Saturday, May 07, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Me: Part Two

Continuing the RA post...

Moving exercise, and in particular, weight training. Because I have problems with my knees and my wrists are semi-fused and not flexible at all, most aerobic exercises are too painful or completely impossible. No group sports, either, as volleyball, basketball, soccer and etc all require running or use of the hands in ways I simply can't do. Walking is fine, but prolonged biking starts to aggravate my knees. So for a long time, I just stayed away from physical activity. But then I married a man whose life can be divided into phases of physical activity:
weight training
mountain biking
winter sports

About a month ago, he challenged me to try his "non-wimpy" workout program and see if it made a difference. It totally has. *

I've been doing "functional" weight training: basically, I do upper body one day, back another and legs on the third day. The big changes were moving from isolated muscle machines to squats and dead lifts, and not being afraid to move heavier weights. I am the ONLY woman, and possibly the only PERSON, in my gym to do dead lifts. People look at me like I am a freak and the trainers are confused because I'm not sure they've ever seen this exercise before. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the heavier I lift, the better I feel. My body looks different (big like!) and my energy and stamina are way up. I no longer need naps every day...which leads to my last point: rest.

Fatigue is the silent enemy for immune disorders. No one can see fatigue, it can't be whipped out to get you a preferred spot in the "handicapped" line, won't win you any bonus points or a seat on the bus when you need it. Fatigue is the demon that rears its ugly head when you're actually trying to have what would be described as a "productive" day and you crash, unable to move, at 3 pm. That's why rest is important. I know people think I'm a spoiled rich you-know-what when I tell them I have to get home for my nap or massage, or when I bail on visiting friends across the city because of the distance and time involved. It's not that I don't want to go. But my body can't always handle it. Some days, yes. Some days, no. Knowing when to rest is important, and I've gotten a lot better at it. And of course, it helps that I am no longer employed in a traditional sense. A 40 hour a week job doesn't take kindly to invisible symptoms. So if you know someone with a chronic disease, cut them a little slack if they say they're tired. It might not have anything to do with what time they went to bed last night. They'll thank you...

*(Side note: weight training is also recommended to stave off osteoporosis, so women shouldn't shy away! I've learned to modify my lifting positions to accommodate my problem joints and I'm not getting "big" by lifting like this, just "toned." Grin.)


anne said...

My sister and her fibromyalgia would agree w/all these things. Of course, sometimes, they say she doesn't "have" it, must be something else, sometimes it seems she fits the "profile" better...but she dances, and has started running, and zumba, all of which have helped w/her pain levels. We are taught to curl up around the pain, but sometimes, physical exercise is more useful. It's the incredibly pro-inflammatory diet of the western world that is so not useful for these various conditions. Omega 3s (which you are getting in your diet) are very useful, as is not caffeine-ing ...
GLAD GLAD GLAD you are feeling so fine! The weight thing (as in lifting them!) is GREAT! Hooray for physical prowess :D

Ali la Loca said...

Yeah!! Rico, my mom and I all train at a place called Bay Funcional Fitness. Lots of body-weight resistance and free weights. Have you tried kettle bells yet??? You will LOVE them! I also had the experience of looking in the mirror and seeing a different woman. :)