I also learned a couple of interesting things about my body today. One is that, according to the weight training instructor, I apparently have less estrogen and/or more testosterone than the average female, since I carry my excess fat mostly in my abdomen - like a male's 'spare tire' - rather than on my lower body like most girls. Which means I'm at a higher risk for diseases (guys who have lower-body fat deposits like girls are not at risk, but we girls with guy-like fat deposits are), but it also explains some things, like my broad shoulders, or the fact that I've always been stronger than most of my friends, or the fact that I've gained visible muscle mass - not just strength - in my arms just since starting this class (even though the instructor keeps telling us that girls won't get bigger, just stronger). The only other girl I've known who reacted that way was Renate; she had massive arms too. Anyway, I may be reading too much into this, but I thought it was really interesting.
The other interesting thing I learned today has to do with this on-again off-again exercise-induced asthma. I haven't needed my inhaler while swimming since the meet in Ohio last month, and I had a couple of really good weeks of practice, so I had hopes that whatever it was had sort of gone away. But last night I had a terrible practice - my muscles felt weak, like a sponge that someone wrung out, and I had a little trouble breathing, though not enough to need my inhaler. Then, tonight, I had only swum 50 yards before I went, 'Whoa - this is not good.' I had to get out and do a puff. It was really frustrating because I hadn't had any problems for so long, and then suddenly wham!, there it was again.
But then I started thinking about it, and realized that today is the exact midpoint of the three weeks of 'white pills' in my birth control pack - i.e. almost time for ovulation. So when I came home, I got on Wikipedia and looked up the female menstrual cycle, which led to pages on progesterone and estrogen and all that fun stuff. And guess what I found out?
"In women, progesterone levels are low during the preovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, rise after ovulation, and are elevated during the luteal phase. In women progesterone levels tend to be < 2 ng/ml prior to ovulation, and > 5 ng/ml after ovulation."
Which, we all agree, is quite a significant difference. So then I read:
"Progesterone also has a role in skin elasticity and bone strength, in respiration, in nerve tissue..."
And then the clincher:
"Progesterone has multiple effects outside of the reproductive system. ... It reduces spasm" - bronchiospasms, anyone? - "and relaxes smooth muscle tone. ... Bronchi are widened."
Do you believe that??? So this crap IS hormonal - probably, anyway. I'd thought so all along. I also read something which said that low levels of estrogen can contribute to a respiratory disorder which causes shortness of breath upon exertion, but that seemed to be mostly in older women, so it's probably unrelated. Interesting, though.
Anyway, we'll see how many more days of 'asthma' I have before this clears up again. Hopefully it'll be gone tomorrow or Friday and I'll be proven right. (I hope so, anyway, because we have a meet on Saturday and I'm swimming the 200 and 500 free!)
Oh yeah, and the other nice part about today? A good friend of mine, Hayley, who good-naturedly protested, "I like Bush!" last spring while some of us were bashing him, has had a change of heart. As we rested between sets today, I said, "Hayley, I haven't talked to you about this since I've been back, so I want to ask you a question, and I promise I won't make a single comment after you answer it. ... Do you still like Bush? Still?"
She thought for a second, then twisted her mouth and shook her head ruefully. "No. Not anymore."
Hurrah. (Now if only I could convert Anna.)