Article by Wendy McCance
Last night I went to the gym with my husband to work out. We have been feeling out of shape and had just gotten a membership to a gym that we hadn’t used yet. I was looking forward to begin the process of getting back in shape.
Several people wonder what it feels like to have fibromyalgia, or what limitations I might have. From past experience, I am well aware of just how carefully I have to be when I work out. If I push myself to much (which isn’t much at all), I will end up on bed rest for days and in a good amount of pain.
My plan was to go on the treadmill for 20 minutes. That would be my entire workout for my first day back. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it takes very little to trigger the stiffness and the pain that feels like bruises and electrical shocks. Call me overly cautious, but I do get nervous when I am working out.
When we got to the gym, I put my jacket in a locker and went out to the gym floor to hunt down a treadmill. I was feeling uncomfortable knowing that as I would be moving slowly on my machine, people around me would either be jogging or doing a brisk walk on their treadmills.
I put in my settings and got walking. For the first 5 minutes, I felt dizzy. I was scared that I would pass out. My husband came by to see if I was able to set up the machine the way I wanted to. I mentioned the dizziness and he watched me for a moment. This is not the first time I have had an issue with dizziness. Thankfully, my husband is used to my symptoms and has a pretty good idea of when to worry. He felt that the dizziness would subside as I got used to the machine. He was right. The dizziness subsided after a minute more and I walked on. I was able to get up to an incline of 5 and a speed of 3 mph. Sad, maybe, but I went to the gym and I worked out so I won’t beat myself up.
After 20 minutes, I got off the treadmill and walked over to where my husband was using some weights. I ended up following him around while he finished using the weight equipment.
When we got home, I began to feel some pain on the sides of my legs right below my hips. I got that panicky feeling that I had done too much. The dilemma becomes knowing how soon I can try working out again without compounding the pain I am feeling. Honestly, trying to stay in shape is the most frustrating part of fibromyalgia for me. I used to be active without a care in the world. I have been reduced to worrying about a 20 minute walk.
My husband talked with me about using a different machine that wouldn’t jolt my body every time I took a step. The next time I go, I will be trying the elliptical machine to see if my body can tolerate it better.
This morning I woke up with a horribly painful stiff neck and what felt like sparks of pain in different parts of my body. I feel much worse than before I worked out. I remember when I used to work out and look forward to a little pain the next day. It was a good indication that I had a good workout. Working out with fibromyalgia is much different. I dread the pain, especially because I know how ridiculously light my workout was.
The important part of this story is that yes, having fibromyalgia can feel limiting. I am nowhere near able to perform the way I once was athletically. Even so, I am determined to continue to learn about how far I can push my body. It’s important for me to stay moving. A sedentary lifestyle actually makes the pain worse. My muscles stiffen up, the pain intensifies, my joints will crack and I end up moving around like a little old lady.
So it will take me 3 times as long to get to a point working out that most can accomplish before the end of their first workout session. Thankfully I am not feeling particularly competitive. I just know that the more I continue to move, the easier it will become. My biggest mistake was to slow down once the cold weather hits. This has caused me to have to start over from square one when the pain is at its worst.
So now you know what one of the challenges of fibromyalgia is. Maybe you can relate because you have a health problem that causes you the same type of grief. No matter, the take away from this post is not to give up. You have a life to lead. Do the best you can to make it everything it can be. I believe the best things you can do for yourself are often those things that are the most challenging. Face the challenges and move forward. Be the best person you can be.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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