Exercise and RA - write about your favourite exercise. What do you like about it, and what keeps you going?
I've never been a fitness junkie. Pre turning 40 when EVERYTHING changed - I'm absolutely convinced that some huge hormonal thing happens at 40, even if menopause is still a ways off - I had one of those hyperactive metabolisms that just doesn't put on weight. To the point that my mother used to keep putting food in front of me, forcing me to eat it because she was frightened I might be anorexic. I wasn't - it's just that nothing stayed in my system long enough to take up lodging. Fast track to that doomed birthday, and suddenly I find myself with jeans that are too tight, and skirts that don't do up - WTH???
I didn't do anything different. I just had a birthday. So, it MUST be something to do with the aging process. That was enough to get me off my butt and looking for some kind of regular exercise that I could learn to enjoy enough to keep it up. I'd always walked a lot, but that wasn't doing it, and mindful of the RA, I wasn't about to try doing something that could cause harm, so I convinced myself to join a gym that had a pool so I could start swimming laps. The thing was, I wasn't THAT enthused about swimming...
The mornings used to be quite a fight. I'd fall out of bed into a swimsuit and grab my prepacked bag with goggles, towel, drink bottle, etc, and get in the car and the whole way there would chant to myself, 'Go to the gym, do NOT turn the car around, go to the gym, do NOT turn the car around...' I'd get there, park, drag myself in, fall into the pool and start. Week after week I kept going, gradually working up the number of laps, looking for that lovely buzz you get after lifting weights (I'd tried that, and liked it, but it was scary with wrists that could just fail without warning...). The buzz didn't come. And then one magical morning, I hit thirty laps (of a 25m pool) and there it was. You do get a buzz swimming - you just have to do it for longer to achieve it!
From that point on, I started to enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed feeling my body getting stronger, the development of lean muscle, and my jeans being comfortable again. I also realised I was regaining rotation in my shoulders that had been stiffening up, and less pain in my hips and knees with the extra support of stronger muscles. With the exception of the morning I felt good at the end of the forty laps that became my standard swim, and foolishly swam another ten and stuffed up my dodgy neck (not RA, wrecked from two separate accidents) I wasn't hurting myself either because the water supports your body, and provides resistance as well as the cardio workout swimming gives.
I managed, off and on, to keep up that routine on average days a week for years. There'd be breaks when I moved or changed jobs until I got back into the routine, but it was keeping me stronger and fitter, as well as much more supple than I'd been. When the disease changed its mind about being mild and turned aggressive, everything stopped. I had horrendous reactions to MTX, had to change drugs, was getting very much worse very fast and ended up in hospital. It was a very long time before I was well enough to get back in a pool and actually try to swim. I was also much heavier courtesy of prednisone, and even now that I'm no longer taking that, I'm finding it - as I'm that much older again - much more difficult to shift the weight.
I got back to semi regular swimming last summer when my eldest started training for his first triathlon and my partner was mentoring him. I went along, and while they were doing their thing in the 50m pool, I'd go inside to the warmer 25m pool and get going. By the end of the summer I'd built back up to 20 laps a session 2-3 times a week. It felt good. I haven't managed to maintain that through winter because we don't have an indoor 25m pool near us, but in the next month or so, I should be able to start again. We're moving interstate soon and I'm hoping that wherever in our new city we end up, we'll be close to an indoor pool so I can swim year round. I have to shift this extra weight because I have a very fine frame and anything extra it has to carry is adding extra strain to joints - so it's coming off - somehow!