Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting Back on the Workout Wagon

Somewhere around the third mile of interval training on the treadmill, I began to wonder when my legs had turned to lead, when my lung capacity diminished to that of a chain-smoker, and why, oh why, did I let myself go?

It happens to the best of us. Despite our knowledge, despite our good intentions, life gets in the way, and our exercise routines fall to the back burner. Whether it’s the kids’ busy schedules, increased stress at work, or simply fatigue (my arch nemesis), finding time for ourselves tends to be the first thing we drop when there aren’t enough hours in the day. For those of us dealing with autoimmune disorders, this is a slippery slope.

Exercise is the single most empowering tool for fighting pain, inflammation, and fatigue associated with RA (and other forms of autoimmune arthritis). There have been many times over the course of my journey that I felt helpless. Learning that I had a weapon in my arsenal to gain control was important in my overall treatment. Yet embracing exercise – whether for the first time or after a hiatus – can seem overwhelming. Here are a few tips for overcoming the “I can’t do it” blues, and getting back on track.

1. Train with a friend. It seems we are all too willing to let ourselves down at a moment’s notice, but would never even consider bailing on a friend. Working out with a friend keeps us committed – if only out of politeness! Once the routine becomes a habit, it’s easier to stay motivated on your own.

2. Hire a personal trainer. Yes, it may seem a bit extravagant. But it works. Like training with a friend, the commitment you make to your trainer provides motivation to make it to the gym even when you feel like going back to bed. What’s more, a trainer will correct your form, so you are much less likely to get injured. Make sure your trainer knows about your condition and your meds (and, of course, that your doc knows about your trainer!).

3. Set realistic goals and track your progress. Nothing is more discouraging than failure – so don’t set yourself up for it by creating impossible goals. Talk to your doctor about what is realistic for you, and keep a journal so that you can look back and see your improvement. Treat yourself when you hit milestones.

4. Be kind to yourself. Don’t get down on yourself for needing to slow down during a flare, or for not sticking to your routine for a few weeks. This is YOUR thing, and you’re in charge. Allow for setbacks, and keep a positive attitude.

We’ve all fallen off the workout wagon. But the good news is, it’s a wagon each of us DRIVE. It will be there when we’re ready to jump back on.