Out of Shape in Two Months

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Isn’t it embarrassing when you’ve been teaching other people how to do something for years and then you screw it up yourself? That’s what’s happening to me, and I hope I can turn it around.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how Chinese medicine therapists treating my multiple sclerosis (MS) insisted I stop water exercising because it made me too cold and stop weightlifting because it was wasting too much energy. The problem was that this setup left me without any aerobic exercise. The therapists told me to do tai chi, but since I can only stand for 30 seconds at a time, I can’t do enough of that to get a workout. A commenter on an earlier entry told me to find a warm pool, but they’re not that easy find around here.

I was feeling better from the treatment in spite of this, but about two weeks ago, I started feeling tired all the time. I yawned constantly. I just wanted to sleep. The fatigue continued to worsen until I couldn’t do much of anything.

It wasn’t until Sunday that some friends told me I had gotten out of shape. In Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, they call that “deconditioning.” A lot of times we think our disease is getting worse, when we’re actually getting deconditioned. Pain gets worse, stiffness gets worse, lab numbers get worse, and our doctors can’t do anything about it. We have to get moving again.

A Scary Experience
I have taught self-management for years, but I have never experienced deconditioning personally before. I’ve always been physically active, even with the MS. I had no idea how awful it feels and what a huge negative difference being sedentary can make. And I didn’t even put two and two together to figure out what was wrong!

Fortunately, while talking with my friends today, we came up with an idea. I’m going to get a wet suit like surfers wear so I don’t get so cold in the pool. That was a good example of problem solving. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long.

Then I had to problem-solve what type of suit to get and where to get it. Fortunately, my brother used to surf and he’s my size. He’s got some old suits and he’s going to send me a couple by Express Mail. So I should be back in the water within a few days. I will be so happy to get moving again and see my water friends.

Of course, I can’t be sure the wet suit will work out until I try it. And even if everything works out, it will take me several months to get back on track.

The take-home message from this is to stay as active as you can. You can’t stay well if you don’t move. And it only takes a short time to get deconditioned. You don’t have to be doing formal exercise, but you do have to keep your body active.

If problems come up for you like they have for me, problem-solve and ask for help with them. Read Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions by Kate Lorig (and others) or my book, The Art of Getting Well: A Five-Step Plan for Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness.

Have you had an experience with being deconditioned? Have you come back from it? How? Let me know by commenting here.

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