How have you found exercise since having fibromyalgia?
For me, in all honesty, it was initially terrible, but equally it could have been much MUCH worse. I think it all depends on where you have come from, what exercise you did before, and how much you compare your current self to your new self.
My fibromyalgia onset was pretty quick, in fact, just a few months before becoming too unwell to work I had just completed my 6th running race in 6 months. I was taking part in a personal challenge to complete 12 races in 12 months for charity, in memory of my younger brother who passed away from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and would have been 24 last year. It still pains me to this day that I was never able to complete the challenge, but in the first 6 months of 2016 I ran two 10K races, one 10 mile race, two half marathons, and one full marathon.
From June onwards it all went a bit/very downhill, I severely injured my achilles tendon which took AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGEEEESSSS to heal, and then I rapidly developed symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Come November I was off work sick barely able to move. You can visit this post for more about my journey towards diagnosis.
It took me a long while to pluck up the courage to exercise again, and a lot of input from my physiotherapist. At first I was incredibly frustrated, and even attempted to go for a run one day (which didn’t end well), but over time I learnt to forgive my broken body and to just let it recover somewhat. I also needed to give myself time to work out exactly what it was I needed to do just to be able to get through my day and function like a normal human being which took me about 4 months (and damn lot of hard work) following diagnosis. Returning to work was also far more important than gaining medals.
One thing I made sure I always did when trying to work all of this out, was to just keep moving. However slowly I moved, I always moved forwards. Initially it was just doing the school runs, then it progressed to the after school clubs. I then moved onto more gentle exercises, mostly stretching and physiotherapy, which felt wonderful for my broken body. Eventually when my symptoms were a little more ‘controlled’ I started going out for longer walks, and before long I was able to go out and walk a good 4 miles. I’d be wrecked that evening and possibly the next day but I did it and that sense of achievement was almost as satisfying as crossing the finishing line of a race (although what a feeling that is!).
Another (and possibly more important) factor is learning not to compare. At diagnosis I was constantly yearning for that woman who could just go out and run 10 miles and actually feel good afterwards. I missed the way my body used to feel and the way my clothes fit. I missed the glory of picking up a medals after months of training and doing it all in memory of my brother, raising worthwhile money for charity.
Today, I no longer compare. I no longer yearn. I do however still remain optimistic that I WILL run again, but only when I am ready, and only what I can manage.
What I am now able to do is get on with my day and cover most distance by foot. I cover a distance of at least 6 miles evenly across my day and it actually makes me feel better. In fact if I don’t cover this distance my evenings are absolutely terrible. I feel proud that despite what is technically a disability, I am active and I am doing all I can to benefit all aspects of my long term health.
This doesn’t mean I am now going to sit back and be 100% content with this equilibrium. For those who know me, they will know that running is in my blood and I’m not sure that I will ever be fully content if I don’t ever run again. It a big goal, but I don’t feel it completely unrealistic. Just one year ago, doing the school run alone was hell on earth, and it now doesn’t even cross my mind that it will be difficult, most days.
So what’s next? For me I am looking to work on my strength and flexibility, so I am looking to seriously get into yoga. I’d like to spend a few months working on doing some daily yoga, at home, to increase my core stability, and my overall strength. Why? Well, as I think you have gathered by now, I really want to run again, and building up this strength and power will help with that, not to mention the stretching element will benefit my joint pain immensely.
This is where I need your help. I am looking for a seriously good at home yoga workout. This can be on DVD or on You Tube, or wherever you know there is a really good programme for beginners. I really do not have the time or the energy to go after work, and so the mornings are key to fitting this into my routine. Recommendations are highly appreciated.
I would also really love to hear from you about what exercise works for you and your chronic illness. Are there any runners out there with fibromyalgia? If so I would really love to hear from you. Anyone recommend anything else that works well as exercise with fibromyalgia? Please do get in touch by either leaving a comment below or visiting one on my social media platforms. I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.