Friday, February 3, 2012

Side Effect #7: Lamictal and Exercise

Can you really call "exercise" a side effect?

Well, probably not.  But many of the side effects I've talked about so far -- particulalry sleep problems, appetite problems, and balance problems -- can combine to make exercise a challenge.  As I've mentioned before, I lift weights three days a week, and run intervals on my off days.  That is, I used to.

Problem #1:  Balance.  Easily Managed.

The balance problems have been a challenge from the get go, but I've been able to manage them.  I don't have a problem when I'm running, or when I'm lifting with both legs, but one-legged deadlifts and lunges have been a real challenge.  I have to concentrate a lot to keep from wobbling and falling over.

Problem #2 and #3:  Sleep and Appetite.  Not so easily managed.

But thanks to the sleep and appetite problems, I've had to take a six week break from exercising because of lamictal.

This came about because I had noticed that I was making no progress with my weight training.  I couldn't move up to heavier weights; in fact, I was having more and more trouble with the weight I was already lifting.  And push-ups?  I wasn't getting any better.  I was getting worse -- a lot worse.  The most troubling thing of all was that my back was beginning to bother me.

I just couldn't figure out what was going on.  I was lifting three days a week like I was supposed to.  I know I have decent form.  So why wasn't I making progress?  Why did it seem like I might even be risking injury?

Finally I trundled over to my workout book, The New Rules of Lifting For Women, which rocks.  I finally found a passage that explained everything: if you're not making progress, you're either drinking too much, eating too little, or sleeping too little.

Well, at the time I was doing more self-medication than I should have been, but I'd never noticed much of a problem with booze and exercise before that.  However.  I knew damn well I wasn't sleeping well enough or long enough.  As for eating?  I guess that a serving of yogurt and a slice of bread, consumed over the course of several hours, are not enough fuel to grow stronger muscles.  Who knew?

Well, I should have.

Solutions to Sleep and Appetite Problems: Blue Light, and Nutritional Hacks.

I fixed my sleep problems about a six weeks ago thanks to my blue light.  To solve my appetite problems, I've spent this week eating salty, fatty, proteiny things for breakfast, because my body wants them.  Alternately, I've been putting my yogurt in a blender with some water,  and doing the same thing with my greens.  Ive found that it's easier to drink my breakfast than to eat it.

From the beginning I've found that my appetite picks up around 4 pm (which is interesting since this is the time of my afternoon mood slump).  But without having a decent breakfast and lunch, there's simply no way to continue my exercise routine.  Here's hoping my solutions work.

Side Effect #5:  Bonus!  No More Delayed Onset Muscle Stiffness (DOMS)

My muscles have always been tight.  Ever since I joined the swim team in middle school, various coaches and physical therapists have been trying to loosen them up.  Even after two years of pretty intensive physical therapy, during which I learned to stretch properly and use a foam roller, they were still generally tight.  DOMS was just a fact of my life.  After workouts, everything would hurt every time I moved.

Most people who experience muscular side effects from lamictal experience soreness and tight muscles.  Given my history, I was concerned.  But I got lucky.  Since starting lamictal, I have more flexibility than I ever have before, and I no longer experience DOMS.  It's not that I don't get knots in my muscles; I certainly do.  It's just that I can use a foam roller without swearing in such a fashion as to make my longshoreman ancestors proud.

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