Rethinking exercise

Given the choice, I’d rather eat nails than exercise in any way. Unfortunately it’s not one of my triggers, so I can’t even use that excuse. I’ve always been clumsy, awkward, and accident-prone.  As a child I preferred books and temperature-controlled environments. I still prefer a laptop or Kindle with my dimmer-controlled lighting in a comfortable 72°.

So when my headache specialist diagnosed me with comorbid Fibromyalgia and suggested 20 minutes of exercise three times a week, I seriously considered ignoring his advice. I knew he wouldn’t let me off that easy. So I agreed to give it a try.

For about two weeks I did well. Knowing that high pollen counts and rising humidity were triggers, I opted to walk indoors on our treadmill. Every other morning I started my day with a brisk walk. I had water, a fan, a timer, and some upbeat music. It seemed to be working. Then it all stopped. I’m not even sure what caused me to stop. Maybe it was a nasty migraine attack. Maybe it was a fibro flare. Maybe it was just a scheduling conflict that got me off track.

As I tried to restart, a revelation hit me. In my mind, exercise was “busywork” that took valuable time away from other important tasks. Despite knowing all the very real benefits, my mind couldn’t change my heart. There had to be another way to get the benefits of exercise that allowed me to feel that sense of accomplishment that is my driving force.

Moving was painful, especially first thing each morning. So I had to use a lot of willpower and a good reason to move. That’s easier to do when there was a specific task that must be done. Movement just to be moving wasn’t much of a motivator. There had to be a better way. It took some time and creative thinking, but I finally found something that works and it isn’t even an exercise. It does allow me to stretch, get my heart rate up, and even cool down at least three times each week.

It dawned on me that our ancestors didn’t have gym memberships, treadmills in their basements, or yoga videos. Yet they were in better shape because movement was part of their everyday life. So I started making small changes that gradually started adding up.

  • Parking far away from a store’s entrance
  • Taking a few laps through the aisles with a full cart before checking out (aerobic and weight-bearing!)
  • Walking the dog or taking my granddaughter for a walk…or both!
  • Picking up the pace when I take the stairs (we have a split-level home)
  • Helping out with yard work (mowing, raking, etc.)
  • Playing upbeat music while cleaning (makes me move more and faster)
  • Sacking my own groceries using the self-checkout so I’m moving instead of standing still
  • Volunteering to look after granddaughter while mom works – Just try being sedentary with a crawling, walking, climbing “Energizer Bunny” clone!

Let’s be realistic. I’m still in pain every single day. If I’m not careful, I can push it too hard and trigger a pain storm that lasts for days. Maintaining just the right balance of activity and rest is really hard. I never said it was easy to do any of those things. It is a daily choice. Sometimes I am more successful at making that choice. Some days I fail despite my best efforts. Occasionally I choose to wallow in self-pity. How successful I am at being active is directly connected to how well I choose to embrace this life.

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