Category: fitness

SDRC Meet

Today was the last swimming event of 2011.  😦  What a great year it has been!  I seriously don’t know how I would have gotten through all of the challenges this year if I hadn’t rediscovered swimming.  It has been the avenue to so many wonderful friends and (forgive me for sounding corny) but the emergence of a swim family in my life.  I am so grateful to everyone that has volunteered, encouraged, befriend and swam with me!

The meet today was in Bountiful at the South Davis Recreation Center.  What an amazing facility.  The pools (yes, pools) are massive and there are racquetball, basketball and volleyball courts, as well as fitness equipment.  Pretty great!  One nice thing about Utah is most towns have these rec centers and for a small fee you can use all of the centers in the county as much as you’d like.  I don’t know where the local municipalities get the money but they are fantastic!  (Talk about a great way to encourage athletic activity in your town!)

So, this meet was the biggest of the season and definitely the most crowded.  I think there were 5 or 6 heats for the 50 free!  It was great seeing a bunch of my swim friends; although, I wish more of the open water community came out for the meets.  We miss you!  I got to carpool up with my friends Kate and Erin.  I should have taken a photo but it was wonderful to visit with them. It was also fun to see Josh (and win a free cap) and meet Matt fro the first time. I even was able to introduce myself to some new friends.

I particularly love when people are swimming in their first race/meet.  I feel almost like I did as a missionary welcoming a new investigator to church.  I just want them to have a great experience and be welcomed by me, like I was welcomed by others.

This meet was special because my sister Anna came up for it from Provo.  She stayed the night in my guest room (which is open for any of you who want to visit!) and then she drove up for the meet.  It was one of the first time’s that any of my family have been to a swim meet/race.  Even in high school with a new baby it was hard to get family members out to my meets.  It really meant a lot to me to have family cheering me on. She said it was one of the first athletic events she has ever been to where she’s been cheering for someone.  I guess that says something on how athletic my family is! I was grateful for her presence.  Thanks!

I swam in 3 events and was nervous about my performance as practice has been quite brutal lately.  Between my business trip and the tonsillitis I had gone 2 weeks without a swim.  I was also taking a strong antibiotic called clindamycin which caused my blood sugars to be high and my whole demeanor to be low energy (not to mention my body was fighting off tonsillitis.

When I went for my first swim last Friday it was brutal.  My arms felt like weights, the water like glue.  It was so hard to even get through a 200 m.  Nevertheless, I pushed forward and swam/worked out every day this week.   I am proud to say I had a 4 swim/5 workout week!  I say this with particular pride because never were the routines more difficult to get through.   At times it was very discouraging but I persisted on.

I was still unsure whether I would have the energy to get through my races today.  I didn’t’ want to re-injure myself as I am just today getting off the antibiotic but I wanted to do my best.  Fortunately the first race was my 50 free.  I was unaware my heat was starting and had to dash to the diving board.  As I was climbing up they blew the whistle making me a few seconds behind on my start.  My ending time was 52 seconds which I am happy with given the circumstances (my best is 49 seconds which I think I would have matched without the slow start).

Next up was the 50 fly.  I really had doubts on my ability to finish a lap of fly but I pushed through and completed my swim 5 seconds faster than my previous time!

My last race was the 500 meters.  It is the longest race of the day and a huge challenge.  It may seem odd that a 500 would be hard when I’ve swam 1.2 miles.  The pace is much faster and the addition of flip turns, which sap energy, makes it actually a little bit more difficult in some ways.  Anna was my counter and I think I felt everyone’s encouragement.  Still, by about lap 13 my legs were burning and my lungs felt heavy.    I said to myself 3 laps left.  You can do this!

I would have been happy just to finish but I improved by about 20 seconds off of my last time!  I’m so thrilled!

this may be my favorite photo ever. I think it is such a genuine smile because I am so genuinely happy!

Originally I had thoughts of doing the 200 meters but after the 500 I felt spent and I didn’t want to push my luck.  Anna and I drove home and went to Cafe Rio where I downed a whole wheat chicken burrito (no rice, double beans!).  It was a lunch well deserved.  What a wonderful day with friends, family, and swimming.  Perfect!

I look forward to the QUAC meet in February.  Wish there was one in January but I’ll have to make do with practice.  Thanks again to everyone who helped with today’s meet and all of the Utah Masters and Utah Open Water  events I’ve participated in.  It is great!

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Food Matters

Food is Not the Enemy

Excuse just a little bit more venting.  My trainer and I were talking today and she told me about this trainer that she knows who was spouting off about how we should ‘look at food as a survival tool, nothing more.”  We both agreed that this is the stupidest thing We’ve ever heard.

It may be true that food should be less important, more neutral in our lives and that emotions attached to food can often be dangerous; however, to pretend that food should have no impact on our lives is just denying reality.

It is impossible to talk about any culture without discussing food.  Most historical events are tangled up with food.  I can’t think of a single tradition that does not involve food or food traditions.  When was the last time you saw someone blowing out a pile of rocks? No, its cake people!  Every culture that I am aware has food involved in the celebration of weddings, birthdays, Christmas, harvest etc. To pretend that this connection is unnecessary is stupid and naive.

Some may argue that we put too much of an emphasis on food, or that we don’t appreciate it enough because of our lack of farm to table produce.  To these people I would heartedly agree.  We use food as a reward too frequently and we could tone down the number and boost the quality of the food celebrations we participate in, but to pretend like  this is not a part of human nature is ridiculous.

The thing that gets my goat about is any trainer or health professional who is preaching this type of lifestyle to his or her patrons.  They are setting them up for failure.  Its like the people who push the green drink (or any other radical change diet).   Yes, you will lose weight, yes it may even be healthy but it does not work with the culture we live in.  It does not accept reality, work with it, and create a real solution.  I am so glad my trainer gets it. 

You may ask- what about my sugar fast?  Is this not denying reality?  There is some truth to that, and I have struggled with such a drastic lifestyle change (and not been perfect I might add); however, it is not a permanent fix.  We are attempting to change my habits and cravings so that when I immerse myself completely in my world I can make better choices.  I am also just trying to get through the holidays with as few cheats as possible. I have no delusions that this is a better way to live or that I would even want to keep it up for an extended period of time.

If someone was planning on doing a sugar fast long term I would strongly discourage them.  We have an entire organ in our body basically designed to taste food- all types of food.  That’s why we have sweet, salty, bitter taste buds and we should engage all of them.  Food is part of the human experience and as healthy individuals we simply have to learn to control the times we do engage and keep a healthy overall lifestyle.

Its like people that argue we should only live with the bare essentials.  If that was the case I suppose we don’t need music, art, theater, or literature to survive.  The difference between humans and animals is that we don’t just survive, we don’t act on mere instinct, but we engage socially, politically and culturally on a daily basis.  Someone like a Mozart or a Julia Child may not be necessarily for human survival but I sure am grateful for them!

Ok.  So, in conclusion- food is a real part of our lives.  To deny this fact is foolish and to teach it is irresponsible.  We must learn to work with food and create a dynamic interesting life.  It is difficult to do but with the support of loved one’s, competent trainers, health professionals and friends I am confident each of us can find that balance by enjoying food but not frequently overindulging.

There I said it! Done!

USU Meet

I’ve been a bit delayed in posting about the meet on Saturday because I’ve been super busy and they didn’t release the results until today.  This was my second US Masters Meet and it was a good experience.  I really debated whether to attend or not because it required a lot of driving, but I decided that I need to take advantage of every opportunity I can to improve my swimming and test myself physically.  The meets don’t happen very often so you can’t let one slip away.  (I wish they would advertise the meets more.  It would have been so nice to carpool.)

Compared to all of the open water/masters meets I’ve attended previously the USU meet felt very collegiate, young and competitive.  Indeed, when they released my scores I was the only swimmer in my age group (women 30-34).  This means I technically finished first in all my races!  🙂

It really felt more like Utah State’s swim team and 10 of their friends and while I don’t participate in the meets to win, it is more fun when things are a bit more casual.  My friends Josh and Sabrina came and Josh posted good times, but aside from them there was nobody else to really talk with or get to know.

Anyway, it was still a fun experience.  I swam in 4 races the 200 meter freestyle, 50 meter freestyle, 500 meter freestyle and the 50 butterfly.  The latter two were the most difficult.  The 500 was the longest meet race I’ve done (last time was the 400) and it was tough!  It’s funny you wouldn’t think swimming 500 meters would be hard after swimming 1.2 miles but the pace is faster at a meet and the flipturns drain a lot out of me- especially towards the end when I am gasping for air.

However, I am proud to say I finished all my flipturns and made it under my goal time of 13 minutes with a time of 12 min 22 seconds.  This was particularly satisfying as my swim cap kept riding up my head until I ripped it off and threw it on the pool deck.  Thankfully I had my hair in a pony-tail underneath my cap or the situation would have been bad!   Still, I was proud of myself for maintaining my focus and not letting the cap incident rile me.

It was also funny at the end of the 500 I was at least 2 laps behind anyone else in my heat.  It seemed like the whole pool deck started cheering me on.  I felt like the underdog in a sports movie.  Never mind that they were cheering me because I was last- I’ll take what I can get!

Once I finished the 500 I felt spent and wondered if I could get through the 50 fly.  The meet went along at a fast clip and it seemed I was always rushing to make my heat.  (They didn’t have a loud speaker to announce which heat was going when and that would have been very helpful).  I just wondered if I would have time to regroup and get through it.  It had been since high school that I had competed in a butterfly competition and I knew even a 50 meters was going to be tough.

Never wanting to back away from a challenge or give up, I just had to do it.  Into the water I went and I pushed through the pain to complete my 50 fly.  I know I have tons of work to do but I was proud of my 1 minute 9 second time- only 3 seconds slower than I had done in practice.

My other times are 200 m at 4 min 31 seconds (better than my 4 min 57 sec at the last meet) and my 50 free was a personal best at 49.2o seconds- first time under 50 seconds!

If anyone is reading this and is interested in participating in meets look up the US Masters swim team in your area.  I really wish there was some way I could promote or advertise the masters/open water swim programs in my area.  I know there are people like me who would love to participate but simply don’t know about it.  If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, I will have to promote events from this blog- sending the word out in the best way I can.  My only wish about US Masters is that they had some kind of participation award or medal- like maybe something for a person who participates in all of the seasons meets? I like looking at my medals for the open water swims and wish I had something for the meets.  Plus, it is fun to show them off to friends and family! Oh well!

ah the self portrait.
Finishing a race
Before the 500

Progress!


in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.

Theodore Roosevelt

Well certainty this year I have been doing many things and amidst the continuing struggles it is very rewarding to see genuine progress and growth in my life, particularly satisfying with the physical fitness/health goals.  I share this not to boast but to include you in my achievements.  I am so excited!

Today I had my ‘boot camp’ with my trainer.  This is a meeting we do every 6-8 weeks to diagnose my physical conditioning is improving, staying the same or getting worse.  So far I have seen improvement in every area except for the stairs (I hate those stairs!).  I won’t bore you with all of the routines but it was so satisfying to do more than I did before, to see progress. I am also not nearly as sore today as I was anticipating from a tough work out.

Things are improving and that makes me smile!

After the ‘boot camp’ I weighed in at 261.  That’s 3 lb lost since the end of August.  I am picking up the pace on the dieting through the tough holiday season and hopefully the weight will come off.  (The more it does, the less stress on my muscles which is important for the fibromyalgia).

If you can believe it, I have only lost 10 lbs since the beginning of the year.  On first glance, this might seem like a disappointment but when you think of everything I have been through this year from meds, surgery, swims and everything else it is understandable.

What made me more excited is when I took my measurements for biceps, shoulders, abdomen and hips, there were significant changes in all 4 measurements!

Take a look at these charts.  I believe you will see a great deal of  improvement and much progress! Hurray!

Look at the improvement!!!!!


Down by 3 inches in that critical abdomen area.  Hurray!

Shoulders and torso down by 4 inches!

The hips show the least amount of change but that’s no surprise we Wagners love to hang on to those hips!

Fibromyalgia

More fun medical news from Rachel!  Ever since my fall in January my chest muscles have been inflamed and tender to the touch.  For a while my endocrinologist thought it was costochondritis (an infection of the lungs).  The problem with that diagnosis is costochondritis usually only lasts for 1-3 months.  I have had this pain now for 8 months.

Next my doctor thought it might be a pulled muscle that kept getting reinjured.  This never made sense to me because why would the pain be all over my ribcage, an area that contains many muscles.  Could I really pull all of them and then keep reinjuring all of them? It seemed unlikely.

The other problem I have dealt with is the extreme pain I feel after almost any workout.  At first I thought this was just from a lack of training but after nearly 2 years of hard exercise it still hasn’t gotten any easier.  Granted I keep pushing myself harder and harder but you would think that after a while my body would learn to bounce back with greater ease.

Trying to diagnose the problem I had an MRI done a couple of weeks ago.  There they found an ‘old compression fracture’ on my thoracic area of the spine.  We are not sure how old this injury is but it’s most likely from the fall.  Typically a compression fracture is found in people who fall from a building or high place like I did with the stairs.  It is probably mostly caused by the intensity with which my head hit the wall at the  end of the stairs.

Fortunately the fracture has completely healed and shouldn’t cause me anymore problems.  However, it still didn’t answer why I kept having these chest pains.  So, I met with the doctor yesterday to discuss the MRI and my pain.

Now I’ve had my share of lame doctors but this one was wonderful.  She has dealt with chronic pain and knew exactly what to do.  She spent nearly an hour with me and asked me questions about my sleep, the pain, and my workouts.  Then she touched all of these trigger points around my body.  It was amazing when she touched certain spots the pain shot up through me like a bolt of lightning.

Evidently if you have pain in 11 out of 18 trigger points then you have fibromyalgia.  She also said the sleep apnea and slow recovery from exercise are big signs.

This might sound strange but it was so nice to have a name to the pain.  Now I can start my research and learn more about this condition.  I really feel this is a huge piece in the puzzle of my overall health.

This is where I come to you internet-world.  Do any of you have fibromyalgia or have loved one’s with it?  I would love to hear about what has worked for you?  According to my doctor there isn’t a ton they can do about the condition aside from taking anti-depressants (sounds strange but I guess it helps with the way your immune system transmits pain signals), which I will only do as a last resort.

I’ve heard that acupuncture helps and so even though the needles kind of freak me out I might give it a try.  I already get massages from my friend Jill who gives me a great deal.  I wish I could afford it every day, it helps so much!

I also love the hot tub at my gym.  It practically melts the muscles.

The doctor said that even though the workouts may cause additional pain they are the best thing I can do.  She added I should not expect any relief from the pain as I get more in shape.  Kind of a bummer but oddly comforting as well.  This whole time I thought I was just kind of a pain-whimp.  Turns out I’ve been pretty strong all along!

The other good news is that swimming is the best workout I can do for fibromyalgia.  It is the easiest on the body and is low impact on my muscles.  Hurray!  The one thing that is best for me is the activity I enjoy most!

Anyway, like I said if you have any experience with this condition that might help me, I would love to hear it.  Thanks in advance!

Masters Swim Meet

I am a Masters swimmer!

Today was another landmark day in my fitness quest!  It was my first US Masters swim meet.  I have not been in a swim meet since 1998 when I was in high school.  What a great thrill to be back on the starting block again competing!

I feel so blessed to have discovered the US Masters organization which lists as its mission statement “U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) is a national organization that provides organized workouts, competitions, clinics and workshops for adults aged 18 and over. Programs are open to all adult swimmers (fitness, triathlete, competitive, non-competitive) who are dedicated to improving their fitness through swimming.”

Now the question is why did it take me 12 years to find out about this great organization? I guess you find out about things when you are ready to embrace them in life.

Anyway, back to the meet.  Since I had been sick all week I felt anxious about whether I would be able to participate.  Even this morning I woke up with a sore throat, phlegm and a lot of congestion.

However, anyone who knows me, knows I don’t give up easily!  I decided I felt well enough to at least go to the meet, and at minimum, swim the 50 free (for non-swimmers that’s one lap in a typical pool).

The meet was held at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Salt Lake- actually called the Jeanne Wagner Jewish Community Center- that’s right Wagner!  I didn’t know Wagner was a Jewish name- pretty cool.

Anyway, there wasn’t a huge attendance but those who gathered were wonderfully encouraging and fun.  I have been so impressed by the swimming community in Utah.  There were even some college-level swimmers there; and they were really nice and welcoming.  In fact, one group invited me to join in their swims (its about 25 minutes away but I may get there!).

Everyone cheered on each other and it inspired me to do my best.  Congestion and all I swam all 3 of my races and did as well I could.  (I probably finished last but I didn’t care.)

The hardest race was the 400 meters (or 8 laps). By about lap 5 my lungs were burning and I wondered if I could get through but I pushed onward.  It was really hard but I made it to the end.  I even got almost all of my flip-turns and starts in (the diving platforms were much higher than I remember them being in high school- I would say around 2 ft up!).  Since I have only done about 5 flip-turns in 13 years I felt proud in pulling off so many.

It was a fun day and I think a day my young self would have loved. Its hard to explain, but I feel like in embracing swimming the way I have in the last few months I am now the best version of myself I’ve ever been.  I look great, feel healthy (I think I actually felt endorphins today!) and am having the time of my life!  It seems especially meaningful on a week where nothing went right and my body was fighting me all the way.  Hurray for completing goals!!!

Thank you to all who volunteered  their time to help put on the event on and all who cheered me on.

My times:

50 m- 51.18 sec

200 m- 4 min 57 sec

400 m- 10 min 24 sec

(One funny thing about my swimming is I’m remarkably consistent.  Despite my best efforts to go faster I seem to have about the same lap time no matter what.  The difference between my laps on the 200m and 400m is only 4 seconds!  Of course, the 200 was my last swim so that may account for some of it, but still consistency is my game!)

Here are some photos of the event:

My friend Erin and I

here I am coming out of a flip turn on the 400
swimming in the 400
some of the girls at the meet