Updated: Sep 26
Hello! I’m back ... me and my big fat pen (head to the ACCESSORIES page on my website to order yours!)
I wanted to spend this time talking about exercise and fitness. I think with the current lockdown situation we’re all living through, this can apply to absolutely anyone right now.
So, let’s dive in - Who likes exercise? Who hates exercise? And who just sits on the fence?
This may be quite an unpopular opinion, but since my diagnosis, I have had a better relationship with exercise (I hope you all sung the Radio 1 Greg James song too!). I feel that I definitely took being able to exercise, or even just move freely, for granted before my diagnosis, and because of that I make sure to make the most of exercising when I can now. In truth, when I didn’t exercise back before my diagnosis, it was because I was being lazy. I wasn’t bothered about getting fit, even though my Dad was constantly saying “you want to get fit and strong now or you’ll be too old” or “you need to be fit and strong to be a physio”.
I always enjoyed sports, but I was never good at them. My knees have been dodgy since my skiing accident in 2011 when I tore my MCL on the third day of a school ski trip. The worst thing was that I wasn’t even going fast. In fact, it felt as if I was about stopped, then I went straight into a snow pile! My boots didn’t come off the skis and I twisted both my knees. The left one obviously couldn’t take it. So, I was laid up for the next few days of the ski trip. Let’s just say I wish I was 18 so I could’ve at least had a drink (more than what was rustled in after dark, that is!) After returning home, I was in a cast for a few weeks and the doctors said they didn’t know if it was an MCL tear or something else. In short, they weren’t sure what it was!
A couple of years later my knee was still playing up, so I went back to the hospital for various appointments and they eventually said it was Idiopathic Juvenile Arthritis. No information, no follow-ups – just a presumed diagnosis and discharge.
After my RA diagnosis, I read that from having Idiopathic Juvenile Arthritis I should have had check-ups, follow-ups and a specialist keeping an eye on it. Maybe if I had then it would all be different. But, we can’t live on ifs and buts and coconuts. Though it wasn’t a complete surprise when I got the RA diagnosis, it didn’t make it any easier to come to terms with! Anyway, I digress …
So, since my skiing accident, I never did as much sport as I would have liked to in school and I feel that it’s harder to get into sport if you haven’t done it from a young age. That said, I am thankful to my dodgy knees for getting me out of a lot of XC running and bleep tests at school! Outside of school, I did Gymnastics as a youngster, horse riding (my own horse during school years and then classes at Uni in undergrad) and rounders for the village team during the summer. I started a rounders team at Uni, but it never really took. Of course, I always got lots of exercise on the farm, especially during spring – you could count catching lambs as a sport!
“Education is the key to success” – Solomon Ortiz.
When I started my undergrad, I joined the gym - £100 for a full academic year – BARGAIN! I thought it was a lot at the time, but I was clueless! Before lockdown, I was paying £44 A MONTH for the gym! Though the pool and spa were a definite perk. I’ve been through stages of the gym being a chore and then loving being fit and inspired by it, and around and around it goes. I’ve gone from eating anything in sight and not caring how much grease it was soaked in, to really focussing on eating healthy foods and only having takeaways as a rare treat. Truth be told, before and after my diagnosis, alcohol has always been in the picture for me; whether I’m focused on being healthy and fit or the opposite, I like a drink!
I guess it’s different for me or anyone who lives on a farm or out in the country. It’s such a different lifestyle. Something I only really realised since going to Uni! Being active, being busy, it is just part of everyday life out here. Studying physio and tying that in my lifestyle out here has made me more aware and more educated. I haven’t joined any sports teams in my Master’s at York St John, and I worked on Thursday evenings so couldn’t play village rounders. So, I took matters into my own hands to go to the gym and do home workouts. I already had some weights and hand-me-downs bikes, and Dan and I invested in some home gym equipment, too. I found I was struggling at the gym with holding my weights, so I bought some ankle and wrist strap weights instead. They’re fabulous!! The link to them is on my ACCESSORIES page on my website if you fancy a gander!
I couldn’t do too much at once when I got back to working out! At first, one workout used to mean pain and stiffness for the next week. In hindsight, I was pushing myself too much, too soon. I assumed I could do what I used to do at the gym, but oh boy, how wrong was I? Gentle stretches, light intensity and weights are now my life.
Of course, I do worry about moving forward. I have my doubts, fears and endless questions, like everyone else… Surely I’m going to have to do more reps and work out more often if I am going to get as strong? What if I have a flare-up and I’m out for another week. What do I do? How am I going to build muscle? How am I going to get fit? How am I going to be strong enough for a physio job? How am I going to get strong enough to help on the farm and actually be useful? So many questions, and often, no answers. My friend (and fellow Sports Massage therapist) Gemma helped me through this (her website link for her business ‘Hartlington Body Fix’ is on my ACCESSORIES page). She talked me through how it’s okay to go slow, it doesn’t matter that it will take me longer. She taught me to use my body weight to train and to focus on my nutrition as that is something that I can control. So, a massive thank you goes to you Gemma. As I’ve said before, I would not be doing this blog if it wasn’t for you!
I have recently found that moving to music works for me much better than setting out to do a HIIT workout. I am currently trying to put together a little workout to music for myself, Lucy, and Emily (Uni friends). So that we can get the most out of time spent exercising!
I have also joined zoom classes by Sally Wellock (give her a follow on Facebook and Instagram: ‘Sally Wellock Personal Training’ / @stayloredtraining). These have been absolutely great as it gives you some structure in these muddled isolation days. It’s also so good to be part of a group. I choose to keep my camera off during the class, which helps me to focus on Sally and not need to worry about feeling anxious and self-conscious. The classes are great for all abilities and really flexible - go at your own pace, with weights or no weights, bands or no bands, high intensity or low intensity. And the best thing … after 2 days of doing them, I could still walk! What a pleasant surprise. Has the exercise cured me? It all goes through your head when something unexpected and agreeable happens like that. When living with RA, It actually feels like an achievement not to be stiff and stuck! Does anyone else feel like that?!
It doesn’t always last – how my body reacts can depend on so many other factors, from stress and sleep patterns and diet and just what day it is! After last week I’m stiff, knackered and feel like any sort of exercise is too much. Lifting my arm and writing is feeling like so much effort right now. I think tomorrow after another zoom class with Sally I will have a new lease of life, so, I’m most certainly not giving up hope for this week yet!!
Also, I have a very exciting delivery coming tomorrow … sticky toffee pudding and brownies, from the fabulous @eggsquisitecakesandbakes, which I can’t wait for! I best put extra effort into exercise if I’m going to be gorging on sweet treats!
My head is a little all over the place lately, with a lot on my mind, so as usual, I may have rambled a little, for which I can only apologise and put it down as one of the learning curves of blogging. My hope is that this week’s post will encourage you all to do whatever it is that makes you happy and feel proud of yourself – big or small, be proud of every little victory!
As I said last week, I love hearing from you all, so please do let me know what you think of the posts so far and what YOU want to hear about in future posts.
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A huge thank you to you all,