Today I joined hubby for a short visit to the health club. I’d not been in a large number of months, but decided that this would be a good opportunity to scope things out with regards to what they had. I need to get back into the habit of getting some regular exercise. I figured that scoping things out ahead of time and figuring out what I needed, and when I was going to go, would be a good way of easing back into the habit. Why wait until New Year’s Day to make a resolution?
There are a number of good reasons for me to get some exercise, but an equally weighty number of reasons why it’s been increasingly difficult to do so.
- Exercise is good because it improves sleep, and I’ve not had a solid night’s sleep in months due to frequent hot flashes. But it’s hard to go exercise when you’re tired, achey and exhausted all the time.
- It helps maintain bone density (my maternal line has osteoporosis riddled through it) and calcium+vit D supplements aren’t enough.
- Regular exercise will help me get back in the habit of stretching regularly, which not only helps me monitor my ROM (Range of Motion) in various joints, but also maintains flexibility. This doesn’t seem like a big deal — the thing about being hypermobile is that I’m naturally bendier than the average human; where most people struggle to touch their toes, I can bend over (with my knees locked) and place my palms flat on the floor. Except for when I push myself out of bed and lurch unsteadily down the stairs first thing in the morning, I don’t really appear to be as stiff as I feel — my “stiff” frequently puts my ROM into the realm of “normal”, which makes it hard to explain to docs that, No, I’m really stiff today. Of course, the flip side is handling myself carefully; I have to do my stretches slowly so I don’t injure myself. But regular stretching will help prevent accidental sprains and subluxations, especially when I stumble or fall.
- Exercise is good for endorphins, which mean less pain — hooray!
- Doing weight-bearing exercise will help me maintain and increase muscle mass and strength. The club has circuits of various weight-training equipment (Nautilus, Cybex et cetera) as well as free weights. Of course, the challenge is to protect my joints at the same time.
Today I stretched out, and did a slow round of the Nautilus equipment, taking care to make notes about settings. I moved through the machines slowly and was careful not let the weights drop or thump at the lower and upper ends of the movements (which would jar my joints), and remembered to inhale during abductions (pulling limbs away from my torso) and to exhale during adductions (pulling limbs in towards torso). I read the directions for each machine carefully, employed the seat belts, adjusted the seat heights to fit my frame, and set the weights two levels lighter than where I had last used them a few years ago. That proved to be effective; I could get through at least one rep of ten for each, with the weights set at anywhere from 30 pounds (about 13 kilos) for the tricep curl, to 60 pounds (about 27 kilos) for the leg curl, depending upon the type of machine.
Adaptation is everything when it comes to doing a workout. I discovered that I won’t be able to use the lateral raise machine for the deltoids and trapezius muscles, as it puts too much pressure on the sides of my elbows. For those I will have to use a pair of 20-pound (9 kilo) free weights. Note to self: pack weightlifting gloves! And I’ll have to buy some sneakers (trainers). I must remember take my newly-repaired iPod — the good thing about ubiquitous personal media players is that gyms no longer feel compelled to blast their (crappy) music everywhere, as everyone is listening to their own favorite music. When plugged into my music, I can be off in my own world and not need to chit-chat with anyone.
I abhor sit-ups; no matter what style of sit-ups or crunches are in vogue, they always give me headaches (maybe that’s related to the TMJ). But at the college gym I discovered the “captain’s chair”, which is a high chair without a seat. You climb up, hold onto the hand-grips, and slowly curl your legs up to your chest, either straight or angled left or right. I really like this piece of equipment because I don’t end up with tight or stiff neck muscles, or sore spots on my vertebrae.
But it’s not enough to just stretch before I work out. I need to be sure my meds have kicked in, and that my muscles are warmed up before I start. Before doing a few speed-walk laps around the track and stretching, I can take a hot shower at the gym and then change into exercise clothes. Then when I’m done, the remedy for aches is cool packs, such as a (knotted) tube sock filled with a pound of small beans, which can be kept in the freezer. (This is also nice for something cold on the back of the neck or the forehead.)
I hate aerobics classes. I have problems with coördinating my arms and legs at the same time, and the instructors are constantly changing the movements, leaving me half a step (or more) behind. I hate the loud, stupid music they play. Worse, the activity triggers asthmatic coughing fits, and most aerobics is really hard on the joints. Fortunately, the club has a variety of low-impact classes, such as yoga,Tai-Chi, pilates, even bellydancing (which I’ve not done for years). Of course, the trick is finding a time slot when I can attend; I start work at 7:30 and will be attending evening classes twice a week. Doing any of those would be good for my flexibility, strength and balance. Depending on how the instructor does the class, it could help my blood pressure. But do I want to get out of bed at 5:00 am for a 6:00 am class?
Then again, even if I just do the weight circuit, I still need to plan a regular workout time into my weekly schedule. I’m too tired at the end of my work day, and studies will occupy my evening time. Can I get to sleep early enough for morning workouts? Would there be enough time for a wardrobe change and driving to work? Time will tell. Because right now it’s winter, which means no gardening exercise. I need those benefits for my overall health. Plus, anything that would help the insomnia or headaches would be grand.
It’s time I get more active, and get more proactive about improving my health.
Ooh-ooh! Here’s a great link from the BBC’s Ouch! Web page: