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March 2009
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May 2009

Extreme Training for the Body and Mind

She pulled, and felt the muscles in her back contract.  Her lats fired every time her body went from a squat to standing.  She was then instructed to go from a one legged squat to a one-legged plyometric jump.  Seriously?  Four on the left leg and then four on the right.  She then straightened her back and started the rows - again, muscles in her back fired.

Chest - presses as she held herself up with her hands fixed into the straps of the nylon bands that were hanging from the ceiling and initiated creaks every so often that gave her a sense of insecurity.  Beads of sweat started to run down her face and pool in the small of her back.

She then lay in a supine position, looking up at the ceiling, and hooked her heels into the foot straps.  She lifted her hips up off the ground, bent her knees, and curled her heels into gluts.  She felt the burn in her hamstrings.

Prone position - face down - and push-ups with feet suspended off of the ground.  One push-up, and then she brought her knees into her chest.

And on it went, dozens more exercises each one more interesting than the next working her body in ways that she had never worked before.

She couldn't help but think that some of this might never have been possible had she not recovered from the stroke and heart surgery - but she did, and with every muscle fiber worked on controlling and stabilizing her core time and time again.  Some of the moves were rather reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil, which she did not mind.  In the end she took a TRX suspension system home with her.  Oh, she could not wait to bring it to the park for her first workout.  Although it would all depend on how much Tylenol she would need tomorrow...

Trx (participants at the TRX training)

TRX - Training to the extreme

Tomorrow I will be inside for eight hours training.  Not just training, but TRX training.  This is fitness training to a whole new level.  It involves a band that is suspended from the ceiling or another contraption and a series of exercises that are done in sequence to train the whole body.  So after eight hours of this, I think that I will need a few things...Tylenol, a hot bath, and something really good to eat.  Why am I doing this?  Because I need continuing education credits for my personal training certification and at the time (I must have had one to many classes of something) I thought it looked cool).  Hhmmmm.  Maybe not so cool anymore.  So if this is supposed to go from 9:00 - 5:00pm tomorrow, I wonder how I will feel around 5:05pm, oh, Monday will not be a good day.

Want to know what I am talking about?  Check it out:
174101177_PSiKi-L (photo from


What were you yesterday?  Recovering from the Boston Marathon?  Appreciating the spring weather? Or among the hundreds of American Heart Association and American Stroke Association Advocates on Capitol Hill speaking to members of Congress about funding, education, and research for the Nation's number one and number three killer.  Yes, you heard me.  Heart disease kills more people than anything else in the United States, and stroke is number three.   What exactly does that mean and why does this matter?  Good question!  One person dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease (American Heart Association).

Over the past few days Hector and I were lucky enough to go to Capitol Hill with the AHA and ASA to speak to members of Congress about these funding efforts.  While on the Hill we meet exceptional people from all over the country with heart disease, heart defect, and stroke.  To see these people made everything so very real.  You would think that it would be real enough for me after having had a stroke and open heart surgery.  But meeting other "like" people really changed so much.  None of these efforts would be possible without the support of the American Heart and American Stroke Associations.  I especially have to thank the team from Massachusetts... Boston_aha

Aside from thanking the AHA and ASA, I have to thank Hector who not only saved me (literally) when I had my stroke, but gives me support every single day in my efforts to raise awareness around stroke and heart education.Lub_hhh Ok, enough already, it sounds as if I am giving an Oscar's speech or something!

In any event, the past few days were extraordinary in every sense of the word.  For more information please check out these sites:

National Institutes of Health
Center for Disease Control

Go Red on the Capitol

One of them had a heart transplant more than 7 years ago, he was about 60; a college friend say by his side for support.  An 11 year old girl had Kawasaki Disease; she sat at the table with her 14 year-old sister and her parents.  A woman from the West Coast had several reconstructive surgeries done to her heart including repair to her mitral valve; her son whose favorite subject is math sat by her side and had a "Caretaker" sticker on his nametag (an 8th grader as a caretaker... so hard to imagine!)

She sat back and looked at everyone around the table.  She then listened to the stories in the room...a three-year old who suffered a stroke in-utero, a 10-year old who had already undergone several open-heart surgeries and probably had more to come.  A woman in her 30s who already suffered 3 strokes.  Everyone sitting together for one cause.  Lobby Day on the Hill.  She knew why she went Red.  She held on to H's hand tighter as she heard people's stories, each one cutting deeper and deeper in her own heart.  She knew what each person had gone through because she had her own story, but suddenly, it did not matter as much as it once did.  She knew what it was like to be understood, and to understand.  She looked forward to lobbying for increased funding for heart disease and stroke research.  When she looked around the room again and saw the man in the grey suit holding his right hand because he could not lift it, and the survivors walking with the canes because of partial paralysis, she knew how much the funding was and is needed...

D.C. and the AHA

The Cherry Blossoms have gone - they are no longer on the trees; they are fragile and delicate, and can disappear right before your eyes.  That means that the tourists who have come by the hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. to see the event have also gone.  However, the city is still full.  It is full of life. 

As the plane touched down shortly before noon this morning I realized just how much life really existed within the Beltway.  Major decisions are made in the District - and over the next few days I will have the privilege to join hundreds of other American Heart Association advocates to discuss future decisions: Health Care Reform, NIH Heart and Stroke Research, and CDC Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program.

All efforts to increase awareness around the Nation's number one killer.  Heart Disease.  And the Nation's number three killer.  Stroke.

Almost three years ago at 33 I had a stroke due to a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect, and this is why I am here today: to advocate for heart and stroke awareness and education.  After all, a heart can go just as quickly as those cherry blossoms if you do not take the time to appreciate it while it is there.

On the Hill

There are only a few more days until H and I go to the Hill  in D.C.  I was invited to go to Capitol Hill with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to meet with members of Congress.  We are going to talk about the importance of education and funding around heart disease and stroke.  I have my red dress, I have dinner reservations on Sunday night at one of Jose Andres' restaurants, I have planned my running route around the Mall on Monday morning so that I can appreciate the monuments in all of their glory, and now I just have to figure out what the hell I am going to say to all of those people when I meet them.  I have told my story time and time again - girl teaches fitness class, girl has stroke, doctors fine hole in heart, girl makes decision to have open heart surgery... etc.

But it really is so much more than that, and certainly more than can be summed up in a few minutes, words, or friendly handshakes.  It is a life a story, and one that I am lucky enough to share.  So maybe I will have a piece of chocolate cake and sort this whole thing out... Between now and then, I cannot really think of anything better to do anyway!P1019931

For Ali


She knew what her friend was going through.  The days, hours, minutes, and even seconds of wondering "Why me?"  Life changes forever when news is received, especially bad news.  Her friend had major surgery just over a week ago.  And as she recovered she received word that she would probably need another major operation.  This was all too much.  Her friend was only 33.  33 and have major surgery that would change everything.  She remembered back to when she had her stroke.  It happened at 33.  The surgery was only a few months later.  She could relate only too well and knew what it meant to wait for news from doctors as if your life depended on it...because it did.

She could not be there for her physically, but emotionally?  Yes, she could in every possible way.  She understood the depth of the pain and frustration.  She hoped, oh she really hoped that her friend would be able to find those tiny little rays of sunshine through all of the grey clouds.  She had a feeling that she might, she might just get there.  No, she would, she would get there because there was simply no other option.