Trying to get back into a regular exercise routine has been frustrating, to put it mildly. During our RV adventure, I did a fair bit of hiking, but not nearly as much exercise (and not nearly as high-intensity) as in my triathlon days. I’ve given up a lot of the physical activities I love over the last few years, and getting back into exercise hasn’t been an easy journey.
First, there’s the matter that I simply can’t do many of the activities I used to enjoy. The arthritis and whatever’s making my joints completely unstable has taken a lot away from me. Then there’s the matter of motivation. And then there’s the fact that I want to do a lot of other things, and there’s only so many hours in a day (and yes, chilling with a glass of wine watching clips of Chicago Med totally counts as something I want—if not need—to do to keep my sanity).
I’m trying and not entirely succeeding at getting back into an exercise routine, and ironic as it may sound, it’s because I’m stubborn. Stubborn enough to want to get into the weight room and be able to do a simple routine like I used to. Of course I’m being unreasonable, if not stupid, wanting to do this.
I was a Registered Kinesiologist who worked with people who have chronic illnesses. I was a personal trainer. I was the one telling my clients to listen to their bodies; to not overdo it, to only do their personal best. I know better than to try to start too fast. And here I am, ignoring all my own advice.
When you have chronic illness, no two days are the same. One day I might be hyper energetic and be able to do lots (though high-impact exercise hasn’t been an option in quite a while). Another day I might be in enough pain to make most movement difficult.
So although having a skeleton plan of physical activity for the week ahead would be good, it’s also good to make sure it’s flexible, and to keep an open mind about changing things up as needed to accommodate symptoms. And most of all, I need to learn to treat myself as a beginner and accept that I’ll be getting back into exercise slowly.
Are you also trying to get back into exercising? Here’s what I’m going to try to do in the next few weeks. Maybe we can try it together!
Getting Back into Exercise Week 1: Gentle cardio and physio only
I’ll be walking on a treadmill, because about the only time I have to go for a walk while someone else is watching the littles is when it’s dark outside, and I’m tired of walking in the dark.
Walking on the treadmill also allows me to pray the rosary while I do it, without worrying too much about looking where I’m going. I’ve been meaning to start my days with God for a while, and I find I’m always more patient and I have better days when I take some time for myself and go for a walk while saying my prayers before everyone wakes up.
After doing my walk, I’ll do my physio exercises. I am going to try to do this religiously, 7 days per week. Because the cardio is gentle enough, it’s OK not to take a rest day. For the full first week, I’ll only walk at 3 mph.
The physio exercises I was given are strength-building but only use a band, which is gentler on my joints than dumbbells and barbells at the moment. So I’ll just stick with those.
Week 2: Gentle but increased intensity cardio and physio only
I’ll repeat the same things as Week 1, but I’ll walk at 3.5 mph.
Week 3: Gentle but even more increased intensity cardio and physio only.
I’ll repeat the same things as week 1, but I’ll walk at 4 mph.
Week 4: Introduce bodyweight training (with caution)
I’ll continue my daily walks at 4 mph and doing my physio, and I’ll reintroduce some bodyweight training with caution. For example, I won’t further irritate my painful wrists with push ups (unless I’m using dumbbells for pushing against (and only if my wrists can tolerate that modification). If an exercise hurts a joint, I’ll stop and adapt.
Getting back into exercise, beyond week 5
Once I’ve finished all 4 weeks described above, I’ll introduce different exercises. The important thing is that I remember that although I’ve been extremely active in the past, my joints have deteriorated very quickly in the last few years, and I simply can’t do the same types of exercises I used to back in the day (at last not right away). While this is hard to accept, if I’m going to continue exercising at all, I must get back into exercising slowly and steadily.
Will you join me?