My exercise vibe is full, varied and paced to suit how I’m feeling (mostly!)

by Lucy Benton

Ever since I was diagnosed last year with rheumatoid arthritis, I have been searching for a way to get back to enjoying movement. Prior to diagnosis, I loved to run. Being out in the woods with just the trees and the animals was my favourite thing to do. I wasn’t fond of pounding the pavements, for many reasons, but in the woods, I felt free and was able to push myself, or just wander.

I was actually training for a half-marathon with only two weeks to go when symptoms appeared. At first, I didn’t think it was anything as my training was pretty gruelling.

One day, after a long run, I took a nap and woke up with the worst pain ever, as well as feeling feverish. That was that, no more long runs for me since that day.

I went through all the steps in the cycle of grief. I have finally gotten to a place of acceptance and along with that, I have found that although it hurts initially, exercise does help keep me mobile.

I stretch every morning to wake my body up, slowly and gently from my fingers down to my toes. I am also lucky that my friend runs a pilates class specifically for those with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and fibromyalgia. I have neither of those, but that class is my vibe. As you probably know, the fatigue is real with RA. That class is once a week.

I also practice Yin Yoga which is different to the yoga you probably are aware of. With Yin Yoga, we hold our asanas (postures) a bit longer and it focuses on being mindful. The breath is very important in Yin Yoga. It is a slower practice too. I find it very helpful both physically and mentally. I have a home practice as well as going to a class once a month.

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I’ve been practicing yoga for three years now, but since diagnosis I find it very helpful that my teacher gives me adjustments if there are certain asanas I can’t do that day. What I love about this practice is that “it’s about being, not achieving”. It would still be a great session if I’m just in constructive rest the entire time, which is what I can manage when I’m in a flare.

For cardio, I’ve had to really pace myself. I walk when I can, gradually challenging myself. I have a cross trainer at home too. I find distracting myself with Netflix helps me get to my goal. This summer, I’d like to add in my bicycle when I can as she’s just too pretty to be stuck in the shed as long as she has.

Reading all this might sound hideously too much for some of you, especially if you are recently diagnosed and still in the thick of all the mess that comes with finding the right medication. I just would like to remind you all that I’m a year into my journey and I still deal with days when I cannot do a thing. Be gentle with yourselves and remember that you progress without realising. This time last year, I went for one of my last runs. I only did about 1.9km and I came home and crashed for three hours. That told me my body wasn’t ready for that yet.

Pacing, a concept that I still struggle with, seems to be the key to life post-diagnosis. I still get it so wrong on some days, but the important thing is to keep trying to pace yourself. The thing I’ve learnt lately is to not write yourself off so easily. Keep trying. Start off small.

You are doing your best and that counts for a lot.

Meet other friendly folk with arthritis on Arthur’s Place Social, our Facebook Group

(Any opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily shared by Arthur’s Place. Nothing that you read in this blog constitutes medical advice.)

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