had to stop running. Enough fatigue that I have spent a LOT of time resting on the couch.

Over the last five years, I have watched my formerly strong and active self become soft and tired. What’s more, I have watched my cholesterol increase to an unhealthy level – first time I ever had to worry about such a thing. I certainly did not have surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, just to die of a heart attack! 

And, in spite of my training and lifestyle, I could not seem to help myself.

In April 2011, I went on line to research personal trainers in the Sacramento area. You all know how Google works, what comes up is what comes up, and that evening, Darla was the only trainer that popped up on the screen.

This is the message I sent to her….

Hi Darla

I found your Web site by chance through Google; I am not a referral.

I was an aerobics instructor when aerobics first came on the scene in the early 80's and taught aerobics for about 15 years.

I have also been a runner since 1983 - my last marathon was in 2000 and my last half marathon was in October 2008.

I am a registered dietitian. I retired from the California Department of Education in health education in 2009.

I will be 60 years old in October. I am a breast cancer survivor, beginning my last year of a five-year follow up hormonal treatment.

The major side effect of my follow-up treatment for cancer is fatigue. Each year that passes I have become more tired.  I have to be fairly careful about how much I work out or I have to spend the next day or so resting on the couch. I have learned the hard way that I can no longer "muscle" my way through a workout - mind over matter is not an option these days.  It is very frustrating, but it is what it is.

The other side effect is losing muscle and gaining fat. Although I weigh approximately as much as I did when I was diagnosed in 2006, my body composition is decidedly different. I was running about 25 - 30 miles a week at the time of diagnosis.  Now I can amble (17 minute miles) about 15 - 18 miles a week. What's more, if I try to cut calories much below 1800 calories a day (and I have tried), my fatigue increases and I become a screaming maniac. : - ) and, a lower calorie intake seems not to make a bit of difference to the amount I weigh.

Where do you come in?

I noticed that one of your services is Limited Physical/Injury. Believe me, it is not a lack of motivation or self discipline that is keeping me from being as active as I want to be, but I think I might find it helpful to work with someone to help me do the best I CAN do, whatever it may be.

I'm told that when I stop taking the medication, I still start feeling more like my "old" self again - be able to get out of first gear. For my last year on the medication, I would like to be in the best place I can be, so when I get off the medication, I have the most momentum possible.

What I think would be useful would be a consultation and, more importantly, follow up appointments at least once a month maybe?

What do you think?

Darla sent a loving, supportive e-mail back, and we began our journey together! My focus was always to get healthier – not simply to lose weight or get stronger.

I really appreciated Darla’s Stay Healthy Fitness Food Choice Eating Guide, which we discussed at my initial assessment. I could see that this simple plan focused on getting the very best nutrition. As a dietitian, I am often skeptical about food plans, but I was happy to see that this plan was based on current research.  In fact, I suggested that Darla should publish this plan in a book!

Even with my background in healthy eating, Darla’s eating plan helped me focus my food choices.  Because my calorie intake was lower than I was used to, I needed to get the best nutrition out of each and every little calorie.

My sustained work with Darla was more her supporting me with visits every two weeks, rather than her educating me. I kept a food diary (and I do to this day – every day) and she reviewed my daily intake.  There was not much emphasis put on building muscles or increasing aerobic capacity, because that was just not possible. Instead, bi-weekly monitoring of my activity simply helped me refine and improve what I was able to do – walk.

Fast forward six months.  Gradually, very gradually, I began to lose some weight. Because I was accountable to Darla through my food records, I focused on eating the very best I could, and remarkably, I was able to lower my calorie level without the physical meltdowns I had experienced on my own.

Gradually, slowly, I began to add a few more minutes of walking to my daily walk and pick up the pace a bit. The overall fatigue has not gone away, but I made activity a priority to the extent that I gave up some of my volunteer activities so that I would have energy to walk.

Now I am 30+ pounds lighter and my recent cholesterol measurement showed a 70 mg drop! I couldn’t ask for a better result!!

Right now, I have decreased my visits to Darla to once a month. I have developed good habits and I do not need the bi-weekly accountability check. For the future, Darla and I are looking forward to the time when I’m off the medication and the side effects have been minimized. At that time, we will start on some minimal strength work – while the weight I lost was mostly fat, it turns out I have lost serious muscle in the past five years.

For me, it was all about Darla being my “pacer.” Pacer is a word that occurs in the world of running. When you are running in a long event – like the marathon – you often ask someone to help you out as a “pacer.” Near the end of the run, your pacer joins you fresh as a daisy while you are ready to curl up in a ball by the curb. When I ran my marathons and my pacer joined me at mile 20, I always felt that I could now stop thinking and just put one foot ahead of the other. The important decisions would now be made by my pacer.

This is exactly how it worked for Darla and me. Darla took over the thinking and I just did what I was supposed to, until I could do it on my own.  Success!!

Sometimes you just need a pacer.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW JENNIFER'S BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES AND STATS

Jennifer continues to maintain herself through Stay Healthy nutrition, walks, walk jogs on her great days and I look forward to our... to be continued... journey together as we transition to the next level of health & fitness goals...never a destination, but always a journey.   Congrats Jennifer...You are one FABULOUS WOMAN!!!

Also enjoy my complete personal blog here, where  I will be sharing my Stay Healthy Life with you through my example of what I do to maintain my health, physique, and being my best me at 47!!! I look forward to blogging for you. Stay tuned for recipes, articles, links, videos, and very personal shares!!

Stay Healthy!

Darla ;)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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