Exercise and RA: Part Four

By Marianna Boyce

active-adult-athlete-body-416778I’m sure we can all agree exercise benefits us all—regardless of gender, age, and fitness levels. There are many options to choose from, but not every workout suits every need. The key is to keep looking until you find which one works best for you.

 

In the beginning, I used rheumatoid arthritis as an excuse not to exercise, but quickly found anything water-related was a soothing option for my aching joints. For that very reason, I joined a gym and participated only in their water fitness classes. After about a month, this particular activity enabled me to build strength and endurance, ultimately giving me the confidence I needed to search for more options.

 

Since I preferred group classes, I looked for some I could do without creating painful regrets. There’s a difference between RA pain and exercise pain. I can handle the exercise pain alone, but paired with RA, it’s a frightening thought.

 

To follow is a list of some of the choices I’ve made so far. I certainly plan to add to the list as I become stronger, but for now, I’m challenging myself. It’s a balancing act, but the motivation is quite simple—feeling better while improving my mobility.

 

Aqua-Fit/Aqua-Tone/Aqua-Zumba

Each of these fun-filled workouts is for people of all ages and fitness levels.

 

I reaped many benefits from these non-impact underwater exercises performed in a temperature-controlled pool.

 

The instructor guides each step of the way, and most importantly, if you mess up, no one cares. As long as you keep moving, you’re doing it right.

 

I like to say, “What goes on under the water stays under the water.”

 

There’s no judgement and no rules.

 

Okay, there’s only one rule—no drowning allowed, and since your face is never submerged, it’s an easy rule to follow.

 

As I gained momentum in the areas of flexibility, strength, and mobility, I mustered up enough courage to try a Yoga Restore class.

 

Yoga Restore

This relaxing hour is also encouraged for all ages and fitness levels.

 

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It uses breathing, stretching, and restorative postures to assist in feeling refreshed and renewed. With the lights dimmed, the intimidating factor most people feel when starting out makes it easier to attend. It’s a great way to treat your body to a calm, relaxing workout.

 

There’s no judgement and no rules.

 

Okay, there’s only one rule—just do you. Since you know your body better than anyone, it’s an easy rule to follow. The instructor never pushes beyond your limit. If you can’t hold a particular stretch or pose, do one you can.

 

RPM (Indoor Cycling/Spin Class)

This class is for all ages and fitness levels.

 

athlete-bike-black-and-white-cycle-260409RPM is a calorie-burning workout on stationary bicycles where you ride with the instruction of an enthusiastic coach. An instructor will guide you through various terrains—including hills, flats, and mountaintops.

 

In this class, there’s no judgement and no rules.

 

Okay, there’s only one rule—just have fun. It’s not a competition. The instructors constantly encourage members to listen to their bodies.

 

This high energy class is great, but I always take it much easier than everyone else. My knees and ankles don’t allow for the intensity many others exert—and I’m okay with that.

 

Barre

Wow—I love this class. It’s incredibly challenging, but miraculously doable—even for those with joint-related issues such as RA.

 

It’s a low-impact, high-energy program that integrates principles of yoga, Pilates, and strength training all in one class. The instructor focuses on slow, full-range movements combined with high repetition and isometric contractions. It increases strength, endurance, and bone density. It also improves posture, functional movement, and engages every muscle in the body through each pose and exercise.

 

Did I mention, there’s no judgement and no rules?

 

Okay, there’s just one rule—challenge yourself, but only within your physical limitations. The instructor will give modifications to any exercise if necessary.

 

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Has it been well worth the extra time, effort, and money? More than you’ll ever know. Until September of last year, I’d completely forgotten how good exercise felt. These activities changed the trajectory of my health and wellness goals.

 

Trust me! There’s still much to do, but the benchmark I recently set for myself was to simply feel better without focusing on a number on the scale. I’ve met that goal—so what’s next?

 

If you’ve ever entertained the idea of joining a gym, I encourage those of all ages and fitness levels to take that plunge if at all possible. Not all have a pool, so if you’re searching for water-fitness in particular, MUV fitness is a good option. If you don’t necessarily need a pool, I definitely recommend any reputable gym that’s convenient and affordable.

 

The reasoning is simple, and has nothing to do with vanity, but everything to do with mobility.

 

I’m not 100% pain-free, and may never be, but I haven’t felt better in years. Exercise is helping in ways I never thought possible—mentally and physically. It’s something I never thought about until it was snatched away, but I can honestly say I no longer take it for granted. The power of movement and mobility—it truly does matter.

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I’ve not been paid or given any services from MUV Fitness.

 

Exercise and RA: Part Two

By Marianna Boyce

Exercise and RA part IIIf you read my last post, you’ll recall my sister and I claimed her swimming pool as our gym last summer. Cindy and I both suffer from chronic illnesses that affect mobility; she suffers from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, while I endure dreadful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

 

What started as “Saturday only” water workouts quickly evolved into something much bigger. We upped our game as we squeezed in two additional workouts during the week. Being in the water made it easier for us to move.

 

The weekday shakeup in my rigid routine was inconvenient but well worth it. The hardest part about changing the workout schedule was getting there after a long day at work, but once we were in the pool, we were unstoppable. Swimming made an empowering difference in the way we felt.

 

Cindy and I were definitely on to something—that is until the leaves started changing their colors.

 

When she covered the pool for the fall and winter months, I had the mully-grubs. My body needed the pool, so I began searching for venues that offered aquatic fitness classes in a temperature-controlled setting. We needed a heated pool in a clean, safe environment.

 

Of all the options available, a local gym in the heart of town caught my eye.

 

Now, the question was, “Do I actually want to join a gym?” 

 

Having a membership definitely has its perks, but it costs money, time, and commitment—things I wasn’t sure I had. Certainly, no one dealing with a beast like RA joins a fitness center. The idea seemed counterintuitive, so I immediately started talking myself out of it.

 

First and foremost, what does a fifty-one-year-old, pain-filled, peri-menopausal woman do at a sports club?

 

Secondly, I couldn’t afford to join, but then figured I couldn’t afford not to. 

 

Thirdly, I thought the gym was for “perfect” people. I’m certainly far from that, but it was high time my health and wellness finally took precedence.

 

To satisfy my curiosity, I needed to visit the gym. Since I had no earthly idea what to expect, slipping in under the radar was my goal. I finally mustered up the courage to go to the gym, and I actually fell in love! The whole “slipping in under the radar” idea was not an option, which was a good thing.

 

I was initially impressed with the security from the get-go. Once I entered the building, I had to abide by the safety rules in place. It turns out, I couldn’t aimlessly wander much further than the front desk check-in. I’m not sure why I thought I could.

 

Members must show their barcoded pass scanned whenever they enter the building. Since I wasn’t a paying member, I was promptly met with a friendly face as soon as I stepped inside the front door. I probably looked like a deer in headlights, but she immediately made me feel comfortable.

 

Before taking a tour, I had to sign in as a guest. The process was computerized and entailed more than just signing my name on a sheet of paper. Still, this minor inconvenience made me feel secure knowing they had a detailed listing of everyone in the building at any given time. 

 

After signing in, a gym representative gave me a tour. I revealed my medical setbacks, and the representative assured me that many people join the gym for similar reasons. Not everyone who goes to the gym is young, fit, and fabulous.

 

As I looked around, there were people of all ages and sizes scattered throughout various areas of the gym. Some people were in great shape, and others were working on their goals, like me. The reality of large fitness gyms differed completely from my preconceptions.

 

I was quite comfortable with the representation of everyday people. Although we were extremely different from one another, we were also very much the same. We all just wanted to feel better. Exercise does that for everyone—healthy and unhealthy alike.

 

I left the gym with a fourteen-day free pass to use in whatever way I chose, but my interest was with their indoor pool only. Water exercise was the only thing I was confident I could do, but with fourteen free consecutive days, it would certainly help in my decision-making process.

 

Whether at home or a gym, movement makes a world of difference. I wasn’t ready to forfeit my mobility over to RA. As stated in my last post, I have RA—RA doesn’t have me.

 

I could hardly wait to tell Cindy about my visit. She had a fourteen-day free pass waiting for her as well. I hoped she’d love it because I’d already made up my mind—I was not doing this gym thing alone!

Exercise and RA part II image 2

Exercise and RA: Part One

By Marianna Boyce

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue surrounding the joints. It sees these healthy cells as foreign invaders, ultimately causing painful immobility and deformity if left untreated.

Symptoms of RA darkened my doorstep the summer of 2016, and honestly speaking, it’s been one of the best excuses I’ve had to avoid physical activity for the past few years. Don’t get me wrong. RA is a great excuse, but my itty-bitty pity-party was getting a little ridiculous.

I have RA—RA doesn’t have me.

Still trying to regain what’s considered normal for me (pre-RA,) I wondered if reviving my exercise routine was even possible without creating more problems for myself. I was scared of raw, unbridled RA pain, so I was skeptical. If you’re struggling with any type of arthritis or mobility issue, I’m with you. The thought of physical activity is daunting, but new light has recently started to change my mind on the subject.

woman-girl-silhouette-jogger-40751 (1)

According to Google, “motion is lotion” is a phrase coined by an orthopedic surgeon. He stated that movement would increase the lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) transporting nutrients to the joints. This fluid is vital in keeping them healthy. I’ve never been to an orthopedist before, but my rheumatologist would agree that movement is essential to maintaining independence and mobility for those suffering from chronic pain.

I know—it’s much easier said than done. My sister Cindy suffers from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, so together, we’re either a force to be reckoned with or a hot mess.

Cindy and I are extremely close. I’m usually at her house every Saturday afternoon for much-needed sister time— especially in the summertime.

After lounging around her pool on a hot South Carolina day this past summer, we laughed and joked with each other about how out of shape we were. Sisters can do this—and we did so as we mindlessly consumed unhealthy poolside snacks and sugary drinks. We had an epiphany that very day. Our itty-bitty pity-party had to officially end—no more excuses.

It was time to get moving, but not for the reasons many people may think. Our reasons go much deeper than physical appeal. We just want to feel better.

We started researching the benefits of Water Exercise and Aqua Aerobics. What we found was quite encouraging, and at first glance, exactly what we needed.

  • Water supports the body, reducing stress on joints and muscles.
  • It helps build strength and endurance.
  • Water pressure helps lessen the strain on the heart as it assists in moving blood around the body.
  • It provides for a low impact, high-energy workout.
  • Water allows for a greater range of motion with the freedom to move with little to no pain.
  • It helps prevent overheating allowing for a longer workout.
  • It’s fun! (How many people can say that about their exercise routine?)

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The more Cindy and I read about it, the more our interest was piqued, so the following Saturday, we found some YouTube videos and had a different kind of pool party.

The following day, we felt the workout “burn,” but it also felt fantastic. If water makes it easier to exercise, count us in, but what would we do when she closed her pool for the fall and winter months? This is where the courage to try something new came into play. For two moody women in their fifties, change isn’t always easy, but we made the collaborative decision to end our itty-bitty pity-party once and for all. It’s that decision that will potentially change our lives.

We’re a work in progress, but the struggle makes us stronger. The struggle, my friend, is part of everyone’s story. No one is exempt. We’re all in this together. What’s your story? Would this type of workout suit you?

Be on the lookout for Part Two of my “Exercise and RA” post coming soon.

**Please consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.**

“Weight” It Out?

By Marianna Boyce

scaleWeight is an issue that most every woman deals with at some point in life.  As we age, it tends to find a way to hang on for dear life!  It seems that the determination to maintain a healthy weight and consistent exercise routine is now a thought bubble somewhere in the back of my mind.  That thought bubble is filled with excuses, but none better than “I just can’t because my entire body hurts!”  Although this is a very good excuse in my book, I still need to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Before widespread joint pain aggressively reared its ugly head throughout my body, I was happy and healthy at 135 pounds.  These unusual symptoms suddenly took complete control of my life within a time span of merely fourteen days.  Diet and exercise was no longer a priority.

saladIn the kitchen, I was unable to cut, chop, peel, slice and dice, so preparing healthy meals at home was placed on the back burner, (no pun intended).  Fresh fruits and veggies were definitely off the menu.  I couldn’t do anything that required fine motor skills and dexterity due to the incredible pain being experienced in most every bending bone in my body.  In my unwanted new season of life, take-out was my “go to” because that was truly the best I could do!

Also prior to my unfortunate situation, I enjoyed a good workout several times a week but my exercise routine was also stopped dead in its tracks.  My knees, feet and ankles were very swollen and in excruciating pain so I could barely walk, much less exercise!

In an instant, my life was yanked from peaceful tranquility, and tossed into a horrible abyss that I refer to as “my alternate universe.”  I eventually saw an amazing rheumatologist here at LMC.  He helped me regain a somewhat normal life.   Praise the Lord for that!  He is my hero!

With the upcoming holidays, the comfort foods we have all grown accustomed are filled with more calories than our bodies know what to do with on any given day!  I also have two family reunions to attend before the end of the year!  Lord have mercy!  I cannot “weight” any longer.  I have to do something about it now.  I keep saying I’m going to but my “motivation meter”  is not set on high like it used to be.

stretchingI need to lose 20 pounds.  What about you?  Whether we need to lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds, let’s not “weight” it out!  Hopefully by the time we ring in the new year, we will already be on course. The hardest part is simply getting started!  I’ll keep you posted on progress or slip ups along the way.  Maybe sharing this with you will help me in my motivation department!

Visit my personal website, myalternateuniverseonline.wordpress.com to read about trying to reignite my exercise routine in 2016.  This story took place before I knew what was wrong with me.  It’s aptly titled, “It’s Time To Exercise the Demons!”  (Its about the fifth blog post down on the website.)  I would love for you to check it out.  It’s actually quite comical.  I will go ahead and share with you…it was a complete failure!  Pray for better results this time!  I am definitely going to need it! 

 Best of luck to you if you are planning to join me!

20 Minutes Workout

By: Ashley Whisonant

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if if you are thinking about starting a new exercise program.

Are you feeling a little sluggish lately? I created and completed this quick, twenty minute workout below to reenergize myself and jump start my day.

Give it a shot and let me know how YOU like it!

Warm Up

  • Forward arm circles 15 sec
  • Backward arm circles 15 sec
  • High Knees 15 sec

Activity 1

  • Complete 20 pushups, then 20 stair steps, finished with 20 tricep dips
  • Repeat with 15 of each, then 10 of each exercise

Four Corners (Each corner had a different exercise of 20)

  • Corner 1-plank jacks
  • Corner 2-jumping jacks
  • Corner 3-mountain climbers
  • Corner 4-jump squats

Once you finish the exercise in the corner meet in the middle to do 10 burpees before moving to the next corner.

Then repeat all corners with 20 squats in the middle instead of burpees.

Abs: One minute each

  • Full sit ups
  • Crunches.

Becoming a Runner

By: Ashley Whisonant

Exercising was something that never came easy to me. I hated going to the gym. This dates back as far as high school gym. We had the choice to walk 7 laps or run 3…guess which I would ALWAYS choose? You got it. Seven laps here I come.

Hitting my thirties was a wakeup call to me. I wanted to exercise to be around for my boys. Having two active boys under 5 made our Saturdays full of soccer, bike riding, and outdoor fun. Momma needed to keep up!

After joining FiA, Females in Action, I felt more energized and overall happier. The early morning boot camps started my days with laughs and fellowship.

I was ready for a new challenge: running! I began training with a good friend to prepare for our first 5K. We were both non-runners working towards the same goal of completing the 3.1 miles. We pushed each other in the cold, rain, early morning, and nights. We sacrificed sleep and time with our babies, but we did it to prove something to ourselves. Pushing ourselves to reach a goal was healthy. It was healthy for us to have time away getting better – better together.

We successfully finished the Hot Flash 5K in Timmerman Trail. Did we come in first place? Not even close. But we did reach our goal and pushed ourselves further than we ever imagined.

Five Tips to Get You Back on Track If You’ve Gained Weight

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I recently looked back at my weight over the past two years. Except for the initial weight gain when I returned from Shepherd Center, I’ve generally I’ve stayed about the same. I felt a little crazy. Despite all of food tracking and measuring, exercising and gym visits, obsessing over ever calorie and measuring food, I was about the same weight. Whaaat?

Around that time, I saw a book called Body Kindness in one of my social feeds. The book promised to “show you how to create a healthier and happier life by treating yourself with compassion rather than shame.” Life is too short to be at war with my body, I thought as I ordered it. If I’m not going to benefit from “dieting” and assigning myself a goal weight, I may as well enjoy food and quit worrying so much.

The part of the book that resonated with me was “firing the food police” and seeing food as neutral, declassifying foods as “good” or “bad.”  I gave up recording in My Fitness Pal (MFP), bought foods I haven’t eaten in years and had a lot of ice cream. But food freedom didn’t automatically transfer into more mindful eating, an indifference to “problem foods” or weight loss. When I finally weighed myself after a few weeks, I was up a couple of pounds. That isn’t the end of the world, I know, but if you’re short and already have a few extra lbs., it’s a good warning sign.

Despite my tendency to overeat using the Body Kindness concept, I did love the “Body Kindness” tips. I loved striking morning power poses in the mirror; getting more sleep and practicing more positive body self-talk. I loved feeling less conscious and more empowered. It didn’t lead to weight loss or even maintenance, but it felt good.

I’ve decided that for me, meal planning and food journaling worked; it’s empowering and energizing. I’ve returned to food journaling and my goal to eat healthier. But I also decided to continue incorporating those body kindness tips as I worked toward getting closer to my goal weight.

Until then, I was stuck with a few extra pounds on top of what I wanted to lose before. For inspiration, I visited MFP’s website, where I found these tips to get back on track from MyFitnessPal’s blog.

According to MFP, these five tips will help you get back on track:

  1. START NOW AND START SMALL

Stop saying “I’ll start over tomorrow.” Instead of me focusing on the 22 total pounds I want to lose, I’m going to start with the five pounds I can realistically lose in one month. And I’m not going to obsess over working out for an hour every day of the week, when a nice walk outside for 20-30 minutes will be a good start.

  1. LOSE THE GUILT

It’s easy to feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed when you gain or regain weight. Weight gain happens, so I’m going to shift my focus from the past and set my sights on concrete actions I can take to move forward. I’m going to set attainable goals and celebrate when I hit them – striving for progress, not perfection.

  1. CONSIDER HELP FROM THE PROS

Whether it’s a personal trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor or therapist, it can help to have someone holding you accountable. I love my trainer, and he keeps me honest. My body is still recovering from the time I spent in bed during my rehabilitation, and my frozen vocal cord prevents me from doing too strenuous a workout. Cash helps me determine what exercises are off limits for the moment and ways I can modify others for the long term. He also knows me well enough to know when to push me a little, too.

  1. MAKE A MEAL PLAN

It’s always helpful to plan out your meals to prevent you from falling back into old bad habits like eating ice cream every day. I started by jumping forward one day in My Fitness Pal and plugging foods into each meal ahead of time. Taking the time to think it out helps, and once I’ve journaled it, the “getting ahead” is more likely to keep me honest than fleeting good intentions in my head.

  1. REACH OUT TO FRIENDS

Tell your circle of influence that you’re working on healthy eating. They may want to join you, and everybody knows that it’s easier when you have a fitness/food buddy. They can help by keeping junk food out of sight or not tempting you with unhealthy food in the first place.

It’s only been a few days since I shifted my mindset, so I haven’t magically lost that weight I gained. I’m eventually going to weigh myself again, and I haven’t lost sight of my goal. Instead I’m going to judge my success by how I feel and how my clothes fit. Weight gain happens and weight loss is hard work, so I won’t give up or feel defeated if I struggle. I’ve got this, and I’m not alone.

Have you ever looked up and suddenly gained more weight than you anticipated? What was your wakeup call? What did you do? And what are your tips for staying on track? I’d love to hear from you.