I’ve struggled with fibromyalgia for a little over a decade. Over that time, I’ve struggled with my weight and gained between sixty to seventy pounds. I have a long way to go on my fitness journey, but I feel like I can finally give a few pointers to people who are struggling to start their fitness journey due to chronic pain.
This is the most important thing anyone has said to me. Over the years, I’ve created so many fitness plans. I’ve come so close to starting workouts, but until you actually get moving, you can’t make progress.
2. Know Your Limits.
There is a difference between chronic pain and an injury. As I work with my trainer, Bryan at Life Time Athletic in Summerlin, I’ve learned that it is extremely important to learn the difference between types of pain.
If I don’t sleep well, I know what the fibro flare will feel like the next day. I had to exercise through a flare on Monday. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t an injury. Exercising through it isn’t going to hurt me more.
When I do injure myself, I have to stop. You must set limits. On Saturday, life got in the way and I skipped my cardio. I felt guilty and I doubled up on Sunday. Since we are working on interval inclines on the treadmill to strengthen my weak ankles, I increased the incline and worked really hard for longer than Bryan set for my normal cardio time. (40 minutes instead of 20.) I’m now dealing with an ankle strain because of it. Don’t push yourself to an injury because you are trying to do more than you are able right now. You are working toward a goal and you will get there.
You cannot go from inactive to a marathon finisher in a week. Do not hurt yourself. My recovery time seems so much longer than the average person’s because of my fibro. I don’t like being sidelined because of this. I am, however, taking my trainer’s advice and not pushing it. I will not push it again like that. If I miss a day, I get back on track the next day. No guilt. No dwelling. More importantly, no more ankle strains.
3. Involve Your Doctor
Involving your doctor is key for anyone starting a new fitness program, but especially for those with a chronic illness. I am on thyroid meds and I know that my heart rate is faster than the average person. (Which helps a little because I burn a ton of calories that way.) My doctor is also aware of my past injuries and my trigger points and knows what I should and shouldn’t do at the gym. She has given me important advice to implement for achieving my fitness goals. She also helps me set my fitness goals, such as heart health, given my family history.
4. Get Help
I was in a horrible cycle of start/injure/stop. I was trying to do everything myself. When I started my membership at Life Time, I knew that I had to break that cycle and find out what I was doing wrong, which was just about everything. I adjusted so many things to alleviate stress on my ankles and sensitive trigger points.
My recovery between workouts used to last for days because of severe DOMS. To the point where I never thought I would be able to do anything but walk slowly on a treadmill. By working with a professional, I am learning more about how to properly execute exercises. More importantly, I’m learning how to stretch between sets. This is so critical.
Stretching is key for any athlete. It is absolutely critical if you have chronic pain. Start small. We’re not talking about advanced yoga poses. Learn some very basic stretches that will help you get at those tight trigger points. What are the areas that take longest to recover? For me, it is my quads. It makes navigating a home with stairs super fun. I now stretch my quads regularly. When I am working out and throughout my day. Considerably less pain.
Best part – stretching feels good. Sure, some of them are painful. I have a tight knot in my shoulder that feels like someone is stabbing me with a butter knife from typing all day. I learned stretches from my trainer and now try to stretch that area at least once an hour. More if I remember.
In addition, I am pretty darn lucky that my work makes it possible for me to consult with a variety of experts from different companies. We recently worked with Nutrex Hawaii and I tried some of their products made of super nutrients. I learned that I should take 12 mg of BioAstin since I have a specific concern that I want to target (and I’m not just taking it for the antioxidant benefits). I cannot rave about this supplement enough. Between this and Trainer, my recovery time between workouts is almost gone. I still feel a little sore the next day, like anyone would after a good workout, but it is nothing like it used to be.
Getting help was the best thing that I did to get my fitness journey back on track.
5. Get Support
You aren’t alone. I’m right there with you. When I was practicing law, I joked that I was a pink dolphin swimming in a sea of navy and gray sharks. Now, I feel like I’m the slow walker in a sea of runners (and that one woman doing walking lunges and running intervals on the treadmill).
Say it with me: This is my body. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m happy that I have it. I’m grateful and blessed that I can do so much. I will look only at my own progress and not at what others are doing. I’ve already overcome so many hurdles! I will not bodysnark or fall into that pit of negativity.
Surround yourself with positive and good during your fitness journey. Every day, I work with some of the best and brightest in the fitness social media space through FitFluential. Everyone is so positive and encouraging. Get a piece of that. Join us. Join another community that makes you feel warm and welcome. Stay passionate about your goals and keep going.
Good luck. I’m with you for the journey.
Disclaimer: I am the Chief Marketing Officer of FitFluential. Both Nutrex Hawaii and Life Time Fitness are clients. This has not swayed my opinions. If I don’t believe something, I don’t write it.