Exercise? I thought you said, extra fries!
I love that joke about exercise. That one and, “I named my dog ‘Ten Miles’ so I can tell everyone I walked Ten Miles today.
If you hate exercising and feel like you’ll never find the time, energy or inclination to accomplish it, this post is for you. If you exercise, but pay for it physically, and would like to find a different way, read on.
I’ve got a whole lotta stuff wrong with me that keeps me from exercising “like other people do.” I have symptoms of POTS, so I get tired on stairs. (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – description at end of this post)
Add in chronic fatigue from Fibromyalgia and Sjogrens, excessive daytime sleepiness from Narcolepsy, and tight skin/body pain from the Myofascial Pain Syndrome (description at end of post) and it’s a wonder I can get out of bed, much less go to a “gym,” or even take a half hour yoga class online.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Back to “exercising.” I decided several years ago that I’m just different. I’m never going to find myself in the middle of a group of people and keeping up. Not sports, exercise, line dancing or even yoga. I just don’t have the stamina, or, quite frankly, the desire. At this point in my life, I’m totally OK with that. I gave up trying to fit into anyone else’s mold of the way I should be living my life. They do not have to spend any time in this body, trying to make it work right, trying to function with the sleepiness and pain. It’s just me in here and, damn it, I have to take care of my house. Which I work toward simply by paying attention to me and what is going on inside me. “Know thyself.” Adapting your life by challenging yourself to obtain your objectives in a way that is unique to you and your particular needs will serve you 1,000 times more than any yoga class.
So, I do what I call, intrinsic stretching, which is different from stretching intrinsic muscles.
1. belonging to a thing by its very nature:
the intrinsic value of a gold ring.
2. Anatomy. (of certain muscles, nerves, etc.) belonging to or lying within a given part.
I learned the basics of yoga. The movements, the poses, the breathing. I understand that they are all connected to each other, and all important for each other and an ancient practice that has been proven over a significant amount of time to have benefits for a lot of people… but I don’t care ;). I’m not lotsa people, I’m me. If I do yoga, the way it’s “supposed” to be done, I ache. I’m more tired. My body gets “mad” at me for trying. When “normal” people overdo it with exercise, they feel icky for a day or so and as they ‘get used to it,’ their aches and annoyances abate. I am not so fortunate.
I remember telling a worker’s comp doc, that I saw after a fall in a restaurant, that I had Fibromyalgia and still couldn’t lift my arms over my head without terrible pain. He told me I needed to lift weights. I wanted to punch him. I have rock hard biceps naturally. I’m cut like a diamond *meow*.
Yes, lifting weights is good – if you need to improve your arm strength or muscle mass, it doesn’t do anything for me other than aggravate the hot lava rocks that live in my biceps and like to radiate pain down through my fingertips. He claimed to have fibro as well. One thing I do know he didn’t have, was the ability to discern the fact that a similar diagnosis does NOT mean we feel the same things, or have the same symptoms, or will have the same results from the same treatment. Going back to the broccoli analogy – two people can eat from the same bowl of broccoli, one will be fine, the other will have horrible gas. If it works that way with something as simple as broccoli, why wouldn’t it be any different with something as utterly complicated as Fibromyalgia?! /vent.
All that said, I do need to stretch and it has to be specifically geared toward stretching MY body. My body does not stretch the same as other bodies. Well, of course it does literally but the insides do not react the same way. My MPS affects the top of my butt/hips and the sides of my stomach. It’s like my fascia shrinks, the skin becomes very tight and the pain is intense. It burns, like if I go too far I might rip right open. No joke. Stretching is a necessity or it just gets worse.
Intrinsic stretching started for me while doing daily yoga outside. I’d spent years living in emotionally hostile, draining environments and was still learning how to protect myself, from myself, with headphones (killing the monkey in my mind.) I was tired. My legs just didn’t want to hold me up. So, I sat down, felt a little sorry for myself and then let the music sink in to my brain. Listening to only positive songs of encouragement (Jason Mraz is like a savior to me lol), I felt myself slip into a meditative state and I could see the shadow of myself sitting in front of me. That part is not required for intrinsic stretching so if you don’t experience that or, think I’m nutso just for saying it, that’s ok ;).
Start sitting, standing, dancing, it really doesn’t matter. Headphones are great but not required. What is required is to tune in to channel YOU. Move left, how does that feel? Close your eyes and feel the results of each movement. Which muscles are you utilizing? What can you feel? Does it feel good? Is it sore? If you hit a sore point, stop. Breathe. Listen to your body tell you if you should try to continue on the forward path, veer off in another direction or, retreat. Keep your movements continuous until your body encourages you to hold at a particular place. If that doesn’t happen, just continue, eyes open or closed and feel what’s happening. If you feel dorky just trying to do something on your own, try starting with a familiar pose, like warrior, and move from there. Best thing about this, as a person with narcolepsy, is I don’t get exhausted doing this.
What you’re doing is having a conversation with your body. Asking it what it wants and trying to give it what it needs.
adjective iso·met·ric \ˌī-sə-ˈme-trik\
2: of, relating to, involving, or being muscular contraction (as in isometrics) against resistance, without significant shortening of muscle fibers, and with marked increase in muscle tone.
Isometrics is a real thing. Using your muscles, even with something as low impact as intrinsic stretching, IS real exercise. Don’t let anyone tell you different. The important thing is to keep moving.
It may not be very motivational to say, “you need to figure this out for yourself.” But, that’s what living with a chronic condition is like. You can’t rely on someone else’s exercise plan. You don’t fit into a mold. No one does but, you more so than others. Lean into your uniqueness. You can get help from other people with exercise and then modify it for your own body but, don’t force yourself to do things “just like everybody else,” because… you’re not. Learn what things you do feel good and help, and which things do not. And, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to get fit exactly like they do, because you don’t.
A good session of intrinsic stretching will leave your body feeling at least a little better, hopefully moving up to much better as you tune into yourself more and more. It will also leave you feeling more accomplished. You did something. You may have done it in a chair, or even while lying down. For five minutes, twenty, whatever you can muster, do it and you will feel like hey, I CAN do this. Then just repeat that until it’s part of you because that’s what you’re doing every day – creating and recreating you.
Happy matters! Go and get it!
Definitions and Products:
POTS – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. When a change in position, from lying down to upright, causes and abnormally large increase in heart rate (tachycardia), palpitations, light-headedness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, weakness or “heaviness” in the lower legs, blurred vision and cognitive difficulties. Symptoms are exacerbated with prolonged sitting, prolonged standing, alcohol, heat, exercise, or eating a large meal. A third of people with POTS faint in response to postural changes or exercise. It also can cause coldness or pain in the extremities, chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances. Source: Wikipedia. Read more HERE.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome – A chronic condition that affects the fascia (connective tissue that covers the muscles). It can be a single muscle or a group of muscles. It may develop from a muscle injury or from excessive strain on a particular muscle, ligament or tendon. People with the disorder can also suffer from depression, fatigue and behavioral disturbances. Fascia is the tough connective tissue that lies just under the skin. It is surrounding every organ, muscle, bone, nerve and blood vessel in the body, and extends uninterrupted from head to toe. This is how pain is referred. Trigger points are able to cause pain, tingling, burning, weakness and a loss of range of motion. Read more HERE.
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I go through a lot of headphones. I found these to last awhile:
This is one of my favorite albums for stretching If you have Amazon Prime, it’s free: