Slow and Steady Exercise is the Key
My husband and I met at culinary school in New York about 20 years ago. We worked as chefs for years in various places around the United States. We ended up loving Colorado for its beauty and have been living in Colorado Springs for about 18 years.
Being a chef was fun but extremely hard on one’s body. Around 9 years ago I was having pain in both hands. Doctors couldn’t figure out the problem and ended up labeling it “Chronic Overuse Syndrome.” I believe it is a term they use when they can’t help you any more. They told me to stop using my hands. Finding it enormously difficult to be a chef and not use my hands, I quit my job as an executive chef and part owner of a catering company and decided to become a full-time mom. I was crushed to have to give up my love of playing with food professionally and had to rearrange how I did things to ease my hand pain (there were no drugs that helped).
Seven years ago, I had a second child. Shortly after his birth, I started feeling awful. My shoulders hurt, my neck and back hurt, and I had a general feeling of malaise. I kept waiting for it to pass. When I realized it wasn’t going away no matter how much Ibuprofen I took, I decided to go to my doctor. I remember telling my husband, “It’ll just be a quick fix and I’ll be outta there.”
Unfortunately, they diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. It was like a slap in the face. Another chronic pain issue?! How was I going to live with this one, too?! They told me there was no cure, and I had to find what was right for me to feel comfortable. This was a very low point in my life.
Over the years, I have tried a lot of different remedies and therapies to ease my symptoms. I read a lot about FM in hopes of someday finding more information to help me with my pain. The one thing I keep finding when I read about FM is how important exercise is.
I used to be very active. After my first child was born, before the FM, to lose weight I would walk a lot. I could go for an hour or more daily and walk to shed my extra pounds. After getting FM, I tried the same level of activity, but it made me feel sick. I would have to take a hot shower or lie down in bed to try to ease the pain when I was done. I kept reading how exercise was supposed to help!
Then, somewhere, I read to start slowly. Instead of forcing myself into a 20 minute walk, I put myself on a ‘slow’ program. Every day for 2 to 3 weeks, I walked 5 minutes. I did this on my treadmill so I wouldn’t have to worry if I made it down the street but couldn’t make it back. After that I would walk 6 minutes a day for a couple weeks. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was for me to go so slow! I was used to walking an hour at a time, but I can tell you it was worth working up to where I am now.
Presently, I can walk 30-40 minutes at a time at a brisk pace. We have a beautiful area near our house called “Garden of the Gods,” with red rocks and Rocky Mountains in the distance. It is a peaceful place to walk and now hills and dirt trails are not a problem for me. I realized over a period of time, that through all of the remedies I had tried, exercise made the biggest impact on my pain than anything.
A year ago I saw a sign for a Jazzercise class in my neighborhood. I had been wanting to find something else fun to do for exercise, since the cold weather can keep me from walking outside. I had been lifting light weights on a Bow flex machine which I also enjoy but finding something close to home that would be fun seemed interesting. I called the instructor of the class to get some information. The instructor told me that she has Lupus and that exercise has been helping her feel better as well.
I joined the class and did the low impact version of everything. The class goes for an hour, which includes warm up, weights, aerobic dance and cool down. Over time I have noticed I can do more, maybe jump a little, my stamina is better and it made me feel really good.
Exercise is a very important part of helping me control my pain. Sometimes even if I don’t feel my best, I still go to my Jazzercise class because I know in the long run, it will help me feel better. I find that when I put exercise on the back burner and don’t go regularly, that is when I feel the worst.
I found it very important to “listen to my body.” If I don’t feel well enough to do something, I don’t. I find that pushing myself is not a must, listening to what my body is telling me is what’s important. And what it is telling me is that being active definitely has benefits when you have FM. I know it is hard to understand how you can possibly be active when you feel so awful. The key for me was starting SLOWLY!