Today was a big day for me. For the first time in 11 months I stepped back into the gym to once again start to rebuild my body. It was an emotional moment. And it’s not the first time I’ve had that moment.
For many people who have had CFS / ME for a long time, you may relate to my feeling of being the “Comeback Queen”. Over 21 years I have had many ups and downs with this illness. At times I have been down and out like one of Mohammed Ali’s opponents – flat on the canvas (aka bed), not able to get up for anything, with nothing left in the tank. Most of last year kind of felt like that.
Then there are the times like now where I feel well enough to start rebuilding my body again. I say “rebuilding” because that’s how it feels. Being bed-ridden or unable to do any exercise other than walk from the bed to the couch for months (or years) on end leaves our muscles almost non-existent. It’s like rebuilding a Lego house that has been reduced to its tiny one-layer block foundation.
I have always found that the more I could manage to maintain some muscle and strength in my body, the better I feel overall. It stands to reason really, but it’s not that simple when you’re experiencing the severe “wipe-out” fatigue of CFS / ME.
Sometimes Easier Said Than Done …
For most of last year I was lucky just to be able to care for myself and my child (and sometimes I couldn’t do that). Whenever I tried to exercise, even when I started to feel better, I experienced incredible pain in my muscles for days – way beyond normal stiffness.
This was very unusual for me and it appears that I had some weird virus that affected my muscles (on top of the usual CFS / ME!!). So it’s been a slow road back this time – just when I’d really started to hope and believe that I truly was on the road to recovery (read some of my early 2013 blogs to hear more about that).
To get a stomach parasite and then a virus on top of the detox from the parasite! Well, I felt it was a cruel joke – not for the first time in this illness journey of mine either (please refer to my blogs on electrosensitivity to really get the level of joke I’m talking about! 🙂
Back To Base Camp … Again
So today, to find myself back in the gym, even just for a short, easy session – well, it felt like I’d reached base camp of Mount Everest. Really, I planned to just go and do a couple of basic exercises today because my gym membership had kicked back in at the start of the month and I thought I’d better get a couple of day’s value. I didn’t plan on doing a workout of any sort, just wanted to go back into the gym environment to start the habit off again.
But when I got in there I decided to just do a few of my former exercises, but with almost no weight on the machines (or in my hands). In that mode I managed to get through my whole former routine. Low weight, low repetitions, but I went through the motions.
The Small Wins of a Spoonie Life
I felt like a champion when I finished. I truly almost cried. I could feel my body had still been “worked out” during my session. I knew I’d have to rest when I got home (I slept for 2 hours and would have gone longer if not for school pick-up). BUT I did it. I got through.
My Top 5 Lessons Re-Learned
So what are my key messages from all this?
- No matter how low you get, never give up hope. I know it’s easy for me to say, but at one stage last year one of my darling siblings was so concerned for me that she was worried I had cancer – that’s how terrible I looked and felt (Read THIS blog to get how low I really was!)
- For me, I do believe in graded exercise IF you are not in an acute stage of the illness. So my version of graded exercise is approached differently to that which proposes graded exercise for people in the truly adrenally-fatigued, wiped-out stage/s of the illness (I’ve been there many times). I definitely DON’T believe in it at these times. It’s like when people have glandular fever. No doctor tells someone with glandular fever to exercise!! I recently read about manual physical therapy for people in acute states, which is encouraging, but still needs to be approached with caution.
- Go gently. This is always the challenge for Type-A personalities like myself. But I’m learning. I went gently and carefully today. I rested extensively afterwards, took an amino-acid supplement designed especially for people with CFS / ME (Fatigue Reviva if you’re interested), took another magnesium/potassium/calcium powder supplement (Endura) that helps my muscles recover, and I had a bath for an hour tonight. I also won’t go back to the gym for at least 2 days and I’ll listen to my body as to what I do when I go back.
- Celebrate the small wins. To anyone else in that gym I probably looked like a goose, lifting my little 1kg dumb-bells, but to me I knew it was a huge triumph. When I got out I texted my best friend to tell her. She knew what it meant! 🙂
- Don’t take anything for granted. Each time I have a relapse/flare/setback I promise myself I’ll never take walking, showering, simple things for granted. THEN what do I do? I take them for granted. I’m really trying NOT to this time. My body is a gift. My improved health is a gift. I need to continue to do all I know to do to nurture my body, give it good food, water, gentle exercise, supplements and rest. I need to nurture my mind, body AND spirit. Nobody else will do it for me. (See my blog last year of when I realised I had been at war with my body).
That’s it for me right now. I’ve got lots of exciting content coming your way very soon, which is why I’ve been a little absent for a few weeks.
I’m continuing my #365 Gratefuls #Spoonie project via Instagram and Twitter (today’s the 90th consecutive day of taking Grateful photos, so check them out either on Instagram or on the Facebook Page – click on the box at the top that says Instagram). It’s never too late to join the little gang of gratitude, so hop on board any time :-).
Keep Smiling Guru Crew
Louise Bibby 🙂