Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mommy-Athlete Spotlight #1: Renee

Everyone has a story of how they started in triathlon.  For some, it is a challenge, or a way to compete.  For some it is to finish, and for some it is to win, while for others it is to keep getting better, stronger, faster, fitter.  And for some, it is a road to healing, of reclaiming identity.  Let me introduce you to Renee, from Duluth, MN, and to share a little bit of her story that touched my heart.  I hope you’ll be moved as well.
In 2004, Renee found out she was pregnant with her first child, but weeks 17-29 of her pregnancy was spnet lying in a hospital on her right side.  She had lost all but a few centimeters of amniotic fluid, and this was the best position for the baby.  Miles was born at 29 weeks, and lived for 9 hours.  Heartbroken, she left the hospital unable to walk after having spent 3 months bedridden in one position.  Physical recovery was slow as her body had to learn to move again; emotional recovery was even slower.
Renee in 2006, between pregnancies
Wanting to try for another baby the next year, Renee was put on an aggressive corticosteroid regimen to try to fight off any possible inflammatory response her immune system would have to the pregnancy.  It also caused her weight to soar to over 200 pounds, but when they found out she was pregnant, she was still optimistic.  This second pregnancy, however, was unfortunately similar to the first.  She gave birth to her daughter, Julia, at 21 weeks.  She lived for 6 minutes, and was buried next to her brother.  They decided not to try again.
Lost in the midst of depression, anxiety, PTSD, overwhelming grief, and memories of her children, even alcohol and prescription drugs proved no escape.  There was hopelessness, and more weight gain.  Finally, Renee turned to a grief counselor, and the couple decided to pursue adoption.
They were chosen by a birth mom in the spring of 2007, and several months later they surprisingly discovered that they were also expecting again.  They decided to let the pregnancy run its course on its own, bracing themselves for the worst.  They brought home their adopted daughter, Joscelyn, in October of 2007 at 2 days old.  Against all odds and having to fight through a fragile pregnancy, their daughter, Olivia, was born just 9 weeks early in February of 2008.  She spent 5 weeks in the NICU, before she was able to come home.  Alive.  Renee now had more reason to live than what she had felt just a year prior.
Preemie Olivia the day she was born
Olivia was her 7th pregnancy, and fourth invasive abdominal surgery, and having spent years on steroids, the scales tipped at 238 pounds (though only 5’4”) by Olivia’s first birthday in 2009.  After being diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and a weight loss pill not helping, Renee started running.  She lost 5 pounds, then 10, and then ran a 5K in memory of the children she lost.  The next year, in 2010, she ran her first half-marathon in 2:45 at 215 pounds.  Running reminded her of how good it felt to be alive. 
In 2012, after finishing another half marathon with weight down to 190, she found out she had a stress fracture in her hip.  It proved to be more than physical setback with time off with physical therapy.  Running had also been an emotional release of the sorrow that would never fully heal.  Depression set in, the drinking returned, and so did the weight.  The optimism was gone, and so was the newfound hope.  In the fall she was able to start swimming, but could not run yet.  But Renee was not a swimmer.  She went to the pool anyway, and while surrounded by ultra-fit triathletes, she painfully breaststroked (the only stroke she knew) for 20 minutes before escaping, feeling defeated.  She returned anyway.
Renee ended up finding encouragement and inspiration from those crazy triathletes, and learned how to swim freestyle, and was encouraged to join a triathlon team.  The weight also began to come off, as she spent every opportunity at the pool and she learned to eat to fuel instead of soothe.
At Age Group Nationals
In 2013, Renee competed in five triathlons, and even qualified for the USAT National Championships.  Blown away by the achievements that she never dared dream possible, and being provided such support and encouragement, she is overcome with gratitude and joy.  She is also almost 90 pounds lighter than she was at her highest of 238, and despite the surgical and pregnancy scars, her body is almost unrecognizable, even to her.  It is now a machine.
The grief and memories of the children she lost, will always be a part of her, as she will never be the woman she was before then.  She has been broken, but also made new, and made stronger.  She has been tested and scarred, and is not only an athlete and warrior, she is a mom, who lives as a role model to her girls of what it means it means to live life fully, in memory of those little ones who cannot.
As I sit here writing, feeling my own baby moving and living within me, Renee’s story is a nightmare that mothers pray will never happen to them.  Miscarriages.  Losing children.  You worry about your children long before they are ever born.  A child who has lost their parents is called an orphan, and someone who has lost a spouse is a widow.  But there is no word for someone who has lost their child.  There are simply no words - just a broken heart.  Yet somehow time keeps moving, and though one can never be the same, you can become stronger than you ever imagined.
Original article at:

Sunday, January 18, 2015


            When you come back from time off, whether it be from injury, pregnancy, or what have you, anxiousness has built up and you just want to jump back into it.  You have to be careful that you don’t come back too hard too fast, or you’ll end up injured or re-injured though.  But it can be tough to hold yourself back when you are chomping at the bit.
When you’ve been holding/held back for so long, all you want to be is unleashed.  The off-season training time does that to you.  It gets you physically prepared for the next step, but it also creates a hunger, a drive, a desire to go all-out in a race.  There was a rough patch with my running, but instead of continually getting worse (slower/more painful/shorter), I’ve been feeling pretty good.  Some run days I just feel REALLY good, and while I still have limitations in movement just because of pregnancy in general (not just pelvic pain which has been pretty minimal this time around), it makes me even more anxious to let loose.  While I know there is also pain and misery that comes with running really hard – there is also exhilaration and freedom that comes with being able to move like that.  My lungs don’t ache for it, but my legs do!
33 weeks!
            If you taper right for a race, that’s also how you should feel as you toe the start line – ready to unleash, to conquer the challenge, smoke the competition, to test your mettle.  You want to let the beast out of the cage.  There is a restlessness – a hunger that needs to be fed.  That’s when you know you are ready. 
            So while I have to hold back for quite a while longer before I can let loose on the run, I’m at least finding joy in it again – something I wasn’t expecting to experience so soon again (even in single digit temps on snow and ice).  It makes me glad that I pushed through the rough stretches (and even the occasional bad day still).  Everyone will experience that at some point, but you have to stick with it and push through – don’t let it beat you.  Because when you come out on the other side, it’s even more glorious.

Romans 5:3-4 “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Role of Protein: Training, recovery, and that growing baby!

            With Timber Land Chiropractic, we have been looking at my diet and a main focus has been on increasing my protein intake for two reasons: boost my training and recovery, and for the growing Baby Wyss #2.
            For baby development: protein becomes increasingly important as the baby develops.  It provides the amino acids that are needed for growth.  The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks, the structure of cells, tissues, and muscles, and is important for brain and organ development, etc.  Pregnant women are advised to make sure they get enough protein to promote the healthy development of their baby – somewhere between 60-100 grams averaging/day. 
Something else to keep in mind – the pregnant body is an amazing, crazy thing, and so (for example) when the baby needs calcium for bone development, if the mom’s diet isn’t providing enough, then it will actually take the calcium from the mom’s body to provide it for the baby.  As a result, the mom now gets short changed and suffers the consequences, sometimes resulting in toothaches, etc, that can be taken as a sign that the mom needs to increase calcium in her diet.  The easiest way to do that is of course through milk.  And what do you know – milk also has 8 grams protein/serving too!  Signs of protein deficiency may appear in the form of weight loss (in a negative sense), muscle fatigue, frequent infections, and severe fluid retention.
The chin-ups are getting tougher... (7 mo)
            For athletic performance: protein is what repairs and rebuilds muscles that get broken down during workouts.  An athlete’s need for protein is higher than someone who is inactive.  The more training and intensity an athlete undergoes, the increased importance of refueling: with optimal timing and in an optimal ratio with carbohydrates (to replenish glycogen/energy stores that were burned during exercise).  Low-fat chocolate milk is the ultimate recovery beverage for athletes because it provides all of these things.  Milk's high-quality protein helps repair and rebuild muscle. Low fat chocolate milk is growing in popularity as a sports recovery beverage for one simple reason—it works.  For example, post-exercise muscle biopsies in eight moderately trained male runners showed that after drinking 16-ounces of fat free chocolate milk, the runners had enhanced skeletal muscle protein synthesis—a sign that muscles were better able to repair and rebuild—compared to when they drank a carbohydrate-only sports beverage.3  Also, an Indiana University study found endurance-trained cyclists who drank low fat chocolate milk after an intense period of cycling were able to work out longer and with more power during a second exercise period later that same day compared to when the same athletes drank a commercially available carbohydrate replacement drink.3 More information can be found at
            As a pregnant athlete, my personal need for protein (and even calcium) is pretty high with my chiropractor recommending 130 grams or more every day.  So what are some natural sources of protein that we can find in foods?  The best sources provide all 9 essential amino acids – making red meats and dairy the best source (because it is high quality protein), with plant sources being secondary. 
Still hitting the weights at 7 months (31wks)!
Here are a few examples of protein sources2:
      1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese: 14 g
      8 ounce container low-fat yogurt: 9-13g
      1 ounce Parmesan cheese: 11 g
      1 cup milk: 8 g
      1 ounce cheddar cheese: 7 g
      1 large fresh egg: 6 g
Beans, nuts, legumes
1 cup cooked lentils: 18 g
1 cup canned black beans: 15 g
1 cup canned kidney beans: 13 g
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter: 8 g
1 ounce dry roasted peanuts: 7 g

            What have I been doing?  I try to make sure that I have meat regularly and I’m looking at labels more too.  Lean ground beef is approximately 100 grams of protein in a pound and chicken is close to the same (chicken breasts have 23 grams/ quarter pound, our hamburger doesn’t have a label on it since it is home-grown).  One cup of milk has 8g, my Greek Yogurt has 13g, my granola 6g/serving (combining them is great), and I’ve been eating more eggs, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.  Some days I may consume up to 8 glasses of just milk, giving me 64 grams of protein and a lot of calcium and other important nutrients just from that!  So raise a glass (of milk of course!) to the New Year and a smarter diet!

1. Freda, Margaret. Ed.D., R.N., C.H.E.S., F.A.A.N. The Protein Push.