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Fitness Helping My Sickness

It’s been a while since I have done a blog post about fitness. Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post at all!Having said that I’m currently just searching for jobs and don’t have anything tying me down, but I feel so busy!Anyway – that’s a whole other topic (and possible post) so I won’t delve into it anymore for now.

As it’s been a while, I’ll do a quick, general update -

I have been on Hydroxychloroquine since 4th May, so 3 months now. About the time they say I will start feeling the effects. Apart from a bit of nausea and the horrible taste of the tablets, it has been an easy ride *touch wood*. I am still on the Sulfasalazine (1000mg) twice a day, which I think is also helping. It’s hard to compare to when I was on the Methotrexate as my lifestyle was so different – I was still at Uni and I was on placement, so my stress levels were HIGH. Don’t get me wrong, the stress of trying to find a job is exhausting too, but these last few months have definitely given my body a much-needed rest.

Which leads me on to my point…

Last year, when I wrote about fitness, I explained how there was so much I couldn’t do and how hard it was to do any type of exercise or workout because I would just instantly flare. I am now pretty much in the opposite position (give or take a few exercises). My body feels so much better after any exercise, even running has helped my knee. I’m at a point where I feel a flare coming on when I don’t do any exercise for a few days or so. As much as I love this – it doesn’t feel real. I am constantly worried that this spell of luck will run out. Anxious every time I do some exercise that this is the time my body is going to give up on me, let me down like it usually does. I feel like a ticking time bomb.

On the other hand, I feel guilty for being able to do so much, and able to enjoy exercise. Maybe because it’s been so long since I have been able to. Maybe because I’m just not used to it. Maybe because I see so many others who are unable to do as much, which leaves me thinking - why am I the lucky one who’s able to exercise? I feel like a fraud. How can I talk about my chronic illness, my aches, pains and fatigue when I can still do so much? I haven’t had a bad, bad day - a day where I can’t leave the house - in so long now, and I feel guilty for it. People still care for me and worry for me when I do exercise, but I’m fine, physically. However, mentally it’s strange – this is a ‘meant-to-be happy’ moment, but all I feel is guilt.

But, that is chronic illness.

It’s a part of chronic illness I must accept before I can even think about expecting anyone else to accept and understand it.

Being labelled as ‘disabled’ or ‘ill’, can give you a strange sense of pressure to actually look and come across that way, as in their eyes, that’s how you are ‘meant to be’. I have appreciated the chronic illness online community so much recently for continuing to remind me that my illness does not define me. This wonderful community have reminded me that I have a right to speak truthfully and share both my ups and downs; to have a bad day followed by a good one, to go from feeling terrible to absolutely fine. There is no right or wrong way to live with a chronic illness. All we can really do is take each day as it comes.

I feel like I can, and I do act differently around those who know about my arthritis and those who don’t. Part of this is because of others treating me differently and part of it is trying to prove a point to myself. There are sometimes when I just want to be around people who don’t know about that part of me, or I just want to be by myself so I can go into complete denial mode. I can pretend that I am fit and healthy, no questions asked.

On the flip side, there are times when I feel like I’m doing so badly at something that I try to use my arthritis as a reason why. An excuse. I guess in those moments, I hide behind my arthritis hoping no one will expect anything from me – it kind of feels half acceptable to be useless. It’s only just as I am writing this that I am realising how unhealthy this type of thought process is! No wonder I always feel on edge or distant and zoned out if this is all going on in my head 24/7.

There are two versions of me, and I don’t want to let either one go.

1) The me who accepts she has a chronic illness, battles through, remains open and honest about what she needs, and tries to make the best of it by reaching out to help others.

2) The me who denies, denies, denies; the fake one who arises when I need to forget the truth and pretend my RA doesn’t exist. I guess she’s my escape, though only ever temporary.

I think Ali 2 is who I am when I work out. When I’m enthralled in exercise, it’s time for me to get away from my thoughts and my self-doubt. When I’m lifting that weight, doing that routine or running that distance, I’m achieving and I feel like a different person. Ali 1 achieves too, just in a different way. As I am right now, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’m just one person again – not unless I moved to the other side of the world and changed my identity!

Anyway, I have slightly digressed, as per.

For many years now, I have tried and tried again to get into a routine with exercise. Every time my body has other ideas. Mainly my knees, which would flare up with any sort of exercise. So my relationship with exercise has always been strained; something I wanted to do, but couldn’t.

Since I finished my Master’s Degree earlier this year, I have done bits of exercise, workouts, walks, etc, and just been more active on the farm. Up and down with knee flares but plodding on. About 10 weeks ago, when my right knee was slightly flaring, I went on a run with a mate, ignoring all advice from family who insisted “running will hurt your knee”. It was about 6.5km and a combination of walking and jogging. Fairly steady for their usual time but I was so impressed. I could feel my knee slightly twinging but I was dosed up on painkillers and I had my @cannacares CBD patch on. My breathing control was horrendous (something I’ve always struggled with when running, I remember from school days), but I did it! 6.51km in 48 minutes around a beautiful reservoir in the Dales. I know a lot of people can do a 10k in that time, but I had never done a run before. I was always afraid it would ruin my knees, and that is what I was expecting the few days after – but, quite fantastically, my knee swelling went down, and the pain had pretty much gone!!!

I couldn’t quite believe it, so I waited a bit before going on another run and, being careful not to overdo it, my next one was shorter. Now I get it… now I know why people run!You’re in the zone, only trying to beat yourself, getting fresh air, clearing your head and feeling so accomplishedafterwards. Either with a friend or by myself, I love it. I may need to find a running partner once I get bored of running alone!!

Since then, I have joined a HIIT outdoor class run by the lovely Hannah @peak_wellbeing_ and done bits of workoutsat home on our indoor bike and home gym. I now know that cycling hurts more than running – I’d been doing it wrong for the last 5 years or more! I now know that I cannot push myself with squats or lunges, and not to punish myself for not being able to do them as much as other people can, or not being able to get as low as others can (or as low I have been able to before). In the class, Hannah is always so comforting and encouraging for us to alter each exercise to what is best for our own bodies – this kind of support goes a long way for someone like me and I am so grateful.

Even if I just do a little bit, it’s better than nothing and has a major, positive impact both physically and mentally. You would think after this long I would be able to remember that and accept it. If only it were that easy!

I am excited to learn more about what I can and can’t do and to continue developing this new, healthy relationship with exercise.

I’d love to hear your stories and fitness journey tales. If anyone is interested, I’d be happy to do a Q&A on fitness viamy website, Insta or Facebook.

It’s definitely something I hope to do some time on Chronically Connected once we get it up and running. For those who don’t know about Chronically Connected yet, check out my previous posts and the new Instagram page @chronicallyconnected21

Wish you all well and thank you for reading,

Al x

(Posting this on our weekend trip away - look how windy the north west beach is 😂)

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