Donna Zurawski

Donna.jpg
 
 

Before:

Crestor 5 mg for Cholesterol
Amlodipine Besylate 5 mg for High Blood Pressure
CPAP machine for Sleep Apnea
Loss of 42 pounds and sleep apnea doesn't require CPAP machine anymore

Now off all meds!!!

I began my cycling journey in 2012 when I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. My goal at that time was simple: to lose weight and eat healthier. After struggling for 4 years on my own, I found TotalCyclist in 2016. I trained at TotalCyclist two times a week and rode outdoors on both Saturday and Sunday. My initial goal was to get faster so I could do group rides and not be the last person who was struggling to stay with the group. I soon realized that I needed more than just exercise to lose weight. Nutrition, dealing with stress, sleep, and overall health became my new goals. I wanted to get off my high blood pressure medication, my high cholesterol medication and my CPAP machine for sleep apnea. That is where my journey began!

Donna in 2016

Exercising: Since I fell in love with cycling, I cannot wait to ride my bike every day. Since 2016, I have trained at TotalCyclist at least two times a week – YEAR ROUND! Yes, training at TotalCyclist gives me specific weekly plans to become a faster, smarter, and more efficient bike rider. These plans target the right training to take me to the next level. When I ride outdoors with a group ride, I immediately see the difference in my abilities as a cyclist as I am stronger and faster. But the added benefit of going to TotalCyclist was to meet other like- minded people who share the love of cycling. I have made lifelong friends.

I never liked running but I love to walk. I now walk every morning around 15 minutes when I first wake up. This “fasted walk” starts my day out right. I even added an evening walk that makes me feel so good. It gives me a chance to enjoy the weather (no matter the season), to not think about anything at work or that causes me stress, and to get outdoors after sitting at a desk all day long.

Nutrition: My nutrition was awful. Processed foods, no consistency in times that I would eat, never looked at labels. Protein, Carbs, and Fat balance? What was that? To reach my goals, I needed to change my life. With Coach Chad’s direction, I went cold turkey on getting rid of as much sugar, alcohol, breads, pasta, and processed foods as I could. Was it difficult? YES! But I knew that I needed this change to become healthy. I eat every 2 hours now with a healthy balance of protein, fat, and carbs. How did I do that? Accountability with Coach Chad and documenting everything I ate on the MyFitnessPal app. I soon discovered that my food choices had very little protein. And what was good fat? I found that once I started eating “clean” food, I wasn’t hungry. Who thought I could lose weight and not be hungry? In fact, I had to set an alarm to remind me to eat every 2 hours because I eat BEFORE I get hungry. After losing over 40 pounds by changing my food choices and timing, people around me would ask when I was going to stop eating every 2 hours and go back to my regular food. I said “Never! This is not a diet that I stay on until I lose the weight I want. It is a lifestyle change that will allow me to be healthy for the rest of my life.” I have not gained any weight back.

I went back to my doctor after losing the weight and I am no longer on high blood pressure or high cholesterol medication. I did another sleep study and I no longer have sleep apnea that requires use of a CPAP machine. In fact, my doctor told me to stop losing weight. Goal met!

Dealing with Stress: Next step in the process of changing my life. We all have stress in our lives so we need to find out how to deal with it. For me, it was learning how to recognize what was causing my stress in the first place. Recognition is halfway to the solution. Through others, I discovered that when I get stressed or anxious, I shake my leg. A physical trigger!

Now to think of why am I doing this? This trigger meant that I was stressed with work, spouse, kids, family, friends, life in general!

What was causing it? I created a checklist (which works for me) as I recognized things--I try to control things that I don’t have control of. I set unrealistic expectations. I try to do more than one task as a time. I let myself get in the way of myself. I know there are more but these are just a few things.

So what can I do about handling the stress? Back to my checklist! At the first sign of stress or anxiety, I immediately stop and do some controlled breathing. This calms the anxiety and helps my emotions get back in check. But I needed more because this doesn’t always work. I get up and walk around (move away from the situation causing the stress); I walk outside if possible; I do a 5 minute meditation; I take a break for as long as I need to relieve the stress. I never meditated before in my life but now it is a daily occurrence for me. At bedtime, first thing in the morning, and whenever I am stressed or anxious. Meditation especially helps me before any big decision, meeting, bike ride, or life event. It focuses me, settles my emotions, and helps me take time for myself.

Sleep: Sleep has always been a struggle for me. I used to have sleep apnea. I am a night person by nature. Mornings have always been tough. I realized that I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night. How do I manage to do that when life gets in the way? I have worked diligently to get my sleep better. While I still am not where I want to be, I am getting closer to a regular routine to get to bed around the same time each night and wake at the same time every morning. Calming the thoughts of work, family, and to do lists in my head was critical in getting to sleep faster. Meditation each night has taught me to do that. I am relaxed. I am taking care of me. I am not waking during the night and thinking about stressful situations. In our busy lives, lack of sleep is so detrimental to our health. This is one goal that I will continue to focus on.

Overall Health and Wellness: My life has changed since I started my journey in 2016. I call myself DZ version 2.0. The most important thing I have learned is to take care of ME. Nothing should ever “get in the way” of my health/wellbeing. That means my exercise is like an appointment. I don’t generally cancel doctor appointments or other appointments when life gets in the way so I treat my exercise the same way. If I choose unhealthy food, I usually don’t feel very well. I believe in myself now because I am making better choices in all aspects of my life. I have more self-confidence and am able to face my fears because I am successful in the little changes that I have made in my life. Baby steps! I look for the positives in life instead of the negatives. I have a plaque that says “One small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.” A positive thought can change my day and others when I am willing to share it.

Every day I have a hard time remembering who I used to be. I feel so much better today than yesterday and I know I will feel even better tomorrow than today. I am growing every day. I love this journey I am on. The lifelong friends I have made through TotalCyclist come from different backgrounds but we all share a common interest of cycling and becoming a better version of ourselves. Being around positive, encouraging people is the best medicine ever. I have accomplished so many goals that I never even dreamed of. Thank you, TotalCyclist and Coach Chad, for being on this journey with me! I cannot wait to see where I will be in the future!