Ok, so we learned the most important exercising lesson on Monday:
Patience, young grasshopper.
We are all set to go nice and slow, with slight increases every once and a while to help us build up to a place of not just quantity, but also quality exercise.
Um…so…what exactly should we be doing?
If you are POTSie, if you are Fibromyalgia-ie (is there an adjective for this one? I haven’t heard it yet), if you are Chronically fatigued or pained, chances are recumbent exercising will be recommended to you.
What does that look like?
Traditionally, using either a rowing machine or a recumbent bicycle. Or both.
How do I start?
Anyway you want to (slowly! carefully!), though it may be helpful to find out if you can spend some time at a magical place called Cardiac Rehab.
Cardiac rehabilitation centers are special gyms, usually located in or near a hospital, where people with cardiac conditions/medical conditions that affect the cardiovascular system (POTS!) can work out in a monitored, safe environment. Exercise physiologists hook you up to a portable heart rate monitor and take your blood pressure at intervals while keeping track of what activities you do and your “perceived rate of exertion” (on a scale of 1-10, how did that exercise make you feel?). This can be a really good place to start an exercise program, as it gives you a comfort level and a sense of when you are pushing too hard or not enough. However, there are some important things to keep in mind about cardiac rehab centers:
Mostly, the people you find here will have qualified for AARP membership before you were born.
Mostly, the people you find here have had a heart attack or some sort of bypass surgery.
Mostly, the people you find here will be very curious about why you, Chronic Young Adult, are also in cardiac rehab.
Mostly, the exercise physiologists will warn you NOT TO ENGAGE with said curious, older patrons, as they will talk your ear off and distract you from your workout.
Mostly, you will ignore the exercise physiologists because these curious, older patrons remind you of your sweet grandfather and, as you don’t want to be rude, OF COURSE you talk to them.
Mostly, the women will scoff about how young and pretty you are (mean girls are everywhere!), and the men will ask you a) if you come here often and/or b) if you’re doing anything after (pick-up artists are also everywhere!).
Mostly, you will TRULY REGRET your decision to ignore the exercise physiologists and engage with curious, older patrons.
You know, just a friendly heads up =)
For me, after I completed a stint in rehab (as my mom tends to call it, and then, noticing surrounding people’s odd looks, will announce, “CARDIAC rehab. She has a HEART condition”, sending them scattering #awkard #sorrySportsAuthority #ItsActuallyAnAutonomicProblem), I decided I like working out at home better. First off, I can work out a little more as I can control the amount of stimulus around me (gyms have ceiling fans, fluorescent lighting, weird elevator music and funny smells), which means I have a pinch more symptom control. Also, it’s harder to not exercise when your rowing machine is staring you down as you eat breakfast.
A tip I’ve heard often is that it can be helpful to have a workout buddy. I’m not so sure, as mine likes to hog the yoga mat:
Then gets impatient for her turn on the rowing machine:
And finally decides it’s all too much, she needs a nap, while I continue pedaling away on the recumbent bike:
Hopefully your buddy is more motivating than mine.
So, we’re pedaling, and we’re rowing. We’re building up a good baseline. We’re getting better and better, healthier and healthier, every day in every way (full disclosure: I repeat this at least 3 times while working out, so that my brain gets the message as much as my body does). We’ve made it to two 30 minute sessions every day (this is my doctor’s recommendation for me). As it’s gotten a bit easier as each week goes by, we realize something important:
This is kinda boring.
There is a difference between your body getting bored with your exercise and your mind getting bored with your exercise. When your body gets bored, you hit a “plateau”, where your body stops making progress at that level. When this happens, trying something new (water aerobics! beginner strength training!) will help you break free and start moving forward again. It will probably take your Chronic body a while to get to this point though.
Your mind is going to get bored a lot faster though. Some ideas to help you stay engaged:
1) Music! Lady Gaga happens to work every time for me, but if she’s not your style, find something that is. At Cardiac Rehab they played a Golden Oldies CD on repeat (surprise, surprise). Maybe you haven’t played your Backstreet Boys albums since 8th grade, as you’ve been embarrassed to still know all the words to “Everybody” (which we have established makes you OLD now, see Keeping up with the POTSies July 7). Pay attention to the tempo of the songs you are playing- they’ve done studies that show it can influence the tempo of your workout!
2) Kick-ass sneakers. These are mine:
I only wear this pair of sneakers (trainers, joggers, tennis shoes, gym shoes) when I exercise. It’s become Pavlovian. I get up in the morning, put on these shoes, and my brain knows it’s time to go.
3) Crazy workout outfits. It’s a proven fact that the more ridiculous your workout clothes, the more efficient your workout. Source: I have proved this, therefore it is fact.
4) Watch TV! I can see the television from my recumbent bike. Sometimes you just need to catch up on Scandal while pedaling out those miles.
5) Use your imagination. Are you biking on the coast? Are you rowing across a swan-filled pond a la The Notebook? One of my favorite vacations was to go to Dollywood in Tennessee (I actually have a magnet that says “Dollywood is My Happy Place”). I’ve been keeping track of how many miles I bike, with the intention of “biking” to Dollywood. It gives me something to think about and work towards!
Ok, Chronics, there you go. I hope you are all able to Work It Out for yourselves. Let me know what you’re up to on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell