Working it out, Part 1

Good Morning! Good Morning! Sun beams will soon smile through! Good Morning, Good Morning to you and you and you and you! (Singing in the Rain, 1952)

Yes, I am in a good mood this morning. “Why?” You ask?

Because I worked out today =)

I know there are some Chronics out there who are immediately going to scoff and yell “Blasphemy!” at me- if you worked out this morning shouldn’t you be tired and cranky and all POTSy and fibromyalgia-pain-y?

Well maybe, if this were my first or second (or third or fourth) time attempting exercise. It takes some getting used to.

However, once you have stuck with it (a physical therapist I spoke with recently said for a minimum of 6 weeks), your body WILL adjust and get used to it. In fact, your body won’t just get used to it, it may even start to like it.

<Please insert horrified gasps here>

I am not going to lie to you and say that I have always liked exercise. There have been times when I have distinctly hated exercise, namely gym class in school and that major yuck period I had when I needed to use a wheelchair (see I get by with a little help from… July 11). Moving was not fun then because in gym class I had no input on the type of exertion I performed (running timed miles for the Presidential Fitness Award and playing dodgeball are enough to make anyone hate P.E.) and in my yuck period getting up to go to the bathroom made me dizzy so any movement felt awful.

So how did I find my way to liking exercise?

Trial and error. Scientific, I know.

Before I could do that though, I’ve had to get over some stuff in my head. When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, chances are your doctor can’t give you much in the way of a treatment plan. Sure, a few prescriptions can go a long way in symptom management, but they are not going to heal you or make your illness improve. 98% of doctors (I made up that number) will tell you that the only way to make your health “better” is to exercise. Exercise, they say, is the closest thing we’ll get to a magic pill.

But then they very often don’t tell you what to do. Just exercise, and you’ll be good.

“Exercise” is probably one of the broadest terms you can use and it means something different to nearly everyone. If your doctor gives you an actual plan with specifics, please count yourself lucky and consider posting it publicly on Facebook, as so many of us have not been given any direction. (Word of warning though- always check with your doctor before starting an exercise plan that you randomly saw posted publicly on Facebook, #catch22)

The thing I had to get over most was this: If exercise is the only thing that has the potential to heal me, then doing a lot of exercise is the best thing ever, right?

Not so much.

I had the really great pleasure to hear Jenni Prokopy of ChronicBabe.com speak this weekend. (She is awesome-check out her website!!) At one point in her kick-ass speech, Jenni said that after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and told that exercise would help, she tried to “swim away [her] illness”. For 30 minutes every day she swam as hard and as fast as she could, thinking that it would make her better. Except that the more she pushed herself, the worse she felt. Instead of taking a step back from her routine, it made her push even harder. Because that was the way to wellness right?

I have been there. I have done that. 4,976,000 times (I made that number up, too.) Walking on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill (in which I found out the hard way that those little emergency shut off-safety clip things that attach to your shirt really do work!). Zumba. Pilates. Yoga. High Intensity Interval Training. Ballet-inspired workouts. Whatever is playing on the OnDemand free fitness channel.

Push, push, push, push, push.

But that’s no good.

As Ice Cube would say, You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.

Really. The context is different (clearly) but I mean it.

Impatience is one of my less flattering qualities, as I am sure it is for many other Chronics. “I’d like to be better yesterday, please!” is our constant refrain. However, being overzealous (about anything) only leads to trouble. I have had to learn to chill.

Seriously.

Calm down.

It’s frustrating to start with 5 minutes. Your brain will tell you this is not enough. Your body might tell you this is too much. It can feel impossible to know which one to listen to. (Hint: it’s not your brain)

After you’ve done 5 minutes each day for a week, then you get to move up to 10 minutes. After that, you get to move up to 15 minutes. Another week and it’s 20 minutes.

Then you might have a flare up of some kind and not be able to do anything for a week (or a month). And so you go back to 5 minutes. Then 10 minutes. 15 minutes again. Another crash or flare up. Start over at 10 minutes this time. Lather, rinse, repeat (though “adjust” should be in there somewhere too- you may not need to start over from scratch all the time, but it does help to start from a decreased level when you’ve had to take time off).

I am here right now myself. I got myself on a good schedule of exercise (more to come on Wednesday about what I specifically do), and had gone for my personal best stretch of 7 weeks with no health interruptions. Until, of course, that stinky little Polymorphous Light Eruption took over my arms and face for the entire month of June (update: it’s only just gone away. I still have just the faintest hint of rash on my right arm though). Exercise felt horrible (sweating made the rash worse) and my consistency went out the window. I tried to keep going with an every-few-days routine, but it was sporadic. Then I had to take Prednisone, a steroid, to get the PLE under control, and the side effects made me miserable so I just plain stopped exercising.

The great thing about exercise though, is that at any time, you can (re)commit to it. It doesn’t have to be the first of the year, or your milestone birthday. It can be Random Monday in the Middle of the Month. Which happens to be today.

Happily for me, before I stopped exercising, I had made it past that <approximated> mark where your body changes its mind and decides it likes exercise. I actually missed it when I was off being a Prednisone-zombie. I kind of couldn’t wait to get back to it.

Today I got back to it. Yes, truth be told, I’m a bit tired, a bit POTSy, a bit Fibro-pain-y. AND, I’m also in a very good mood.

I heard a rumor it might be these things called endorphins. =)

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