I have never been very consistent with exercise or worked my way up to a level of fitness. I walked up Machu Picchu with a couple of friends and other, much more experienced walkers, over the course of 3 days and in a pair of not very sensible skater trainers I had just bought. I always just started new sports suddenly, working out for the amount of time I aimed to reach from day one, without any aches or discomfort afterwards. I guess that’s what being in your 20s is all about.
Similarly I remember that when I noticed my first symptoms of MS I had suddenly begun cycling to and from work (about 3 hours a day) with no previous build up or training – after years of not having cycled everyday/ for more than 20minutes at a time. First I had some vague vision problems in my right eye that seemed to resolve themselves before I got to see an optician. I was a hypochondriac at the time, so I saw one within two days of the onset of the symptom. A few weeks later, a strange and constant (over 3 weeks) pins and needles sensation in both my legs made me see my GP and then a neurologist. But even with that strange feeling in my legs, I pushed through and carried on cycling.
About 2 years ago, as a result of lower back and hip pain I stopped swimming and cycling against my better judgement and giving in to my strong lazy gene. My back is much better but the last six months or so I have been unsuccessful in trying to get back into sport. I start up at the same intensity I used to practice at, expecting to be at the level I used to be at before I stopped. So from no swimming at all for two years, I would start to swim three times a day again, knock myself out, need to rest then do the same thing all over again and again. Even when the wise advice to build up slowly was shared with me – I understood: swim once this week, twice next week and three times the week after that. Well as you have probably guessed, that didn’t really work!
It looks though, like I have finally begun to make progress rather than maintaining or worsening my condition. I finally seem to be accepting the fact that any exercise needs to be increased very slowly, but also maintained as I go. So, although it felt ridiculous at first, I can now see that increasing yoga poses -by one second a week (!!!!) is the way to go. With cycling it has been slightly more, but only very slightly – I am talking one-five minutes extra a week…So at this point I have been doing 4 minutes on the cross trainer per week for the last 2 weeks…and intend to increase to two 4 minute sessions a week this week – maybe – if I feel energetic enough. With yoga, I work through a set of poses everyday and increase the length of time I hold a difficult pose such as warrior 1; for about one or two seconds longer – each week. So last week I held each stage of warrior 1 for 10 seconds, and this week I increased it to 11 seconds. No lie. That is how gradual this needs to be for me. I now have an electric bike to it is pedal assisted and means I am not yet dealing with hills. Yesterday I did about ten minutes though as I was tired – it is important also to rest when you need to.
It is the same with walking – I am not going on a long walk until I reach that distance in my daily walking…but I am trying to walk every day to maintain the little I can so far do. It’s all about the long game….and so gradual baby steps, but maintained baby steps.
Finally though, instead of feeling exhausted after an exercise session, I am starting to feel energized!