Training Your Body To Handle The Demands of Everyday Life
There is this really deep misunderstanding that people living with autoimmune disease have about exercise. They truly believe that exercise is not good for them, and that their life will be better without exercise. They believe that a sedentary life is the best option for them, in order to control their pain. They believe that not moving is the ONLY option.
Examples of things I have heard?
“I learned not to push myself physically ‘cause I end up in bed for 3 days paying for it”
“I feel better when I don’t exercise”
“I no longer work or do anything because any and all activity causes me fatigue and pain”.
Is this you??? If so, I totally get it, I understand 100% what it feels like to be in pain, exhausted all the time, where any little bit of movement causes disastrous effects. And I can totally understand how it seems easier to stay home on the couch, because the risk of movement causing pain is so high. I get it, because I have been there. 8 years ago, this was me. Stuck on the couch, exhausted, in pain, watching life pass me by.
But what if I told you that there was a way to transition off that couch? And that it involves exercise? And that it involves an exercise training schedule- just like an athlete has? I know you will think I’m crazy… but keep reading.
Athletes use their time in the gym to train for their sport, right? An NFL player trains and practices before a game. An ice skater spends time on the ice, practicing her routines, building up her skill set so she can accomplish a beautiful feat.
Well- I urge you to think of yourself as an athlete. But instead of training for a game, a match, or a race… you are training for life! You are training to go to the market, to climb the stairs, to go to a bbq. You are training to have the energy, strength, and mobility to do the things you want to do, everyday.
An athlete doesn’t just wake up and do something spectacular on the field. And the same goes for you- you can’t just wake up and expect your body to do more than it’s capable of. You have to train it! And that requires a change in perspective.
1. Set your goals
What is it that you are training for? To play with your kids in the park? To be able to walk through Walmart? To be able to go out to dinner with your friends after a long day at work? To be able to travel with your spouse? To hike? To dance? Well, whatever you want to do, think of it as your “game day”.
2. Identify your limits.
This is the hard part. Be honest with yourself- how far of a reach is that goal? If it’s a really big goal, like if you want to go on a 10 mile hike but it’s hard for you to walk down your driveway right now- then you need to set smaller goals that build up to the big goal. The key is to pick goals that are achievable, so you get some wins along the way. A goal that’s too big will feel frustrating if you don’t have smaller goals along the way. The more honest you can be with yourself, the better you can train. Remember, these are your current limitations. If you train yourself like an athlete, these won’t be your limitations for much longer. The bar will be raised.
3. Define the type of training will achieve this goal
Now, you need to decide the how. How are you going to train for this?? Some people like to walk, others like to swim, others like yoga or zumba. Personally, I recommend going through the Autoimmune Strong program, because it is designed specifically to get your body in shape and adapted to exercise without causing a flare-up. Often, even these “gentle” types of exercise like walking, swimming, water aerobics, zumba and yoga can cause pain and flare-up, because your muscles aren’t prepared properly. That’s what Autoimmune Strong does- it meets you where you are and builds strength slowly through simple, at home exercises, to get you ready for “game day”. Building strength, mobility and flexibility in teeny tiny steps that are accomplishable in 5 minutes or less? That’s Autoimmune Strong’s specialty.
4. Commit to your goal--and how you will get there.
Finally, whatever exercise you select, you need to make a commitment to the process. Your mindset is important! Showing up and doing this work is hard, especially when you are in the midst of a flare-up cycle. You don’t need to do lots of exercise for exercise to be effective. Consistency is the key. The length of time spent every day is less important- in fact, 5 minutes might even be too long for you, depending on your level of exercise intolerance. So even if you can only handle 5 seconds of movement- start there, and do it consistently. Every day, or every other day, or even every three days- it doesn’t matter- as long as you don’t give it up. These things take time, change doesn’t happen quickly.
Follow these steps, and I promise that you will be ready for your game day. You will be prepared to show up and conquer that goal of dancing at your daughter’s wedding, or walking down the street to get a coffee, or simply walking up and down your stairs. You don’t need to live life on the couch. Life doesn’t have to pass you by. Train for it- and you will be surprised at what happens next.
Autoimmune Strong is an online exercise program designed specifically FOR people living with chronic illness, BY a personal trainer who lives with multiple autoimmune diseases herself. If you are ready to train like an athlete but don’t know where to start, click here to check out Autoimmune Strong.