Rheumatoid arthritis and exercise – my first HIIT class


I did it. I went to my first HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class at my new gym.  I walked in like I’d been going there for years, put a big smile on my face and found the room…empty.  Bit anti-climactic. Especially as I’d been sitting in the car for ten minutes getting up the courage to walk in.

Less than a minute later people started filing in.  Lots of them. One of them was a staff member, he walked over to me and had a chat. I told him I was a newbie. He told me the instructor would be there shortly and suggested I warm up on the bikes.  Which I did.

And I looked around the room.  Big room, lots of stations set up.  Like a big circuit class. Cool.  New to me, and I knew I’d have to adapt some exercises, but it looked ok.  Plenty of room, plenty of gear, lots of space.  Great.

The whole room was painted black, and at the front, a big banner saying “Attitude is Everything”.

As more people arrived, I started to feel very intimidated.  Cool, young people. Fit people.  Lots of girls wearing expensive gym labels. I’m in my old, faded Target bargain rack gear.  Lots of guys, fit guys.  And attractive, fit girls. And they all know each other, they’re all chatting, laughing, having fun. 

I feel so out of place. I sit on my bike and keep the wheels turning, and I want to bolt!   Panic starts rising, I fight to keep it down.   Smile.  Force a smile on my face.  Look around the room, smile when someone meets my eye.  Look at the tv screen which has the workout ahead listed on there.  Lots of exercises.  Can I do them all?  No. But I can do versions of them all.

I’m not going to leave. I’m going to stand my ground. I’m going to do this workout and I’m going to love it.  I can do this.

Then the instructor arrives, along with a girl who looks a little more like me.  Not as large as I am, but she was carrying some extra weight.  I smiled at her, she smiled back.  I walked over and said ‘Hi’ and made some small talk.  Newbie talk. First class.  She joined last week.  She told me her name, and I’ve forgotten.

Warm up began, and then we were to split into groups and choose a station to start at.  I asked if I could join her, and she was friendly and happy for me to follow her lead.

And then the work began. 

There were ten stations:

Good mornings

Bench press

TRX Tricep Extensions

Slam ball squat, clean and press then slam

Plate overhead lunge

Goblet squats

Wall ball side throws

Front raises

Barbell squat

Sled push

Each station was three sets of 40 seconds, as many reps as possible.  Then ten seconds of rest.  Then move onto the next station.

I had to adapt a few exercises.  I either used the lightest weights, or no weight at all.   I was clearly a newbie, but no one was looking. Everyone was focussing on their own workout. Not looking at me trying to figure out what I’m doing.

It was a great workout.  It was exhausting, and I gave it everything I had.  As I always do.  I used some muscles that I haven’t used in a long, long time.  I did some exercises I’ve never done before.  But now I feel great! 

Some of my joints gave me trouble with some exercises.  Anything that hurt, I changed.  Its my workout, I can do it my way.  As long as my technique is sound.  The instructor was good and asked me how I found it at the end of class. I told him I’m definitely going to join.

I wanted to explain to him why I was adapting everything, my rheumatoid arthritis, my partially paralysed left leg, nerve compression, left sided weakness, my hearing impairment which meant I often couldn’t hear him, so I was often doing the wrong thing.  But I also didn’t want to tell him. I didn’t need to. It didn’t matter.  Maybe next time, I don’t know. Right now, I just want to be anonymous. 

But I have found the gym I’ve been looking for.  And tomorrow, I’ll be sore!  But I like a bit of muscle soreness.  It tells me I worked hard enough.  It reminds me that I did something positive for my body, for my health, for myself.

And tomorrow, I will do it again.


  1. Unlurking …

    When my hip isn’t a ball of fire like now, I enjoy HIIT classes. Mostly do them on my own at home due to work commitments. Have learned that ‘timed’ repetitions are the worst for my joints, but extreme variation is great. Good at leg stuff and weights, useless at weight bearing on my wrists. Ignore the fit young things and have your own fun, especially since I currently can’t 🙂

    • Exactly right! have your own fun, do your own thing. You know you. Awesome attitude and good for you Anne. Its hard to exercise, it takes a whole lot of effort and a pain tolerance from hell…but you do it. You rock! 🙂


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