Monday, April 19, 2010

Report on Exercise

Illustration courtesy of Everyday People by Cathy Thorne

OK, here you go! The results of my little exercise study!

How do I feel? Well, I've been feeling quite sore the last few days, except today.

Is that because I've been exercising or because the meds aren't working? I can't help but think it's the latter to be honest – especially since I'm not sore today. It's something I started suspecting even before this little experiment began. Not sure if I mentioned this already (although I think I did in my Pain post): on Mondays and Tuesdays, it's been feeling like the meds were wearing off. Now it feels like they're not kicking in again till Friday nightish (I do my injections on Wednesday nights), and then not kicking in as well as they used to.

Do I have scientific proof of that? Of course not, so take it as you will... Or maybe it was a real flare this past week. What do I know? Not a lot, obviously, as I'm so new to all this.

All I can tell you is that, despite the increased soreness, I feel better for the exercise. It feels good to be moving more again and feels good, in some small way, to be building up some muscle mass again.

A surprise, though: I still feel way crazy fatigued – something that I thought being off for two weeks and exercising would help with. Not a chance. I blame it on the meds (more on the fatigue in another post).

Below, for each day I exercised, I noted what I did, how I felt before, during and after, and provided links where possible to images of the exercises I've been doing, so you know exactly what I've been up to. And at the end is a list of stretches I do, depending on the exercises I've done (it might be incomplete, as I couldn't find links to everything). I apologize in advance as it does go on a bit, but it's there for those of you who want all the deets...!

P.S. It's interesting to note that my left side is the one that's causing the most problems for me in terms of the RA. All the time that I've been working with my personal trainer (which I've been doing for years now, pre-RA), we've recognized that my left side is definitely my weaker side. I don't think you notice that sort of thing in day-to-day life, you just compensate for it unconsciously – things like stepping up on a chair with your dominant leg when you want to reach something high or always picking up something heavy with your stronger arm. Once I started doing strength training on a regular basis with a trainer who forced me to use both sides equally, I quickly realized how freakin' weak my left side was in comparison – insane! So we worked each session to address the inequality. And now I can't help but think that the pain and soreness I'm feeling on the left side is a result of that greater weakness...

WORKOUT 1, Friday
How I Felt Before Started off feeling good, joints felt quite good overall, some soreness in left foot toes, but overall just some minor aching in various places.
Cardio 20 minutes elliptical level 1
Strength 3 sets 7.5 lbs biceps curls, 50 lbs lat pulldowns, 50 lbs triceps pushdown, ab crunches
How I Felt During Fine. Some soreness in feet, but nothing at all to be concerned about other than momentarily.
How I Felt After Good!

WORKOUT 2, Sunday
How I Felt Before Somewhat achy, sore in feet, knees felt loose, hips aching vaguely last night, elbows sore
Cardio 20 minutes elliptical level 1
Strength 2 sets 7.5 lbs biceps curls, 50 lbs lat pulldowns, 50 lbs triceps pushdown, oblique crunches, 10 lbs dumbbell side bends
How I Felt During Elliptical was good to start (music made me want to go faster, but am keeping it slow because haven't done anything consistent over last 4 months), but about 10 minutes in, my feet starting aching more. For the last two minutes or so, they hurt quite a bit (not killing me, but uncomfortable) + my left elbow was unhappy, too. Strength stuff went quite well, although I only did 2 sets because once I started, I realized my muscles were tired, even though they hadn't felt sore or anything before.
How I Felt After An hour or so after workout, felt really good! Very little achiness, which is saying something! Felt great for about two hours – almost as if all my joints had been lubricated + I was almost back to "normal." After that, effect wore off + soreness/achiness/"looseness" started setting in again. My hips were somewhat sore that evening/through the night.

WORKOUT 3, Wednesday
How I Felt Before hands + left ankle kind of stiff, otherwise pretty good
Cardio 23 minutes elliptical level 2
Strength 3 sets 7.5 lbs biceps curls, 50 lbs lat pulldowns, 50 lbs triceps pushdown, ab crunches, 10 lbs dumbbell side bends
How I Felt During While doing elliptical, about 6 minutes in, right foot started hurting, then stopped after a bit. A few minutes later, left foot chimed in. At about 13-minute mark, right foot started up again, along with left knee – they hurt quite a bit + wasn't sure if they'd let me get to my target time (20 minutes), but I kept going + they soon stopped hurting. Then left elbow started aching a wee bit + left foot again. The whole thing was like a day with RA – random joints chiming in now + then, with some more problematic than others. Strength stuff felt fine.
 How I Felt After Fine – not as exhilarated as last workout, but not worse off than before. Some workouts are just like that!

WORKOUT 4, Thursday (strength session with my trainer)
How I Felt Before Legs felt "loose," left toes felt sore.
Strength 3 sets ball squats, single leg raises (while lying face down on exercise ball), straight leg raises (while on side with hip in extension), supine glute bridge with hip abduction (I did it without the band)
How I Felt During OK; left toes hurt, my glutes felt the pain during the bridge exercise – they haven't done that much work in a while, but it was good to feel that!
How I Felt After Legs felt pretty immediately loose again, toes weren't as bad as before.

WORKOUT 5, Saturday
How I Felt Before The day after trainer workout, glutes + quads seriously sore! Not surprising, seeing as I've done no lower-body strength workouts in months!! Balls of feet have been really sore last 2 days when walking for any distance; hands + left elbow sore.
Cardio 20 minutes elliptical level 2
Strength 2 sets ball squats, straight leg raises (ditto), supine glute bridge with hip abduction (no band) – oops! forgot the single leg raises!
3 sets 7.5 lbs biceps curls, 50 lbs lat pulldowns, 50 lbs triceps pushdown, ab crunches, 10 lbs dumbbell side bends
How I Felt During Right foot really started hurting about midway through. I try thinking about good-looking men in the hopes it will help (just read Globe and Mail article in morning about connection between reduced pain and thoughts of something pleasurable).
How I Felt After Alright. Not the exercise high I like, but still good for having done it.

WORKOUT 6, Tuesday
How I Felt Before Legs felt loose, which is never good sign – those days are usually bad ones.
Cardio 20 minutes elliptical level 2
How I Felt During Feet hurt, elbows were sore, knees felt loose, neck felt tight, I felt unenergetic + blah.
How I Felt After Not a great evening: feet were sore, particularly left toes, which hurt. Hands, left elbow, knees, neck were sore.

WORKOUT 7, Thursday (trainer) 
How I Felt Before So-so. Yesterday was injection day + was feeling pretty sore + achy + today left foot toes were sore + left knee felt like it might kick up a fuss.
Cardio 25 minutes elliptical level 2
Strength 3 sets arm punches 10 lbs (lying with head + shoulders on exercise ball arms at side elbows bent "punch" arm straight up into air), elastic band triceps kickbacks, 20 lbs two-arm rows (I used a dumbbell), 5 lbs draw-the-sword, exterior rotator cuff (one caveat: only move as far as you can. In the image, the girl has her arm out almost 90°; I can barely move mine 10°, but that's as far as it goes, so that's as far as I push it!)
How I Felt During We concentrated during the strength part on upper body (did the cardio on my own), and focused on keeping my form, since left elbow felt rather rebellious, like it wanted to crap out on me, but it hung in, so that was good!
How I Felt After Good for getting through with no joints causing major problems. Still feeling rather sore, but think that's due to the drugs not taking full effect yet, rather than anything else...Evening was another story. I hurt. No other words to describe it. Think drugs aren't working the way they should be. Or exercise is adversely affecting me. Not sure which. Bloody hell!!!!!!!!!!

WORKOUT 8, Sunday
How I Felt Before Sore. Have been very sore the last few days. And stressed, which is why I decided I so needed this workout. (Family – can you say stress???)
Cardio 25 minutes elliptical level 2
How I Felt During Surprisingly good, considering how crap I've felt during last few days. Not sore at all really!!
How I Felt After Still stressed but not quite as bad. Neck feels sore, so I'm sure to stretch it out.

WORKOUT 9, Monday (trainer)
How I Felt Before Good!
Cardio 15 minutes elliptical level 2, 10 minutes level 3
Strength 3 sets ab crunches, hip extensions, torso twist with medicine ball (important to keep knees aligned!), dying bug, 1 set supermans (done on 2 mats for extra cushioning)
How I Felt During Good. Right knee whining a bit, and left foot as usual, but fine otherwise.
How I Felt After Happy!

Glute stretch; quadriceps stretch, shoulder stretch, triceps stretch, hamstring stretch, calf stretch, neck stretch

And there you have it, ladies & gentlemen!


  1. Thank you for the exercise links. Those are good. That's an impressive workout routine.

    I'm sorry to hear you're not feeling very well :( RA really really stinks.

    And, I love the cartoon :D

  2. The cartoon is great, isn't it?

    Re how I feel, maybe this is as good as it gets, I don't know...although I did seem better a few weeks ago, so we'll see what my rheumatologist says.

    Anyhow, the exercise is good to get going again. I hope your shoulder gets better soon, so you can join Wren in her exercise endeavour.

    Take care of yourself! :) L

  3. That cartoon fits me to a T!

    That is some seriously impressive workouts for someone with RA! Doing a journal/tracking what you are doing is one of the best things to do with RA as it can help you pin-point triggers. I must admit, I'm far too lazy :)

  4. Hey Pony!

    Funny cartoon, isn't it? Cathy's work is great – you should go to her website and check it out...

    Re the workout, it looks daunting, but I've been working out for some years now in what I guess some people would consider a pretty serious manner (even though I consider myself pretty unathletic, and my trainer always keeps making things harder and harder, so in a sense I always feel inept, dammit!).

    Anyway, all to say, I wasn't starting from scratch.

    I realize many people who have never really exercised might be considering starting programs, and, while I'm not a medical professional or anything, I think it would make sense for them, especially if they have RA, to consult professionals.

    Personally, I'm still planning to review things with a physiotherapist asap now that I have a core plan in place.

    :) L

  5. Sorry you're hurting. It really sucks when you are trying to do everything right and you still hurt the same, sometimes worse.

    Your workout is hardcore, you've inspired me to step mine up now. I keep a workout log also, but wouldn't want to make it public ... I wouldn't want everyone to know how weak I am now. lol

  6. Hey Tharr!

    I don't know about hardcore – you should see some of the ladies at my gym (it's women's only). My trainer usually shows me how to do a move before I attempt it, and she makes it looks so easy, then I try it and it's usually a big laugh, I'm so crap at it – but I try. I'm also totally uncoordinated. That's why I don't do aerobics classes - I'd be the person in the back going one way while the rest of the class goes the other lol!

    :) L

    P.S. I actually just work out because I am really trying to be a superhero, just like in your quiz!!