“Moving, keep on moving
Where I feel I’m home again
And when it’s over
I’ll see you again”
Well this was a turn up for the books!
This week, after the hell of “Shark Fortnight” my energy levels skyrocketed. I don’t know if it was a totally new lease on life, or if returning to normal after 2 weeks of nausea and exhaustion just made me feel like I was wired to the moon, but I started feeling kinda antsy. Like I really wanted to move my body more. And that’s a bit of a new thing for me, because I haven’t really felt that kind of desire to do anything movement related for years. Obviously I do have to get up and do stuff throughout the day like everyone else, but any kind of movement just for movement’s sake…nope. A lot of that has to do with the worsening of my fibro & arthritis, but I know that as the years have gone by and the weight has crept on, my inclination towards wanting to exert myself at all has definitely diminished.
So it was quite unusual when I felt the urge to just get up and go out for a walk yesterday. I know, I know: going for a walk isn’t life-altering for most people, but just feeling the desire to do so really surprised me. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research recently into safe, low-impact exercise that I can try to incorporate into my health improvement mission; but just knowing how much pain I find myself in after even the smallest amount of activity, I’ve been really scared to actually try anything. It’s probably really difficult for someone who doesn’t have the chronic conditions that I do, to really understand how much of my life is spent trying to mitigate anything that could potentially aggravate said conditions, in order to avoid an unnecessary spike in pain levels. Because as I’ve talked about before, the pain that I deal with can be excruciating; and it often lingers around for days (or weeks, or even months sometimes when a flare-up is particularly bad). It’s not that I’m just a massive wuss who can’t deal with a few aches and twinges – far from it. I’ve had kidney stones, broken bones in multiple parts of my body, and even pulled my own wisdom tooth out when pandemic nonsense made it impossible to get to see a dentist. I don’t have a particularly low threshold for pain; it’s just exhausting and demoralising to be plagued with pain that lasts for such a long time.
So yeah, exercise scares me because I know just how badly my body can react to overexertion. But I’ve been wanting to at least try to do something to move a little more for some time now. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do, was fall into the trap that so many people on weight-loss missions, seem to succumb to: overwhelm. I follow a lot of folk on various social media apps and the number of people who decide to just go from 0-100 by overhauling their eating, and embarking upon a huge new fitness regime (as well as all the other big new things) despite having not done any real exercise for years, is unreal. And more often than not, it totally overwhelms them and they end up either giving up, or resorting to some kind of binge eating to deal with the unnecessary pressure. Which is completely predictable and understandable when you think about it. If you don’t come from a fitness oriented background and suddenly decide to do a 5am workout every day, your body isn’t going to like it and your brain is going to be doing everything it can to thwart your determination. So why do so many people think that they’re going to be the exception to the rule and change ‘all the things’ all at once, rather than start off slowly and build upon smaller changes, until they become truly ingrained habits?
I think for many people it’s just impatience. They’ve decided to make big changes, so they want to see big changes. And they want to see them yesterday. Which is fine if you’re looking for a quick fix and you’re not that bothered about any permanent results. But if you’re trying to learn new, healthier habits that you can keep up with for the rest of your life, then that “one big push” ain’t gonna do it, bro #JustSaying. Obviously my own limitations mean that I was never going to go from couch-potato to iron-woman on day 1, but I still wanted to make sure that I had done a good bit of introspection and inner-work on my mindset first, before then getting a handle on my eating habits. Only once I’d taken care of all that, would I then think about the addition of any exercise into my life. And I’ve been eating this way consistently for half a year now, so I’m really comfortable with the food side of things – not to mention all the regular journaling I’ve been doing to help work on my mindset and focus. So it felt rather serendipitous to start feeling that urge to move, just as I was coming to a point where I was mentally comfortable to start working on a new habit.
I definitely think that having had these issues with movement and mobility that come from my chronic conditions, has made me appreciate those times when I am able to get up and move about. I took all that for granted for so many years, letting my weight creep up from eating so much crap, while doing very little exercise. Now I actually want to move more, but I know I have to be careful because if I overdo it, then I’m really going to suffer for it. But I knew I had to start somewhere and so when that urge hit me, I grabbed my trainers and headed out before I had time to change my mind.
So, without any plan in mind as to where I was actually going to go, I decided to start off by walking up the really steep hill I live on and see how I felt after that. And I was really pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to walk to the top without getting all out of breath. The last time I walked up that hill was way back before I began losing any weight and I remember my heart feeling like it was going to beat right out of my chest when I was only 3/4 of the way up. Huh? Well that was new and unexpected. Then I tried to figure out what would be the best route to take, while not going too far from home; because I didn’t want to find myself suddenly seizing up and having to still make my way home, hobbling like some bedraggled crone. So I decided to just kind of loop around some roads in my area that I could easily just abandon and take a short-cut back home from, should the muscle spasms start to kick in.
As you can see from the incredibly detailed map I have included here (MS Paint for the win!) I didn’t really “go” anywhere, but I figured by the end of it that I’d got about a mile in. And when I got home I didn’t feel immediately terrible. Of course, after I’d sat down for a bit and then went to get up again I could feel the seizing-up really start to kick in and today I’ve got horrible twitchy pains running down my spine and into my legs, but it’s nothing I’m not used to. I was expecting to feel a lot worse if I’m honest and I’m still waiting for the worst of it to kick in, but the main thing is, I went for a walk and I got home in one piece and it didn’t kill me, lol!
And this is a really big step for me. It isn’t going to sound like anything earth-shattering to most people, but to anyone with a chronic condition, it’s really positive. Because now I’ve done it once, I know I can do it again. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after, but soon…and hopefully for the rest of my life! It’s a very small change that I can not only take some comfort from, but also build upon. I just have to remember to take baby steps, not overdo it and always listen to my body so as not to overexert myself too much. I figured that a mile was a good start and I was pretty sure that I’d walked about a mile, but I wanted to know exactly how far I’d gone so I could track any progress going forward. So I found some website that allows you to plug in your journey and it calculates the distance for you. Cool. Because I don’t own a Fitbit or Apple Watch or any of those gadgets (and I have zero interest in purchasing one) but I like the idea of knowing exactly how much I’m doing.
So imagine my shock when the distance I actually walked turned out to be 2.65 miles. Like, really? Because it didn’t feel like I’d walked that far. But then I have absolutely no idea how to estimate distances. I don’t drive and I have a terrible sense of direction (the fact that I didn’t get lost is a miracle in itself) but I was also really just lost in my music. (Once those headphones go in, the rest of the world could burn to the ground around me and I’d barely register any of it.) I think it might also have been something to do with the way in which I sort of kept doubling back on myself so it didn’t feel like I’d ventured too far from home, but whatever it was, it really didn’t feel like I’d walked very far.
But yeah, 2.65 miles was the distance racked up on my first little walk out around where I live. So that’s my starting point and something that I can totally do again, with at least some regularity. The biggest take-away from doing this though was that sometimes I just need to get out of my own head, say “screw it” and make that initial leap out of my comfort zone. The fears I have around pain and triggering off a big bloody flare-up, are very real. They’re not irrational or made-up excuses that I’ve concocted to avoid doing normal stuff; they’re very much based in my life experience. But I still need to remember to push myself more and not allow fear to keep me from making the improvements I need to make to my life. I guess it’s about finding that sweet-spot; the balance between too much and not enough. But if having these conditions has taught me anything, it’s that life is short and I should never take any of it for granted. If I don’t use my body to move, I’ll lose that ability altogether…and what kind of life is that for a woman in her 40’s? I just wish someone could give me an precise prescription for the exact amount of exercise I should and could do, to get the most benefits, whilst incurring the least amount of painful side-effects.
And that’s all I’ve really got to share with y’all today folks. Just another day spent making better choices, leading to the incremental changes that add up to big benefits. Nothing crazy, desperate or unsustainable, cause we ain’t about that madness around these parts.
Keep things sustainable folks