Launching a Successful Massage Practice

Now that I’ve been in business for over 2 years, keeping my schedule full for 3-4 months solid at a time, I feel it’s time to share some of what I did to get to this point.

First of all, I attended Health Touch School of Massage. It is a 650 hour course over 10 months. It was excellent. I got so much out of it, and even though I came from the background of Registered Nurse, I found it quite challenging! I can’t recommend them enough. They’re located in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Let me set this up by painting the picture of my community. Rhinelander is a small town in northern Wisconsin. It’s pretty blue collar in relation to the surrounding towns that tend to be more touristy. There are about 8500 residents and when I started, about 10 local massage therapists. One was just leaving the area and sent some clients my way, which helped tremendously. After 3 months in practice, I was seeing 1-2 clients most days but not nearly as busy as I wanted to be. I was offering classic massage, hot stones, and deep tissue. Pretty standard issue. I was renting a small room in the city, but not super happy with the building. It looked like an old crappy house and smelled a bit like basement all the time. The room was so small I could easily touch all the walls with one hand on the client.

One insomniac night, I popped on to the Facebook group The Art of Building a Successful Massage Practice. There was a reference to the book 60 Clients in 60 Days and before I knew it, I had downloaded it on Kindle and read the whole thing. This was on October 31, 2017 according to Amazon. Basically, the idea is to give away free samples of massage and in getting people on your table, they are likely to want to come back. So, I ordered like 250 gift certificates for 30 minute sessions and started a list of where I’d like to drop them off for local business to maybe give their clients or employees. One of the places I stopped was Serenity Health & Wellness. The owner and I clicked, and she happened to have a much nicer room for rent. It was an easy decision to move. While I waited for certificates to arrive, I had a crazy idea….

I put an ad on Facebook Marketplace. Free 30 minute massage sessions. Upgrade to an hour for $25. I set up a coupon code in my online scheduler. This was on November 3rd. November 4th I was up and out early to provide chair massages 2.5 hours away. I was so busy all day I didn’t have time to deal with my schedule blowing up, but it blew up! I had to cap the freebies at 100. I was booked for nearly 5 weeks, just like that. 6-8 clients per day starting on Monday, November 6th. Many people were just there to try the free half hour. Some tipped, some did not. Some upgraded and some did not. I had to try to squeeze in my few established clients and continue to work as a nurse one day per week. It was absolutely nuts. And, IT WORKED.

I haven’t been booked solid for less than 2 months out since then. Most of my regular clients were a result of that insanity. Now I’m usually 3-4 months out with about 15 contact hours per week, 4 days, and I’ve transitioned it to mostly 90 minute sessions. I see 2-3 clients most days. I now work from home exclusively.

In January 2018 I learned ashiatsu. My hands and shoulders were not liking the requests for more pressure, and it just made sense to use gravity+body weight+my feet to get the job done. Most people in this small

Sarga

town never heard of ashiatsu. I can guarantee you that if I had a service menu offering classic, deep tissue, and ashiatsu, people would not choose ashi-whatsu??? I simply let my clients know that I use my hands, feet, hot stones and cupping, and if anything was uncomfortable in a bad way to please say something and I’d adjust. Funny thing is, even the people who are feet-phobic have come around to the benefits of receiving a massage by foot. Try it out if you haven’t. It’s next level.

Because my body is my body, I went on to develop a shoulder impingement by reaching overhead all day, so now I’m settled pretty well into Sarga Bodywork. Again, I don’t offer separate services. Or upcharges. I have my prices for 75, 90, or 120 minute sessions and they include all the things. Hot towels, hot stone, aromatherapy, cupping…. I go with the flow and what my client wants/needs that day but I only have one gal that has not tried massage by foot yet. She’s in her 70’s. I’m just glad she continues to come to me so I don’t push her.

In Summary:
1. Set up an online scheduler. I’ve been happy with Square for for a couple of years now. It’s free. I used to just do 30 minutes turnover, but by the time I would check out/turn my room over/check in the next client I barely had time to go to the bathroom! Now I do 45. I’m tired of feeling rushed.
2. Be sure to block out time for breaks and existing, paying clients!! I did not, and that was unwise!
3. Make a coupon code in your scheduler.
4. Run a free ad on Marketplace with your coupon code and any conditions (mine was for the month of November but it ended up going into December – I decided to cap it at 100 sessions).
5. Offer your service by time rather than modality. Especially important if you are offering something people are unfamiliar with.
6. Book your client’s next session right at checkout. Now, most of mine just ask to be booked out indefinitely, which is great by me. They can change their mind any time, but as of now (September 2019), most of 2020 is booked.
7. Put your roller skates on. You are going to be busy!

My best tips for being a massage therapist in general:
1. Self care. You cannot give from an empty well. Walk your talk. I do something every day for my physical and mental health. I owe it to myself, my family, and my clients to be well in body and mind.
2. S l o w  d o w n. Move like a glacier. Breathe slowly. Relax.
3. Stop talking. Unless it pertains to the massage or the client wants to talk about something, zip it. Personally, for clients that I have things to chat about with (some are long-time friends and acquaintances), I build in time around their appointment to visit. I love that. Then they can relax into their massage. Obviously, it’s not all about the money to me. I make enough. I can work more if I want to make more, but I’m content. It’s also important to me to connect with people.
4. Require a credit card to hold the appointment. I’ve eliminated no-shows and weirdos by requiring new clients to schedule online and agree to my 24 hour cancellation policy, then use their credit card to secure the appointment. I respect my client’s time as well as my own. If someone has a problem with this, I don’t want them as a client. Be fussy. Quality clients only!
5. Be on time. I start on time and end on time. Period. Who doesn’t hate sitting in a waiting room when they have an appointment and it’s past the start time??

Questions? Comments? Leave them below and I’ll answer every one!

Finding My Pure Poise

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
(Andra Day – Rise Up)

In my 44 years, this experience was one of the most transformative. I was invited to provide massage therapy for the Finding Your Pure Poise inaugural retreat. Amanda, the amazing photographer behind Pure Poise Boudoir, had this great idea to offer a women’s retreat on a private beach on the shore of Lake Superior in July 2019.  I’d been dreaming of massaging near a big lake, with the breeze and waves. Perfect. So I set the date aside. Amanda booked an AirBnB that would accommodate a group of women who came from very diverse backgrounds. There were two hair/makeup pros and I provided lakeside massage. Amanda prepared meals for the group and spent the rest of her time behind the camera lens. The first evening, we sat on the beach and got to know each other in a very fun way. It was like an instant sisterhood. The vibe of the weekend was so uplifting and encouraging.

I had zero intention on posing. Last Thanksgiving, I scheduled a shoot for September 2019 (2 weeks away as I write this!!). My role was to massage the people.

Somehow, I ended up writing my name on the signup for a sunrise shoot on the shore of Lake Superior. Before I knew it, I was trying on lingerie and body chains 🙂

Driftwood

For those of you who don’t know, most of my life I was overweight. I’ve struggled with weight and body image for decades. About 2.5 years ago I had a health scare that prompted me to adopt a plant-based diet. My symptoms cleared up and I dropped 15 pounds easily. I find it joyful and simple to maintain a healthy weight now.
Me in 2000

After my third baby, I continued to gain weight. I was out of control with food. I still struggle with food addiction at times (hello, nut butter!). As long as I stick with fruits, veggies and whole grains, I can eat lots and have plenty of energy to work all day, then go play. It’s awesome. This pic was taken in 2000, when I was in my 20’s. Think I was depressed??

Regarding exercise, I do what brings me joy. I do some strength training in my basement a few times per week. I ride my mountain bike a few times per week. I love yoga when I can.

I struggle with chronic pain due to a connective tissue disorder. I don’t remember the last day I didn’t have any tendon pain. But look; I could let that disable me or I could deal and live my life to the fullest. I do what I can, which is quite a lot. I found it wasn’t any better when I was sedentary. I honor my body by listening to it and that has even meant dialing back racing bikes. It’s okay. I’m no longer depressed. I’m healthier now than when I was obsessed with exercise. I do move my body most days, but it’s out of love.

I have held onto some embarrassment over my belly, uneven boobs and saddlebags for years. Seems no matter what I do, there they are. While I will continue to strengthen myself and work on my body, it’s out of love now. That is the difference. I couldn’t hate myself thin. I finally figured out that this girl is worth loving.

Yoga

When I received my photos, I cried. I’ve been so hard on myself. I let my insecurity about things like my belly and boobs interfere with my self worth for too long.

Favorite

So I swapped services with the amazingly talented Kassidy Ashbeck. She did my hair and makeup, and a group of us gals went to nearby Bonanza Falls. A friend suggested I go get on that downed tree. Haha. Now mind you, I’m a bit of a tomboy. Most days I’m in a ponytail getting dirt under my nails. My favorite cardio is mountain biking, which leads to sore muscles and bruises. Here I am wearing more makeup than I ever have and trying not to fall off this tree. And look at me! I can see my beauty now. The hair and makeup really just helped boost my confidence to do this. I’m pretending I’m a model.

Bonanza

And then when I feel so amazing and beautiful, I treat myself even better. This body is a gift. I’m a goddess of sorts, so I honor that by what I put in and out. I rise above the muck like the lotus tattooed on my leg. After enduring all of the forms of abuse, I am at peace. I am strong. I am enough. I am a badass woman.

Cave

My major takeaways from this experience were:

-I witnessed women absolutely owning their beautiful curves. No matter their weight, they were gorgeous. Sexy. Strong. Amazing. It didn’t even matter. If they can, why not me??
-I like the way that hair curling rod and some makeup look on me 🙂 Hot damn!
-Amanda has a way of making women feel amazing. I can’t even describe it properly. Look up her Pure Poise Intimate page on Facebook and join. So artful. So tasteful. It felt like a celebration of femininity.
-I need more of this in my life. More time with women who are like-minded. More drumming around fires with women. More discussion about the down & dirty things from periods to where to buy sexy undies, to sex and relationships. More openness. More uplifting other women to see their beauty.
-I have arrived at home. In my body. In this body. I. am. home.

Sign me up to do this again. I carry myself differently ever since then. My self-confidence is high. Every day I care for myself because yes, I am something special. So are you.

Ladies, I cannot recommend attending one of Amanda’s retreats or a photo shoot enough. It will change your life.

Pure Poise Photography

Donation Requests

It’s important to me that my business gives back to my community. I have to admit the requests for donations was a little overwhelming as a new small business owner, so I created a policy to define who I will donate to. Thank you for understanding!

If you are reaching out on behalf of any of the following, I will donate to your fundraiser:
Oneida County Humane Society
Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association
Rhinelander Food Pantry
Northwoods Composite Youth Mountain Bike Team
Hodag Nordic Ski Team

In addition to this, I donate one massage per month to a community member in need. I also travel to most of the youth mountain bike team’s races to provide post-race massage.

Feels good to give some back 🙂

Behind The Scenes – Massage Therapy Licensure

As my first licensure renewal comes due with the great state of Wisconsin next month, I’ve been checking out what information I need to have ready and it got me to thinking… most of my clients probably don’t even know what goes into becoming a licensed massage therapist. Without turning this post into a novel, I’d like to take a moment to educate folks. If you care about your massage therapist being legit, read on…

I took a 650 hour class that included things like business and ethics, as well as what you would expect – kinesiology, modalities, pathology in relation to massage, technique and such. We learned where to massage and where not to massage. I had excellent instructors, in my opinion. It was challenging, even with my medical background. Certainly a deep dive into the mechanics of the human body.

Wisconsin tests applicants on statutes regarding professionalism, definition and the like. Here is what the State defines as massage:
definition

We are also required to carry malpractice insurance and current CPR training.

There is a rigorous (and stressful!) national exam that must be passed.

Our license is to be hung on the wall in our work space.

license
 

Then, every 2 years we are required to submit a payment and proof of 24 continuing education credits, to include 2 in ethics.  I totaled mine and came in with 119.5. What can I say? So much to learn! Here’s a quick rundown:
Sarga Bodywork
Barefoot Masters Ashiatsu, both online and in person
Barefoot Masters Fijian massage online (massaging a fully clothed client using foot pressure, great for doing anywhere!)
ACE Massage Cupping
Ayurevedic Massage
Kinesiology and Acupressure Taping
Fibromyalgia and the Invisible Diseases
The Fundamentals of Massage Cupping
Introduction to the History and Practice of Thai Massage
Thai Table Practice Fundamentals: Part 1

It’s a good start! I do love to learn.

Is your therapist legit? Massage and “bodywork” fall under the same requirements. Look up your provider here: https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch

Be informed!

Falling Leaves

Sweet Surrender

Surrender
Ahh…. the fall equinox was yesterday. For some reason, I find myself very introspective at the change of seasons. Moving into autumn (my absolute favorite!), I’ve been contemplating letting go. Letting go like the leaves from the trees. Letting go of ideas that no longer serve my highest self. Surrendering to the act of letting go.

Letting go of resistance. Surrendering to love.

On the physical level, perhaps it’s a surrender in finding out that I have some genetic connective tissue anomaly as well as misshapen hip sockets. Perhaps, maybe, running any distance will not serve me. Perhaps that frees me up to spend more time on bikes with my ever-patient, amazing and supportive husband. I like that idea. My body likes yoga and mountain biking sane distances. My mind and soul also benefit in innumerable ways. So, why keep chasing other physical endeavors that leave me injured every time?

That’s pretty minor in comparison to a revelation I had today. Now, I grew up around Christianity. I had a bit of a falling out with God over a decade ago. In recent years, I’ve found a closeness and a “spirituality” that I never knew previously. I had released the dogma and felt I did not need an interpreter/middle man. I have believed in a God/One/Creator/Being of Light for some time now. Working around the dying, I feel that there’s something undeniable beyond what our eyes can see. I believe that heaven is here and now, hell was made up to control the masses but certainly can be a state of disconnect (going through hell) here on Earth. But, I don’t need the scare tactics or some of the other things that have turned me off to “religion”. My Creator, in my opinion, did not create me or any of us as worthless sinning machines destined to a fiery hell if we don’t follow all the rules. Ha!! My Creator is far too amazing to play games like that. My Creator is He and She and Up and Down and ALL. And don’t tell me what to chant or sing. If my heart doesn’t feel it, I won’t do it. I want a direct connection.

My aforementioned husband is a regular church goer. I accompany him to support him and love feeling the energy of collective prayer. It is powerful! Today I was by his side and the music was so moving. Honestly, every time I go, I fight back tears. I feel my soul is stirred. I’m moved. I can barely hold it together sometimes.

So, what’s with that? I usually just stuff it down and move on. Today though….. I choose to surrender. Something that moves me so deeply needs my attention. I, like the leaves on the trees during my favorite season, am letting go. Letting go of resistance.

I’ve been looking for a guru. For now, my guru is Jesus Christ. It’s so obvious to me. There is a freedom in surrender.

 

I Quit

Today was my last scheduled day as a Registered Nurse. I saw two hospice patients. I’m so very grateful for the time and experiences I’ve had. For the patients I helped “pack their bags” to go home. For the deaths I was blessed to attend. For the tears I’ve witnessed. For the stories I’ve been privileged to hear. For the patients I loved and let go. How can a person not get a little attached? Some will forever be close to my mind. And heart.

My mom is a nurse. I was 34 when I lost a well-paying job due to a business closure, and had the opportunity to go back to school with some substantial financial assistance. Don’t get me wrong, I did have to work 2 part-time jobs, nearly lost my house, and stood in food pantry lines to make ends meet for myself and my kids. I learned far more than the piles of information in the textbooks. I learned gratitude, and to accept help from strangers, and that I’m capable of whatever I put my mind to. That was a crazy time! 9 semesters, due to waiting list and pre-requisite courses.

My first nursing job was in Home Health. I learned a good deal about wound care, colostomies, catheters, lab draws and medications. I actually love to drive, which came in handy with the miles put on in a rural area. However, I ended up needing more stable hours and benefits. I went to surgery, working in the suites with the surgical teams. I never fit in. The pace is fast. The environment is cold. I felt like a janitor of bodily fluids, a gopher, and if a person needed shaving or disinfection that was my job. I don’t care to ever prep another gynelogical case. Haha. I don’t like to be in such a rush, either. Or bright lights (unless it’s the sun). Or snarky co-workers. Felt like middle school. It was definitely interesting from a how-stuff-works standpoint. The on-call just about killed me. I had 20 minutes to be in the hospital and I live just about that far away. I started having panic attacks when the phone rang at night. I had everything prepared but holy smokes, to be woken up out of a dead sleep because someone swallowed something they shouldn’t or needed a C-Section was just a jolt.

My heart was always leaning towards hospice, and working in surgery was just the push I needed. People always say “it takes a special person”. I don’t know. It’s an honor and a privilege. Death is the one truth we all have in common, right? After all, a flower doesn’t blossom forever. If I can assist in that transition, my cup is full. So, I jumped in to a full time position as a hospice nurse. There’s so much I loved about it. However, with full time came on call overnight. My body really freaked out. Panic attacks, insomnia, heart palpitations….. I can do a lot of things but being called in the wee hours and having to work the days before and after just aren’t on the list. I was in pain all the time and had full on adrenal exhaustion. The company I worked for was very unlikely to utilize a “casual” nurse, offered nothing else in hospice without call, and therefore I went to Aspirus as a casual.

Aspirus is where I started in home health. I like the company. I like the supervisors. I was hired as a casual – no expectations really. No benefits but by this time I was married and didn’t need them. Work when I’m available. I figured I’d get my massage license and then do 2 days per week of each.

Around December 2017, 4 months or so into my massage therapy practice, I was working 4-5 full days per week doing massage. It kind of took over my schedule. I was available some random Wednesdays to hospice, but the timing wasn’t working out. I went from the end of February to July without putting on my scrubs.

And, I didn’t really miss it. I was committed to covering a vacation in July but kind of dreaded it. You see, in my massage practice I’ve found what I was hoping to in being a nurse. One of the greatest joys in my massage practice is the continuity of care. I actually see the same clients, week after week and month after month. I get to know their needs and tailor sessions for them. It’s the feeling of seeing an old friend when they grace my table, even if only a few words are spoken. I’m never on call. In fact, my phone is in Do Not Disturb mode most of the time. I’ll check it when it’s convenient. My “charting” consists of writing down what my client’s complaints were and what I did about them. I’m usually done by the time they walk out of the treatment room. No meetings. No waiting for doctors’ orders. No Foley catheters to insert. No needles. No medication management. Just a peaceful environment, aromatherapy, and presence. All I really have to do is be present.

It’s like the struggles to get to this place have made my success. I appreciate it with a deep gratitude. It’s like going to work now is a breath of fresh air. I look forward to it. I am allowed to be creative, set my boundaries, and provide the calm and caring space for people to do their healing work.

My experience as a nurse certainly helps. I utilize care planning for treatments. I understand peoples’ conditions and medications, and customize sessions for those circumstances. Nursing has taught me so many things, and thought process is a huge part of it.

As of today, I am no longer available as a Registered Nurse. I will maintain my license and keep ties with Aspirus. I look forward to spending some of my Wednesdays providing the comforting touch of massage to hospice patients in my area, and I’ll do it with the watchful eye of a nurse. My role within the company will be transitioning.

It has not been a year since I officially became licensed for massage therapy and here I am, booked solid for a couple of months. Doing work that I embrace with my entire being. No more panic attacks. No more dreading phone calls or crying because I’m miserable in my work life. Just spreading the love and joy. The awesomeness of my life. The good vibes.

Thank you for allowing me to discover and live my highest passion. I choose joy and abundance. I am at ease.

Namaste.

Chicken Of The Woods – Foraging

As I was wandering down to the dock to take the kayak out for a lap around the lake this morning, I came across this beauty. I’ve only found one before that I could harvest, and here it was…. right in my own back yard.


This is a fungi known as “Chicken of the woods” or “sulphur shelf”. It’s easy to spot. I’m no expert, but this is a wild mushroom I’m confident I can eat. This is a huge specimen, and if I wait any longer to harvest it will likely be dry and nasty. So, I hatched a fun plan for dinner.

I cooked millet in the Instant Pot (1 minute under pressure – that thing rocks!)

Cooked millet

I picked grape leaves from the vine in the back yard. I blanched them to wrap the filling in.

Grape leaves

I picked stinging nettles to cook with the mushrooms. I have a small patch that I am cultivating. Yes, you can eat cooked stinging nettles and they are very good for you! Wear gloves to harvest.

Stinging nettles

We have a huge patch of day lilies, so I grabbed some of them to stuff as well. They are edible 🙂
Day Lilies

In the smallest amount of olive oil, I sauteed the stinging nettles, some wild leeks I harvested in spring, onion and garlic.

After several minutes, I added rinsed and chopped chicken of the woods mushroom and continued to cook for a few minutes, adding just a little sea salt.

When it was cooked through, I added it to the millet, sprinkled with garlic salt, smoked paprika, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Wrapped in grape leaves and stuffed in flowers, this meal was very satisfying! And pretty! 🙂

I had a lot left over, so I cut up the mushroom and cooked it to freeze for future use. So thankful for this gift from Mother Nature.

Weight Loss, What I Eat, Fascia Blasting, Feeling Great!

Warning: Booty in thong pics below. If glutes make you feel weird, this post is probably not for you. I’m done with body shame, personally! A strong rear end is making a huge difference in my quality of life!

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted an update! For those of you new to my blog and story, I’ll sum it up. I’m 5’1″ and 43 years old. When I was 27, I weighed somewhere around 170# and was diagnosed by MRI with “Probable Multiple Sclerosis“, showing 2 active brain lesions and with some scary symptoms. I had recently birthed my 3rd child. I was depressed and out of control with food. After tiring of giving myself injections, I turned to diet and lost nearly 40#. When I was about 32 I fell in love with biking. My symptoms were a thing of the past. I found I loved mountain bike racing and participated in as many events as I could. All the while, my tendons and muscles were developing pain that eventually had me in physical therapy, by the time I was around 35, and unable to enjoy biking or running very much. I tried many things; some with temporary relief but mostly no improvement. It hurt to have my legs touched. I had dozens of “knots” like marbles I could feel and the sensation was that of a bruise, leaving my legs (and other areas, but that was worst) very tight no matter how much foam rolling or yoga I did. I had a fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2015.

2 years ago today, in 2016, I was knocked right down with Lyme disease. I couldn’t stand up without help. I could’t drive. I was in so much pain I was beside myself. Walking up a flight of stairs left me breathless. It was a long road to be able to walk and bike again….

Early in 2017 I had a health scare. I feared I had breast cancer. While I awaited the battery of appointments for tests, I decided to be proactive and follow some of the Gerson Therapy principles. It’s basically a low fat, high carb vegan diet. Lo and behold, my pain symptoms went away. The extra weight I had been carrying despite many attempts at low carb, ketogenic, high protein, years of Paleo, being a gym rat, etc. just fell off. Prior to that I would have argued to my death that bacon was healthy!

Despite many health improvements, my legs were still riddled with pain. I had a couple of mountain bike events in 2017 but they hurt pretty bad. Then I met the Fascia Blaster. I’ll be forever grateful to the ladies who introduced me! This claw tool has been a game changer for me!! When I realized that my chronic pain was bound up tissue and some very weak glutes (I had no idea how bad things were back there until I took a pic!!) I made some changes. By the beginning of 2018 I’d started doing Ashley Black’s “Heart Butt” exercises 2-3x/week and blasting at those times.

This morning the scale said 124#. I am down 6 inches on my waist alone since making these changes.

I believe the photos speak for themselves, though….

I’m a work in progress, but my pain issues are definitely receding! This makes me so happy!! I ran a 5 mile obstacle course last weekend. I biked 50 miles with my husband mid-week and then went mountain biking on fairly challenging terrain a few days later! I’ll be increasing the difficulty of the exercises here shortly, but I’m participating in a 6 hour mountain bike race this weekend and look forward to being part of a 4-woman 24-hour team in less than 3 weeks! I want to emphasize that I do not take protein powders or drinks that help control appetite. I eat a lot. It adds up to 1200-1800 calories per day with a ton of fiber 🙂 I don’t have a gym membership. My routine currently looks like this:

Exercise:
Monday
– easy yoga/stretching
Tuesday – bike about an hour at a moderate pace
Wednesday – Heart Butt exercises with resistance bands plus pushups and inverted rows on TRX. Do 50 squats. Run 2 miles at about a 10-11 minute mile pace on a dirt road. Finish with 50 squats and another set of inverted rows. See Heart Butt exercises here. I do a set, then blast a leg/butt for about 5 min. Do another set of exercise, blast the other leg. Finish with a set of exercises. Everything including the run takes about an hour.
Thursday – same as Tuesday
Friday – same as Wednesday
Saturday – mountain bike longer and maybe somewhere different. 1.5-2 hours.
Sunday – Heart Butt + 5k run

I blast arms, belly and face whenever, and occasionally hand a blaster to my husband with a request to do my back.

Food:
Listen, I don’t do starvation very well and a tablespoon or 2 of fat does not fill me up. I need quantity! And color!

Celery juice
Banana, blueberry, date smoothie
Hugh Jass salad 😀 Mixing bowl size.
Fruit. The ultimate fast food.

 

Vegan spaghetti squash bolognese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add to all of this 2 cups of organic black coffee, a piece or 2 of fruit along the way and a glass of organic red wine in the evening.

Recently I noticed that my struggle with binge eating is all but gone. If I’m hungry, I have a piece of fruit and move on. What about protein, you ask?? Well, where do you get your fiber? How much protein do you think you need? Have you read The China Study?

I think what makes it easy to stick with this is that my motives have nothing to do with anyone but me and my Creator. It’s great that my husband notices, but what pushed me to make changes was the chronic pain that had me in a very dark space.

I still have some residual pain, but consistency with the exercise regimen has made a tremendous difference. I thoroughly enjoy my time in nature, and it helps me stay centered in my life.

The food I eat began as a health priority, but has spilled over to include animal welfare as well as environmental concerns. I feel aligned in all aspects now. High-vibe foods for a high-vibe life 🙂

For more resources, check out High Carb Hannah, Medical Medium, Dr. McDougall and Chef AJ.

Thanks for reading! Go do something good for yourself!

My Experience With Lyme Disease (22 July 2016)

Two weeks ago at this time I was making plans. My sister’s 37-year-old remains were put in the ground on that date and to my surprise I had lost my stoic demeanor. I was deeply saddened, and ready to turn to my usual method of dealing with hard stuff; bike rides and lifting heavy things. Physically I had been feeling strong and had returned to some harder workouts as well as longer bike rides. After months of watching the decline of one of my favorite people in this world, I was ready to return to the things I love with a passion.

That night, my sleep was disturbed by shooting pains in my left hip. I would reposition myself with some difficulty and doze back off. When morning came and I went to get out of bed, I knew something was very wrong. I could not sit up or stand without excruciating pain in my left hip. It was so bizarre! I had no issues with my hip before. No aches or anything. I limped up the stairs and found even using the bathroom would bring tears to my eyes. Any movement like picking my leg up, or moving it side-to-side, would cause such a sudden and sharp pain it would take my breath away.

I thought maybe an Epsom salt bath would help, so I carefully lowered myself in and soaked for a long time. It was incredibly difficult to get in or out. A friend came over for coffee. At that point I thought maybe I pinched a nerve. I sat down so carefully on a chair but couldn’t stay sitting. It felt better to stand; not so sharp at any rate. I grew very tired of standing that day. I would go to lay down and not be able to swing my leg up onto the bed/couch because the sudden pain would overtake me and I would cry out. I tried high-dose turmeric, fish oil, essential oils, muscle rubs, ice, ibuprofen…. nothing…. walking hurt. Stairs were taken like an old lady. Honestly if it would have stayed like that I would not have wanted to continue to live.

Keep in mind I have had a broken bone. I’ve birthed 2 of my 3 children at home without medications on purpose. I have raced endurance mountain bikes and pedaled 15o miles by myself in one day. I’m ok with some pain. This, though…. this was something else. It was a solid 5/10 achy, burning thing in the left hip joint when I was doing nothing and a 10/10 if I tried to stand. I needed help to get off the couch. I hate going to the doctor. I have a high-deductible insurance plan just in case of something terrible but by Saturday night I was dipping into leftover Vicodin from surgery in 2009 and wishing I could just go to the Emergency Room. I was up several times the next 2 nights and medicated myself that entire weekend. It was the most searing pain like a stab with a knife.

Other oddities that had been happening around that time were vomiting, insomnia, heart palpitations, moderate headaches, and brain fog. I chalked those symptoms up to the stress of a loved one dying.

Two or three weeks prior to this pain, I had been bitten by yet another tick. This one was different, in that it was impossibly small. Like a little bigger than the period at the end of a sentence. It was in my left outer thigh. I removed it without issue, but did develop a red rash and itching. It wasn’t a bullseye. I was bit again in that time. When I had hit a deer driving home from visiting my sister in the hospital, I had 7 ticks crawling on me after walking the roadside to collect car parts and make sure the deer was dead. One of them had bitten, but it was a standard woodtick. I wasn’t too worried. Ticks are part of being an outdoorsy girl, after all.

So, Monday morning rolled around. I took off of work and so did Steve. He drove me to Urgent Care so we would arrive as soon as they opened. I honestly feel like the next 1.5 weeks has been a blur. I was x-rayed and lab work was drawn. My x-rays looked fine. My inflammatory markers were up. The doctor listened to my heart and noticed the palpitations. I had a low-grade fever that had been coming and going. I struggled for words and felt ridiculous with how much pain it caused me to even go for the x-rays. I had such little range of motion in the hip joint. The initial Lyme test was negative and a tick panel was drawn to check for other tick-borne diseases. Due to the initial Lyme test being notoriously inaccurate and given my symptoms and history, I was started on doxycycline immediately. I could not even limp back to the car after obtaining the medication. Any sort of regular stride would make me yelp in pain. I was given an open-ended work release and felt completely debilitated. Yet, I’d been off of work so much recently for my sister.

I attempted to go to work the next day. With pain medication I could kind of function. Like, if I didn’t sit much I could get some things done. It was the sit-stand thing that really got me. Not to mention the fact I was exhausted, feverish, and my brain was in a fog. My sweet coworkers sent me home before I even made it to see a patient. They saw me stand up from a chair and said I should probably not be working. They were right! I don’t know what I was thinking. Work ethic and stuff. I did return that Wednesday. I know it was too soon. It took all of my energy and focus to visit my patients and I had nothing left afterwards.

The pain was better to the point of being able to function for the most part just two days into antibiotic treatment. I still woke at night with pain but the improvement with each dose was significant. The things that really lingered were the cognitive issues…. I just felt stupid and at a loss for simple words…. and the cardiorespiratory issues. Walking up a flight of stairs or a small hill had me stopping to breathe. I would have to stop mid-sentence to breathe. The fevers stopped by Wednesday the first week and ever so gradually the cognitive/cardiorespiratory issues are receding each day.

One and a half weeks out, I did kayak around our little lake today. I took a mile walk with the dogs. I tire easily. My muscles burn. My hip lacks full range of motion and has some aches/pains yet like I expect an arthritic joint might. The knee on that side is also affected. I feel a fog in my brain and need a little extra time to find words. But, every day there is improvement.

I have employed some complementary therapies to help my recovery. I’m eating a ton of veggies, more fruit, significantly less meat, drinking a little less caffeine, doing some juicing, consuming only quality flax and olive oils, meditation, coffee enemas most days, and yoga.

I wanted to write all this down before the memories fade, so I can reflect on how it was and how far I’ve come. My short-term physical goal is to…. hmm…. I have to think about that a little longer… and my longer-term goal is to be able to ride a lap on my mountain bike at Washburn by our wedding day in October. That’s all. Other than that, I’m enjoying a slower pace. Enjoying the beauty around me. Grateful for the doctor at the Urgent Care department. Grateful for Steve’s love and kindness no matter what.

Here’s to healing!!

Bikepacking (2015)

2015 Solo Adventure – Bikepacking!

This is my 5th solo adventure since 2012. It isn’t my longest distance by any means. I didn’t set any speed records. In 2012 I took my first solo adventure when I was in nursing school. I was flat broke but wanted to get out of town and do something epic. It was a life-changing experience and one that I’ve continued annually. Last year I kayaked instead, due to the leg pain I have been experiencing. I was unable to ride any distance. This year I have been riding plenty, although the past few weeks I’ve been right on the edge of too much.

In the past, these trips would help me sort out things that were on my mind and give me clarity. This year I couldn’t find anything to ponder heavily, which says a lot for the good space I’m at in my life. Instead, I used this time to step outside of my comfort zone and seek the beauty of immersion in nature. Well, with an iPhone to take pics 🙂

A month or so ago, I picked an approximate destination and put in a PTO request at work. I like 1 night away. That’s adequate for a mini-adventure. I put in for a backcountry camping permit in the Northern Highlands State Forest and started planning a route. To hopefully keep my legs from completely revolting, I figured 50-75 miles each day would be plenty. After all, the bike setup is heavy and camp gear adds a chunk of weight.

The day of departure, I was on call until 0700. I found other things I had to do that delayed me – pump up bike tires, get meeting agenda together for RASTA meeting after work on Thursday, clip fingernails so I can play the uke, etc. With a belly full of summer sausage, eggs and coffee, I departed at 0800 with a forecasted chance of rain the entire 2 days. If I have learned one thing over the past 8 years of riding bikes, it’s not to let the weather forecast stand in the way of a ride.

One thing about the fibromyalgia or whatever it is that pains my tendons is, if I push my body hard it will revolt and I may have several weeks where it hurts to walk. This has been going on since 2010 and although I’ve made a lot of improvement in the past year, it has forced me to slow down enough to enjoy the scenery. There have been several good lessons through this journey, actually. I can pretty much do what I want to, as long as I take it easy.

The sky was overcast as I cruised along at about a 12mph pace. I made several quick stops to inspect my cargo and make sure all was in place, as well as turn on my super-bright rear LED for county highway visibility. I saw a family of turkeys and a brown fuzzy caterpillar crossing the road. I listed to a podcast called The Paleo Women podcast and they were discussing body image. I will come back to that later. All in all, it was a pleasant ride. I stopped for a photo at the Willow Dam.

One of my favorite roads is Cedar Falls Road. It’s super fun; twisty with roller coaster hills towards the end. I saw an otter cross but was not at all prepared with my camera. I soaked in the pungent forest scents, spun up the hills and smiled down them.

Welcome to the gravel shortcut from Cedar Falls Road to Camp 9 Road. It was freshly graded, which equals loose!! Oh man. Well, it is an adventure after all.

Super loose gravel granny gear slog-fest made me glad I had the knobby 40’s and a sturdy bike! Oh and a triple ring in the front! This stretch was only a few miles.

New gear for this year:
2014 Giant Invite – it’s a gravel bike and I mostly use it for commuting to work. The disc brakes, wide tires, and rack mount are major differences over what I used to cobble together.

New shorts and helmet, always a plus.

Sawyer water filter which I’m not sold on, but it worked.

Garmin Edge 800. Definitely like the turn-by-turn navigation!

Took a break at mile 38 for lunch of beef jerky and an apple. I made my way to a nearby river to try to filter some water but found the squeeze bag system awkward and hard to fill.

The scenery between Cedar Falls Rd. and Highway 70 was wonderful. I don’t recall the names of all the roads but there were some tough little climbs and swooping downhills. Very enjoyable. I crossed Highway 70 and continued on into Lac du Flambeau reservation territory.

Loose chip seal, the right bike for it, and beautiful scenery 🙂

Sometimes the GPS and mapping software lead a person to a dead end. Like this! I always carry paper maps for such occasions. Sign says “Private Drive”.

Roadside scenery approaching Highway 51

Boozhoo! Actually I was leaving and turned around to take a picture of this sign.
Thanks for the lovely roads!

Originally I had planned to take a shortcut road over to County M, which would put me close to camp. However, the weather was still holding out and I noticed I was missing a few items which would make my evening more pleasant. I was also low on water. I ducked into a State campground for water and a woman was walking by. She said hello, asked where I was headed, etc. She recommended the slightly longer but easier-on-the-legs County H. I filled my water bottle and decided, in the interest of my legs, to take her advice. Happily, the new paved trail was not far off and took me right into town.

First stop in Boulder Junction… duh…. coffee shop! I have to say I liked it better when it was Dancing Bear. It had the huge chair out front, and inside had an electric massage chair, funny books, nut-based cookies and plenty of good vibe. I probably looked a bit disheveled 64 miles into the wind. There were 3 women working there and the one who took my order was presumably the owner. She asked where I was headed and when I told her, said there are no camp sites there. I told her I was backcountry camping and did not need a site and they all looked at me like I had a third eye. It was kind of funny. I said I like to get outside of my comfort zone once each year and have a little solo adventure. She said “I like my comfort zone! And my comfy bed!”. Haha.

Well, me too, and these trips are little reminders of the comforts I have every day. I choose to experience something else. I like the perspective. I sat down to check the weather but the Wifi was not working. Tried data and could not connect to the network. Tried texting Steve but he was working late. So, I enjoyed my coffee drink outside, used the bathroom, and headed to the corner store.

I had made a list while I was riding: Wine, pen and paper, small flashlight, and souvenir patch. The corner store supplied wine, pen, and flashlight. I didn’t want to lug around an 8.5×11 notebook, so settled for writing my notes on the back of my maps. Across the street I noticed my daughter’s boyfriend’s dad’s (did you get that?) car – he has a business in Boulder Junction. The taillights were on so I quietly rode up next to it to see if I could startle him. It was empty. Oh well. Went in the building and said hi. He generously offered to help my trip and I asked for paper, which his assistant was kind to supply me with. A whole small notebook. Perfect! I went to the Chamber for a patch, who said to try the Highlands shop downtown. They were so nice. No patches for sale, but they gave me a freebie from behind the counter 🙂

Off to find camp! I felt a few drops of rain as I left town. About 3 miles to the gravel road, then 3 miles in. I stopped to cover my sleeping bag and tent and keep it dry. I was able to enjoy the paved path that parallels M to get to the gravel. It was a much smoother gravel road than the one earlier in the day and I was grateful at over 70 miles in! Still, I granny-geared it up the hills. A co-worker had told me about a couple of camp sites accessible only by hiking or watercraft, so I figured I’d camp somewhere in that area.

Welcome to Pallette Lake. So clear. So beautiful. Ducks I did not recognize. And an incredible camp site with rules like: One night only. Clean up after yourself. I had been set on not using a site but couldn’t pass it up. On a hill, too, so I wouldn’t wake up in a puddle.

I set up the old Bibler tent with everything I would need for an evening of potential rain.

Satisfied with camp, I went to the lake and waded out a bit. I was too cold to swim but the water felt great on my legs. 74 miles, most of it into a headwind. Phew!

Pallette Lake

I found filtering water with the squeeze bag system rather challenging. Filling the bag was the trouble. It is rather rigid and doesn’t accept water easily. I found the only way I could do it was walk out in the water and drag it back and forth several times with some force. At any rate, it worked. I’m here typing this today. It tasted alright, too.

A loo with a view?? This was uphill from camp. Convenient place to dispose of TP. I’m fine with a squat in the woods otherwise. It looked kind of funny out there. I could not find it at 0430, though! The trail wasn’t very obvious.

Supper time! I just love this little stove. Super compact. The cook pot could be lighter, but that will be a future addition. For now, this works. Nice to have a hot meal at the end of the day.

I cleaned up supper and decided to send a text to Steve while I sat at the picnic table. It was lightly misting. I got about a sentence in and it turned to a real rain. It was 1800. I covered my panniers with a garbage bag and a rock and got in the tent. Listening to the sound of the rain was very relaxing. So was my wine. I write some notes and strummed the ukulele for awhile. Changed into my flannel jammies. Journaled some more.

On fibromyalgia, or whatever is causing my tendons (and now knees) much pain. The Achilles’ both complain on a regular basis. My calves are full of knots. So are my vastus lateralis and IT bands. I have trigger points by the dozens and they respond to nothing. The IT band stuff can shut me down. It’s a very sharp pain to the knee when I push a pedal. I have been riding a very fine line with it and it was tough carrying a heavy load into the wind. I have all the endurance and mental fortitude but I have the threat when I think of going a speed like I used to, of it all coming apart in a big hurry. Last year I struggled to walk a mile. I barely biked. This year I’ve pedaled over 2000 miles. Riding easy and taking guaifenesin seem to be working, but I have to be very, very careful. Using a heart rate monitor helps, but that started acting funky early in the ride. I went by feel. It’s tough. I try to remain grateful for what I can do, since I can’t feed my ego with “how fast” or “how many miles”. Just enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds. Be grateful. There will be an answer and I will keep seeking.

Decided music frustrates me when I’m trying to learn a song. Picked a little, played some chords with different strum patterns, and called it a night at 1840. Couldn’t keep my eyes open!

Turns out my tent leaks. A lot. Not just at the seams but everywhere. I woke at 2230 with a wet sleeping bag on the top, wet bike shoes, pretty much wet everything. It had been raining steady since 1800. I rearranged things and tried to sleep some more. My camp pad isn’t great. I wake every 30-60 minutes to roll. My hips and shoulders hurt. I woke up a couple of times to take care of bathroom business.

This was the view at 0530:

Not bad. Still raining. Dozed off. And was startled awake by a squirrel at 0615! It stopped raining. 12 hours in the tent and I was ready to get out! Ready for coffee. I started the water heating and noticed some nasty little flying bugs were biting me – hard! I applied some repellent and noticed this:

Repellent makes me sneeze. I was checking out heron. Heron was checking out me. Then I sneezed. And it flew away.

While I ate and sipped my coffee out of the pot (one of these times I’ll remember a mug, maybe) I checked the maps of the Escanaba Lake trails. I had no idea what the weather was going to be, but rain had dripped into my shoes during the night and it was chilly. The shortest trail was a 5 mile loop. I decided to pack up camp and take my time going home, stopping along the way wherever I wanted to. I’d like to return to this area under better weather circumstances and explore the beauty of it. The little sample I got was enough to make me want more, for sure!

I changed into my bike clothes and it resumed raining. I sopped up the puddles out of my panniers with my towel, packed up the wet gear and made sure I had picked up not only all of my stuff but a little garbage left by previous campers.

It’s a pretty climb out of camp. I noticed hiking/biking trails as well but didn’t feel singletrack was appropriate. Might have to come back for that reason as well…

Tough to take pics in the rain. This is about .3 miles and connects to Nebbish Road, which is about 3 miles out. The gravel was much different after all the rain and on tired legs. I worked hard up the hills, feeling the previous day’s miles and the mud trying it’s best to slow my wheels. Everything exposed got a thorough mud coating, myself included.

Back on the paved path, my legs felt good and I relished the little twists and turns through the woods. I stopped at a trailhead to rinse off my mud-covered water bottle. The rain had stopped again for awhile.

This is me, enjoying one of my favorite parts of the bike path. I spent a good bit of time thinking about body image on this trip. Since 2001 I have weighed anywhere between 109-168#. I can say that even at 109#, in 2010, I picked on myself. I had a flat stomach and muscle definition. And I still wasn’t “happy”. I no longer weigh very often, but here’s the thing: This 132-ish pound woman can endure with a smile and a heart filled with joy. What I am is not a number anyway. I am caring, strong, happy, intelligent, worthy, determined, loving, compassionate, maybe beautiful in my own womanly and curvy way and in these moments, I am ALIVE. This body and these legs carry me through space and to some of the most beautiful places anyone could imagine.

Stream crossing along the trail. I stopped for a snack of olives and mixed nuts.

This is near Sayner. The trail between Sayner and St. Germain is a blast! Roller coaster hills galore!

Back in my home health nursing days, this was one of my favorite stops. It was a little out of my way but I was craving coconut. I picked up coconut water and flakes. It’s on 70 between St. Germain and Woodruff if you ever find yourself going that way. I love how they combine the natural stuff with crap like Twinkies. Nice folks, too. I do miss the home health days. Being in that area made me think of the people I’d met along the way. I really could have done that job forever it weren’t so life-consuming. I miss the interaction with patients and the independence. I miss pursuing more holistic nursing. I don’t miss spending all evening charting.

I had figured on a coffee stop at Red Canoe in St. Germain. Another one of my favorite places. The gentleman who was doing lawn work struck up a conversation – I have found the loaded bike is quite a conversation piece – and he mentioned something about the wind not being in my favor. True enough! I was working pretty hard for 12mph. My legs were definitely in need of the break. The menu advertised the quiche as gluten free. I saw the words “bacon” and “cheddar” and figured I’d ask what the crust was made of. When the barista replied cheddar, I said I would definitely order some of that! The no-dairy thing can wait until this trip is over. What a delicious and soul-warming stop!

Leaving St. Germain, County J has a nice, wide bike lane and runs all the way to Woodruff. See that big black cloud? Oh yeah. It let loose shortly after this pic. A straight downpour. If I had begun to dry, it didn’t matter now. I was drenched. The wind blew so hard I had to stop and get off the bike for a minute. I guess I was looking for adventure after all!

County J connects with Raven Trail. The singletrack there is sweet and they recently paved 2 miles of the ski trail. I took this opportunity to fix my rear brake which had failed earlier in the day. Turned out to be a good decision! What a fun trail. It goes all the way to Indian Mounds campground on Highway 47, which is where I did pop out onto the highway for a bit. My Garmin flashed a low battery signal. I hadn’t planned another stop, but there is a nice little coffee shop in Lake Tomahawk 🙂

The Butcher’s Wife, next door to The Butcher Shop, served up a Colectivo almond milk and honey latte and I sipped while I let the Garmin charge. The cup felt nice on my cold hands. Heck, another snack, too. Hungry today!! And to be honest I welcomed a break from the wind. My leg issues were starting to really become apparent. Mostly the tendons and knees. I left here and checked out Lake Tomahawk’s side streets which are really cute, before hopping on Bluebird Lane and heading south towards home.

Yup, heading south and feeling the wind. It was another 25 miles or so to get home and it was a struggle to keep my mind right. I cursed the wind and threw temper tantrums in my mind. I fantasized about calling for a ride home. I thought how nice it is to know that if I did call, Steve would help me and never ever try to lay a guilt trip on me for “quitting”. However, that’s not what I do. I press on. I endure. I try to walk the fine line with the knots in my legs and sometimes my determined mind overrides them. The scenery was beautiful. I love moving my body through space on two wheels. I was almost home, anyway.

I wondered if Steve would be home when I arrived. I knew Willow, our dog, would greet me with that full-body wiggle. My heart lit up when I pulled in the driveway and saw Steve’s car. I couldn’t get in the house fast enough. The hug he greeted me with almost made me fall apart in tears. I love that man. I’ve never been loved like I am with him and I appreciate it more than I can express.

I relaxed in a hot epsom salt bath with a glass of wine, and then we made dinner. Grass fed ribeye on the grill, roasted broccoli we picked last weekend, and butternut squash fries. My daughter bought the flowers just because.

So, in summary, sleeping in a tent in the wilderness doesn’t scare me so much. I feel rather at home in the forest. I have pepper spray just in case, but I tend to feel calm and free. My legs didn’t fare as well as my mind and I have a large amount of pain, mostly in my knees. I will need some extended recovery before I can bike again. I appreciate my dry and comfortable bed, my loving pets who are sitting next to me now, and especially Steve, who somehow understands my thirst for adventure and solo time. I am filled with gratitude on all levels.