Today on my way home from the gym, I got to thinking…..I am a HUGE believer in exercise – whether it be training for a marathon (so NOT ever going to be me,) playing sports, hitting the gym for cardio & strength and training, taking a walk or a hike OR yoga and stretching, the health benefits for anyone are enormous! But for those of us with a disease like Multiple Sclerosis, that can wreak havoc and even destroy mobility it is even more important. To keep those body parts that can move, moving and to maintain strength. What works and doesn’t work will certainly dictate what you can or can’t do but I started thinking that there is plenty that we can learn from each other. So I wanted to start a new segment on my blog…
Some weeks I will share my accomplishments for the week, others I may share a story from my past about fitting exercise into my post MS life, I may share a product, piece of equipment or specific exercise that I have found helpful and I hope to have some guest posts from other badass MS Warriors out there! I would LOVE to hear from you about your own experiences with trying to fit exercise into your “new” life!
I have ALWAYS worked out – it is just a part of who I am. On my Segway Into My Life post I talk about the fact that prior to being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis I was running an average of 6-8 miles MOST days. I also frequently swam (topped off at about 2 miles) and did lots of strength and core training. Shortly after experiencing my first symptoms my walking and balance rapidly declined, and running (or even walking without my soon to be BFF, “Pinky” the cane) was out of the question. But being in such good shape at the time most definitely helped me; I have no doubt that if I hadn’t had such a strong core things could have been WAY worse on the “stumbling around like a drunk” front.
I knew that I needed to keep it up, to keep my strength and endurance up as much as possible. Initially the only form of exercise that I felt safe doing was swimming (can’t really fall down when in the pool:) I became quite the oxymoron. I would hobble into the pool area, with trusty “Pinky” at my side, awkwardly (and sometimes dangerously) manage down onto my butt at the pool’s edge, and kinda of fall forward into the pool (the only safe falling I was doing at the time!:)
Once in, immersed in the cool and quieting water, all my clumsiness and floundering were left behind. I was able to swim, lap after lap, tied together in sequence by the flip-turns I had struggled as a child to master. Back and forth I would continue, finding some of the first moments of silencing the damn voice of doubt (What I Hate Most About Having Multiple Sclerosis.) It made me feel good to know that I could still do something well, that I had found at least one thing that I didn’t have to do differently to accommodate the unwelcome guest of MS.
My time would be up, whether dictated by the pool hours or time constraints to pick the kids up from school (damn kids!) I would reach the end of my final lap, throw my swim cap and goggles on the edge and begin my less than stellar exit. The initial act of doing so wasn’t too bad. Supporting myself on the wall and using my arms I was able to easily pop up and get my ass onto the ledge. That’s where the grace and beauty would end. I always left Pinky laying there in wait for my exit, but it was almost inevitable that the pool deck was by then wet and getting up off your ass with just a cane and noodle legs on a slippery surface is never going to go well and is often going to go bad.
I would eventually make it back into the upright position to then begin my stumble back to the locker room, knowing that there had to be people staring in wonderment – how could someone that was just swimming like “that” then be so apparently physically challenged, as I “walked” away like I did. I got it – I would probably wonder the same thing if it had been someone else, and not me.
I would eventually garner up enough courage to return to the gym to try and tackle new ways of doing things but I feel so fortunate that I had swimming as an option in those first months. It allowed me to keep a little bit of myself in tact, while not threatening my safety.