Just Show Up: A “Radical” Way To Start Working Out When You Are Chronically Ill.

When I decided to start working out the idea seemed ridiculous. I could barely get to restroom without help. But I also knew that if I just laid there, that my muscle mass would follow and that my journey towards health would stall.  I have to be honest and transparent though: I really wanted to be able to move.   I really wanted to be able to exercise. I had always been able to go for a hike, a walk, a swim, or take an aerobics class without a single thought of “can I make it through this? Am I going to be able to make it back home or am I going to need to be carried?”

So if you are too sick and fatigued to work out– Keep reading. I promise to make this for you and others like you.

Too Sick and Weak to Work Out?

This is my favorite group of people because I have been there. I totally get it. And when you also “get it”, then you will be as excited to talk about how you got there as I am to share it with you.

First I am going to talk about how I got there and then I will use my story as a way to break down the steps for you, so that you can start this leg of your story– the exercise leg.

When I started working out, I could barely make it to the bathroom without holding onto the walls.  I couldn’t stand for more than a minute and had to push myself to do that.  I had good days and bad days.  On Good days, I could sit up and touch my toes but on bad days, that felt like too much work.  So I made a deal with myself.  I rolled out my yoga mat, and I left it there. I made sure it was in a place i would use it (This would alternate in front of the tv or in my bedroom where there was more room) and I left it there.  Secondly, I observed what time of day I felt most physically able. Maybe you are a morning person, or maybe you feel best in the evening. For me it was the mid afternoon. I designated a time to get on the mat.  Third, I established a minimum I was willing to do each day.  On a bad day, all I could agree to do was to meditate– lying down.  Sometimes I fell asleep. And that was ok. On good days, I was able to do some sitting yoga stretches. On in between days I was able to do some laying down poses– ones where you pulled your knees into your chest or used a strap to stretch your legs.

After a while, I was able to have some days that were good enough to do some standing poses, intermingled with days that all I could do was meditate.  Later, my “minimum” became meditation and journaling.

As I was able to do more standing poses, I was able to walk the dog around the building– albeit I would need to rest afterwards.  And yes, there was some days I needed someone else to do it for me. And that was ok.

The next step was to get in the pool. I could walk to the pool since it was about 20 feet from my front door.  The water was cool and the floating meant that swimming around with a kickboard would allow me to exercise more than I could when I was in the heat, or on land.  And I could reward myself afterwards by laying in the sun for a few minutes afterwards to get some Vitamin D.  There was one day the heat was too much for me walking back. I got weak from the heat and had to sit in the grass. My husband came out to carry me home.  And from that, I learned not to do this during the heat of the day but rather in the morning– At least until I was stronger.

So let me break this down for you..

  1. Establish a space and time that you can and want to do this. If you find you don’t really want to do this.. then start with the tips below under “If you do not really want to work out”.  If you don’t have a space, then try a spot of grass, or even some stretches on your own bed or couch. Figure out where you are when you want to move. Pick that spot.
  2. Pick a “minimum”: This should be something you are willing to do even on your worst day. It could be meditation, journaling, prayer, get some fresh air by sitting outside– something that is self care that doesn’t feel like ” too much”.
  3. Let yourself have bad days. Healing journeys are full of good days and bad days. And that is ok. Those on a healing journey often experience ups and downs. And the joke goes “2 steps forward and one step backwards– think of it as a cha cha!”.  Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body and respond to what it is telling you. Bad days mean you need a something restorative: so try some restorative yoga  or some deep breathing exercises. Good days mean you have energy to do more: so do more.
  4. Take advantage of good days but don’t overdo it. This means to only go one step at a time. Don’t overdo it or you will create bad days. One way to know if you overdid it is to see how you feel the next day.  Feel wiped the next day? Then it was too much. Feel good the next day? Then it was probably just right.
  5. Take Baby Steps. This goes along with don’t overdo it. Break the steps of progresssion into as small of steps as you can. If you start off laying down, then the next step is to sit up.  If you are at “walking to the mailbox and back” then the next step is to perhaps add something at the end like a yoga pose for balance or to simply take a few extra steps or maybe you just try to beat the time from the time before. Set yourself up for success, not failure.
  6. Do this every day even if all you do is sit there and breathe.  By creating the habit of taking time for yourself and for your body, you create time and space for self care. As you heal, this time and space will already be a habit and then this self care will evolve as your health does.
  7. Noone is going to judge your progress ( or lack thereof). You will move forward at your own pace. If all you do is develop a meditation practice or a time for self care, then you have won.
  8. JUST SHOW UP. This really is the only thing you need to remember.  This is the only thing you are required to do in this journey toward fitness. Show up. Be present. And you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.. except find something you are willing to do when you get there. Even if it is just breathe. So when you are talking in your head and saying   “but i don’t want to”.   Answer back and tell yourself ” all you have to do is just show up. That’s it. Just SHOW UP”

Start with step one and take your time. When step one is done, move onto step two. Each step may take a little while to get right. If you struggle with a step, then go back to it. For example, it may take a while to figure out what your “minimum” is.. so give yourself time to experiment. You may have some bad days while you are figuring this out, and that is a good opportunity to practice accepting yourself for where you are, without comparing yourself to yesterday or tomorrow or anyone else’s today. Just give yourself permission to be you.

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Rebecca at MyCrazyJourney

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

 

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