Hi peeps, for this post I thought I would share 6 tips for exercising with a chronic illness! I’m also going to share a little bit about my own fitness journey and what I’m going to do to get back into exercise.
My Fitness Journey
For my OG readers, you might have already read about my fitness journey. If not, you can read about it here. To cut a long story short, back in 2015 I was living at home having left Uni after 6 weeks and was at a bit of a loss at what to do. I decided to focus all my limited energy into my health and losing weight. (If only I knew then that losing weight was going to be the bane of my life for the following 3 years!).
Anyway, I got really into my fitness, thanks to a committed and motivating personal trainer who took me under her wing and supported throughout each workout I did. I fell in love with exercise and never imagined that I would very quickly fall out of a routine with it.
Fast forward to now, I’ve spent the last 3 years mainly focusing on Uni. I had a gym membership for about a year but didn’t have the energy to use it consistently. I tried to go as and when I could but slowly I struggled more and more to the point where I just gave up.
Losing Weight & Getting Fit
Now, I am in the position where I not only want to, but really need to start getting back into it again. I know I am best sticking to a healthy eating plan when I exercise regularly, and my fatigue and chronic pain also improves massively. It’s the getting started that’s hard.
However, I have a plan. I have a resistance band from CareCo (you can see my review here) so I’m going to try and use that to improve my strength and flexibility. I am also going to start going to the gym with a girl from work soon! If I can do a combination of these 1-2 times a week to start with, that will nicely ease me back into it and I can go from there. Anyway, that’s enough about me. Here are 6 tips for exercising with a chronic illness!
Top Tips for Exercising with a Chronic Illness
One thing that I need to be careful of is that I don’t overdo it. The last thing I want is to cause a flare with my ME/CFS because I did too much too soon. So, if you’re in the same situation as me, here are some tips for you to get started.
Sidenote: I am not a Doctor or a personal trainer and do not claim to be. These tips are just my advice from my own personal experience. Please seek professional advice before embarking on any fitness journey.
1. Listen to your body
DON’T do too much too soon. Listen to your body. If you’re in a lot of pain one day, don’t go and do an intense workout. Try some gentle stretches or do some yoga – both of which you can do from bed! Or, if you can, go for a short walk (I’m talking 5-10 minutes). That way, you can get some fresh air and move your body for a bit. If for whatever reason you can’t exercise one week, don’t stress about it.
2. Count every movement as exercise
Most people can walk to the shops with little effort, or they can clean the house without worrying about a knock on effect. If you have a chronic illness, you can’t afford to do that. I’ve learnt to count that walk to the shops or cleaning the bathroom as my form of exercise that day. You will know in yourself what your limits are and if you know cleaning is enough for you, don’t force yourself to go for a walk as well.
3. Ease yourself in gently
Start off with one workout a week, and once you get used to that, step it up to 2 and then 3. Do shorter workouts as well, so start just doing 10-15 minutes and work up from there. Personally, I like to keep my workouts shorter than 45 minutes because after that fatigue can start to set in and I know I won’t be getting the most out of it.
4. Personalise your exercises to suit you
If you have a chronic illness, chances are you suffer from some sort of chronic pain. If so, you probably need low impact, low intensity workouts. Walking, swimming and pilates might be good options for you. I personally love doing strength training, but I make sure I do lower weight with more reps so I don’t stress my body too much with really heavy weights. I also avoid high impact exercises like jumping and burpees because they cause more pain as well.
5. Find something you enjoy
You won’t exercise if you don’t enjoy it. For example, I HATE running. So if I tried to go for a run, I would do it half-heartedly once and probably wouldn’t do it again. Not only are you wasting your energy, but your using up more mental energy to force yourself to do it. It might take you a while to find something you enjoy, but there will be something that you love.
6. REST, REST and REST SOME MOREIf you workout one day, take at least 1-2 days to rest (i.e. do no more exercise…). Resting is KEY to recovery and also to avoid any huge flares. Also make sure you have enough rest before and during your workout. Listen to your body, don’t overwork it and don’t force it to do too much.
I hope this was helpful to some of you – please let me know if you do any exercise with a chronic illness and what you do to help! I now need to go and take my own advice and get started myself!
Until next time,