Monday, January 16, 2012

On Exercise

I was a very athletic kid. Most sports came very naturally to me and I loved them all. I was always outside shooting hoops or riding bike or playing something or the other with neighborhood kids. I played basketball at school through junior high and stopped playing only because I decided to focus more on music. However, I continued to be fairly active. In college, I could often be found playing frisbee. I also got into yoga and weight lifting.

My current, post-MS activity and exercise levels are very much lacking. A few years ago I joined a gym and had a very dedicated schedule. I worked out several times a week and pretty intensely. Then I had a neuro appointment, where I complained that my pain had been consistently really bad for quite a while. It took about two seconds for the doc to figure out why - the exercise. It's a troubling catch 22. Exercise is good for overall health and helps certain MS-related issues like energy levels and constipation. BUT for those of us with the delight of nerve pain, it very much exacerbates the problem. Also, exercising too intensely can cause overheating issues which can make all symptoms worse AND can make fatigue significantly worse. After that appointment, I pretty much stopped working out totally.

I used to LOVE that post-workout feeling after a really hard, intense, vigorous workout. It was hard work and I was worn out, but somehow also totally energized and felt incredible. Endorphins are awesome. This no longer happens, ever. If I work out at that intense, vigorous level that used to leave me feeling amazing, strong, and invincible, I now feel completely and utterly defeated, a limp noodle unable to even imagine doing any physical activity ever again. PLUS I'm in overwhelming, agonizing pain.

So, I'm in a tough place. I want to and intend to work out at a moderate level regularly, but I hardly ever do. I know that I need the various positive effects of the exercise BUT I am so terrified of making my pain worse. It's already bad enough too often. And I would love to experience an energy boost from working out, but I'm afraid of not finding the magic spot where I get this boost and instead get the total system shutdown effect.

in the pool with my niece and our hippo friend

My doc recommended getting in the pool as the very best thing I could do. Too bad I'm not a swimmer. However, I do currently live at a place with a pool and I have used it and find I can get a decent workout without exacerbating my problems too much. It's still not my natural habitat, though. I need to make it a consistent, regular habit to get in the pool. I also need to consistently lift weights and do yoga. A friend and I just started an accountability program where we check in with each other once a week about our progress in certain areas. For me, it's working out. My current weekly goal is lifting weights at least once a week and some form of cardio at least twice a week. This first week I only swam once, so there is definite room for improvement.

Any tips on how to make exercise a positive part of your life?

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