Moderation is Key

I'm an all or nothing kind of person. If I sign up to something I want to commit and really give it everything. If I can't, I'd prefer to not do it at all.

I'm aware it's not the greatest attitude to be so black and white about everything, and I'm trying to learn to be better at navigating the grey, but it's not something that comes naturally to me. If I don't think something is completely achievable, I have to really fight myself not to quit.

This has been a major struggle for me in the area of exercise for many years. When I was younger, career options included becoming a personal trainer or joining the military. I could exercise for hours every day and I was freakishly strong. As I became ill though, I needed to cut back. Over doing exercise (and at some points, that meant just being awake and sitting up for too long) could set me back days and  sometimes weeks of recovery. Anyone with Fibromyalgia or ME will have heard of the 'spoons' theory, and for someone like me I just wanted to give up. What's the point in exercising when you aren't going to feel good after? What's the point in a 10 minute walk if you can't do a 10 hour body combat class? All or Nothing.

So I did nothing.

Which was actually probably very good for my immune system at the time... but it became a comfortable habit. With the British Heart Foundation this week pointing out that nearly 20 million Brit's are so physically inactive that they are costing the NHS a whopping £1.2 billion each year I can't afford to just sit around and rest once my recovery is underway.

As my health has improved I've tried to incorporate fitness again multiple times. Usually leading to a burn out or 'crash' after a few months because I've gone too far, too hard and too quickly. I can borrow against tomorrow's energy only for so long...

Recently I started again, and I started with a British Military Fitness class. I've been well for a while, so despite family telling me this might be too much, I pushed on. The class is so fun, and you work at your own level, so I can push myself as hard as I can without needing to keep up with everyone else.

It was going great, I started in December and have been enjoying the weekly class. My chiropractor was pleased with my joints stabilising, so a few weeks ago, I decided to start going twice a week. Why wouldn't I? It was school holidays, so no childcare issues and I'd seen some great improvements in my strength and fitness.

Unfortunately, too much, too soon. Almost immediately joints started going wrong left, right and centre. I had pain in shoulders, wrists, knees, ankles and hips. Chiropractor was not impressed. In fact, as well as flaring up old injuries, I had created a lovely new injury of twisting my femur, tibia and fibula. Ouch.

So what do you do when you can't do your exercise class more than once a week?

Well option one, if you listened to Dr Chatterjee's facebook live on building exercise into your daily life, is easy: the best way to build exercise into your life is to do little and often. A massive cardio class or strentgh training session works for me about once a week, but then I need to recover, however, there are smaller doses of exercise that I can fit in throughout the day without draining my body too much.

He gave the example of being a GP, he refuses to use the tannoy to call patients. He walks down to the waiting room and collects them himself. This means that every fifteen minutes, he gets 10-20 seconds of movement. It's not a lot, but the health problems associated with being sedentary aren't fixed by doing a big blast of exercise and then lying on a sofa all day. They are remedied by not being sedentary, e.g. by breaking up your sitting down time and building exercise into your life. He recommends things like doing squats whilst your cooking at the hob.

One of the ways I've been attempting to do this, is by using the bathroom that isn't on the floor I'm on. If I'm upstairs, I go down. If I'm downstairs I go up. Easy, small change, but it adds some stairs into my daily routine on a regular basis, and if you drink as much water as you should, then you'll be up and down those stairs plenty! I also have decided to take all deliveries that arrive to their correct storage areas (this is a lot in a boarding house) and ask the tesco man to leave the delivery by the front door instead of helping me to put everything away. Bearing in mind that I live an a house with 50 teenagers, this delivery happens two to three times a week and can take me up to twenty minutes with multiple trips up and down stairs.

Walking the dog is an easy one, but also walking the kids to do grocery shopping in town, rather than getting bulk shopping orders online, means that we walk a bit more regularly. The kids have dropped their gymnastics class, where I used to sit and chat to other mums, in favour of spending a whole day at play 360 where I play with them (totally exhausting, but the soft surfaces are less damaging to my joints than running outdoors).

They're all small changes, but they add up.

Option two is to find some regular exercise that you can manage without damaging yourself. Swimming is almost universally held up as a great way to exercise that is easy on your joints. I also have a rebounder which I love for working up a sweat without causing impact injuries. Cycling is also great for getting outside in the fresh air, covering ground and not impacting too much on the knees.

But importantly, find balance, and do what you can. The old me would happily have said, 'Oh I'm injured, British Military Fitness doesn't work for me. I'll have to quit.' But the reality is that it worked very well. Once a week classes were going great. I just can't use the unlimited pass.

Doing what you can will increase what you can do later. Who knows, this time next year you might see me in Bedford park crashing through the mud several times a week ;-)


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