Friday, April 25, 2014

Fitness Friday

Today's National Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge is Fitness Friday: What do you do to stay fit? Tell us about your efforts in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Most of my conditions make it VERY difficult to exercise. In fact, I even have a diagnosis code of exercise intolerance listed in my charts due to my pure autonomic failure (dysautonomia) and mitochondrial disease. 

So staying physically fit is something that is necessary so I do not become deconditioned and make myself sicker due to aiding and abetting in my own muscle weakness progression, but I can't overdo because that can contribute to passing out, flushing, heat intolerance, and ironically muscle weakness progression. Catch 22, right?

But there are a couple of things that I try to do to stay "physically fit" with chronic illness, but believe you me, coming from someone who was an elite athlete and had a dream of making it to the Olympics one day, these seem like not exercise at all too me, even though on most days they are often too hard to complete at all. 

I was doing outpatient Physical Therapy, but it turned out to be not productive for me or the physical therapist since she was unable to understand mito and I was unable to bend on my limitations. Therefore, I was discharged and do my "home exercises" instead of going to outpatient PT 2x a week. I try to do the same exercises I was doing there at least 3x a week, if not every day at least once. When I was in outpatient PT they wanted me doing the exercises 3x a day, and that's just impossible, but I do try my hardest to do 3x a week at least. I have exercises for shoulder/upper body, core, hips, thighs, knees, calves, and ankles. Some of these exercises are extremely simple like put a pillow between your arm and side of your chest and hold tightly for 30 seconds and repeat 10 times, or keep one leg with foot on table so knee is in air and raise other leg straight to meet the knee 10 times, or lay on side and raise leg in air 10 times, or do 30 calf raises. But when you have a progressive muscle deterioration disorder these suckers HURT!! I usually pick 3 exercises for each part of my body each time I do them. I really think this helps slow my progression and I get to do it at my own pace.

Every once in a while, on a really nice, mildly coolish morning, if I have low symptoms of muscle weakness and I'm feeling positive it will be a good day...I will take my border collie, Carolina, on a walk around ONE block. And that does me in for the rest of the day, but it is so worth it, because she never gets to have fun and I feel bad for her. I'm also joining a local dog park this summer so she can have some other doggie friends to play with and get some exercise herself. 

Some days I do yoga to a DVD in my bedroom if I'm feeling really tight and need some muscle relaxation, but I have to be really careful with that because some of the positions increase my chances of passing out.

Some days, cleaning and showering are exercise because some days are just that bad and my heart rate gets high enough that the fact that I'm cleaning and showering totally counts as exercise. 

Since I've been more confined to a wheelchair lately, I've started counting time in the chair as exercise because it requires a lot of upper body strength to move a manual wheelchair. I've also started "walking" with a friend on accessible trails around town in my wheelchair. She walks and I roll. We call it "walk n' roll".

Other than that, there is nothing else I really do to stay "physically fit". And for someone whose life used to be exercise, that's really quite depressing. But it's life. 

I will add, that this isn't just about being "physically fit". I truly 100% believe that physical well-being is dependent upon mental well-being. So another thing that I do is I see a counselor every week. I don't think anyone who has a chronic illness should not have a counselor. It's overwhelming, anxiety causing, just crappy situation luck. It's so necessary to have someone to sound off too, that is paid to listen to you. If you're mind is in the right place, you will feel better physically. But that is just my opinion. 

Anyone else have some tips on how to stay physically fit with a whole bunch of chronic illness thrown your way?

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