There was only one time in my life that I ever found exercise enjoyable, definitely not fun, but at best enjoyable.
About a decade ago my daughter and I decided to get fit, and for about a year or so we went to the gym, had personal trainers, did weight lifting, walked for miles and miles every week, followed Weight Watchers diet to the letter, and became quite fit and healthy. Unfortunately, for the rest of my life, I’ve been ‘pleasantly plump’ (to put it mildly), eaten what I wanted (including sweets and pastries) and preferred reading a good book instead of going for a walk or doing any form of exercise.
Needless to say, when Lupus arrived in my life I was not the fittest or the healthiest I could have been – should have been!!
For four months I was so ill and weak that I ended up staying in bed day after day, occasionally getting up to go to the bathroom, but that was it!! I ate whatever I could tolerate and keep down. Nutrition and exercise were the last things on my mind!!
When I finally felt well enough to be up and about, I was gung ho to start getting as fit and healthy as I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my body and ended up doing far too much exercise for my body to handle.
The funny (as in strange, not ‘ha ha’) thing is, the amount of exercising I was doing in my efforts to recover was way less than the amount of movement (not really even exercising, just performing day-to-day movement that living required) that I had been doing before I became ill. I wasn’t prepared for that.
I had actually believed that I could basically pick up were I had left off before I became ill, well maybe a step or two backwards to account for the recent illness, and start rebuilding and improving my fitness level from there. So I pulled out my old FitBit and started off on a walking program. Indoors, back and forth, from the front of the house to the back. Several hundred steps a day, every day, broken into two sessions.
My efforts lasted one week, and then I crashed. I had a flare that lasted several weeks. Flat out fatigue, basically unable to make any effort, lost my appetite, and went straight back to sleeping most of the day. Looking back, I felt this flare coming on, but I was so focused on exercising and getting fit that I chose to ignore the warning!! Big mistake.
Needless to say, the lessons I ended up learned from my first mis-step at exercising with Lupus include:
- Listen to your body. It will tell you when it is ready to start exercising, how slowly to start off, and when to reduce the amount of exercise you are doing.
- Select gently, easy to moderate exercises, like walking, swimming, cycling.
- Don’t listen to anyone else regarding when to begin exercising. I listened to family members who believed that not exercising was causing my energy issues. Neither they nor I even suspected Lupus was sapping my strength.
- Exercise inside as much as possible. Many people with Lupus have problems with rashes and other physical reactions when they are in the heat and/or sun. For some, even with UV clothes, big sun hats, and maximum strength sun screen, they are still affected by the sun.
- Find an exercise that you really love doing. Studies have shown that improving fitness levels can have a fantastic positive effect on you health!
What I love and appreciate most about finally doing some daily exercise are two things:
- That I have some control over Lupus and the impact that Lupus is having on my life.
- I definitely feel better and stronger as a result of exercising, which I love. It feels like I have fewer flares and when I do have a flare, it doesn’t seem to last very long.
Now that I have finally recovered enough for my body to want to exercise again, I have started off in a more controlled and ‘user friendly’ manner. Going up and down stairs have become my work-out routine of choice. Doing stairs is improving the strength of my legs (the strength of which had been impacted by both Lupus and the medications I am taking); my aerobic fitness level; my balance; and my overall fitness level. I am loving it!!
I also bought myself a pair of Nordic Urban Walking Poles, which is providing me with plenty of motivation to get my strength and balance back so I can begin walking the streets outside my house down to the awesome old Galt downtown area. Plus, we have a beautiful old carriage lane at our back door that leads to a gorgeous little park that is connected to a huge wetland and wildlife conservation area! Motivation galore to get fit and healthy again.
So how about you? What motivations can you identify that are powerful enough to keep you active, even when you are mentally trying to talk yourself out of it? Have you started exercising? What type of exercise do you love doing? Are you finding any positive benefits from your exercise efforts? I would love to hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.