Now these two words you wouldn’t expect to go together but they do, hand in hand. The more you improve your fitness level the better you can manage your symptoms.
I have always been an averagly active person, I am a member of the gym, lift weights, do a little cardio. You know the drill but it wasn’t until I became ill that I really started to take it all seriously. Prior to becoming ill I would work out 2-3 times a week, maybe. Probably less. On average around 10 times a month.
Now I workout on average 6 times a week,that includes 3 weight lifting sessions, pilates, hiit, cycling and yoga. Now I know it sounds a lot, especially for someone who has chronic pain syndrome but it’s not. It works out to be approximately 245 minutes of exercise a week, only 40 minutes a day. Totally manageable, if you are having a good day.
Since implementing a very structured workout routine, I have noticed my symptoms of POTS and fibromyalgia improving. My chest pains and shortness of breath are reduced, my energy levels are up and I experience less aches and pains. Seeing these positive results makes it so much easier to stick at it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I am tired or have over done it. On these days I either take a rest day or I will opt for a lighter workout. Yes most of the time I try and cycle 10km in a session but so what if I only manage 3 or 5. It’s the getting up and doing it that matters. I will also swap things around if I don’t have the energy for a weight session at the gym but can manage 20 minutes of yoga, then yoga it is. Having a wide range of activities in my schedule makes it easy to adapt to my day to day situation.
A typical weight session will look like a 3-5 minutes warm up rowing, followed by 5 sets of 5 reps (heavy) on a compound movement like squats or chest press then its onto 4 sets of 10 reps of arm or leg related weight machines. All finished off with a 7 minute cycle. Always making sure I am alternating compound movements and other exercises to reduce muscle group burn outs. My other works out such as pilates, hiit and yoga are just following YouTube videos at home and cycling is just 10km on the turbo trainer (one of the best things I have invested in along with a yoga mat).
Prior to working out this way, I felt like my illness controlled me, now I feel like 90% of the time I am in control. Maybe its feeling stronger or maybe its mental determination. Who knows but I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
If you feel stuck in a rut with chronic illness and working out, my advice would be make a plan, try and stick to it for a couple of weeks. Don’t be too hard on yourself but if you have set aside 20 minutes to workout that day. Show up for yourself and workout. Even if it is just stretching. Slowly but surely you can build up to a solid routine and hopefully improve your symptoms too.