90 Day Challenge Wins

Yesterday marked the end of my second TSMMA 90 day challenge.  This year I entered the challenge with a totally different mindset and mission to accomplish, which resulted in a different set of results and wins.  Last time I wanted to see just how “ripped” I could get and see if I could get abs.  This time while I wanted to get my abs back my number one goal was to regain strength and feel like myself again.  

I was successful in completing both of those goals as well as greatly minimizing tingling, to the point where it is almost non-existent in any workout routine. Which that was the biggest victory of all and number one motivation to continue this lifestyle of strict clean eating.  

However with a new set of goals came a new set of challenges, which was dealing with the loss of fat.  I know crazy to complain about getting too lean, a problem many people told me they would love to have. However the reality for me is a life of subcutaneous injections three times a week, and the lower the fat to inject in the more side effects the injections create.

I started off incredibly strong with the challenge, having myself about a month ahead of schedule from the previous year.  I was so excited and so motivated until each injection became harder and harder, and the areas that use to be the easiest were now causing me stress as well.  I started to question if working towards this lean figure that I’ve always wanted to sport in the summer was worth the stress and growing welts.  

The truth is all of it helps work towards keeping me healthy so I continued and will continue.  It will take trial and error to master it and get them all to work together in the long run I just have to stay patient and persistent.  As I continue to train to compete in June these lifestyle choices are extremely important to keep and will help me master the balance for long haul.  

All the hiccups and doubts had me feeling like I really didn’t make any progress.  However the end result pictures had me feeling pretty great! Didn’t tweak all the areas that were on my wish list, but I had to remember what drove me to start it and celebrate the wins! I knew this challenge would be more difficult than the last, which gives me an even greater reason to celebrate!  The pictures followed a Sunday training session that had me feeling more confident than I have in a while as well, feeling progression with every sparring session.  Stay focused on where you started, where you have traveled, and keep working.  As my mom always tells me, life is a journey not a destination. 

Feeling like the Underdog

As I am preparing for the COC and learning how to spar and free grapple the biggest obstacle I am facing is constantly feeling like the underdog.  All of my partners are far more experienced, higher ranking, and many bigger than me as well.

While my main reason for competing is to grow myself both mentally and physically, I am still a competitive individual so always losing becomes stressful.  I know training with more advanced and experienced students is to my advantage because they are making me tougher and are going to prepare me better than training with somebody newer like myself.  They are all extremely supportive and work to teach me new things to make me better, but they also do not take it easy on me.

Grappling is where there is more of a losing scenario, which I am becoming more and more comfortable every time I train and feel positive about getting more comfortable. However with sparring I feel like I am spinning my wheels and just feel the ticking time bomb of June 4th fast approaching.  I keep asking myself what I was thinking committing to kickboxing before I even tried sparring.  

A fellow TSMMA friend of mine reminded me yesterday the reason why I feel at a disadvantage and how it truly is my advantage. Two childhood friends, that have known me as long as I can remember, this week commented how they just can’t picture me fighting.  These things serve as my reminders of the importance of me staying mentally strong because this is new and so far out of my comfort zone that it is going to be challenging. Win or lose I am going to come out of this a stronger person, and will teach me many lessons making me better in other aspects of my life as well.  

Celebrating Health and Fitness

As I sit in the Neurologist office waiting for my 3 month follow up and MRI results, I can see other individuals doing their “circus acts” throughout the hallways, and it reminds me just how fortunate I am in my journey. It is also a reminder of how important it is to stay strong on the things that I can control in the situation, especially through nutrition and exercise.  

Many people including my doctors have told me that starting out healthy is my biggest win in this lifelong battle.  I am happy that I have always been self aware of the risk of obesity for my future and that I made the commitment to taking care of myself three years ago. I have always kept my weight under control for that reason but I would go from getting healthy and dropping, to regaining regularly. Because of this people always assume that I am just naturally thin and it all comes easy.  

This couldn’t be further from the truth! If I could live on a diet of pizza and dessert I would. However I know I can’t so I don’t and I just keep myself strict the majority of the time so when I want those things as a treat I can have them. When I am at a social event I can eat without the judgement.  

During the first week of the 90 day challenge I went to a work meeting where literally everything served was carbs, I knew what the menu would be so I packed lunch, some laughed, some complimented, but while they were all half asleep after lunch I was feeling great! Two weeks into the challenge I stopped tingling regularly during my workouts and had way more energy feeling the best I had since June.  Proper nutrition for me at this point is no longer about looking my best, but about feeling my best.  

Today my visit was suppose to be to review my “baseline” MRI done last week, used to check future progression of the disease and evaluate how the Copaxone is working.  However I got a very pleasant surprise of not only is there no new progression or lesions from last year’s scans, my current lesions are resolving and I don’t have to be monitored as often! This shows me the impact of a healthy lifestyle in conjunction with the meds is truly the best recipe for success.  I know I have to take my immunosuppressant for the rest of my life but for everything else my only medicine of choice is going to be self care.  

Recovery Time

One of the hardest obstacles I have dealt with throughout the journey of living with MS is how often I get sick. I use to get sick maybe once or twice a year, usually just during seasonal changes. However since going on an immunosuppressant I have been sick 4 times in 6 months.  It seems to have leveled out, especially as I managed to dodge flu season! However when I get sick it still hits me harder and takes me longer to fight it.

I have been feeling down all week because on top of being sick, my work week was very long and busy so I was off my entire training routine.  Listening to my body and slowing down is a very different life for me but a necessary one! It is so important that I get as much exposure and practice to fighting to be successful in June, however if I don’t rest I could wind up causing more damage to myself.  By the end of the week I kept saying I haven’t worked out at all this week. But truth is I still trained for 3 hours and did some squats and core stuff sporadically throughout the week, which is considered to be a healthy amount of exercise in a given week!

This week marks the final week of the 90 day challenge. Time to step it up a notch, finish the last week strong, and carry it right into the rest of tournament training.  

Navigating a Busy Schedule

My max number of hours training so far as been 10 hours in a week, I truly am striving for the full 6 days of training (12 hours) with additional cardio and strength training on the side. This is where I have to remember to listen to my body. My number one commitment to myself for this challenge was that I could not let my sleep suffer. Previously I could live with 5 hours of sleep a night for a couple of weeks and just make it up on a day off, this is no longer a life I can allow myself to live. 

My typical day involves me waking up at 7 am to get ready for work, I leave my place just before 8 am, work until 630 pm or 730 pm. Sometimes I get an hour break occasionally I get no break. After that I train until 915 or 1030. Which gets me home between 10 and 11 pm, depending on how much time I spend socializing with my friends! When I get home I still have to eat, shower, and prepare for the next day.  Pack my gear, pack my food since I typically bring 5 of my 6 daily meals to work with me.  And try to get myself to bed by 12.  

My days off consist of laundry, dishes, and meal prep!  And occasionally a social life and cleaning my apartment is in there too.

This type of scheduling makes it very challenging to fit in the extra workouts needed to build up my stamina and strength. Right now I have been trying to focus on little things that can make a big impact.  But also doing things like Epsom salt soaks and baths to relax and help my body recover.

So far in the four weeks since starting tournament training I’ve had to take two couple day breaks due to the side effects my body was feeling or being sick. It’s frustrating to take the time off especially since I’m use to not slowing down in life regardless of what is going on.  This is going to be one of my most valuable lessons throughout this challenge; working on proper balancing of my life schedule as well as knowing when I have to stop for a minute and take care of me!

Transformation Tuesday

Throughout most situations in life we become our own worse critic, especially when it comes to our performance or appearance. Often times I find myself focused on my current plateau, especially now that I am still working on regaining my previous strength from a year ago. Yesterday my sister in law posted the picture on the left of me at 25 in honor of National Siblings Day. Seeing the picture reminded me how far I have come since starting my fitness journey! Keep working on being better than you were yesterday, but don’t forget to keep celebrating how far you have come.

Decision to join the Challenge of the Champions (COC)

In 2014, when I first started kickboxing my only goal was to get in shape in a way that didn’t bore me. My chaotic work schedule kept me from being very consistent and I only trained a couple times a week if even that often. At the end of 2015, I finally made the jump to join the intermediate class. However initially I only did the classes that were either bag classes or pads, it took me another couple months to overcome the intimidation of a full gear class. It wasn’t until I started working across the street as well as joined the 90 Day Challenge in 2016, that I finally made a dedicated commitment to my training. Even then it was just about becoming stronger and getting in the best shape of my life.
In May, I finally made the decision to really put myself out of my comfort zone and started grappling two years after joining. After only about a month and a half of grappling is when I would be benched from training. It wasn’t until January 2017, when the next 90 day challenge started that I returned to grappling due to still overcoming my MS flare up and being too nervous. I also fully returned to all kickboxing classes and consistent training. My number one goal for the challenge, feel normal and get my push up game back! Still learning how to deal with pushing myself, understanding what my body is telling me, and trying to make sure I get ample rest, I got the email inviting me to the tournament.

So many things went through my head from “No way!”, to “I’m not skilled enough to do this”, to “My body can’t take all of that training”. After conversations with my Sensei, school manager Danielle, and fellow TSMMA students I decided to commit. Why? Because fear was the only reason I could come up with to not do it. This is my commitment to myself to fight this disease with a positive attitude for the rest of my life. It is also my way to celebrate overcoming the most challenging year of life to date instead of letting MS hold me back. You never know the next time you will have an opportunity to do anything in life, so don’t wait do it today!

My Journey to Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

In June of 2016 I was feeling on top of the world with my physical conditioning between participating in the 22 Pushups Challenge and averaging about 6 hours a week of training between kickboxing and grappling, when one odd sensation in my hands started to cause me some concern. After about two weeks of feeling a pins and needles feeling in my hands I started noticing numbness in other areas of my body including my pelvic region and feet. Typical Megan style I pushed it to the back burner because I had to make cupcakes for a friend’s wedding and couldn’t let her down. The numbness quickly spread to my entire lower half of my body now including a tingling sensation as well. I ignored and continued about my 4th of July weekend promising myself and others around me I would go to the doctor on my next day off.

On July 5th I got dressed for work for the first time since the tingling had joined the equation and finally realized just how severe of a situation I had been ignoring for a couple days. I called the doctor’s office which offered me an appointment within hours, again typical Megan I couldn’t because I was at work. However I got it together and made a later appointment that day. My primary care office just looked at me confused with no suggestions to even offer up, just ran a ton of blood work and told me to call their preferred neurologist they should be able to get me in that week and sent me to get a brain MRI.

I contacted the neurologists office which gives me an appointment over a month away. Guess I shouldn’t have waited so long to see somebody! Meanwhile I search for an office closer to get an appointment sooner as I am having trouble walking and the doctor’s office has benched me from working out until I see them. I found a recommendation for a different office and got the appointment set up for just a few weeks out instead.

Blood work comes back perfect and I get told it is anxiety but go ahead and finish getting those tests in the meantime. Brain MRI comes back and this is the first time the term MS is thrown my way. How do I react… drink an entire bottle of wine of course!!

Finally I see the neurologist where I get some more sound answers, however go get some more MRI’s and see me back in two weeks. Just kidding we don’t have anything for 5 weeks. In the meantime don’t worry we will talk about what it all means when you come back and no working out. So I am left to stress for five weeks and do my own research about the disease. I started to fall apart emotionally from the stress of it all, meanwhile I am still working my 50 hour work week schedule.

I realize about 4 weeks into my wait period that I need to resume my physical activity before I fall apart totally. I finally return to kickboxing I feel great mentally and I have made it through the class but realize how much strength I have lost in a short period of time, which makes me discouraged.

I return to the neurologists office to get a confirmed diagnosis and be treated pretty cold by somebody who just told me I have a disease that is going to affect the rest of my life and I need to commit to a life of being on potentially dangerous medications.

Fast forward to October I find a great new doctor and medical facility at the University of Penn. They made everything easy, made me feel at ease, he even looked at the MRI’s with me, and we commit to a treatment. Within 48 hours of visiting them they have me set up with Shared Solutions, my payment taken care of, and my copaxone ready to be delivered. All I had to do was contact my assigned nurse to set up an appointment to learn how to administer the injections. Within two weeks I was on my medication.

I can finally breathe again and hooray the fatigue has finally passed as well! Sure I have a chronic disease but I’m on a treatment so now it’s time to resume my regularly scheduled life.

Hello World!

Hi! My name is Megan, I am a 32-year-old female from New Jersey. I have always had a passion for health striving to be a doctor from a very early age. As a young adult, I chose to pursue a career in the eye care industry as an optical manager. As a teenager, I was extremely thin, with a diet consisting of whole medium pizzas and no exercise.
As I got older this lifestyle no longer kept me lean. With a high obesity rate in my family as well as diabetes I knew I had to make a change.
In May 2014 I began my journey to a healthier lifestyle when I stumbled across a free trial kickboxing class at Tiger Schulmann’s. Finally somewhere that had classes working with my long retail hours.
Shortly after I started cleaning up my diet with an introduction to the Advocare 24 day challenge. This was the first time in my life I paid attention to portion sizes. I also joined the local gym and got a personal trainer and started learning how to truly work out.
This sparked a passion in me that I never realized was there.
By May of 2016, I got myself in my top physical condition with the help of my first TSMMA 90 day challenge. At this point, I have become very comfortable with clean eating and mastered the art of meal prepping for the week.
In June of 2016 while feeling the healthiest I have in my life I received the shock of my life when I experienced what would be my first documented Multiple Sclerosis flare up. Later leading to diagnosis in late August. It slowed my progress for a few months as I had to recover from the flare up and start treatment.
Today I am challenging myself to new physical levels despite my disease. I am currently training to compete in my first kickboxing tournament and working on obtaining my personal trainer certification.
This will be a documentation of my navigation through training at a level needed to compete and overcoming the challenges my body will face during the experience.
I look forward to sharing my journey with you all. Hopefully, I can inspire strength and motivation for others working through their own hardships.
Thank you for following my journey!