Thursday, February 14, 2013

What a difference three years makes

Today is an interesting day and an important date in my life. On this day three years ago, I began a coast to coast walk at the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, which I completed 210 days later (September 12, 2010) at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, on the beach near the Cyclone roller coaster. Today, on my 14th day of the Wahls diet, I think I'll start walking again. Except this time it's gonna be on a treadmill, without a backpack, and today I probably won't be able to walk more than a quarter of a mile at a time. Today the only reason I'll even be able to walk as far as a quarter mile straight is because I'll be able to use the "arms" of the treadmill as an aid to maintain my balance.

Speaking of balance: I think lack of balance is probably the biggest crippling factor in MS. And it all starts in the hips. You may think your legs are responsible for your ability to walk, but they're not. Walking is mostly a function of the hips. If, like me, your hip muscles and lower back muscles are unable to hold up the top half of your body (and keep you balanced), your legs won't work. But if you have something to prop up the top half of your body and keep you balanced (like a cane or something else to hold onto), thus freeing your hips to focus on their interaction with your legs, walking becomes much easier. At least that's how I see it.

A lot has changed in the three years since I began my walk. Beginning on February 14, 2010, even while recovering from a concussion for a couple weeks (after tripping and slamming my head on a tree root while carrying 68 lbs of gear, which was more than half my body weight at the time), I quickly transformed myself into an unstoppable machine, both physically and mentally. Through the first 30 days the walk, I walked 600 miles. That's 20 miles a day. But 7-1/2 months after I started my 3,463-mile walk--almost immediately after I finished the walk--that machine broke and has remained broken for the last 2-1/2 years.

A large bump on my head the day after I fell and
slammed my head on a tree root.

So after almost two weeks on the Wahls diet (with no cheating), has anything changed? Have I improved? Have I declined? Have I stayed the same?

My brain is definitely better. Those horrible mood swings I was experiencing a few weeks ago are gone. I'm more focused, too. For example, I read Minding My Mitochondria in basically a day, even though the font makes it harder than hell to read. I've done a lot of reading on the internet, too. And heck, just look at how much I've written on this blog since I began the diet. I couldn't have done that before beginning the diet. I simply didn't have the motivation or the clarity of thought to do it. So this is all good, and it most certainly is not a placebo effect.

But am I any better physically?

The answer to that question is not so clear. There are times when I feel like my physical condition has improved a little, mostly in terms of improved balance, but there are also times when I feel it hasn't changed at all. So I'm really not sure if the occasional feeling of improved balance is real or if it's in my head. Also, my optic neuritis has not improved. Fortunately, I also can't say I think my condition has declined in any way. However, I have felt tired a lot over the last week or so.

Even though I haven't cheated on the diet, have I continued to consume the full 3/3/3 cups of green/sulfur/colored foods?

Yeah, I'd say I'm either getting all that stuff or I'm coming really close, in addition to eating plenty of fish or chicken every day. However, I haven't eaten any seaweed or organ meats yet, unless shrimp counts as organ meat. (I read somewhere that it does, but I'm inclined not to believe it.) I gotta get with it in that department.

Anything to add?

Yeah, it seems like I've had very cool, interesting dreams since beginning the diet. I'm really not sure right now (because you know how dreams always seem to quickly disappear from memory), but it seems like I've spent a lot of time in a very cool dream world. Also, as of the last couple days, the constant hunger seems to be going away. Monday I ate three full meals, two smoothies, and several ounces of steak my mom didn't finish, but Tuesday and Wednesday I almost had to force myself to eat a second meal because I felt full. Once I decided to eat these meals, though, I didn't have any trouble scarfing them down.

What have I learned during this three-year span since I began my walk?

One thing I've learned (beginning after my body stopped working but before I even considered the possibility that I might have MS) is that exercise helps. A year and a half ago I could barely walk. Then I walked 350 miles through New England, with about 40 lbs on my back (in the span of about a month). It wasn't easy, and even after gradually building up to 15-20 miles a day, my body mechanics still weren't the same as they'd been for most of my life. Still, I felt a lot closer to normal than before I began the walk. Unfortunately I don't know if that improvement would have continued after ending the walk prematurely, because after walking 350 miles I spent the next 16 days rotting in a Rhode Island jail cell. By the time I got out, I wasn't the same person.

* * * * *

I wrote the remainder of this post later in the day, after going downstairs to use the treadmill.

5:00: After lunch I wasn't sure if I'd actually do it, but I finally got my ass downstairs and onto the treadmill. It wasn't easy, but I started off at 2.3 miles an hour, expecting to be able to make it about a quarter of a mile before having to take a break. I ended up doing half a mile before I could barely pick up my left foot, after 13 minutes and 8 seconds, with Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil jammed into my ears. 2.3 miles an hour is one full mile an hour slower than my cruising speed of three years ago. My arms actually got a workout from holding myself up. After this, I took a pretty long break.

Here's the deal with walking music: Many different kinds of music are good when you're walking around all over New England, dodging cars and cops. But one kind of music seems to be most useful when you're stuck on a treadmill in a lifeless basement, trying to force yourself to walk several miles to nowhere. (I didn't have music when I walked across the United States.)

Good treadmill music is music that makes you want to hit things. For example, anything from System of a Down (but especially Toxicity), Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil, and other music I don't have in my phone (like perhaps Megadeth or Metallica's Ride the Lightning). On the road, that stuff is good, too, but the music that reminds me most of my walk around New England is Radiohead (Insomniac, Kid A, In Rainbows), Frou Frou, Appetite for Destruction (GnR), Blizzard of Ozz (Ozzy), Comfort Eagle (CAKE), and other stuff like that.

Did someone say 'hit things'? Maybe next time.

Horrible walking music: U2's Joshua Tree (even though 'Where the streets have no name' is my theme song).

End digression.

5:55: Finished walking another half-mile, then took a break. Excluding the time I rested, I walked one mile at 25:41. For this second half-mile, I bumped the treadmill up to 2.4 MPH. I'm surprised to have walked another half-mile because when I used the treadmill regularly last fall, my foot drop (or drop foot) would kick in sooner with each subsequent session.

6:25: Finished walking another half mile, then took a break. Total so far is 1.5 miles in 37:47 of walk time. For this last half-mile I set the treadmill to 2.5 MPH, with SOAD's Toxicity giving me some extra energy. I probably don't want to go over 2.5 MPH for now.

7:00: Walked my last half mile at 2.6 MPH. At this speed, the last lap was killing me, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, so I did.

I did two miles in 49:22 of walk-time (or 2 hours and 13 minutes of actual time). Not bad. (Actually that's a lot better than I expected.) However, in two weeks I bet I'll be laughing at what I've done today.

Now I'm gonna go resume my old habit of doing crosswords, sudokus, and crypto puzzles, which I'll continue to do every day because these puzzles are good for the brain.

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