The Joy Of Upright Exercise

My recumbent bike and I are consciously uncoupling.

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While I like to think of it as a mutual decision, an amicable parting, my recumbent bike might say otherwise.

RB (to simplify things) would tell you that I have sucked the very life from its pedals. Which I might have, accidently of course; that weird clunking noise it makes now was not there originally.

RB is not the only party with grievances, though!

While I have been known to use the phrase, “Sorry, can’t talk right now, I’m chained to my recumbent bike,” in jest, it may not have totally been an exaggeration. RB really meant business in our workouts together. Even on the lowest resistance setting, RB made gaining cardiovascular endurance a challenge.

(Sure, RB will tell you that’s the point- to which I would reply, “Well would it have killed you to make your point with flowers? Or the occasional box of chocolates?”)

So you know, we’re taking a break.

To “find” ourselves.

“Rediscover” our passion for exercise- individually.

I promise RB, there was no one else…

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Oh, hey there, Treadmill! Whatcha been up to lately? Looks like someone’s been dusting themselves off!

Yes, Chronic Readers, I have moved on… into the loving, welcoming arms of Upright Exercise.

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This is a big milestone for me, so please excuse me while I take a moment to do a Happy Dance…

Happy Dance

Ok, I’m back.

I do not want anyone who is reading this blog for the first time to think that I just up and decided to ignore the main symptom of POTS (orthostatic intolerance- an inability to maintain blood pressure when in a standing position) and hopped right up and started working out on a treadmill.

No, this has been 7 whole months in the making.

Probably more like 11 years and 10 months, but who’s really keeping track?

I have a pattern. I will start to exercise regularly for the purpose of attaining some goal- for example, to be well enough to attend my sister’s grad school graduation, to get through a semester of school, or to go to a friend or family member’s wedding. I start about 2-3 months in advance, work my way up to some level of “functional,” and then after the event, collapse in a heap of “OhMGee that was so hard, I need to recover by sleeping excessively for a month…or two.” This inevitably leads to a return of whatever “non-functional” definition I was previously operating under.

Not this time, Chronics!

I started in March of this year. In March, I wasn’t thinking of anything long-term. My new rheumatologist made the very strong suggestion that I needed to be moving in order to sleep better. As my sleep quality was horrendous, I figured, ok, I’ve got to do this now. So I started with the recumbent bike.

When it got hard, I imagined that I was biking to Dollywood, in Sevierville, TN (Don’t laugh. 1) It’s my happy place. 2) You do what you have to do.)

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Outside the Dollywood entrance, artfully posed so you can’t see the PMLE taking over the left side of my face.

Last summer, my family visited Dollywood while on our Great Big Family Roadtrip Vacation (our first vacation in approximately 11 years) and when we went to Dolly Parton’s theme park of wonderfulness, I walked around for something like 3 hours without issue, even though I had a monster Polymorphous Light Eruption outbreak and had spent that whole morning unable to get out of bed. So it is also a beacon of hope and light and feeling well, at least to me.

What can I say? Dolly is magic.

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Fairy godmother? I think so!

When I was huffing and puffing way back in March, I told my family I was going to count my miles and “bike” to Dollywood. And when I had reached that goal, I was going to go again.

I probably should have thought to add “Save money to go back to Dollywood” to my agenda when planning this out…but some part of me didn’t think I would make it. It seemed too big, too far out of a goal. Up until this morning when I sat down with my handy dandy Marvel Heroes calendar where I’ve written down all my miles, I still did not think I’d made it.

But, you know what, Chronic readers?

I did make it! And then some!

Since March, I have biked to Dollywood and home again, with an additional 223.2 miles set aside for pit stops and detours. Technically, I could add in a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (it’s on the way!) and still come back with 27 bonus miles.

Do you know how many miles I have recumbent biked this year, between March 1 and September 26?

1,205.2

Suffice to say, my recumbent bike and I have become close.

To all you POTSies out there who are reading this and cheering me on while simultaneously thinking that you could never do something like that, as I must not be as sick as you (#LiesWeTellOurselves), whatever, whatever, I present to you the break-down of those 1,205.2 miles:

March: 75.3 miles I was starting out, slowly, slowly.

April: 223.3 miles. It was a good month.

May: 417.9 miles. It was the BEST MONTH EVER. Also, the only month I exercised every single day.

June: 38.9 miles. I had a Polymorphous Light Eruption that lasted All. Month. Long. And required a whole lot of prednisone to clear up. June sucked. Plain and simple.

July: 134.3 miles. Things are looking up. I got a rowing machine, so I split my time with row, row, rowing my boat.

August: 168.5 miles. Perfectly respectably numbers. I added some at-home Zumba dancing that took me away from pounding out the miles, but it was super fun, so whatever.

September: 147 miles. Not bad at all!

To my POTSie or otherwise exercise-intolerant readers, look at that. Down, up, down, up. It’s ok to fall off the wagon.

It’s that whole getting back up thing that’s been hard, at least for me personally.

Yet, I seem to have finally figured it out:

Apparently, you just wake up the next morning, treat it as if it were a new day (guess what, it is!) and keep going.

Face. Palm. Right? I don’t know why I never grasped the concept before.

NOT THAT IT ISN’T HARD.

Please don’t take my excessive sarcasm as discrediting the achievement. Because it’s totally an achievement, and I think that I might even make myself a certificate to hang on the wall. Commitment is the hardest thing ever. In the whole universe. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

ANYWAY.

I have successfully, albeit imaginarily, recumbent biked to Dollywood. I realized a few weeks ago, even before I knew my goal was met, that the recumbent bike and I needed some time apart. Not going to lie, all that biking gets pretty boring after a while, imaginary trip to Dollywood or not.

On September 30, I started Upright Exercising.

YAY!

I started with a leisurely walk, every day for a week. When I realized that maybe all that biking had perhaps created some sort of cardiovascular endurance (one would hope!) and that walking was not going to cause me significant pain/danger/fill-in-your-own-version-of-awfullness, I decided it was high time to look into something my good friend E had suggested all the way back in April, when I was a little full of myself (it was a good month, remember?) and emailed her for ideas, thinking I could skip all this “building up” business and go right to Upright workouts:

The Couch to 5k Program.

Dum, dum, dummmmmm…

Yep, Chronic readers, I started one of those. For the unfamiliar, a couch to 5k program is a plan in which you get up off your couch and slowly build up to running (yes, running) a 5k. You do not start running full out right away. For example, week 1 of my program had me walk for 5 minutes to warm up, then alternate 30 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking, then end with 5 minutes walking, for a total of 30 minutes. So I ran for like 8 minutes.

Hold up, let me repeat that: I ran for 8 minutes!

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I am POSITIVE that this is what I look like when I run, and so will not be posting actual photos of myself doing so…

Sorry, sorry, my head is exploding with pride, I promise to bake a humble pie LATER but right now I’m super excited.

Now I am on week 2 and am running for 60 seconds, with 2 minute walking breaks, for 30 minutes.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like all brains used to the chronic illness cycle of up and down, my brain is very dutifully warning me that, “This might not last,” and “How long do you think you can keep this up?” To which I am very happy to reply, “I really don’t care, I will keep going till I fall off (which is actually a recurring nightmare I keep having, thanks a lot subconscious!)!!!”

Clearly that whole Runner’s High thing can happen whether or not you inhale.

If you too have spent 7 months recumbent biking to Dollywood and home, and are looking for something new to do, I highly recommend the NHS Couch to 5k podcast that is available on iTunes. It’s British; Laura will be your running guide. The music is cheesy, but she tells you when to walk and when to run for 9 weeks. All you have to do is follow her instruction. Plus it’s free, which is lovely!

I would love to know about your own exercise journeys, Chronic or not, Readers! Leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell. I would love to hear from you, most especially if you’d like to finance a free trip for me to go to Dollywood. I did bike there, you know. I’m pretty sure I deserve a reward.

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4 thoughts on “The Joy Of Upright Exercise

  1. asouthernceliac says:

    Upright exercise, yayyyy!! When I was able to “graduate” from the recumbent bike to the elliptical (I can’t do treadmills because of my knees, which is sad because I love walking. It’s so relaxing). I was so excited! I don’t know why, but the recumbent bike is just so boring to me.

  2. heckyeshotmess says:

    Be proud of you! I am always so proud of chronic girls who get up and go! It is very amazing!
    I can only do walking myself. It took 5 minutes of walking to get to almost 3 miles. Every little bit until I got up to that. And it took a long time. But I was so proud of myself to be an avid walker. But until I got up to that, I still had my days where I could not move. Now since I am not walking so much it can take a toll on me. But I think we just got to fight for what we love to make us feel a bit of joy!

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