Health Scare, Trust, and Second Opinions

Alan and I spent several days last week looking at death.

That sounds a bit dramatic I know, but it’s true.  At his doctor’s appointment last Thursday Alan was told that he had an aortic aneurysm. And that it could kill him at any moment.

Let’s back up a bit. This is the second time in less that a year that Alan has been given a serious, life-changing diagnosis. Last year he was told by a Pulmonary specialist that he had COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This for an athlete who never smoked, lives a healthy lifestyle, and aside from asthma, had no previous indication of such disease.  We knew that he was very sick at the time, but when we heard that diagnosis we were in shock. Alan, who had really been too sick to train, felt that any hope of recovery or competing in another Ironman had been ripped away from him.

Health Scares - aneurism

That lasted for about two weeks. He was given a prescription for the appropriate COPD drug, but because he is a stubborn (and brilliant in retrospect) man, he refused to believe, as he put it, that he was now relegated to a life of shuffleboard. He made an appointment with another doctor.

Doctor #2 scoffed, “You don’t have COPD! This is just your asthma!”  Alan was put on a prescription for montelukast (I’ve raved about it here before and have since started taking it for my own exercise induced asthma). At the same time, Dr. #1 got back results on the second culture test that she had ordered. The first one, for which Alan had been told to submit his sample after finishing a course of steroids and antibiotics, had come back negative. It seemed ridiculous to us that they would wait until he was (temporarily) well to take the test, so Alan insisted that they do it again when he was in the midst of illness. Thus he was finally diagnosed with a fungus in his lungs, finally treated correctly, and finally was able to get well. If that story seemed confusing and convoluted to you, imagine how Alan felt..this was his lifestyle that he was fighting for!

One of the tests that Dr. #2 ordered was a CT scan on Alan’s lungs, just to see that everything had cleared up and if there was anything else to worry about.

That brings us pretty close to the present, where because of an insurance change, Alan went to see Doctor #3 last week.  Dr. #3 is a general practitioner, because now we are dealing with an HMO system. This was when Alan received, for all intents and purposes, his death sentence.

He has an aortic aneurysm, said Dr. #3. Alan was pretty much told, that if he continued his active lifestyle of running, swimming, and cycling, that it could burst at any time, and that he would be dead on the spot. At 4.2 centimeters, the aneurism was not considered an immediate threat, though if it grew, open heart surgery would be the recommendation. While his low blood pressure and fitness were in his favor, here was another doctor telling him he might be better off playing shuffleboard.

Health Scares - aneurism

As you can imagine, Alan left the doctor’s office in a state of shock and disbelief. When he told me, I could hardly take it in, it seemed so unbelievable. Alan put on a pretty good front for me, as we talked about lifestyle changes and what we would have to do, but he was deeply upset and disturbed. Pretty soon though, he got to thinking, “I was misdiagnosed before. Could it happen again?”

We are very fortunate to have a friend who is a radiologist. Alan called him the next day, told him what was happening, and he basically dropped everything and told Alan to bring in his records and he would take a look. So, on to Doctor #4.

Health Scares - aneurism

After taking a look at the reports and the actual film (it’s on a disc so I’m not sure if that is the right word), Alan was told by his friend, who is a highly respected and experienced radiologist, “don’t worry.” In fact, he was surprised that it was made out to be so serious. The location of the aneurysm was on the curve of the ascending thoracic aorta, which made it seem slightly bigger than it was. It was also what is called “ectatic,” which means that the artery, though stretched, is unruptured.

Alan is waiting to schedule another CT scan, but in the meantime, we are feeling a lot better. Dr. #4 said he didn’t think that there would be any change in the size of the aneurysm. At this point, it seems unlikely that Alan will have to make a huge lifestyle change (no shuffleboard in his near future!), and we don’t have to worry about surgery or imminent death.

My husband is a lot more private than I am, which is why you never heard the COPD story before, but he agreed to let me write about this. We both want to share because it shows the importance of asking questions and always getting a second opinion! Don’t let any doctor relegate you to the shuffleboard courts without a fight!

The week ended on a much brighter note. On Friday, my daughter-in-law texted me a video of Samuel, which really made my day. They prefer to keep it in the family, so I removed it from my post.

We also had a chance to meet Carrie from Family, Fitness, Food, who was visiting La Quinta with her family. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, since they were getting in some serious pool time and I had to work all three days that they were here. We managed to finally meet at Starbucks, and now I know that I like Carrie as much as I like her blog! Being good bloggers, we did get a picture, but it turned out pretty bad, plus it includes Carrie’s daughter (who is a beautiful young dancer), so I won’t post it here.

After a tough week, Alan and I are both feeling pretty positive about the whole thing. Alan swam on Friday, went for a run with the cross country team on Saturday, and rode his bike on Sunday, so that part of his life is looking great. We just want you to remember, always get a second opinion.

How was your weekend? Any events, races, or great training you’d like to share?

Food for Fitness Friday: Vegan Recipe & a Fast and Furious Workout

Welcome to Food for Fitness Friday! I always like me a little alliteration, how about you? I managed to fit six “F” words in a single title! What it means is that I have a super Quinoa, Seitan, and Mango salad for you, plus a functional, balance-improving workout. One fuels the other!

We had the coolest thing happen to us at dinner last night. We’d just finished with cross country practice and were eating dinner at Chipotle (mmm, Sofritas!). I say happen to us, but really to Alan. As we sat, a young man come up to us and asked, “Alan Woodruff?” When Alan said yes, the man said that he wanted to thank him. You may or may not know, but Alan, in addition to coaching high school cross country and track, is the coach for our running club, the Desert Cities Track Club. This young man came to him several years ago because he needed to improve his speed and running ability in order to pass tests required to join the Coast Guard. He told Alan that he never could have done it without him, and now he is headed off to Officer’s Candidate School and his future is very bright. His enthusiasm was so touching!

Seitan, Quinoa, and Mango Salad with Mango Coconut Vinaigrette

I loved the Mango Coconut Vinaigrette! I just happened to have half a can of coconut milk leftover (for a curry dish I’ll be bringing you soon!), and it sounded tropical and delicious. If you have some shredded coconut you could sprinkle that on top too.

Food for Fitness

Quinoa, Seitan, and Mango Salad with Mango Coconut Vinaigrette
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Full of protein and healthy carbohydrates, this salad will fuel you through your toughest workout.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen mango
  • Juice of one lime
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (full fat, from a can)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 3 cups mixed greens (I used wild rocket, my favorite)
  • ¼ cup cucumber, chopped
  • ¼ cup edamame
  • ¼ cup corn
  • ½ cup mango, cubed
  • ¼ cup green onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup sliced toasted almonds
  • 1 cup prepared quinoa
  • 4 ounces seitan, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. For the dressing: Combine the mango, lime juice, coconut milk, olive oil, vinegar, salt and tarragon in a food processor or blender. Blend until creamy. If you mango was frozen, the dressing may be very thick, so blend again before serving.
  2. For the Seitan: Preheat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the seitan and cook until lightly browned on both sides.
  3. For the salad: Divide the quinoa onto two salad plates. Top each with half of the salad greens, cucumber, edamame, corn, mango, and green onion. Place several strips of seitan on each plate. Drizzle the dressing on each salad and top with the almonds.


Food for Fitness

Fast and Furious Workout

We are currently in our off season at work. That means that I had one person in my Superball class this morning, and that the Fast and Furious class is cancelled until the fall. And boy can I feel it! Few classes combined with a week of vacation (lots of running, no strength training) has left me, well, weaker. So I decided to come up with a circuit workout that I can do on my own.

This workout is focused on improving balance, so the more instability you can work into it, the better. If you don’t have a BOSU, you can do your pushups with one hand on a medicine ball (change sides each set), with one leg elevated, or even on a softer surface. I don’t have a video of this workout, but I’ll link up to instructions below.

Circuit Infogram 3

BOSU Pushup

One Leg Squat

Plank w/Alternating Leg Lift

Rear Lunge w/Knee Lift

Plank w/Row

By the way, I’m starting a new project filming short video instructions for exercises (like the ones linked above). That way I can link to my own instead of random trainers that I find via a Google search. All my previous workouts have been just that, workouts, so short clips should be helpful in the future for instruction purposes.

I hope you enjoy both the recipe and the workout.

Do you have someone in your life that made a difference to you? Either from their influence, their support, or their help?

Bestowed Box Review and Giveaway

Sorry, the contest is over. Please read on to learn all about Bestowed!

I was recently given a chance to try out a Bestowed Box. Bestowed is a new subscription service that each month delivers 5+ amazing nutrition and lifestyle products directly to your door. They are handpicked by Bestowed’s founder, nutritionist and author Heather Bauer. And while the products available are not all vegan, a quick glance at the list of brands assured me that I would have several choices from which to select when my box arrived. It is easy to check which products are vegan on the Bestowed website.


I was happy to see when my April Box arrived, most of the products were indeed vegan. Since many of the items were new to me, I was happy that Bestowed included a “Tip Sheet.”  It told a little about each product, why it was selected, and tips for using it.  My favorites were:


Gnu Foods Hi-Fiber Mini:  These little bars have only 70 calories and come complete with six natural whole grains, beneficial nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are made with parts of the entire grain kernel, meaning they haven’t been processed like other whole grain foods. I tossed them in my purse and they were great when I felt I needed a little snack. I received the Cinnamon Raisin, which usually isn’t my favorite flavor, but it was pretty tasty.

Oloves Hot Chili Mama Olives: These olives were amazing! They are spicy and delicious, and they are packed without liquid so they aren’t messy. The olives are flavored with spicy habanero sauce and lemon, are pit-free, and a pouch has only 50 calories. If you like a little spice, you will love these.

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts: These were my favorite. As a vegan I always want to make sure that I get enough protein (it’s not hard!), but I also need to get the omegas that are essential for a healthy diet. I sprinkled these on my oatmeal, on salads, and they added a delicious nutty crunch.

Also in the Box:

Kind Healthy Grains Oats and Honey Clusters: These weren’t vegan, so my lucky husband got to be the reviewer. He eats granola daily, but so many of the brands are loaded with sugar and fat so I was happy to give him an option with only 6 grams of sugar per serving. Alan also loved the touch of toasted coconut, which provided just a touch of sweetness.

Nektar Honey Crystals: Again, these aren’t vegan, but I really want Alan to try them. They are a great way to give up artificial sweeteners (so bad for him!), and try a more natural way to satisfy his sweet tooth.

EBoost: EBoost provides an extra energy boost perfect for that after lunch slump or for a pre-workout lift. It is made with natural ingredients, green tea and vitamins B, C, and D. Perfect to toss in your purse, then mix with water for a boost in natural energy and essential nutrients.

$25 iTrain Gift Card: I am really excited to try out some of the iTrain programs. I love downloading workouts and having them available on my iphone, so this is just what the doctor coach ordered. As you can see on the iTrain website, they offer a variety of workouts: running, cycling, spinning, yoga, dancing, Pilates, stretching and more, for all fitness and skill levels.

A subscription for Bestowed is $19 a month. Each month you will receive five or more healthy nutrition and lifestyle selections. And if you use the code 5OFFBSTOWED01 you can save $5 on your first Bestowed Box!

Disclosure: I received a free Bestowed Box for review purposes. I did not receive any other compensation. All opinions are my own.

I am Grateful

I know the title sounds like a dish at Cafe Gratitude, but it is exactly how I am feeling right now. I am grateful.

The husband of one of my co-workers died unexpectedly last week. I had never met him, but she is about my age, active, smart, a busy woman who takes care of her grandchildren in addition to her full time job.

My friends, Amy and Jeff, are still dealing with Jeff’s brain cancer, the effects of chemo, keeping things as “normal” as possible for the children, and all the other challenges that are now a part of their lives. And yet they are two of the most positive people that I know. If you want a taste of their joy in life, check out their facebook page.

I sometimes get caught up in the small annoyances, inconveniences, and discomforts in my world, and forget how lucky that I am. So, to give myself a smack on the head a la Gibbs, I need to take a moment to reflect about everything that is good in my life.

I go to bed every night with a full stomach, in my comfy bed, in the home that I own.

I’ve been married to my best friend for 13 years. Actually today, as I write this, is the 17th anniversary of our first date. Yes, we both remember that.


I have the job of my dreams. I help people get and stay healthy, prolong their lives, feel better. What could be better?

My body is strong and healthy. I am able to run, ride, lift weights, then get up and do it again the next day.


I have two wonderful sons, a beautiful daughter-in-law, and of course, my grandson Samuel.


I also have a great step-son, his gorgeous wife, and darling twin grandsons, Cash and Dane.

My small (but growing) family includes my lovely niece, my amazing sister and her husband, and many cousins (including Marcia and Michelle who read my blog).

I have my dogs. Penny, who is my running partner; Sydney, my 12 year old blind cattledog; Goldie, also handicapped, with a compressed disk; Lily and Olivia, who we rescued off the streets several years ago, and Buddy, Alan’s running partner, who wandered to our house and never left.

Live from La Quinta - Things that make me happy - dogs

I am grateful for this blog. It gives me an outlet for my thoughts, rewarding opportunities, and what I think of as a record of my memories. Without the blog, I wouldn’t have you, the people who read, comment, and share the words I write. I think of you as friends and you have made my world brighter.

What are grateful for?

IHRSA 2013: The Sessions, Part 2

As promised, I’m back to discuss the two most intriguing sessions that I attended at the IHRSA Convention. If you missed part one, click here.

Trade Show2

Strength Training for Baby Boomers and Beyond

Did you know that 75% of adults over age 60 are overweight or obese (JAMA, 2010)? Without resistance training, we lose about six pounds of muscle per decade. That translates to a metabolic rate reduction of 3% per decade and a fat gain of 16 pounds in a decade. Once we hit 50, the muscle loss increases to 10 pounds per decade (Nelson, JAMA 1994). Muscle loss increases risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Strasser, J. Obesity, 2011). According to fitness expert and researcher Wayne Westcott, Ph.D, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

IHRSA 2013

However, Dr. Westcott, with numerous studies to back up his claims, stated that a simple program of resistance training, 10-20 total exercise sets, can reverse muscle loss in adults of all ages. For example, a large study (1,644 subjects), using ACSM strength training guidelines (1 set of 8-12 repetitions of 12 exercises two-three days per week), resulted in a three pound increase of  lean (muscle) weight in 10 weeks of training (Westcott, Physician and Sports Medicine, 2009). That muscle gain can help to increase resting metabolism and reduce body fat.

It doesn’t stop there. A similar resistance training program has been proven to facilitate physical function, resist and control Type 2 Diabetes, improve cardiovascular health, increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind) while reducing LDL and triglycerides, increase bone mineral density, enhance mental health, and reverse aging factors.

IHRSA 2013

Ignore the title of this session for a moment. This information is relevant to all age groups. Obesity is at an all-time high, young children are getting Type 2 Diabetes, low back pain is afflicting adults of all ages. This next screen will scare the hell out of you.

IHRSA 2013

The study above took 5,000 participants and used accelerometers to measure their activity. The percentage of the population of various ages that attained a bare minimum of physical activity is listed above. That activity is equal to walking 30 minutes pretty slowly (about 2.5 mph), five days a week.

Dr. Westcott went on to discuss strength training principles, and the benefits of a higher protein diet (1.5 grams per kilogram of ideal body weight-note that it is ideal weight, not actual), along with high fruit, vegetable, and water intake, moderate calories (low fat, low starch), in conjunction with the resistance training.

The Future of Fitness

I saved this session review until last because it was the one that most interested me. I’ve even discussed it with some of my students and they were eager to get in on the conversation. I hope that you will to.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this session was led by a panel of experts representing ACE, the American Council on Exercise. The speakers were Scott Goudeseune, CEO of ACE, Janet Frenkel, COO, and Cedric Bryant, Ph.D,  CSO. The title, the Future of Fitness refers to ACE Vision 2035, their vision to eliminate obesity by 2035. Quite a lofty goal.

The plan to achieve this goal is comprehensive and involves the health care community, local leaders, the fitness community, schools, and employers. As part of the fitness community, I focused on what I personally can do as a personal trainer and fitness director.

One of the things that was mentioned, is that we must change the way we talk about fitness. Currently, most health clubs market themselves to fit people. Think of the advertising that you’ve seen. Usually a picture of a young, fit, muscular person, in relatively skimpy clothing, looking happy and healthy. Is that motivating? Or intimidating? Think about what an obese person feels when they walk through the doors of our fitness centers. What do they see when they walk in the door? What does the salesman talk about? How about the personal trainer with the introductory training session? Are those experiences designed to help an un-fit, overweight person begin their health journey? Or is it an overwhelmingly embarrassing experience that leaves that person in deeper despair that before? What can we do to make fitness accessible to everyone?

IHRSA 2013

Some of the things discussed that the fitness community can do is to make sure that they are hiring qualified, certified trainers. We also need to assume a degree of accountability. Because if are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

This is just a partial report on the big plans that ACE has to eliminate obesity by 2035. You can read the full 2012 Impact Report, which includes Vision 2035, here.

I know that many of my readers are active and fit, and that a lot of you are involved in the fitness industry. What do you think? How do we make fitness accessible? How do we get the inactive to move? How do we educate the population about the real dangers of obesity, and encourage them to change their behavior? Please discuss.

The Gluten Free Experiment: 5 Things I Learned

It has been about 10 days since my three week gluten free experiment was up (a day early because of my Native Foods event). I’m sure you are all wondering how it went, how I felt during and after, and what I’ve decided for the future.

As a reminder, after my WellnessFX blood tests showed that my cholesterol was a little high and my thyroid was a little low, my nutritionist suggested in my follow up consultation that I try a gluten free diet for a few weeks. She thought that it could improve my cholesterol and thyroid numbers, get rid of the random pain that I get under my rib, and possibly even help my migraines. She also suggested that I eat less starchy carbs and add more vegetables.

I was actually kind of excited to try a gluten free diet. There is only one way to find out if you have sensitivity issues, whether it is with gluten, soy, or other foods. That is to take them out of your diet for a while, see if you feel better, then, try adding them back in to see if your troubles return.

My excitement lasted about five days. I did prepare. The first four days were great as I had planned ahead, used leftovers for lunches, changed some old habits (cereal and rye bread for breakfast, for one), read labels even more thoroughly that I already did. Then I went to Las Vegas, where it was very challenging to eat both vegan and gluten free on the road.

I was more successful the following week when we traveled to Malibu. I didn’t write a post about it (busy, busy!), but, along with bringing appropriate food for snacks while Alan was working, the Los Angeles area has many more dining options that Lake Las Vegas. We had dinner at Hugo’s, which has an extensive vegan and gluten free menu.

Gluten Free

Green Tamale Plate
( [Can be Vegan] )
Two spinach infused sweet-corn tamales covered with our tomatillo sauce, mozzarella or Daiya vegan cheese and pico de gallo. Served with tomato chipotle black beans and turmeric basmati rice

Gluten Free Vegan

Apple Crumble
( [Can be Vegan] )
Spiced apple-maple mixture topped with a lightly sweetened, Energy Nut crumble. Dusted with organic powdered sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream and a mint leaf. (Substitute vegan whipped cream for ice cream upon request)

We also got to stop for lunch at the Veggie Grill in Santa Monica, which is an all vegan restaurant that clearly marks their gluten-free options.

Gluten free vegan

Urban Plate
Gluten free. Blackened
tempeh-carmelized onion-portobello
mushroom stack, steamin’ kale,
sliced tomato salad, chipotle ranch

gluten free vegan

Sweetheart Fries
Scrumptious sweet potatoes with chipotle ranch.

gluten free vegan

Chocolate Pudding Parfait
Made-from-scratch pudding,
topped with chocolate sauce,
crushed cookies, walnuts + VG Crema (ordered without cookies to make it GF)

At home I stuck with the tried and true. I’m not much of a baker and even my cooking time is limited (the reason why my recipes are fast and simple!), so I didn’t make a lot of the dishes from the various blogs that specialized in gluten-free, vegan recipes. If gluten free were to become my permanent lifestyle, I certainly would get more creative and try different things. Some of the recipes looked and sounded delicious. But, for my three week Gluten Free Experiment, I stuck with the KISS method, Keep it Simple, Silly.

So, breakfast was usually a smoothie with a slice of gluten-free toast, mid-morning I’d have some oatmeal (remember, you need to find gluten free oatmeal). Lunch was a salad or leftovers. For dinner I was a little more creative, varying from grilled tofu or tempeh, veggie “pastas” made from zucchini or spaghetti squash, and big salads. I did make burritos once, made with beans, tofu, potatoes, rice, and salsa, wrapped in rice tortillas.

So, after three weeks did I decide to make a permanent change in my diet? First, here are the things I learned about being a gluten free vegan.

1. It is hard. I should say that it is harder than I want it to be. I really wanted to say that it was such an easy transition, no problem, etc., but, in all honesty, I had a hard time. As a vegan, I never feel that my diet is restricted..there are so many delicious, simple foods out there to eat. But, when I added gluten-free to the mix, suddenly I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was going to eat. I’m sure that if I remained gluten free it would become second nature. But, for three weeks, for me, it was hard.

2. There is a lot of gluten free junk food out there. Remember that just because it has no gluten doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. The same goes for vegan prepared food. Easy, yes. Healthy, not necessarily.

3. Planning is vital. Having a meal plan in place can make it so much easier. I am really not organized enough to do so, but I’d recommend sitting down and planning out a week at a time. Include snacks too, because otherwise you will find yourself between meals, hungry, and not sure what to eat.

4. If you goof up, don’t give up. When I was in Vegas, I finally settled on a cheese-less pizza for dinner one night after a long day, when neither Alan nor I felt like driving anywhere to search down a better meal. It wasn’t until I sat down to wait for my ordered pizza that the little light went on over my head that said (something like), “hey, pizza dough = gluten.” I did eat my pizza, and I enjoyed it. But I didn’t use it as an excuse to give up on my gluten free experiment. I jumped right back on the wagon.

5. Be honest with yourself. In spite of the hype these days, not everyone has gluten “sensitivities.” If you feel better without gluten, that’s wonderful. If you don’t notice any difference in how you feel, don’t worry, you’re still special. Be grateful that you don’t have a true disease like Celiac, which would force that gluten free diet upon you.

As for me, in case you’re wondering, I did not notice any difference in how I felt while following my gluten free diet. I had the same amount of headaches (darn it–I was hopeful!), I had my little random ghost pain once or twice, which is about the same frequency as always. After my three weeks were up (actually one day early due to the Native Foods Pre-Opening party), I didn’t see the need to continue on a strictly gluten free diet.

After plunging deeply at Native Foods, I’ve settled in to a more moderate version of my previous diet. While I do eat gluten, I am more aware of what I do eat. I’m still skipping the cold cereal in the mornings, opting instead for smoothies, oatmeal, fruit, with just maybe a slice of toast with peanut butter. I’m eating more vegetables, less starches and I feel really good about that. For example, dinner last night was gluten free without even trying.

gluten free vegan

Spaghetti squash with olive oil, tomato, garlic and tarragon.

gluten free vegan

Massaged kale salad.

So, that’s the story. I’m anxious to know your stories. I know some of you follow a gluten free diet. I’d love to hear your experiences.