Follow Us

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Exercise Buddy, Chronic Disease!

(Hands and Feet, Rheumatoid's favorite target)

Exercising when healthy can be a struggle. But try regularly exercising when you have a chronic disease. It can be down-right maddening.
I speak from experience. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease. Before I was diagnosed and definitely before I had an action plan, I struggled between two extremes. One of feeling good and therefore overdoing it and the other of feeling like a broken down mess.
It took me several years to figure some of this out but through trial and error I have arrived at a pretty good place.
So here are a few of my suggestions on navigating fitness when you have a chronic disease.
1.       Talk to your doc! Let them know what your goals are.  If you have a good specialist, and I hope you do, they will do their best to help you figure out how to achieve your goals. If you have a negative doc that just bashes your dreams and leaves you with no hope, then turn and run out of that office and find a new doctor. I wanted to run a half marathon and spoke to my doc about it. She supported me and told me that she wanted me to live a happy and fulfilled life. Now this meant that I would have to run/walk the half. I would not be able to run straight up distance anymore. But my doctor in no way belittled me or made me feel stupid for dreaming big.
2.       Listen to your body! When my doctor supported my goal of a half marathon, she spoke straight with me about listening to my body. If I felt pain, I needed to heed its warning. Pain may be over-looked in a healthy individual as muscle soreness but in a chronic disease sufferer it can spell the start of a flare-up. It could also mean an injury due to a weakness in a certain area. So keep these things in mind:
·         Have you felt similar pain before or is it a new sensation.
·         Is the pain in a commonly affected area?
·         Do you have other symptoms such as swelling, discoloration, fatigue, fever or any other systemic symptom you find familiar to your disorder.
·         When in doubt, check it out.

3.       Slow your roll. Especially if you are starting a new fitness regime, slow down. There is no need to run a marathon in 2 weeks and it is crazy to think you should deadlift #350 your second week in CrossFit. Slow your pace and take your time. It may be that you need an extra rest day or two every week. When I started CrossFit, I had already spent a good 10 months gradually working up to high intensity training. And guess what, I needed more time acclimating. So for the first month, I only worked out 3 days a week. That second month I was able to go 4 days. Had I pushed too hard too fast, I may have thrown myself into a major flare-up.
4.       When you’re tired, rest! Fatigue can spell disaster. Not only can you injure yourself from sloppy form due to fatigue, but you are also not getting the most from your workout. Where exercise might invigorate someone else, it may deplete the chronic disease sufferer. Take a day and rest up, then hit it hard the next day. I didn’t take my own advice a month ago. I was so fatigued for over a week that every area of my life was affected. If only I had taken one more day of rest.
5.       Eat as healthy as you can for your body’s needs. I really don’t believe in one diet for everybody. Truth is, you need to find what works for you. I experimented around with different ways of eating to find my optimum intake. I’m still a work in progress but I tried going Vegan for 6 months, then Paleo. Now I’ve settled into a happy medium of whole foods, very little processed stuff and very little sugar. What is good for me and my disease may not be good for you. So experiment until you find that sweet spot.
6.       Roll with it baby. What’s the Serenity Prayer quote, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is a hard one for sure. Just when you think you have things all figured out, your system changes or your medication needs change. You cannot control it all, so control what you can. Make adaptions to your training if needed. Smart trainers can always find some kind of work-around to help you stay as active as possible. Don’t be afraid to adapt.
7.       Stay positive. It really does help to set your intensions on a positive course. Stress from repetitive negative thoughts can sink your mental game faster than you realize. Yes, sometimes things suck, but set about solving problems and not simply magnifying them in your mind. Research alternative therapies, food plans, and medications. Surround yourself with positive friends and or support groups. Write your feelings out. Pray or meditate. Set about formulating a plan of things you can do and stop the negative script of things you can’t do.
Chronic disease can be a tough row to hoe no doubt, but it may also open up opportunities for you to shine. Your firsthand knowledge may help others navigate a new diagnosis or lift another sufferer’s spirits. Who knows, you may be the encouragement someone needs to try to travel down the road to fitness or at least dream again of possibilities.

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.   
~William James

No comments:

Post a Comment

Whatcha thinkin'?