I know it physically hurts to think about moving that old Spondy body. Just the sound of the word exercise probably makes you want to stop reading now. I promise if you hang with me a bit you’ll be happy you did. I know I will be thrilled if you do!
When the word arthritis is mentioned everyone eventually starts talking about exercise. These same people don’t understand that the thought of working these joints in those foreign ways can feel like torture. I started forcing myself into this new routine shortly after being diagnosed. It was not all it was cracked up to be! I sounded like a bag of chips someone handed a two year old and I hurt all the time. I talked to my doctor about it and she said that if it hurts stop, so I did! Then she wanted me to start again, so I did. Then I hurt…ya get the idea? I couldn’t start and stop every time I hurt. I realized I needed to find a steady routine I could maintain hurting or not.
So what I have learned with exercise and Ankylosing Spondylitis is that when the doc tells you to stop when it hurts they forget to tell you everyone hurts when they start something new. I don’t care who you are or how healthy you think you are when you start something new you’re working new area’s of your body and they aren’t going to be too happy about it at first. They will reward you for it later though!
The thing I had to learn to balance as a Spondy was that my base level to start was one tenth of what a “normal” person would do. Starting up Pilates I could do about three of the moves properly all the way through at first but I built from there. You can’t get discouraged at what little you can do. You must look at it as how much more you’re doing simply by trying. I started very small and stayed at that level till it literally felt so easy I was bored with it. Then I increased oh so slowly. I mean ridiculously slowly! Think of the tortoise and the hare…they’ll both beat you but you will get there!
I also learned the hard way that pushing further too fast will knock you down and you won’t be standing back up again anytime soon. I have a tendency to go balls to the wall and pay for days. I don’t recommend this method! When I do this the problem arises that now I must stop and while that’s not so bad the getting started again is brutal. I can be up to an hour a day doing a steady routine 7 days a week and then get knocked down if even for a couple days and it take weeks to regain completely.
Stop when you flare? NO! Keep moving no matter how small.
When you flare the last thing you want to do is try to move. I didn’t realize the benefits of making myself get up and move through these flares. I’ve learned it helps me tolerate them and even shorten the duration by not giving into them. Now there are of course times you have no choice but I am learning I can still move. There was one day in particularly that stands out in my mind. I was in a horrible flare while still fighting to find a proper medication regimen. I had finally built myself up to a decent level with Yoga and Pilates when it hit me, hard core flare! I couldn’t walk easily at all. In fact when it was time for my daily exercise I thought I was crazy but I crawled up the stairs…yes crawled! I got to the top and thought well I’ve made it this far let’s see if I can do any of my routine. I not only did it but I did it and then WALKED back down those stairs. I was able to walk the rest of the day. I no longer stop completely when I flare. I move if even just a little. I stretch several times a day and no matter what keep moving!
There is no doubt that keeping fit with AS will be hard. I will even admit that it will be horrible some days! It will take a long time to see results others would get by simply walking around the block walk once! You will feel like throwing in the towel more than once! You may even learn a few new choice words in the process.
Wait for it…
You can do it! You will get there and the reward is amazing when you do! Your body will treat you with moments when you will actually forget you have AS. You will be able to say yes more to all those wonderful things you use to and still want to do. You will see positive changes in every aspect of your life. We all know how amazing exercise is for everyone but for us Spondy’s it’s ten fold! Maybe that’s why we have to work so much harder for it?
How to Move You’re A.S.
1-it’s going to hurt even if you don’t get off the couch so you might as well get up and try!
2-A slow start is required!
3-Keep a steady pace that you can comfortably handle.
4-Only increase when you are truly certain you’re ready for more.
5-Maintain your routine no matter what. Alter the intensity or reduce how long but never stop completely!
What types of exercise should a Spondy try? Everything! You just have to find what you prefer. We are all different and no one thing will work for all of us. I keep a wide variety of options in case one part is hurting that day. Walking is something that I use to really struggle with but with a good pair of sneakers and some motivation I am hiking up to 16 miles! I now switch from basic stretching to power yoga even aerobics depending on what my body is telling me it can handle. There are routines you can do while sitting down. This stretch helps when you can’t take sitting at that desk any longer. I love this relaxation routine to help me sleep. The options are endless. I’ve found many different yoga instructors but Baron Baptiste is one of the first I pull out when I’m needing that gentle Vinyasa Flow to get me motivated to move. Pilates is where it all began for me. I was told it was the best for strengthening my core muscles which is the support that my spine so desperately needs! After every injury or flare my physical therapist always sticks me in the warm water for some gentle routines to get me back on track. You really must find what works for you!
Remember keeping a smooth steady pace and maintaining everyday is the key to a successful routine!
I’d love to hear what you do!