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 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.

Letting go

By Jeanne Reynolds

I was in yoga class when it happened.

As I tried to ease into a downward dog (which looks more like a downward log thanks to my lack of flexibility, but that’s another story), the instructor encouraged us to let our necks relax and heads drop comfortably. That meant my eyes were facing directly back at my angled thighs. And that’s when I first saw it.

Loose, crepey skin hanging away from my legs. Like … OMG … old lady skin. Now, I realize I’m part of the Every Woman Blog team to fill a certain demographic, but seriously: When. Did. That. Happen?

And: Now I know why most people wear capri tights for yoga instead of an old pair of bike shorts.

I’ve never been mistaken for a Vogue cover model, but c’mon. These are an athlete’s thighs. Thighs that have run 5 Boston Marathons and regularly lift weights and walk 18 holes of golf once or twice a week. Apparently all that doesn’t overcome the fact that they’re also 61-year-old thighs.

A friend – several years younger, many pounds thinner and a much faster runner than I am – told me she’s noticed the same thing recently. It’s not really wrinkles. As she put it, her skin is letting go of her body.

That doesn’t make it look any better, but the idea of letting go does make me feel a little better. Because being able to let go of some things is one of the best parts of getting older. When I hear people long for their younger days and wish they were 21 again, I recoil in horror. I (vaguely) remember the things I obsessed over at that age that now seem so lacking in perspective. Which of course makes sense, because you can’t yet see the big picture from the bottom of the hill.

I’m realizing there are many things I’ve been glad to let go as I’ve gotten older:

  • Caring what I look like for a quick run to the grocery store.
  • Always having to tell someone when I disagree with them.
  • Feeling like I have to sign up/volunteer/donate every time I’m asked.

Of course, there are many more I’m still working on:

  • Worrying because I can’t ever seem to get everything done.
  • Feeling guilty when I need to say no.
  • Spending more time trying to make things perfect than simply enjoying them.

And there are things I hope I never let go:

  • Challenging myself physically and mentally. I don’t know if or when I’ll run another marathon or go sky-diving again like I did to celebrate my 50th birthday, but I won’t rule it out.
  • Being willing (even enjoying) looking completely silly while doing something fun. Catch me dancing to “Love Shack” and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Believing age is a number, not a definition.

So, fair warning: I’m going to yoga class tomorrow. And if I get the laundry done, I’ll be wearing those same old bike shorts. If it bothers you, I suggest you set up your mat on the other side of the room.

Or just let it go.

letting_go____by_senyan