Showing posts with label exercise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label exercise. Show all posts

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Getting Back Into Shape

I've been feeling better over the last two weeks.


My shoulder isn't hurting as much as it has been, and that is such a relief.

It makes a huge difference not to be in so much pain.

And my arm is more mobile.

Also yay!

It occurred to me at some point that if surgeons will eventually anesthetize patients with frozen shoulders to manipulate the joint, I could, in essence, do the same thing myself. Not the anesthetization – obviously! – but the manipulation. So instead of just the Codman's exercises the physiotherapist has had me doing since the beginning of this whole crazy saga, I've been using the weight of my own body while lying down to put pressure on the joint to stretch the adhesions holding it in place.

Warning: not sure if this is medically advisable or not, but it's been working for me. I can now move the arm more than before, which is so fabulous and has made such a difference in my day-to-day life.

I walked up 4 flights of stairs yesterday and went to the gym today since I was feeling so chipper.

Sad, sad state of affairs. The gym that is – or rather my physical state of being.

I lost some 6 pounds during this stupid shoulder affair, I think simply because of the pain. I actually was eating quite a lot of comfort food, in my opinion, just to make myself feel better but must have been eating less overall, and I also lost muscle mass, too, which weighs more than other stuff, because I wasn't working out at all. Moving your body hurts when your shoulder hurts as much as mine did. It's amazing to realize how much your shoulder affects the way your whole body moves as a unit, everything from raising a spoon to your mouth to getting up out of a chair. So I had been moving, really, as little as possible. Not good for a body. Bodies are meant to move.

Which is why I say sad.

Overall, I look pathetic compared to a year ago. Yes, a year ago I was all stiff and sore and felt like crap because of the onset of RA, but my body was, muscle-wise, in much better shape.

So, now, like so many people at the start of a new year, it's back to the drawing board from a fitness perspective.

But at least I feel more up to it.

And that's super wonderful!

Yay, yay, yay!!!!!

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!

Friday, April 2, 2010

To Exercise Or Not To Exercise

I've been trying to figure out desperately whether or not I should be exercising and how much and what exactly I should/should not be doing. I have RA in multiple joints and am on Enbrel/Methotrexate but have pain/aches many days. However, from what I can tell, other than maybe my little left toes, I don't seem to have inflammation anymore.

Back when I was first diagnosed in January, my rheumatologist said exercise was OK as long as it didn't hurt. Using that definition, exercise is pretty much out right now for the most part (and I have to admit, other than that brief question/answer, I haven't discussed it with her since then).

But there's a lot of controversy on the subject.

Many sites on the internet that I can find recommend gentle stretching exercises or yoga. This WebMD link mentions that when regular exercise are painful for joints, you can try isometric exercises. But for someone like me, who has many joints that are painful most of the time, that means cardio exercise that actually gets your heart rate up is pretty hard to achieve. And that's exactly the sort of workout I need right now. I've been having trouble sleeping, and from past experience I know that cardio workouts will help with that and also help me feel better mentally.

Swimming is also recommended for those with RA, but that means getting to a pool and, for me, time is of the essence. When you're as tired as I am already, the thought of getting up at some ungodly hour to drive to a pool is not appealing, to say the least. Not when the gym I belong to is right across the street and offers readily accessible exercise options...

On a recent Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior post on exercise, DadwithRA commented that he thought that the arthritis community in North America takes a more conservative viewpoint toward exercise than they do in the Netherlands.

I've been doing research trying to track down some scientific data to try to explain the difference in tack taken re exercise between the two communities. Here's a link that outlines a study undertaken by a doctor at Leiden University in the Netherlands that I found very interesting.

And here's another more detailed study.

I've been trying to find more links, but, most of the Dutch ones are, well obviously, in Dutch! If I find more in English, I'll add them to this post.

It seems to me odd that there should be two such differing viewpoints. Then again, maybe not. Half the time (and that's just a turn of phrase, not a scientific measure!) doctors can't even decide if someone has RA. So why should it surprise me that they can't agree on whether or not exercise is good or not for someone who has RA? And "active" RA is another thing, and how you define that "active" RA is yet another...So you see the problems that arise.

All I know is, I feel like crap from the RA anyway. Now I'm really feeling like crap mentally, too, and the lack of sleep from that is wearing on me. So, as much as I'm really a lazybones and am not that into exercise and never have been, I love the way it makes me feel, I love feeling fit and strong, and I'm going to do my damnedest to get to the gym and workout as much as I can (without straining my sad, unworked, sorry-ass muscles!) over the next two weeks while I'm off work.

I'll report back and let you know how it goes and how I feel! Consider it my own personal little RA study!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


My feet weren't killing me, so I went to the gym.

I'm a relatively fit person (don't get me wrong, I'm not superwoman, but I do work out regularly), and I've been to the gym precisely once since RA hit.

The first time I used the stationary bike. That was an experience. I sat down, set off at Level 1 and thought, Hey, this isn't bad! Then Level 1 actually kicked in, and I thought, You have seriously got to be kidding, this can't possibly be Level 1!!!!!! It was freaking hard!

I've read about fatigue with RA (which, luckily, I've escaped huge levels of), but weakness is something that has been seriously debilitating with me. I've even had to resort to removing the duvet cover from my down duvet to make it lighter and easier to manipulate, that's how weak I've been at times.

But not being able to bike at Level 1 when I'm feeling pretty good? That made me realize even more just how weak I am.

Today, I tackled the elliptical machine. Getting on it was a little shaky, but once I got going, I was pretty good (again, Level 1, even though I was used to doing Levels 8-10 for 30-40 minutes). I did 10 minutes, then decided to push it to 15. Wasn't sure what I'd feel like tomorrow, but decided it was worth the experiment. If I don't push, how will I know? Plus, exercise is recommended for people with RA.

Happy! I did some strength exercises, too, to top things off. I work with an excellent personal trainer, who always emphasizes proper form, so while she wasn't with me today, I focused on simple exercises like bicep curls that I know I can do properly without screwing things up. Abs were next.

Then I actually lay down on the mat to stretch. You have no clue how big a step that was. I've gotten together with my trainer just to stretch about three times since this began and each time getting up from the floor has been a major effort. I can't use my hands or wrists, and trying to figure out how to get up without hurting myself or having her pull me has been like some crazy turtle on its back/science experiment!

Then reality hits. I've got a foam 1/2-tube thingy on the mat that I use to lie on lengthwise to open up and stretch my chest muscles, and I can't manage to maneuver myself onto it without it wiggling out of position. I have to ask the woman next to me to hold it steady. I don't have any problem at all asking her to help me, but after I get onto it and I'm lying there, I start crying. I have random moments of emotion like this. Something I used to be able to do myself without a thought is now impossible. I'm banking on the meds to help me.

If not, adapt!