The Problem With Exercise
Exercise is a big problem for people with Fibromyalgia. It's sort of a catch-22. On the one hand, if a person doesn't work the body, over time the muscles become flaccid making it difficult to perform basic functions and causing more pain. On the other hand, if a person with Fibro exercises they will get sick. Even gentle exercise makes us, in the short term, very ill.
For instance, I just finished a short, very mild aerobic workout. The video itself is easy enough, but I did it with even less intensity because I knew what would happen if I didn't. Not halfway through, the muscles in my torso (muscles you don't even think you have until they start shouting at you) started to spasm. Like lots of charlie horses all over your body.
To make it even worse, there are often long periods of time where you really can't exercise and then you have to go back to it. You're always starting from the beginning.
So what is a person like this suppose to do? The answer is: just do your best. People with FMS/CFS tend to be type-A personalities who want to do everything just so but you can't. Take it easy. Realize that in exercising, as with many other things in Fibro life, you often won't get off the bottom rung. Sometimes you'll fall off the ladder all together. It doesn't matter. It's not like we're being graded.
What Kind of Workouts Work
When I was about 20, I saw a rheumatologist who told me that in the manner of exercising I should treat my body as if I was ninety-years-old. I love this imagery. This was a whole new thought for me as I would do the workouts my friends did and try to work as hard as them and then be sick for weeks.
I started looking around for workouts for seniors and other milder workouts that could be adapted. These are my favorites.
Move Those Joints!: therapeutic exercise with Dian Ramirez
This is really slow and gentle. It was mainly intended for arthritis sufferers. You move pretty much every joint in your body very slowly. It's divided up into sections so you can do only a little bit at a time as you need (I never do the floor section anymore).
The only problem is if your joints are loose and overextend (like mine) then you'll want to be careful not to move through your full range of motion and move only as far as the instructor moves. That hopefully will save a bit of pain.
Stronger Seniors: Stretch and Strength
There are two workouts, each just under an hour long. The stretch workout is slower. There are no breaks between stages. When I did the whole thing I was sick for three days, so now I set a timer for 10 to 20 minutes.
The strength workout is divided into sections. I generally just do the warm-up. Sometimes, if I'm feeling really good and don't have to do anything for a couple of days, I'll add one of the other parts.
(It must be noted here, that I can physically do the whole workout, but then my body rebels afterward leaving me wracked with pain and fatigue. I choose to do less so that the amount of pain and fatigue I get afterward is more tolerable and I still have some energy to do a few other things in my day.)
Leslie Sansone – Walk Away the Pounds (1 mile)
The one mile is a bit of a stretch for me. This is one of the few aerobic workouts I found I can do at all. There are some times when tension and anxiety crush you and you just have to release some energy. That's what I save this for. A brisk walk around the block would work too and might be less strenuous.
Throw Away The Measuring Stick
It has to be noted that it's different for everyone. My mom can only do some basic joint rotations and stretches for a few minutes most days. I go for months without being able to exercise. Then I start all over again. For those of us with FMS/CFS we just can't judge our efforts by what others can do.