It’s an aggravating paradox: regular exercise can reduce migraine frequency and severity, but exercise can also trigger migraine attacks. Finding the right balance requires going slowly and being gentle, both in the activity and in your assessment of your effort.
Last time I exercised, I was up to 30 minutes at a whopping 2 MPH on the treadmill. Comparing this to the run distances and times friends post on Facebook is more than a little demoralizing. I don’t break a sweat and my muscles don’t hurt the next day. I feel lazy and weak until I remind myself that my runner friends are also healthy. Taken in the context of having exercise-triggered migraine attacks, my workout stats are an impressive feat for someone who was sedentary a few months ago.
Did you notice that last paragraph begins with, “Last time I exercised…”? Although I try to exercise every day, and some weeks do manage to do so, I’m still a chronic migraineur prone to good and bad spells. After being knocked out for a week with a migraine and using all my energy the next week to catch up with everything that fell to the wayside during the attack, I’m just back to where I can exercise again. I fear 30 minutes at 2 MPH will seem like a marathon compared to what I can do after this setback.
When it comes to exercise, I can only imagine myself as I believe I should be: a strong, healthy, active 30-something. The reality is that I have a chronic illness that has gradually caused me to grow further and further out of shape for the last 10 years.
So I’m learning to applaud my baby steps. To not compare my exercise to that of others or even to my previous days. I increase my speed or duration just a tiny bit every week or two, depending on how much exercise I’ve managed to do. I also try to accommodate setbacks after a long migraine spell. I tell myself that this is not a contest and any exercise is better than none; that just getting on the treadmill is a huge step in the right direction. Sometimes I even believe myself.
This post is in response to Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge #16, “Riverdance: Have you found a way to work exercise or movement into your life with migraine/headache disorder? What is it?”
Learn more about the 2013 MHAM Blog Challenge and other MHAM events by visiting: 2013 Migraine & Headache Awareness Month Information Page
June, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is issued by FightingHeadacheDisorders.com