ME, Myself and I: Exercise

I feel like I may have written a post on this before but I can’t find it, maybe it’s one of those I wrote and then didn’t post at the time and it’s lost on the computer somewhere. One thing that I have found since getting ME is that I couldn’t do the sports that I used to love, even the lower energy sports I played drain me way too much for me to do for more than 15 minutes or half an hour and then there being effects the next day. A lot of the time if you’re not up to doing much, at least I find, I seem to spend a lot of time sitting or lying down and my muscles get less and less used to activity meaning that if I ever wanted to do something more, even something like shopping for longer or wandering around a park, my stamina gets less and less.

I am still working on this, even after nearly twelve years of being ill I’ve not got this bit down properly but I have found some exercises that work well when it comes to keeping my muscles used to doing things. I try to do some of them every day but, unlike if you’re healthy, sometimes doing the exercises even when it hurts is not a good thing so I miss a day or two. This happens a lot when I’m recovering from a bug or something and it’s harder to get back into the swing and routine of doing them.

Before I carry on I will say that I am not a doctor, I have no professional experience in any of this it’s just what I have found over the years has helped me. If you have any questions about exercises you can do safely then I’d suggest asking your GP or, if you have one, an ME specialist.

The main exercises that I do are stretches, a lot of them are ones where you lie down on the floor and do things with your arms or legs, or sit and the fact of actually holding yourself in a certain position helps some muscles. There are so many websites with different ideas for stretches that I think looking on there might be the best thing for you to do rather than me trying to explain them. If you do this then stick to ones that are low energy, they will likely be in the beginners sections, and avoiding ones where you’re changing positions of your main body like jumping or going from sitting or crouching to standing will help if you want to make these part of an everyday routine that is less likely to affect your energy levels.

If you are low on the ability level ME wise then things like rolling your shoulders or turning your head from side to side and holding it can be good exercises, starting out with a few repetitions and then building this up. Things like lifting your arms from your side and holding them straight out or forwards can help if you can hold it like that without it affecting your energy levels too much, similar things with your legs can help as well. The main thing is to find what you can do comfortably and make sure you gradually push and build up without it affecting the rest of your health. I know that when I was at my worst doing things like this helped a lot, I spent probably a year mainly in a dark room and just moving and sitting up and doing these things helped my circulation and gave me something to do and just moving with a purpose felt good.

I have found that recently I can include a bit of weight when I do any stretches, nothing much and I think the heaviest thing I have is a 2.5 kg kettle bell that I barely use, I normally stick with the 0.5 kg weights as you can feel them there doing something but it’s not got a knock on effect. I used to be able to lift 6 KG I think it was so it’s a big difference in that but it feels comfortable. There are so many kinds of weights out there and different equipment, we recently got some bands that are like huge elastic bands to pull and stretch with, I haven’t tried them out properly as they seem like they’d be very tiring but I am hoping to use them when I get back into my routine more. One kind that I have found good, and my mum uses a lot as well, are ones that you strap around your wrist or wear as a bracelet, then you don’t have to grab onto anything if you find your grip is weak and you can wear them any time.

One thing that has helped me in the past is the Wii Fit, which I know is rather old now and I’m not sure how well it works with the Wii U (the Wii is the most recent console I own) but things like wii sport and the other games with a similar idea for any console are a good way of having short bursts of energy. I found that setting a timer to play Wii tennis, or baseball, or whichever one I felt like, for ten minutes meant I was doing something that was sporty in a way, got me moving and working my muscles but I could lay down in the middle if it was too much as I had a sofa nearby so it was less stressful in that way than even doing something in the garden where it takes more to get somewhere comfortable. The Wii Fit system and ‘game’ had some good easy stretches too, some yoga style ones and others that were lying down on the side. The one thing that annoyed me with that was the need to set it up every time with a mini balance game before you could do anything, my balance isn’t great and my ME makes it worse so I always got bad scores and it didn’t improve over time like it says it should, which is always a bit disheartening.

I guess the main exercise I have done over the past year is just walking, as we live in the middle of the countryside there are fields nearby, the closest is less than a three minute walk from our gate, so I can go for a short walk in the fresh air and get back home easily. I don’t have the confidence in my own balance and the fact I won’t get light headed or dizzy in the middle of the walk so I go with someone all the time but it’s one of my goals to build up to taking our dog for a fifteen minute walk on my own, which will then hopefully build up to longer.

I think the main thing to remember when it comes to exercise and ME is to pace it, make sure there are rests and you stick to them and don’t get tempted by the feeling of being ok and think you can do five minutes more, instead stop and see how much of an effect it has on your health in general and then the next week extend whatever you’re doing by five or ten minutes. Also always gradually increase things, don’t think you’re fine at half an hour and then jump to doing an hour, I’ve found that 5 minutes is a good amount of time for me to increase it when my body is used to something. I still tend to stick to ten or fifteen minutes with certain things, like the more energetic Wii sports, as I get more of an effect on my body ten minutes after I finish or even two days later and it’s less dramatic if I increase the walking or the stretches than the cardio. I know if I was healthy I would be increasing it more and would push through the pain but it’s just not worth it with ME.

I’m going to see if I can find the sheets and recommended sites I was given by the ME specialist for some of the exercises, if anyone would be interested I could post them. I have found them useful over the years and I know these probably don’t really sound like what would be considered exercise by a lot of people, I just know my body and what I am physically capable of rather than trying to push and do what a normal person would do in a workout.

Do any of you guys with chronic illnesses do any exercises? Anything you’d recommend I look into? I’m looking at yoga but don’t really have the energy to go to one near me, I’ve been recommended a book I’m going to look at as it was written by someone with a chronic illness so it might be a bit more achievable than a lot of the stretches they seem to have in ones I’ve seen before and less standing up and bending over which I find tends to take more energy than I’d expect.

I’m not sure if this was any help to anyone, I don’t even know if anyone reads these ME posts any more, but I feel like writing about it seems to help me anyway, it’s weird how writing down what I do seems to make me more motivated to try and improve on things like this. I hope you’re all having a good week and that you’re able to enjoy the nice weather, if you’re having it. It’s been warm enough to sit outside even in the evening today so that was a nice change.

3 thoughts on “ME, Myself and I: Exercise

  1. Shelby's Life with Lyme says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I suffer from Lyme disease (which manifests as Fibro, CFS, and MS) and have had trouble with exercising as well. So far, walking has been good when my balance is ok, and light water aerobics have been fairly easy on my body as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading 🙂 I find my balance does limit what I can do as well. I have heard good things about light exercise in water in general for chronic illnesses but always get a bit nervous as I’m not the strongest swimmer and get light headed quite easily so worry it’d happen in the water plus just getting changed takes quite a bit of energy, swimming costumes aren’t the easiest things to get into! lol 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shelby's Life with Lyme says:

        That is very true. The “before and after” part always exhausted me.
        A friend of mine suggested Pilates. Although I purchased a book on it I have yet to try it, but she recommended that as a good type of exercise for those of us suffering deep pain. Whatever works for you, I hope you find it soon and it doesn’t cause more stress for your body! Keep us posted!


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