When I was 20 I developed a form of arthritis called Ankylosin Spondelitus. I have a fairly mild case of it. In fact, technically it’s undiagnosed because it hasn’t scarred my bones enough to show up on an x-ray. But we know what it is because of the type of pain I have and the family history. I have two brothers diagnosed with the same thing. Watching them I can see how easy I have it and I’m grateful for that.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t hurt.
I have good years and bad years, good days and bad days. Regular exercise is an important part of treating this disease. I need to keep the weight off (something I struggle with) because extra pounds put extra stress and pressure on my joints. Also, I need to keep limber. The more I move the better my joints are.
How do you do that on the days when it hurts so much you don’t want to get out of bed. How do you keep up the exercise, or the writing for that matter, when you can’t bend, or sit, or walk?
I've had to learn to listen to my body, and I've had to learn to say it's okay. It’s okay not to exercise on those days, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And I also shouldn’t compare myself to others who have no limitations and can work out for hours daily. It's so easy to see what others do and think I should be able to do that. But if I try to do what they do, if I overdo it, I end up hurting worse for longer so all exercise needs to be in proportion to what my body is capable of.
At the same time, the days I’m feeling good I can’t allow myself to slack off. There might not be another good day for awhile so I have to take advantage of it. It’s hard to make exercising a priority on those days, because I also have to fit in all the cleaning and errands that I’ve put off during bad days. But if I don’t take care of my body I’ll end up having more bad days.
It’s a vicious cycle and, like much of life, you have to find the balance. And you have to listen to your body. Some days I can do a brisk walk on the treadmill for an hour. But If all I can manage is a hobble for fifteen minutes I still try to do it. Then I celebrate it. It’s better than doing nothing. And it will help, every little bit helps.
I've had to learn to accept my limitations and what I can do. And I'm trying to learn to do it without feeling like a wimp. For those of you who are struggling to start an exercise program, or who have limitations as to what you can do, don't give up. The little things do count! Just keep at it and do your best.
Take care of your body because you don’t get another one.