I know, “me, exercise?” to heal pain — I don’t know if I can do that — I’m in so much pain already. These were words I often said when my chronic pain was so bad I was barely moving much less exercising. But there are many different levels and different kinds of exercise. My favorites are walking, dancing, yoga and cross country skiing personally but even these can be done on VERY different levels.
Even when I was feeling my worst pain I would try and drag myself to my yoga/dance class (45 minutes of each) once a week. Yes, I did sometimes feel worse the next day because of it but my body and spirit felt wonderful while I was there. Then I was told by my rheumatologist that because I had Benign Hypermobility Syndrome I was actually making my body worse by hyper-extending my joints while doing yoga and that pilates would be much better for me and walking was really the best exercise of all. Although I can see the benefits of pilates the breathing always felt a bit unnatural to me compared to yoga. I tried some short pilates workouts but it didn’t resonate within me the way yoga and dance did. I needed something else.
I had always been a walker. Growing up in NYC will make you one! But since becoming ill I became filled with the negative self-talk that a walk would “wear me out”. It wasn’t until I met my friend Angela and we discovered what a great walk — walking to the dock in the nearby park was that I literally DRAGGED myself to go along with her even if my body was crying in pain. The talks on that walk helped my spirit tremendously and I was starting to lose some of the weight I had put on taking the pain killers and not going to yoga dance anymore. I realized how much my weight affected my self-confidence and energy level. When I put on 20 lb. I really felt the effort of moving my body around. When I lost it I felt lighter and more full of energy.
I know when the pain is bad it is an effort to get out of bed. I know starting an exercise program can seem “impossible” but your spirit and self-confidence will benefit tremendously from it. If you haven’t exercised in a while baby-steps are needed and you might even have to consult a doctor before starting. A walk around the block might be where you start or a walk down your driveway and back…. baby steps are better than no steps. The fresh air alone can work wonders. For me, while I can enjoy walks by myself I find it easier to go if I have a friend who would go as well — not as easy to back out of it. Again, once a week is better than no times a week. 3 times a week is better than 1 time a week. The most important thing is putting no pressure on yourself and listening to your body.
Have you gained too much weight to want to walk around in public or take a public class? I know my self-confidence was low when I saw all the tiny women walking around my neighborhood and I felt I looked “fat” in my workout clothes (the ones I could still fit in!)… I know I was over-exaggerating how I looked (always my hardest critic) but I knew also that I needed to be totally comfortable to stick to ANY kind of exercise. An option for not wanting to be out exercising is to buy a treadmill and consult with your doctor about a program good for you. They come as inexpensive as $400 now or you can get one with a ton of features for under $1500. This is a good option because it allows you to walk all year even if you are in an area that has severe seasons as upstate NY definitely has! You could even put it in front of a TV or right by a stereo so you are a bit distracted and aren’t focusing JUST on the fact that you are exercising.
Any way you decide to do it ANY exercise is better than no exercise. It helps to strengthen the body, lose weight, build self-confidence and the result is less pain.