Tuesday, February 26, 2008

back in the gym again

Today was my first official workout in Pinas (sans the weak intro session yesterday). Today I treated myself to a Spin class (or Cycling as they call it here) and a Body Balance class (a combo of tai chi, yoga, pilates and meditation). Man, I really needed these workouts. I really liked the Body Balance class because the teacher was very patient, but really good at making sure people had good form. The room was purposely warm, making it extra good for the muscles (all you yoga heads probably know how much it sucks to train in a cold room). I totally broke out into a nasty sweat. The Cycling instructor was intense and the energy in the room was great. If any of you know what that exercise exhilaration feels like, it's amazing. I didn't realize how much pent-up stress I had inside me.

Sadly, life in the Philippines (for now) revolves around the mall. It's partly because I'm getting acclimated to the heat. Right now, my mornings are at the gym taking good care of my health. From there, I shower and go to the Coffee Bean (it's only been two days doing this and the guy already knows my name; it's funny walking in to someone greeting you with a "Hello Miss Ma'am Joanne!"). To avoid lugging my laptop, I've been hand-transcribing my interviews.

Today I had lunch at Max's Cafe. This was a good meal for me because for some reason, I haven't been eating enough protein and I think that's why my sleep has been erratic. It's not that the protein isn't there. Believe me, there's plenty of food. I think the heat just suppresses my appetite. That I finished the halo halo was an accomplishment. (Ahem. You didn't think I'd put that icy goodness to waste, did you?)

The way of eating here is actually very good because you eat about 5 times a day - three meals and 2 snacks (merienda). As I mentioned before, everything is portioned well. That's why you have to eat 5 times a day. The only knock against the diet here is the amount of rice you're expected to eat. I'm not big on rice and eat about half or less of what most people eat. Another great thing about their diet is there's lots of fruit and veggies involved. It's a lot of good habits I hope to bring back with me:)

Monday, February 25, 2008

finally! a gym!

I want to say it's taken me a while. However, I need to give myself some credit, here. I just arrived on Thursday and finally signed up for the local gym today (Monday). I'm now officially a member at Fitness First in SM North Edsa. It cost more than I had hoped for. However, I guess the amenities are worth it. I had to weigh my options and decided that it's an investment considering I really don't know what else I would do to exercise here. My problem is that I like a really hard exercise, so the occasional jump rope at home just doesn't do it.

It's funny trying to haggle an appropriate rate and stuff. After some discussion, I finally got the deal that I thought made most sense. It is a nice club, something along the lines of Club Sport in Fremont. Major difference is that it's smaller and in the mall.

Anyway, as with most clubs, it includes a fitness assessment and 2 personal training sessions. I did my fitness assessment and session today, which put me at the club for about 3 hours. I refused to have them weigh me and the poor trainer Albert was a little irked. To his credit, he was very nice about it.

Here's my schtick on fitness assessments... I THINK THEY'RE BULLSHIT! My friend Alex says that according to the BMI chart, Tom Cruise is overweight. That's how bullshit that whole thing is. If I'm paying good money to go to a gym, then I should be able to retain my dignity. Albert was a little shocked that I didn't mark "weight loss" as a goal. Again, it was a political choice I made. He asked why I didn't mark that (can you believe the fuckin' nerve?!) and I said, "I'm happy with my body. As I wrote, I'm here to maintain my health and that's it." I'm pretty sure he wanted to poke me in the eye. I wish I actually cared.

Anyway, he ran me through some of the machines and stuff. Plus, he did a 6 minute interval run and did the standard tests, letting me know what heart rate I need and such. All the tests were normal. I thank him for his patience because I don't know Tagalog. That's happened to me a lot and people tend to apologize for their bad English. I always respond by saying that their English is WAY BETTER than my Tagalog. They don't usually get it.

His workout was okay. Again, I like to be worked so it was just okay. I think he assumed that I was totally out of shape. (Ahem. I admit that I look out of shape, but I'm quite healthy.) The weights he chose were mostly way too light - especially my lower body weights. I wish he turned it up a bit. My favorite part was the stretch because it really helps to have someone stretch you. Again, he looked surprised because yes, believe it or not, this fat girl is more flexible than most people assume. I'm pretty sure there were points where he didn't know what to do. I just had to laugh.

While I'm here, I'm going to focus on running (on the machines), spinning and yoga.

Here is fierce runner life in the Philippines. I'm at a gym now. It's not CrossFit. But it'll do until I get back. I can't wait to take the new CrossFit fundamentals classes. I'm so gonna need it when I get back!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

international travel and diabetes: medications

One of the most difficult things about preparing for this trip to the Philippines is squaring off all the doctor's appointments. However, they're almost done (the last being tomorrow). As I mentioned before, traveling as a diabetic isn't easy. For diabetes management, I use Metformin (Glucophage to some of you) and Byetta. I've talked about Byetta before. For those of you who are diabetic and are traveling internationally, here are some things you should know:

- It's best that you travel with ALL your medication. I'm gone for three months, so I have three months worth of meds. This should be carried with you at ALL times on the plane. You really don't want to risk losing your meds to check-in luggage.

- With all the airport security issues you have to deal with, it's best to carry a note from your doctor explaining that you need to carry your meds with you. Byetta is a liquid medicine that needs to be refrigerated until you actually break open the pen. Though security guidelines allow for medical supplies, it's still a good idea to bring a doctor's note. For me, I have to keep the Byetta cool, so the note will excuse the gel pack I need in order to keep this cool.

- For those of you who use meds that need to be cool (after breaking open the Byetta, it can stay at room temperature; unfortunately, room temperature in the Philippines is so not room temperature in Calfornia), I recommend in investing in a FRIO wallet. They're great because they can keep your meds cold for about 2-3 days. All you have to do is soak it in water to activate it. A great investment for me!

- Carry a copy of your prescriptions. In case you happen to lose your meds, you can go to the local pharmacy with your prescription. You may have to pay a pretty penny, but your insurance should cover it when you get back. Check with your respective insurance carriers.

- If your doctor has it, do sign up for an email communication with her. She'll be able to answer your questions about anything that happens to come up.

That's about it. I'll post more as I start to travel. Just remember, BE PREPARED! Diabetes is no joke - especially overseas. When I was in high school, and uncle was visiting from the Philippines for an extended stay. He ended up passing away while he was here. My brother recently told me that one of the causes of his passing was that he didn't have his diabetes meds. This really struck a chord with me. So I'm preparing!

Monday, February 04, 2008

international travel and diabetes: immunization shots

I'm in the process of leaving the country for three months for research. Normally, this would be really easy. However, when you're a diabetic, it's a little harder than I'd like it to be. First off, like many people, you have to get your immunization shots. It sounds simple enough. It's even less painful than most people would think. The problem is, not all health professionals are trained the same.

Truth be told, I don't have an actual record of all my immunizations. In fact, I didn't have an official record until I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago and had to get certain ones done. Before then, I was working on pure memory, which tells me that I'm sure I got all the proper ones as a child, but I never had shots from maybe second grade and on.

So I knew that my visit to the travel clinic would be a big one because they'd probably have to shoot up everything imaginable. Fine. I get it. As long as it means I get to roam around the concrete jungle and return home in one piece, I'm okay. FYI, if you go to the travel clinic at the Tang Center, give yourself a good 2 hours because the consult is LONG! They go in detail about all the strange things you can get while you're overseas, especially a so-called third world country like the Philippines. I know they're trying to be clinical. However, some things just bordered on offensive. Anyway, all was fine until the nurse asked me if I had Hepatitis B.


The conversation went a little something like this...

Fierce Runner (FR): I'm pretty sure I don't have Hepatitis B. If I did, wouldn't I know?
Crazy Nurse (CN): Well, that's the thing. Most people who have Hep B don't know. Have you been tested?
FR: No. But. Um... I'm pretty sure I haven't engaged in any activity that would cause me to have Hep B.
CN: Well, there is a chance that since you're from a Third World country, that you may have it. It may have been passed on to you by your mother, or you may have contacted it in other ways.
FR (irritated): I'm sorry. I think you misunderstood. I'm from GUAM, and Guam isn't a third world country. It's a US territory. I'm not sure what you're getting at.
CN: Yes, of course Guam is a US territory, but still. You may have been infected because it's common among people from third world countries.
FR (even more irritated): Again, Guam is NOT a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY! It's a US territory. I'm from this country.
CN: Yes, but your mom is from the Philippines and that's a third world country. She may have passed it on to you.
FR: But I'm the youngest of three kids. Don't you think she would have known that she had Hep B by the time she had me? I still don't understand why you would think I have Hep B.

By now, this conversation is beyond irritating because I want to poke the nurse's eye with the Hep B vaccine just to teach her a lesson. She leaves the room and has a long discussion with another nurse about what she needs to do about me. Again, she's under the impression that I secretly have Hep B. I'm also irate because this appointment is taking way too long and I have another appointment to catch all the way in Fremont! She comes back and says...

CN: Here's what we'll do. We'll give you your Hep A vaccination today and get you labs to test for Hep B. When those come in, we'll figure out the next step.
FR: But I'm pretty sure I DO NOT have Hep B!
CN: Sure. But we just want to make sure because you are from a third world country.

This is a lost cause. I'm angry, but I also have to go. So I tell her to just give me whatever shots I need, the labs and I go on my merry way. Five days later, CN calls me. Here's how the conversation goes...

CN: Hi FR. Good news! I'm calling to let you know that your test results are in and you don't have Hep B.
FR: I think I told you that last week.
CN: Sure. Well, this means we can get you your Hep B shot. Can you come in today?