Rheumatoid arthritis and exercise – starting again

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spin class

Yesterday was my father’s funeral.  The last couple of months have been incredibly difficult.  He was in hospital for months, rallying and crashing, but ultimately there was no way for him to recover.  I knew this logically.  It was still a deep pain when it came.

During those months, I haven’t had time for much of anything…but I have had some time to think.

About life.  Priorities. Time. And what to do with it.

Do I want to keep blogging? Do I want to keep doing advocacy work?  There are a lot of negatives to continuing.  And yet, here I am writing a blog.

I’m writing because I want to write.  Because writing is therapy. Because I need someone to ‘talk’ to, and dear internet, you’re all I’ve got.  

I’m going to focus on the book I’m writing.  I’m actually writing a couple of books.  Pre-production and copious notes!  But time is always the issue.  My life is full. Its overflowing.  Kids, earning money. Living on the poverty line is not fun.  My business is doing well, and I’m very grateful for that.  Obviously when business is good, it takes a lot of time.  But I need the money.

A lot of things are still swirling. Feelings. People. Feelings about people.  Options.  Lawsuits.  So many things.  Those things will keep swirling.  And I will keep writing, because it helps me.  I need that time for me.  I’m resetting myself. And I’m resetting my blog.

Most importantly, I decided that I need to make exercise a priority again.  Since I was bluntly told to leave my old gym, my exercise has been sporadic. I’ve tried two different gyms, they both sucked. I even hired a personal trainer to help me get into the groove again. She sucked too. I have worked hard to find a form of exercise, a gym, something sustainable, something to replace what I lost.  My gym meant a lot to me.  When you’re overweight, chronically ill, in pain and alone, finding a gym where you feel comfortable is damn hard.  I’ve had people message me and tell me it’s ‘easier for you’. I really can’t see why.  I have zero confidence.

I have tried hard.  Yesterday, the day of my father’s funeral, I received an email about a new gym opening literally 1km from my home.  Its not cheap.  But it has spin classes.  It has HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes.  And it has a range of Les Mills classes.

Nirvana.

And that the email hit my inbox on the day where I was deeply reflective and making huge life decisions was also quite profound.

So I went and did a trial class today.  A 30-minute spin class. They called it ‘Sprint’. Whatever.  It was hard. And it was fun.  I burned about 500 calories and I used muscles I haven’t used in a long, long time.

My pain was fairly well controlled by my higher dose of oxycodone, prednisone and I took a Naprosyn today as well, an hour before the class so as to be the best I could be for the class. I made it the most important thing I did today, outside of caring for my kids and earning money. Those things have to come ahead of exercise. But only just.

The real trick about exercising regularly is deciding you’re going to make it a priority.  Just as important is finding something that you don’t hate.  For a lot of people, they don’t much enjoy exercise. It’s a chore. They don’t like puffing and getting sweaty.  Its not at all fun to them.

Here’s the tip. We all started that way. NO ONE likes exercise at first.  Its something you learn to love, for the way it makes you feel.  For the post exercise endorphins (your brain’s natural pain killers).  For the improved strength in your muscles. For the improved stamina when you have to walk a distance or climb a flight of stairs.  For the satisfaction of reaching goals, feeling stronger, feeling fitter, feeling happier within yourself.  The exercise itself is not fun. Its somewhere between uncomfortable and severe pain, every single time. It never gets easier.  But over time you feel those benefits, and so you keep going.

Almost anyone can do a spin class.  Its zero-impact and you’re in complete control of how hard (or otherwise) you work.  At my old gym, I used to go even on bad days, and just make the wheels go round gently.  The instructors knew about my rheumatoid arthritis, my lumbar spine disease, my neck issues and all the rest of it, so they didn’t push me. They knew that I knew what I was doing.  And they knew that I’m the type of person who doesn’t need motivation in the gym. My motivation is within me.  I work as hard as I can work, every single time.  So, if I’m sitting on the bike, gently pedalling, they knew that THAT is my max for that day.  That I’m giving it everything I have…even if it looks like a gentle ride to them.

It will take time for the people at this new gym to understand this.  The instructor yelled at me to work harder, put more load on, pedal faster.  I ignored her and listened to my body.  I worked up a hella sweat and felt the burn in my quads. Very pleasant. It has been too long.

She was actually really pissing me off, but she takes the lunchtime classes. I’m going to have to learn to like her.  So I gritted my teeth, and pulled some faces to show her that I AM working hard, put my head down and kept going.  Once she saw me start to sweat, she let up on me. 

I miss my old instructors, especially my favourite instructor at my old gym.  She always gave the easier options, the ‘joint safe’ adaptions, she never had to be asked, she just did.  If I was in a class, she accommodated me.  I hope I’ll find people like that at this new place, but even if I don’t, I know what to do.  And I will keep going.

So I signed up.  Crazy expensive, but the single most important thing I can do for my health, short of taking my medications, is exercise.  It is THAT important.  My business will pay for it.

I can’t control having rheumatoid arthritis. I can’t control my disease severity or progression.  I can’t magic myself healthy or make it all better.  I don’t have a choice about any of that.  What I DO have a choice about is how I manage my disease. How I manage the areas of my health that I CAN control.

And what I can control is now active I am, within the constraints of pain and fatigue.  But you know what? Exercise improves pain and fatigue, over time.  Exercise makes me stronger. Exercise makes me happier.

But those aren’t instant gratification effects.  Those things happen over time.  Over weeks and months.  They take determination. They take vision. They take patience.

Each session is pain.  Each session, I look for excuses not to go.  But each session is a victory.  Each session makes me a little fitter.  Each session makes me stronger.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am delighted you found your way to class. I perosnally cannot wait to on my bicycle next week. It has been so long and the boot / cast / breaks / surgery seems like it has gone on forever. As you go into winter doing classes makes sense. As i roll into summer I am all ready to be on my bicycle. Here’s to feeling better!!

    • Agreed! Here’s to feeling better :). Enjoy those bicycle rides, they’ll be extra sweet for all that time being unable to ride. I hope, anyway!

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