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.

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!

Beat back the fog in five simple steps

fibro fog, Help for sufferers, Posts

Having fibromyalgia has many a downside, but one of the most irritating (and most overlooked) issues of the condition is fibro fog. From losing your glasses (check the top of your head) to forgetting an important appointment, the fog ruins us all at some point. Here are five simple steps to get the worst of it under control…

1. Establish a routine.

If you set a daily routine, it helps to keep track of those pesky things that love to disappear, such as your glasses and keys. I like to leave my keys in the same place each day so that I know that they will definitely be there when I need them. Likewise, checking for That Important Thing every time you do a certain task can help to set up a routine.

2. Set reminders on your phone.

I ALWAYS forget to take my meds, as in, I forget my meds every. single. day. To combat this, I have two reminders set on my phone, one at my usual wake up time, and one a few hours later, just in case. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and it’s prevented countless numbers of flares.

3. Invest in a diary, journal, or planner.

Planners are useful for getting down those daily events that often slip your mind, and getting a little pocket diary means that you can take it everywhere for when you need it the most. Appointments, anniversaries, contacts, and to do lists can all be jotted down, and you can even take note of any important symptoms or fibro issues that you think are important. This way, you have an ‘external hard drive’ for your brain.

4. Load up on post it notes.

If there’s something you know you will forget, there’s nothing better than a huge glowing sign to remind you. Although not quite huge or glowing, an easy trick to help you to remember something is to leave your future self a post it. They have the added benefit of being colourful, sticky, and small enough to take with you, so you can use them anywhere and anytime. Write down a quick message and stick it where you’re sure to see it (mirrors, doors, the kettle, your fave snack).

5. Learn to ‘pace’.

Pacing is a technique often used by people with chronic illnesses which allows them to function for longer. Although it primarily helps with fatigue, it is also good for curbing mental exhaustion and cloudiness. Set out daily goals with steps towards each one, but make sure that they are small and achievable with breaks in between. Remember, set yourself a limit and do not exceed it. This way, you are less likely to spur on any foggy moments that would usually be caused by tiredness.

Have you got any of your own ideas? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to like the post so I can see that I’m not just talking to myself *awkward laughter*.