Exercise and RA: Part Three

By Marianna Boyce

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After the onset of perplexing RA symptoms in 2016, it’s taken me more than three years to pull myself together—especially in the area of health and wellness. The counterintuitive aspect of combining exercise with rheumatoid arthritis seemed ludicrous, but I’ve been desperate to feel like my old self again. I know exercise is an important factor. I’m not getting any younger, so it’s high time to get started. No more quitting.

Everyone’s probably heard the definition of insanity—the one where you do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results? Yeah—that’s the one. I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

It was clear what kept me in tip-top shape in my thirties and forties wasn’t clicking in my fifties. I had entered a new season of life—and wasn’t happy about it.

This change was inevitable, and throwing RA in the mix was much like throwing gasoline on a fire.

In a nutshell, I just missed me. It was evident I needed a different approach, so I got back to basics—start slow and do what you can.

Initially, I resorted back to my home workout videos, but they weren’t as easy as they used to be. I was desperate for outward results but didn’t realize at the time that I needed to work on things other than vanity.

Wanting to lose twenty pounds, I started making better food choices, but also took the plunge and began working out in my sister’s pool last summer. It was then, something strange happened. After a few sessions in the privacy of Cindy’s backyard, I felt incredible—and hadn’t even lost one pound.

Disappointing? Maybe at first, but as time passed, I made a conscious effort to stop fretting about the number on the scale and concentrate solely on the inner me instead.

When summertime came to a close, Cindy covered her pool for the fall and winter months. We decided to join a local fitness center with an indoor pool as we waited out the colder weather.

In all honesty, we weren’t thrilled with the idea of shaking up our daily routine by going to the gym throughout the week, but it’s something we had to do. It sounds like a zany idea for two women in their fifties to be joining aquatic activities in a public pool—yet there we were, along with other people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

We both loved it immediately.

After the first few sessions, one of the instructors asked if we’d tried classes other than the pool-related ones.

At that time, Cindy and I were on an incredible exercise high, but our instructor knocked us right back down to earth when she asked us about trying other classes.

My thoughts were, “We’re just here for the pool, lady—nothing else. We’ve found our new comfort zone, and we’re happy about it, so there’s no need to push the issue.

This intuitive instructor wasn’t convinced. She thought we could do more. This sweet lady suggested we try a Yoga-Restore class offered upstairs in their main studio.

I told her about a few yoga videos I enjoyed at home (pre-RA,) but they were currently more advanced than my physical capabilities allowed.

She explained this particular class was more concentrated on breathing, stretching, and relaxing. The more she talked it up, the more Yoga-Restore intrigued us. balance-body-exercise-female-374101

Breathing is a necessity; stretching leads to mobility, and relaxing is a luxury.

Sign us up. When’s the next class?

Little did we know how amazing we’d feel the day after yoga.

If you suffer from RA, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, etc., you know that mornings are the worst. The pain and stiffness after waking up are debilitating, but after the first yoga session, our mornings were much more tolerable—not 100% pain-free, but definitely a considerable difference than before.

Branching out to take that one additional class prompted us to seek more possibilities, but we agreed the pool would be a constant. Our new yoga class was also a keeper, but we now looked at the gym in an entirely new way. It appeared Cindy and I were much stronger than we initially thought.

Our options are limitless, but our health issues sometimes keep us grounded. There’s always a fine line to tread, but as a team, we have each other’s back as we both make progress.

How can we push ourselves without going overboard? What else can we possibly do? Just about anything we put our minds to.

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!

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