Fitness for fibromyalgia sufferers

Fitness, Help for sufferers, Posts

24/08/2018

I’m really unfit, no joke. I can’t even walk upstairs without getting breathless. It’s not because I am overweight, though, I just don’t have the muscle strength.

At 5.2″, I’m only tiny, but once upon a time I used to be pretty strong for my size. That all changed when I was diagnosed, because muscle weakness took over. Now, I’m back at square 1 and determined to get on track again. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, your health gets even worse when you spend 18 months in bed.

Today, for the first time in 2 years, I used a gym. I didn’t do much, only 25 minutes, but I feel so much better. I’m happier than I was an hour ago, and my body feels fresh and energised. I don’t want to hide under the covers any more. Best of all, I have a good excuse to have an hour to myself for a relaxing bath.

My plan is this:

After today, I’ve got another week or so with the same schedule, so let’s see if I can work out every day, and push myself to do more. I’ll use my usual pacing routine to stay within my fibro limits, but aim to add an extra set of reps to each exercise per day, so that I can gradually progress. I’ll update you in two weeks time. Let’s see if I can beat my best.

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1/11/2019 (14 *ish* months later)

Okay so that didn’t work. I felt great about myself for the rest of the day, and then I slipped back into my old ways. In fact, I ended up feeling so crap within the next week or so that I stopped blogging and forgot all about this post… until today.

If you read my post from yesterday, you will know that I put a load of weight on, and then started to lose it again. So what does this mean? Well, for starters, exercise does really work. If you burn those calories, you will lose weight. However, you need to do it sustainably. This means doing exercise that you can keep up with on a regular basis, that will last you forever (or at least for a long time). My plan had no sustainability at all. For a healthy person wanting to exercise, it would be great, but I didn’t take into account that I have to work around my health.

I realised this year that the large amount of walking that I did at school and then at university was what kept me slim. It was super sustainable since I had to do it anyway, and it was a simple walking route that I did repetitively with little variation, making it easy to manage. Then, moving to live on top of a hill (uh oh) plus losing my usual routine, meant that I suddenly didn’t walk everywhere like I used to. It took a while to get myself back to normal, and when I did, it was by using my pre-existing daily activities as exercise.

I decided to focus on increasing my activity levels mostly when I was doing something useful. For example, I found it difficult to wash the dishes because it hurt to stand there, and I got a lot of brain fog and would end up dropping my favourite ceramics. The sink had started to pile up, and I felt nauseous when I thought about washing dishes. Instead, I put some music on, and did what I could whilst singing along (plus occasional dancing). It kept my legs and back moving so they didn’t seize up, and the singing prevented the brain fog from kicking in. I ended up doing a full set of dishes, no problem, and the clean sink actually made me feel good for once. I now do this every other day in small doses, and haven’t smashed a glass in a couple of months.

More often than not, it turned out that I was procrastinating the easiest stuff, and actually, my life was a lot easier when I just did it. The little extra  bits of activity built up throughout the day to burn more energy, too, so I started to feel and look a lot healthier. In the end, I nearly doubled my steps, just by doing what I wanted, rather than putting it off out of laziness or fear. The best bit is, the more you do, the more normal it feels, so over time, you can gradually build yourself up to having a more active lifestyle, whilst getting something enjoyable (and useful) out of it too.

I’m not super slim anymore, and I’d still call myself overweight, but I am much more active than I was a few months back. I can sometimes run up the stairs, I can carry more than one bag of shopping again, and I don’t find it quite as difficult to have a shower anymore. I’d say that’s an improvement, right? I can’t call it a miracle cure or anything, but simply doing that extra little thing that I had been putting off every day or so has gradually led to a better version of me. I still don’t do exercise, and haven’t stepped foot in a gym since I last mentioned, but I find my exercise though my daily tasks instead, and it’s just enough for me.

Share with us below; what is your favourite routine? Do you get much exercise or will you be starting something new? I’d love to hear about your progress, or if there was anything you learned to avoid after your diagnosis.

Travelling with illnesses: what I was told.

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

So I’ve got an apology to make. I haven’t posted anything in over two weeks. This is partly because I have been suffering (more on that soon), but also because I’ve been jetsetting.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in a beautiful little country called Laos, making an attempt to help those less fortunate than me. Not only has it been one of my lifelong goals to travel, but spending time there helped me to improve who I am as a person, and truly push my limits to the max.

Of course, traveling with fibro, or indeed any other chronic disability, can be a bit of a challenge. Whether it be the plane journey, the climate differences, or the new activities; travelling can be a pain (literally!).

Throughout the next week, I’m going to be sharing a little about what I did over in Laos, along with giving some helpful tips for you to remember the next time you’re abroad.

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions I was given whilst away, that you might like to try out for yourself…

1. Be mindful.

I was told that one of the most important parts of looking after your body involves being able to listen to what it has to tell you.

Next time you have a quiet five minutes, get yourself comfy and listen. Start by breathing slowly and deeply, counting your breaths and feeling your body relax as you do. Then, focus on each part of your body, starting at your toes and working up to your head, and allow yourself to feel what’s going on there. Forget about your stress, forget about the outside world, just focus on you. Once you reach the top of your crown, allow your mind to accept and then let go of those feelings, and then concentrate back on your breathing.

This time, try and empty your mind, and allow any new thoughts, feelings, or worries to float through your mind and be let go. Spend a few moments like this, allowing your mind and body to relax and push aside any mental or physical problems for the moment.

2. Get a massage.

Sometimes, having a massage can really help you to relax, and what better way is there to treat yourself than to soothe your body and ease any achy muscles? Next time you have some spare cash, book yourself in to your local spa; or if you prefer to spend a little less, get a close friend or family member to spend some time with you for a pamper evening, where you can help each other.

3. Try yoga.

Personally, I haven’t had the chance to properly test this one out yet, but loads of people have told me that it is worth the effort.

Start simple and spend five minutes each day stretching out your body and focusing on breathing exercises. As you adjust, build up your routine to focus on longer, more complicated yoga positions. If you need inspiration, just try searching your fave social media for some yoga advice, as it is a popular hobby that is widely available online.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share, or an idea to try? Or, maybe you have something to say about what I’ve shared? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this read!

Thanks guys!

What is ‘pacing’ and how can it help my fibro?

Help for sufferers, Posts, Work

Plenty of people with chronic illnesses like to talk about pacing, but if you’re newly diagnosed or have only recently started looking for advice, then you might not know what this is.

Pacing is a method of coping with the fatigue-like symptoms often associated with chronic conditions such as fibro. It involves creating a broken down or spread out routine, so that tasks can be separated into smaller, more manageable chunks. This ensures that you can concentrate longer on tasks by giving yourself small rest breaks in between.

For example, I like to split up my daily chores, study sessions, and various errands by having at least five to ten minutes of nothing for every hour or so. After a while, I have a larger break, and if I’m struggling, I will increase the frequency of my breaks. If you don’t like to sit and do nothing, try doing something easy that takes little energy (mental, physical, or otherwise) and is a distraction from your task.

(N.B: From here on it gets complicated, so you might want to skip the next paragraph if you dont fancy the heavy reading!)

The next question is this; how do you figure out your rest to work ratio? Well first of all, you need to spend some time figuring out how long you can go before you lose the will to live. This is how long you can go before you need a big break. Then, try and count how many times within this you get distracted; this is how many mini breaks you need. Spread them evenly within the time frame, and aim for between five and fifteen minutes for each break. you can alter this to your taste later, if necessary.

If all of this sounds too complicated, just remember to aim for 3:9:10 (for every 3 hours, have 9 equally spaced lots of 10 minute breaks, so every 20 minutes have a break). Or, have a 10 minute break every so often if you can’t keep count. Don’t forget as well that you can mix up the same ratio for smaller or larger amounts of time, and for every 3 hours, have at least half an hour or more to recuperate.

Most importantly, though, is to remember that you aren’t aiming to get loooaaaddss done, but to work at an efficient pace that keeps you healthy and happy. If you can’t do as much as you thought, that’s okay. Just stop for the day and adjust accordingly tomorrow.

If you like my pacing method or think you have something to input, please help us all out and let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

My latest obsession

Posts, Uncategorized

So I have a confession to make…

I have a bit of an addiction to houseplants. They’re pretty, easy to look after, and university friendly. What could possibly go wrong? Well…

Here’s the thing: having fibro means that you often do silly things out of boredom, and very easily create obsessions to occupy the time when you’re stuck in bed. I got a bit of an obsession with all of the pretty houseplants that I’d seen on Tumblr and Pinterest, and it got a slightly out of hand. Every time I saw an interesting plant, I had to buy it. I spent a FORTUNE.

It doesn’t make it any better that I miss my animals whilst I’m away at university, so I’ve replaced them with a windowsill full of greenery (well I had to find SOMEWHERE to put my affections, right!?). Having plants gives me something to do when I feel well, and something to look at when I’m not. The best bit is that you can choose plants that rely on very little water, so that you don’t have to spend too much time on maintenance, especially when you’re poorly.

Anyway, house plants are pretty good for fibro sufferers (much easier than a dog) and also for tenants who aren’t allowed pets, but they can get pretty expensive. I daren’t tell you how much I’ve spent perfecting my windowsill!

If you fancy starting your own collection, look into buying cacti, succulents, and other common houseplants that require low maintenance. You can pick them up from all over nowadays, most of mine are from my local Lidl supermarket, and I’ve even got a few from the carboot. If you want a good deal, look out for the plants that look a little bit worse for ware. As long as they still have healthy growth and aren’t too far gone, you can usually bring them back to life. My favourite part about that is that the shop usually wants rid of the ones that aren’t doing well, because they are less likely to sell, so you can normally get them at a reduced price.

My favourite plant from my own personal bunch is a spider plant. It fills out the space in my room and, best of all, sprouts loads of new growths. This means that I can snip them off and pot them up, thus giving me loads of new little ones (yay!). I’m currently waiting for my ten spider plant babies to grow a little so that I can pot them nicely and send then as gifts to the people I love.

Let us know if you have any interesting hobbies that are fibro friendly, because it’s great to have an obsession when you’re stuck in bed feeling low. Also, if you have any houseplants that you care for, I’d love to hear your advice. Last but not least, don’t forget to like and comment so I know I’m posting the good stuff!

Five things I don’t need to worry about (but do anyway).

Depression, Help for sufferers, Posts

Keeping this short and sweet, here is my take on five things that most fibro sufferers will worry about at some point (but have no reason to).

1. Going out by myself.

I went through a stage last Christmas where I fainted quite a lot. I put this down to either medication, stress, or some unknown co-morbidity. Regardless, it became an issue. I couldn’t go outside without a friend or family member because I worried that I might faint. This anxiety got so bad that it caused panic attacks. I’m much better now, but I still worry when I am by myself in public.

2. What will happen if I choose to stop my meds?

I take a type of SNRI antidepressant which has a dual effect in dulling my pain and lifting my low mood. Unfortunately, these types of drugs can cause serious addictions and, if I choose to come off of them, I will have severe withdrawal symptoms. Don’t worry, I’m not an addict and I don’t have a drug problem, however my body sometimes becomes unresponsive to the drug, meaning that I have built a tolerance for it. Unfortunately, this is a common marker in predicting future cases of withdrawal syndrome. On the plus side, however, there is plenty of support available and my doctor will ensure that I withdraw as smoothly as possible.

3. What if people just think I’m lazy?

I can’t deny it, I sometimes feel like I’m just a lazy, unmotivated hypochondriac. If I think that, then what must others think? To an outsider, fibro must seem really stupid, and I’ve had loads of people judge me to be lazy (even some really close friends!). Unfortunately, it turns out that I’m not just bluffing my way out of hard work, however I’ve had way too many people comment otherwise. From overly personal queries about my finances to judgmental references about being ‘bored’ or ‘lonely’, I’ve heard it all. All I can say is this, I do get bored and I do get lonely, but I can’t really do much about it when I have no way of getting out of bed. And when it comes to finances, well, I’d be the first to jump up at the opportunity of a job, except I can’t jump up in the first place. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter as long as I am content and not harming anyone.

4. Fibro will stop me from getting a job.

Like I’ve just said, I would love to have a job. It would keep me busy, it would keep me fit, and it would keep me motivated. Most importantly, however, it would mean that I have enough money to live off. As it stands, there aren’t any jobs which are flexible enough for my disabilities. I’d like to be able to explain this to all of those judgemental people out there who have had something to say about my current lifestyle, but nobody really wants to listen. Therefore, I’m currently working towards getting a job which will be suitable, hence why I have started this blog. At the moment though, I need to get my game face on.

5. The people who matter to me will be scared away.

Well, what can I say? Over the last year I’ve had a big change in friends. Not only is this due to leaving for university, but also because those who I thought were there for me when it mattered most weren’t. On the other hand, I’ve built a beautiful family out of those who did stay, and even found my wonderful boyfriend, who has always been there for me despite the circumstances.