Guest Blog: Fitness and Fibro
written by Lindsey (IG: @FightMyFs)
Exercising when you have chronic fatigue is really difficult. Add in near constant pain of some sort and level and it is even harder. I’m lucky in that exercise generally does make me feel better. I very rarely have that natural endorphin high many fitness addicts claim to find, but I do feel much better about myself if I exercise.
Years ago, before I had my son, I was really quite fit. I loved using the gym; I went horse riding, running and kickboxing. Don't get me wrong, I’ve never been slim but I was strong. That’s not to say I was happy with how I looked, I was not! But I did feel pretty good physically.
One of the reasons I chose to move to Guernsey was for a more outdoors lifestyle. Our first year here we walked 5 to 10 miles every Saturday and Sunday. We visited every nook and cranny of the island, we even walked during a near hurricane! We spent hours playing in the sea and even more hours looking in rock pools. I walked 20 odd miles along our beautiful cliff paths. And then one weekend I was just too tired. So we didn’t walk. And then the next weekend I was tired, so we stayed home.
I don’t think I really noticed this decline in my fitness to start with, and looking back I don’t know which came first - the decline in my fitness or the decline in my health. I remember my son asking, at some point during this time, if we still had friends. Being with other people was just so exhausting for me that I’d stopped making plans. Plus, the friends that I’d made here all liked to be outdoors like I did! I was too embarrassed to admit I couldn’t keep up anymore. I thought I had just got run down and unhealthy. I chastised myself and tried to push myself harder. I forced myself out and about to do things.
It took being unable to walk one day to go to the doctors. I was convinced they would just call me fat and tell me I was being lazy. That was a year ago and it took another 10 months to finally get a diagnosis. When you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia they tell you to exercise. I had previously joined the gym to get my doctor to agree to gallbladder surgery so I was already seeing a personal trainer once a week. My personal trainer specialises in people with disabilities, illnesses or obesity, so he is able to understand why I can’t do things one day that I could the week before. I was referred to the gym by my doctors, it makes my membership much cheaper and is something I highly recommend if you are new to exercise or struggling with ill health. I ‘graduated’ from the programme I was referred into quickly as I was already comfortable in the gym, but it still makes my gym membership half what it would be otherwise.
Committing to a regimen when you are chronically fatigued is really, really difficult, which means it is slow getting results. I only have 3 times a week that I can go to the gym and it takes a real commitment from me to go. I have a rule that I have to go, but I don’t have to stay. This way I stay committed to my routine but I’m not pushing myself too hard on days I simply can’t do it. Of course there are some days, like last weekend, where there is no point going as I’m simply too unwell. I’d like to say I don’t feel guilty about not being able to go but I think I do. I certainly feel the same anxiety I used to on these days. It’s a feeling in the pit of my stomach, almost like butterflies. It’s some dark recess of my brain whispering quietly that I’m not good enough and I’m being lazy. I try to ignore it, sit back, relax and give my body the rest it clearly needs - but the nagging feeling is there and won’t go away.
I can gauge how well I will do in the gym, on the days I make it, by how easy it is to walk up the stairs to it! Some days I practically glide up them. These are the days I can really push myself. I can get in some good cardio and actually get out of breath. I can use free weights and pulleys and do weighted lunges. Then there’s the days I struggle with the stairs. When I’m so fatigued my legs feel like lead and going up one more step is like heading out from Everest base camp. These days I make myself get on the bike and see what happens. I usually get to about 5 minutes, sometimes only 3. I then use the weight machines. I need to sit as I get waves of dizziness between sets (this is normal for people with fibro and I have been cleared by my doctor to exercise) I have 4 weight weight machines that I make myself do and then if I need to, I leave. Sometimes I find the endorphins start to flow and I can continue and do more.
Getting results is slow going but I do feel stronger and I’ve doubled the weights I’m lifting in the last few months since I also started eating better. The pain in my ankles and wrists has lessened considerably and, obviously, my mental health has massively improved. These are good enough reasons for me to push through the fatigue and pain and keep up my routine. I appreciate this isn’t the same for everyone and I know I’m lucky at the moment. I’m grateful that I can exercise; a year ago I could not have contemplated it.
Hi, my name’s Lindsey. I’m a 38 single mum to one wonderful son. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia about 3 months ago however I have probably been suffering for years. I started my blog, ‘Fighting my Fs’, as a way to help me process my feelings about my mental health, binge eating, fibromyalgia and being an autistic parent (self diagnosed) to an autistic child (professionally diagnosed). I’ve worked hard over the last year or so to improve my mental health and feel I’m in a place now where I can talk about my experiences, and hopefully help other people feel less alone. Having worked on my mental health, I am now focussed on improving my physical health and my blog tracks my fat to fit with fibro journey. You can find my blog at http://fightingmyfs.data.blog or on facebook @FightingMyFs or instagram @FightMyFs. I look forward to seeing you there :)