Exercising with Fibro – Support Aids.

Image from Pinterest saved by Ala www.acupuncture-sale.com

Hello all,

Blogging time yay! I hope you’re all well.

It’s Monday, a fresh week always brings fresh opportunities. I noted that since my accident and on going recovery, my posts have largely been focussed around that. Interestingly, my Mum, who is my biggest supporter and honest critic noted it too. She commented that perhaps it’s been nice for you to see that I have my difficult times too. That has spurred some reflective thinking I’ve already been idly throwing around my brain. I’m planning to write about it soon. Yet it also makes me feel enough already: Got to keep moving forward.

So I’ve also been thinking about you 💕

I’ve been thinking what more I can offer to support you to begin writing your own story of fighting fibromyalgia with fitness?

Ok, so perhaps I fibbed a little 🤭 The inspiration for this post sprang from still coping with the frustration borne from the fact that my post accident injuries continue to impact on my exercise regime. Because of that, I wondered whether a knee support might help me at this time, but I also realised that I don’t really know what supports do. I promise I’m not going there!!! Only enough to say that it led me to think about what I know about Fibromyalgia; how it can affect us all in such different ways and to varying degrees. So I’ve been trying to look beyond my experience of my own chronic conditions (and injuries) and think about the potential barriers you may have when considering exercise.

And Ta da a new post is born!

Support aids: What are they? What do they do?

I’ve been researching support aids. It occurred to me that when I discuss exercising to manage fibro, your first thought might be to think of the areas that cause you problems. I hope though, that my previous posts convey the message that the battle of living with a chronic illness, can lead to us to thinking “I can’t” as our automatic default. But, I hope that this, and all my posts bring you some hope to think, “with the right support, maybe I can try”. 

The first thing to tell you is “wow this stuff is complicated!” So with that in my mind I ask you to remember, I am not a professional and offer you a condensed version of what I understand from my research to assist you to plan your own support. However, as always, please consult a health professional if you’re feeling unsure.

I looked at a number of different sites. At Fleetfeethartford.com I found a really useful article called ‘Straps, Braces and Tape: Should I wear them’. They wrote:

“In certain cases, a supportive device may be beneficial. It depends on what the diagnosis is, what’s causing it, how much pain your in, and how much you are compensating for your current injury” (Fleet Feet website 18-02-18)

”Ok, great, got it; er hang on what?” Let’s break it down.

1) What the diagnosis is. Ok, so we all hopefully have a diagnosis and some sense of how our illness affects us. 

2) How much pain are you in. This comes back to listening to your body. With fibro fog you may wish to keep a pain journal to isolate what’s happening for you. 

3) How much you are compensating for your current injury. I understand this to mean; how much you are relying on other areas to reduce the pressure on your painful area. So for me, how much pressure am I placing on my right leg/knee to compensate for the fragility of the left. I’m going to make note of this as I go about my day and in the gym too of course. For you: do you find that if one area is painful, before too long you notice aches and pains in the opposite area? Perhaps you are over compensating. Food for thought and more research.

Next I discovered there is a plethora of support aids available on the market; back supports, knee supports, with hinges or without, with holes or without, Wrist braces and straps and tape to name a few!! While I’m not advertising the complete care shop (https://www.completecareshop.co.uk/) had loads to look at and seemed reasonably priced too (not that I would particularly know of course, but I’ll probably use them if I decide to try some) 

A summary of what I learnt.

Belts, braces and flex supports.

The hinges and holes seem to refer to the level of support and range of movement required. Fleet Feet advise that knee supports ‘apply pressure across a larger area and takes stress of the sore area…’  Apparently, it has a ‘proprioceptive’ effect on the knee joint, as the pressure is enough for you to take notice, and in doing so reminds you to take extra care of the injured area. It’s obvious really but I’d never have thought of it. Easy to use but may lead to over reliance.

Tubeskin Tubular Bandage.

ihealthsphere.com.au provide ‘A Complete Guide to Medical Tape and Bandages’ and explain Tubular and Compression bandages provide temporary relief as part of pain management for tired or aching limbs. So, that sounds a helpful post exercise support or for fibro symptoms, but not supportive enough to manage injuries or consistent problem areas when exercising. Temporary relief as part of treating an ailment as opposed to exercise support.

Rigid Strapping Tape.

This tape is designed to restrict movement to a damaged joint to promote healing and reduce the risk of further damage. I’m thinking of when you see people with broken fingers strapped together to stop them moving and setting awkwardly. Hmm possibly a little too restrictive if you’re not recently injured and wanting to exercise effectively. 

Athletic and Ares Kinesiology tape (as per title picture)

Apparently these two are different although I’ve struggled to clarify exactly why. I think it’s because Ares Kinesiology tape or ‘K Tape’ is more advanced and designed to mimic the elasticity of human skin, presumably enabling it to remain more effective and hard wearing during exercise. 

Fleet feet explain; K Tape “lifts the skin, enhances function of the muscles, joints, fascia and lymphatic system. Depending on how it’s applied, it can act to inhibit overactive muscles, facilitate contraction of under active muscles, reduce swelling, provide support or enhance proprioception”. This seems like a great option based on my needs. It will provide support of the fascia, help with over extension, help to strengthen those wasted parts of the muscles. The disadvantages are it seems more expensive, you need to learn how to apply it correctly and failing to may lead to further problems like the tape rubbing.

They added that the tape used to come in red and blue, warm and cold respectively, but the Olympics made them fashionable so all colours are now available and they don’t mean anything! So Go Wild – I’m particularly drawn to the hot pink or maybe Fibro purple 😁!!!!! I’ll be heading to You Tube first to learn how to apply it (safety first)

So that’s it – I’ve looked at tubes, banadages, hinges, straps and tapes! 

Here’s a summary of the key points:

1) Make sure you know what you’re treating e.g. diagnosis 

2) If unsure or for individual guidance – check with a health professional.

3) Think about the activity you will be doing, duration, intensity, impact.

4) Don’t forget they’re support not fixes.

5) Over using aids can lead to physiological dependency – don’t get into the habit of using them when you don’t need to.

6) Use them correctly. 

That’s it I think. I hope you found it informative and helps you to build your exercise plans. Happy to discuss – comment below 😁

Em 🌼

STOP – 5 minute mindfulness

Stop what you are doing for a moment. Sit comfortably if you can.

Take a few breaths.

Ask yourself “what am I thinking?! Don’t respond to your thoughts, simply be aware of them. Sit with them for a moment.

Take a few more breaths – deeper this time, so you can feel it in your belly. (You may wish to try breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of 7)

Ask yourself “what am I feeling? Once again simply acknowledge your feelings. 

Take 3 or 4 more deep breaths.

Ask yourself “how does my body feel?” – (For example, are you warm or cold? Tense or relaxed?)

Take a few more moments to breathe.

Smile and return to your day, repeat as necessary!

www.mindfulness.org is a great place to start if you would like to learn more about mindfulness practice. It’s powerful and is a firm favourite in my self-care tool kit. I hope it brings you similar comfort and sense of calm as it does me. Sometimes it’s nice to stop and be mindful of you. 

What’s in your self-care tool kit?

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time, take care.

Em. 😁

Legs like Bambi! Leg training/back to basics

Legs like Bambi this week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday am.

Well it really does feel like a happy Friday. It’s been a tough week of leg pain and weakness which, combined with some ‘other’ life issues, led to a heavy mood drop by mid week.

I listened to my body and stopped training for this week. After all, there are only so many times you can train your uppers without them needing a rest too! It felt just too unsafe to work my legs more than necessary. I am also aware that I am carrying some stress and we all know what stress does to the fibro body – This fibro body was talking and I was listening.

I love it enough to listen and it told me what it needed was a rest.

From Monday, I took the rest, doing only what I had to; which is basically wash, work, eat, sleep and focussing on what I know to be true rather than my negative thinking. Yesterday I felt much better and today the same.

However, as you know, I’m proudly fighting fibromyalgia with fitness, so for me this is a rest and a rethink. It’s too important to quit, even though my health is flaring and it can make me question what to do, experience tells me I have to keep moving to feel better. I guess this week is a literal extension of the pain barrier I referred to last week. I don’t neglect myself though nor am I reckless.

So I really need to strip it back to basics to see if I can gauge my current level and figure out if it was a particular exercise my legs didn’t like, the variations, or the amount.

I’ve stressed how important it is when exercising with a chronic illness (or two!) to listen to your body and respond when it speaks.

Here’s the plan:

 Using paracetamol and ibrupofen. I haven’t needed to use medication too much since the accident, but I’m not anti nor am I a martyr. I believe I should use them as little as necessary because there may come a time when I might need them much more and I don’t want to risk building a tolerance. That said, medicine is designed to support us, it’s amazing and can make a vital difference. If you need it, you need it. I also think it’s a valuable part of resting because reducing pain helps my muscles relax and in turn my mind. Enough said.

 Maintaining self awareness when walking. Since the accident, I now Park and Ride that last mile into work, but it’s still a fair walk from the bus stop to the office. Including steps! Earlier in the week those walks were tough but as my aches reduced, my walking improved. As I walked or climbed stairs, I was mindful of how my legs felt, noted pain – where it was, whether it was sharp, considered if one movement hurt more and so on. What I’ve learnt is with rest, I’ve progressed with my daily routine, not worsened. None the less, they were painful and this didn’t subside fully until Thursday. I’m aware that my knees still feel fragile but with minimal pain. I’m OK but fragile so over doing it will likely undo my good work. 

I’ve also been reflecting on my activity levels in the build up to this episode. If I’m honest on reflection I think pacing as, (ahem) been something of an issue!! My trouble is my ambition outweighs my ability at times. I tell myself lying on my couch after work, happily blogging isn’t exhausting my energy, when I know that isn’t true. Without realising it initially, I learnt that when my training routine is disrupted, so too is my pacing routine. This feels like good learning and something to be mindful of. I’m taking this realisation into next week’s training plan. Back to being a weekend blogger for me then.

I’m going to delay training until the weekend because I don’t have work so if necessary have a full day to recover. I’m not going to take any pain relief before I go because I don’t want to mask any symptoms. I’m also planning to do a light all over routine rather the focus on one area as I usually do, I’m going to gently work my body and listen to how it responds. What I mean by this is usually on ‘leg day’ I would complete 5 or 6 different leg exercises in one session. This is great to target all your leg muscles but not great if you’re trying to isolate any problems. I plan to do one or a maximum of two leg exercises. Also I’m keeping the time to a minimum for the same reason; with the aim of building up gradually if all goes well.

Tomorrow is the day. It will be my first time in the gym since Monday and since the pain and the fatigue whooped my ass! I’m a little nervous but confident in my belief of myself. 

Sunday am

 I waited until now until report how it yesterday went, just in case, but so far all indications are that…it went well yay!! 

 I decided to do 10-15 minutes on the cross trainer and if that went well move into straight leg dumbbell deadlifts. I started with the cross trainer as felt this was low impact. I made sure all levels were set to 1. At first my knees were very creaky and it I nearly gave up but before I did I altered my position to check out what felt most comfortable. In no time, it seemed my legs woke up, I kept it gentle but soon the knee clicking stopped and I found myself in a rhythm. For the last few minutes I increased the incline to slight hill climb and was surprised to feel that this felt more supportive for my knees, probably because I wasn’t extending them as fully; interesting. 

I then focussed on my uppers, including some abdominals for a little while, as I know from experience that working your core involves hip stretches, so I wanted to know whether this would be a problem but again it wasn’t. Back to uppers and then I finished with the straight leg dumbbell deadlifts. Legs to start, legs to finish. There was no pain in my legs, I felt relaxed but energised. I chose this excercise specifically because it’s focus is mostly on the lower back and glutes. Doing this means I wasn’t pushing the same legs muscles too hard and provided the opportunity check for any warning signs in my lower back, glutes and hips. I felt satisfied of a job well done.

Waking up this morning, I have an average muscle ache, but importantly no pain. I plan a couple of days of recovery from training legs now to gauge how they feel. I’m tired but not too much so. Time will tell, but right now I’m feeling happy.

My Message..

It’s important to listen to your body and give it what it needs but don’t exclude the idea that exercise may be what it needs too.

Fingers crossed for next week’s progress for us all. 

Bye for now. 

Dumbbell straight leg deadlifts (fittplan.com)

Cross trainer

The Exercise Pain Barrier – are you fighting fibromyalgia or your mind?

 

Goodness me! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write my first post of this year. I’ve so wanted to but alas life got in the way. I’ve been thinking about Fibromystory lots though. I have big plans for 2018….. In fact it’s been a welcome distraction at times.

I won’t bore you with the details but I think you’ll understand when I sum up as: festivities, travelling, house repairs, car repairs, hopefully to be followed by bank balance repairs. Enough said I think, as I said – life. It is what it is.

What I am most proud of though is that throughout it all I have maintained my training as a priority, a nonnegotiable one, even with myself. You’ll recall in my earlier post “Pulling back from the fibro black hole” that when I wasn’t fit enough to train I had unwittingly slipped back into bad habits. At the point of writing, some honest reflection and a deep fear of returning to the woman I once was spurred me into action.

It’s been tough. What has felt surprising is how all consuming training has been. I don’t recall if training felt this tiring when I first started 4 years ago or whether my recent leg injuries play a part but jeez, it’s been exhausting! Plus the aches ooh-ee!!!Despite this, I keep going and I do so because I’ve been here before and know first hand the health benefits of weight lifting. Those that I try to capture on paper to share with you.

Anyhow, I am seriously pushing myself through a pain barrier at the moment, although I feel I’m now breaking through, it’s been tough enough to get me thinking about how difficult exercise can be and it has spurred the theme of today’s message.

Breaking through the fitness ‘pain barrier’.

 

We are courageous (Pinterest

If you live with Fibromyalgia then I think you instinctively know what I talk about when I talk about a pain barrier. After all for many of us it’s what we do every single day when we want to curl up and find some peace but our commitments mean that we have to keep moving, drawing on reserves and strength that we often forget we have. There aren’t many positives of living with fibro but for me my enhanced self awareness is one.

The pain barrier for me is pushing through when mentally and physically you don’t want to. Now of course I’m not talking about ignoring what the body needs and pushing myself too hard, that would be foolish and lead me to a worse place faster (yes of course I learnt this the hard way – I question if really there is any other way??)

I’m referring to re-starting or beginning to implement a challenging life change such as exercise. I’m referring to the active challenging of our negative thinking patterns and habitual behaviours. Working hard to get to the point where we finally start to feel the benefits and overcoming the worry that every body ache is doing us harm.

So here are my top tips for breaking through the pain barrier.

1. Prioritise this time for you. Tell yourself if you feel better, everyone around you will feel better too. Explain to your significant others what you’re seeking to achieve and ask for their support and/or join an online community (like this one!)
2. If you stop now, when will you start? Keep your mind on your goals – picture them in your head. Remember how good you feel when you do physical activity: I think all of the times I am convinced I myself I wasn’t up to it but went and felt better for it. Equally think of all the times you quit something and regretted it.
3. Consider your timetable and needs and devise a realistic training plan – one that is manageable but consistently heads to where you want be. At first, your plan can be simple as “Go Exercise” – the rest will follow.
4. Examine your self awareness. My Grandmother used to say “you’ll never die for the want of an excuse!” That can be me to a tee! If you really don’t feel it up to it -don’t do it, but don’t give into your excuses either. Try to be honest with yourself and learn the difference.
5. Challenge your negative thoughts or fears – examine the truth of your thoughts. Because of the symptoms of chronic illness we often feel “I can’t” rather than “I can”. Don’t accept your thoughts without looking at them and don’t allow “ I can’t” to become your default. For example, what evidence do you have that exercise is bad for you? If you do have evidence, how can you adapt? – e.g. cycling is bad for my hip…. ok I’ll use the rowing machine instead.
6. Sometimes I compromise by not going to the gym but exercising at home instead; 30 minutes at home is better than nothing at all. Please see previous post; Exercising at home: tips and examples for more detail on this. It doesn’t matter quite so much what you do; consistency is most important in these early days. I often find that giving myself these compromises usually gets me doing some form of exercise, because I’ve put no pressure on myself I perform better than I planned to, not because I forced myself but because I wanted to.
7. I’ve said it before but take your progress shots, they’ll inspire you. One you have a comparison set, they’ll remind you of your success and you can see what you’d like to work on. Once you see a difference, ask yourself do “do I want to go back to where I started?”
8. For further motivation, follow people whose fitness you admire, you tube, social media and of course blogs are excellent sources of advice and inspiration.

9. If you can afford to, buy yourself some snazzy gym wear that you feel good in. You’ll want to go the gym to wear it!
10. Don’t be impatient – if you expect instant results you’re going to be disappointed. Every bit of the journey is progress. Celebrate your success every time you work out. Reward yourself with a soak in the tub or your favourite TV show for a job well done.
11. Learn from your sessions, identify how your body feels after each workout and use it to inform how you train next time. For example, if you’re fatigued in one area, train another, if a certain exercise doesn’t feel right, try a variation. If you find you didn’t recover very well from a session, do less next time (of course that works in reverse too!)
12. Try to fuel and hydrate your body with healthy foods and water. Don’t starve yourself, fatigue is already a factor for us, so help yourself by boosting your energy with good food and fluids. A fuel empty body will seriously affect your motivation and ability.
13. Remember it take 28 days to make and break a habit, in sheer days you can alter your mindset and change the pain barrier to routine and routine to fun, energy and good health.

Lastly feel proud that you’re doing this for you. Walk your journey held held high. There will be pitfalls but change often comes from challenge.

Believe in what you can do

You got this. You deserve it.

I’m currently working on another post about the differing types of gym equipment and what you do with them. On a different note I’m also exploring the links between perfectionism and Fibromyalgia. I’ll get these to you as soon as.

Thanks for stopping by. As always feel free to comment or ask questions.

Em x

Link

 Merry Christmas to you all.

Just a quick note to thank you all for supporting Fibromystory over the last 6 months. I’ve learnt so much and made some great connections. Supporting one another makes such a difference to our wellbeing and goals. I thank you so much.

I’m wishing you all peace and happiness and joy over the festivities. A shiny New Year is upon us bringing with it fresh opportunities. Let’s stick together in 2018 and together achieve our aims.

I’ll be taking a little time out to enjoy the holidays but Fibromystory will be back with you in the New Year.

Warmest wishes,

Em x

The Fibro Gym Guide for Beginners

Hi All,

With the end of 2017 fast approaching, for those of us who engage, we may be idly thinking about making some New Year’s resolutions. I don’t always do it but as the Hubster and I have been discussing some shared training aims, the new year seems as good a time as any. For us it’s about building some muscle mass. Currently we’re exploring supplements and body shocking our muscles. I’ll keep you informed.

What about you?

I hope that some of you may be thinking of some health related change for the New Year so to inspire you further, in preparation for a January start, I thought I’d bring you some tips on choosing and starting the gym.

1) Choosing a gym.

When choosing a gym think location and cost. As I frequently say, making health and lifestyle changes require consistency. It’s no coincidence that gyms are full in January but quieter come February!!! Consistency is the most critical but often the most difficult challenge. To help, choose a gym that is located close enough to suit your routine. Whether that’s close to home or work is for you to decide. Having to travel too far to the gym and back can pose another challenge when your battling with a lack of motivation.

Maintaining consistency also means ensuring you can meet the cost for the coming future. If the cost of your gym becomes a worry that will challenge your motivation too. There are cheaper gyms available now but just remember because of that, they’re often very busy so think about the time your planning to go and visit the gym at that time. If you’re waiting around endlessly to use a machine, you’ll likely cool down which again is a risk to your motivation. Try to consider all of your needs realistically.

2) Purchase some comfortable clothing and supportive trainers.

You don’t want to be paying out for expensive gym gear when you first start, but I would recommend some initial investments. Firstly, get yourself a decent pair of trainers, I’m not talking labels just some that feel comfy and supportive. Secondly, I always wear layers at the gym. My body temperature and the gym temperature often change so I try to make sure I’m equipped to stay comfortable. For me that means a fleece or sweatshirt, vest, sports bra, leggings and trainers. Sometimes I even wear my track suit bottoms over the top! I peel off as I warm up and re-layer during cool down.

Get yourself a water bottle and if you can some training gloves.

Gyms do sell bottles of water but in my view they’re not good for the wallet or the environment. Besides our tap water is fine where we live, so I simply refill my water bottle from the tap. I can also add fruit or mint if like. I do use aminos but don’t worry about supplements too much for now – focus on getting your fluids in and again consistency.

When I first started at the gym I quickly realised I needed some support for my hands. My hands and wrists are not the strongest and I would practically get callouses on the top of my palms. Some padded gloves help a lot. Many places stock them fairly cheaply now. Online is usually cheaper.

 3) Identify your needs.

Give some thought to your needs, this will help you to decide whether you want classes, cardio or weights. I choose weights as previous experience taught me that classes and certain types of cardio exacerbate my conditions. Weights give me the control of how I move my body and what weight is right for me. Think about what you know about yourself but don’t be afraid to test yourself too, it’s important to learn about your limits.

4) Get to know the staff and have an induction.

Don’t forget you’re a customer so don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may want to share your conditions and ask advice, that’s up to you. I do ask sometimes but mostly I research via media and books, again preferring to make my own decisions based on my knowledge of my body.

I’ve heard people say it’s embarrassing to have an induction because it makes you stand out as a beginner. I say it’s more embarrassing to use a piece of machinery the wrong way. Get to know the equipment. Ask the instructor to show you all the exercise variations you can do too.

5) Devise a plan.

Work out a realistic training schedule amid your other commitments. Working out how many times a week you can train will help you plan how you train. I’ll cover that in a future post but as a beginner focus on your core muscles of chest, back and legs. As you grow in confidence you can build in add on’s, different muscle groups and variation. Guess what – yup you go it, for now consistency is key. Get used to the gym and the rest will follow. 

6) Stick to your own game!

Don’t be put off by gym goddesses and gym monsters. If we look we can all find someone who we think looks better than us, so don’t look! If you can’t resist a look learn from them. These people are your role models – they have walked the path before you and in my experience are rooting for you to succeed and happy to help.

7) GO TO THE GYM!

That’s it. I hope you’re tempted. If I can advise further please let me know. I’m happy to help. 😁

 

Pulling back from the Fibro black hole.

Hello there,

So I’ve been absent for a little while. I didn’t realise it at first but I’ve been teetering over the edge of the fibro black hole.

I nearly fell –  I nearly lost myself.

In preparation for this post, I’ve been thinking about Fibro again, about how my message to others who question it is “don’t judge what you don’t know”. As a fibro friend once commented; there seems this view that fibro sufferers want to be sick, that somehow we’re lazy, when in fact we actually work harder than most just to be well.

This led me to think that actually fibro sufferers have all it takes to be great bodybuilders: Fibro sufferers know all too well what it means to dig deep to utilise their inner strength in order to manage their conditions and to find some inner peace.

The last few weeks I’ve learnt again that as a fibro sufferer, I understand what it takes to be a bodybuilder and as a bodybuilder I understand how best I can manage fibro symptoms.

The black hole.

I’ve discussed before how I was trying not to worry that my injuries and inability to train would mean a return of my fibro symptoms. I tried not to permit such negative thinking but be mindful of the possibility. Indeed, I thought I was prepared; listening to my body and responding appropriately. I wasn’t.

All was going well until the end of the third week of my phased return to work. I finished the week exhausted, with a lump and intense pain to my fractured knee and my mood was dropping. Fatigue always impacts heavily on my mood. I literally cry when I’m over tired.

Thinking I was doing the right thing I took immediate action:

  • I reduced my working hours for the following week (thanks to my supportive manager’s)

  • Booked a review with my GP and Occupational health

  • Stopped training (I was doing uppers as best I could up until now)

  • Get as much rest as I can.

    That basically equated to lying on my couch for the entire weekend worrying about was going on with my knee and how big a set back it was. Giving in to negative thinking, despite not having a shred of evidence. Still I didn’t see the warning signs.

    Thankfully, as it often does, change occurred very quickly. In fact it changed in one day, Tuesday to be exact. That’s kind of the point isn’t it? We waste energy we don’t have worrying about the future when everthing changes –  usually very quickly too.

    Two events triggered me into action and opened the door to some clear thinking.

  • The GP said my knee problems were linked to cartilage and muscle wastage. He advised me to start re-building my leg muscles. Turns out the problems I was having were due to a lack of exercise.

realised I’d been worrying for nothing. A huge weight lifted. I felt scared but it meant I was one step closer to getting my life back.
Later that night I told my husband what the Doctor said. He looked really relieved and told me I need to get back to training. Then he said:

  •  “the way you’ve been over the last week is the way you were every day 4 years ago before you started training”.

Another realisation; he was right and both he and my Mum had mentioned fibro flare to me in the last week. I remembered feeling surprised at the time because neither had said it for some time but again shrugged it off, I was busily attributing everything to my recovery from the RTA which has been something of a journey too.

I decided I would return to training on Saturday, but on waking up on Wednesday the fog was definitely lifting. I realised by saying I would start on Saturday was simply an extension of my fibro feelings – putting it off because I was tired and sore and scared. 

Do not put off what you need to do today.

I returned to the Gym that night and have been training consistently ever since. I’ve felt anxious and it reminded me how I felt when I first started training but I’ve maintained my clear thinking and trust that unless I feel pain or my leg shakes, I’m good. It’s gone well. 

It’s been 2 weeks now and the difference I feel is incredible.

  • Physically, I’m less tight so pain has decreased. I didn’t realise how tight my muscles were until I stretched them out. I’m enjoying that satisfying body ache not the dull ache one.

  • Mentally, I can almost feel the serotonin levels rising. Feeling proud of myself and ever certain that bodybuilding is my answer.

  • My energy levels are increasing.

My message:

For me, exercise is the only way to manage all of my health. Bodybuilding is not a hobbie, it’s not even a lifestyle…… It’s life.

Until next time.

A change in me

When people learn that I manage Fibromyalgia and Hyper Mobility Syndrome with weight training, they frequently ask; “how do you manage that?”

I’ve decided to focus the next couple of posts to answering this question in more detail. Today’s post will focus on the personal changes I experienced and how they developed. For the next, I’m planning to write a more practical Beginners Guide to Weight Training from isolating your needs and aims, to choosing a gym – Plus much more! 😀

A change in me.

I think I subconsciously entitled this post ‘A Change in Me’ because it’s the title of a song that formed the backdrop to my life at this point. They say that many of us have a soundtrack to our lives and that certainly describes me; I have loads of them!

This song – A Change In Me by Clare Maguire spoke to my soul. It captures both how lost I felt at that time and my hope for change. It helped to reignite the fire inside that fibro and the rest had helped to dampen. It forms part of fibro – my story.

I hope you like it….

 

When I started weight training I wasn’t in the best place. Life felt like a daily battle ground with no sign of improvement. The idea of chronic illness makes you scream at times, as does the sentiment of ‘making the best of it’, when quite frankly you’re too freaking fatigued to do any more than you have to. Then someone like me pops up and gushes “weight train, you’ll feel great!”

I well understand the question.

“How do you manage to do that?”

A Change in me.

It’s hard to place natural change in an exact order but I hope you get the idea. 

1.First and foremost as the song suggests I was totally ready for change and knew that a commitment was needed if I really meant it. I was also prepared to take some risks. A personal decision that only you can make.

2. I listened to my body honestly – what am I able to do right now?

3. I stopped feeling so sorry for myself and believing I couldn’t because of Fibromyalgia when in fact, I didn’t know because I had never tried.           

4. Go more than once! Tired, shattered and sometimes miserable I went to the Gym.

Sometimes I had to dig deep and focus on that fire burning for change.
Sometimes, I had terrible sessions and there were tears in the gym…. 

I never gave up regardless, just kept going back – even when I didn’t want to. Consistency is critical to change and I wanted change more than anything.

Over time, I noticed the magic happening… ✨🌈

5. I challenged my fears head on. If I was scared of hurting myself or telling myself I couldn’t do it, I demanded the evidence of this. For every negative I made myself find a positive counter. Sure there were days when I wanted to quit (and did!) but once I had licked my wounds, that desire for change got me back up.                                                                                                       

6. After training for a month or so, I noticed that if I didn’t train for a few days my symptoms were more noticeable. I can lie to anyone but myself. Physically I felt better when I train and I wanted to feel better – the first motivator.                                                                                                                

7. I began to look different too, (see progress shots) I felt stronger and less fragile, which gave me a huge boost mentally. Chronic illness made me frightened of everything, now I felt more confident. Also, I liked the way I looked and began to think “if I’ve done this, maybe I can do more”? – Bodybuilding is 30% weights but 70% diet.

I was overcoming illness, working my ass off in the gym and I wanted something to show for it. I started catching the bug and it kept growing..

8. So now going to the gym was getting easier, I added changes to my diet, cutting out processed foods and sugar. Not all at once, again gradual but consistent changes. I began to notice on the days I ate crap, I felt crap and vice versa. Another motivator.

9. After using antidepressants on and off for 10 years with no hope of not needing them, I became aware that I was gradually missing doses, something I had been too terrified to ever do before. I realised the fitness and diet changes were boosting my mental health too. It wasn’t that I was neglecting my medication but that I was getting my dose of serotonin naturally. There was no definite decision to quit Anti D’s – again it just kind of happened.

10. Gradually it occurred to me that I was staying up later than my usual 9pm zonked state. I realised I had more energy and it meant I spent more time with my husband in the evenings – something I previously felt guilty about. ANOTHER GREAT MOTIVATOR 😁

11. My sleep improved too, after all that exercise I was out cold! (Although I still have those nights here and there)

12. Then the impossible happened….💥I began to look forward to a workout!! I still remember with shock how one day with tense shoulders and a fuzzy head I caught myself looking forward to that nights workout to ease those niggles out. What!!!

13. New habits formed. They say it takes 28 days to break a habit, while we’re breaking one, we’re making another – choose well 😉

My Message:

No radical transformation into gym bunny – I just learnt that it makes me feel better and the better I felt, the more I wanted to do it. The more I did it, the more habitual it became… it became my lifestyle. When I didn’t do, I felt crap! It’s as technical as that!

At the beginning, my only aim was to consistently go to the gym. The benefits I received made the effort worth while and inspired more change…..

I feel better now than I have for years and that means the world ❤️

What does A Change In Me look like for you??

Bye x

Exercising at home Tips and Examples.

On social media this week I shared the above post and in doing so had a lightbulb moment 💡 – I decided to write an entry about ways to exercise at home.

So here it is!

I’ve divided the body into parts and tried to find a home exercise for each muscle group to provide a full workout. There are a lot more variations available than I feature, but I hope this post will at least give you some ideas and help you come up with more home exercises that work for you.

Calves:

Calf raises are great for toning calves and also for loosening those tight muscles. I employ my bottom stair to do mine, it also means I can hold onto the rail if I’m feeling unsteady. Of course, if you have no steps or stairs at all, these can be done on level ground, simply by raising from flat foot to toe and back.

 

Here’s some I prepared earlier!

From the picture I hope you will see that in order to maximise impact on all parts of my calf muscle, I turn my feet in three directions – straight, toes turned out, toes turned in.

The balls of my feet are placed firmly on the step with heels hanging off. I then raise up onto to my toes stretching as far as I can and then pushing down into my heels to feel the reverse stretch. Up, up, up & then, down, down, down!

Try to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions but obviously stop if you feel any pain – this is about feeling better not worse! Any amount is progress. I do:

1 x 10 repetitions foot straight. 1 x 10 toes pointed out, 1 x 10 toes pointing in. 30 repetitions in total…pretty good for five minutes work.

Legs:

I’m still unable to train my legs for a few more weeks, I think the calf raises pushed them enough, I know you’ll understand. Instead courtesy of Pinterest, (I think posted by Snow Rehab)  I found this leg workout that I would do at home.

 

I tend to focus on squats, lunges and the wall squat. If, like me you have wood floors, be sure to wear trainers or go bare feet for more stability. Socks are fine on carpet I find. You could do 10 lunges, 10 squats and the 50 second wall squat or try them all! Whichever works best for you.

Abdominals 

By far the best ab workout I use is the 7 minute ab workout by Athlean X. I either follow it, or complete variations I’ve learnt from it. The link is attached in my post The Challenge of Fatigue part 2 but to save you time…….

 

However for something more gentle, because of my leg injury, I have been supporting my legs by resting them on my armchair and performing a version of incline sit ups.

I place a throw under me for support (who needs a mat!!) I lift and squeeze my stomach muscles as I do, relaxing as I lie back. To focus on my obliques, I add a variation by putting a twist in. 

 Chest and back & shoulders.

Yup, it’s gotta be the press up. It doesn’t matter if you do them on the stairs, half or full, they’re great for working your chest, back and shoulders. It’s an all rounder – a must have like the squat.

I’m doing half press ups on my knees, well I’m actually doing a demo only because of my legs but usually I would do as many as I can. I’m still working on full press ups…but I will do 10 one day soon. 😏

I have my trusty throw under my knees for support and I’m using grip handles. If you can afford to spend out a little there a lots of small items that can be useful. For me, my wrists are very weak and hurt when my hands are flat on the floor, the handles takes the pressure off the bend in my wrist. I found mine at Lidl, for £3.99!

With your back straight, bend your arms and imagine you’re going to gently touch your nose on the floor as you lower, but stop before you do! Then push through your back, chest and arms back up. As many as you can. 

Arms

Bending or raising your arms is pretty much the core of most arm exercises. If you can afford some free weights, great but if not water bottles are great. I’ve also used a chair to complete some tricep bends by gripping the chair behind me and lowering myself down and back up.

I’m again working my triceps by bending over, holding the bottle with my arm bent to begin and then pushing my arm straight out behind me. You should feel a stretch to the back of your upper arm. Another trick for bingo wings is to hold the bottle above your head and keeping your elbows in to your sides, lower your arms backward as shown. 

In the other two pictures, I’m holding the bottle from beneath (in the middle) and then curling my arm and squeezing my bicep. I haven’t included pictures but you can also do shoulder raises by holding the bottle on one shoulder and then pushing it up toward the ceiling. Don’t forget to swap arms. Keep a slight bend if you have sore elbows or they over extend like mine. 

You can then drink the water to maintain your hydration and refill the bottle to help the environment – multi benefits, what more could you ask?! 

Well that’s it. I hope I’ve left you feeling creative about how you can exercise at home. I realise that when living with pain and fatigue, exercise can feel too much, this is where a home workout can be a small step or a healthy compromise. 

Sometimes, when I don’t feel like going to the gym, a home workout is a great alternative. Of course it’s always important to listen to your body but I maintain that such listening should be honest. I put myself through a little test to check if I really need to rest or just can’t be bothered. You’ll laugh but I do this; 

1st, I put on a you tube video of inspirational female bodybuilders and usually think “if they can do that, you can do 30 minutes in your living room”. I also look at them in awe and think if I want it, I’ve got to work for it. Or, when I’m watching TV, I challenge myself to complete an exercise but only for the duration of the adverts. This feels like a generous compromise and once I start, it’s usually longer. They’re small tricks but work to motivate me.

Of course there are times when 2-3 repetitions confirm that I’m not up to it. That’s ok at least I know honestly what my body needs. 

Bye for now 😀

This Month’s Expert: Daniel J. Clauw, M.D. Diagnosis and Non-Drug Management of Fibromyalgia | Psych Central Professional

https://pro.psychcentral.com/this-months-expert-daniel-j-clauw-m-d-diagnosis-and-non-drug-management-of-fibromyalgia/003543.html#.Weu7gC3Xq-4.twitter

I really wanted to share this article with you. As the title says it refers to a non-drug management of Fibromyalgia. It was posted on Twitter by @FibroWork published by pro-psych central. I think it’s based in the US but none the less, I found it a clear, helpful and interesting read.

Hope you like it, let me know 😁

The Sunshine Blogger Award – Fibromystory Nominated 🌞

So this week something wonderful happened……(drum roll please….)

Fibromystory received a nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award 🥇 yay 🎉

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Being all about the research, I did a quick web search of The Sunshine Blogger Award, while I couldn’t find its origin, what I did find was pages from bloggers delighted to receive a nomination and keen to share the sunshine with their fellow bloggers. From what I can see, that’s the point of The Sunshine Blogger Award – to celebrate those who are creative, positive and inspiring. It’s a great way to create friendly communities which give a positive experience to both bloggers and readers. 

It’s no wonder that I’m delighted to receive this nomination and for that I thank Casey @ This bipolar brat. 

I’m delighted to introduce you to Casey, author of this. bipolarbrat.wordpress.com

In case you’re not familiar with her blog, Casey is a poet, writer of short stories, writer of everything in fact! In her blog she discusses her passions as well as her health with honesty and insight. I love reading her blog, she is a talented writer whose words capture and hold my interest – I’m not going to tell you more…. Go & enjoy for yourself!

What next…. the rules;

As part of The Sunshine Blogger rules once nominated, the blogger is asked to:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog. ✅

  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated them.✅

  3. Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 new questions to answer.✅

  4. Notify your nominees and display The Sunshine Blogger Award logo.✅

Time to get personal – 11 questions and answers

1. Why did you start your blog?

Everything just seemed to come together at the right moment, the passion, the message and the time.

I have always had a passion for writing and feel that blogging is a great way to develop my writing skills. Plus, over the 4 years since my journey with fibromyalgia began, I’ve learnt a lot about fitness and strategies to manage it and finally feel in a happier, more peaceful place. I really wanted to do something with that knowledge and hoped that the blog would allow me to inspire and connect with others. 

2. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far.

This is such a tough question but I think best summed up with this quote;

3. What’s your weakness.

My weakness is a mother’s love. My son.

I don’t know whether it’s simply because I’m a Mum, because he’s my only child, or the fact that he lives (brilliantly) with a learning disability which makes me over protective; (most annoying to a man in his 20’s I’m sure!) I’m learning to trust in his abilities and accept that I can’t save him from the world, he has to experience the good and bad. Being an parent of an adult child is tougher than I thought it would be….they even want to make their own decisions 😂😂

4. What’s your favourite band, singer, musician?

My tastes are really eclectic and very much dependent on my mood. 

That said, I simply cannot answer this question without giving a mention to my step brother Joe Biddle. He is a talented musician and inspires me to live my dreams and pursue my creative ambitions. 

Of course you think I’m a little bias and maybe I am? So you decide; I attach the link. He wrote this song – You and I and features in the video with his lovely partner.

https://youtu.be/QBz3h1Plbls 

5. What’s your worst habit?

I hate being wrong and this can lead me to wanting the last word and struggle to admit I got it wrong. Being a bit of a perfectionist I can also beat myself up for not being right. Completely irrational – We learn best from our mistakes.

Like everyone else, I am always ‘work in progress’.

6. What’s your favourite holiday and why?

My favourite holidays are in the Sun, close to the beach. The sun seems to warm bones and invigorate me. Bring on the Vitamin D!

I love family holidays, where everyone is relaxed and we all get to spend some quality time together before we all zoom back to our busy lives.

7. What’s your biggest advice to new bloggers?

Don’t wait until your blog is perfect – there’s always something to learn.

– Stick to your aims. Enjoy each part of the process. Of course, we all hope our blog will be successful but aiming for success will place pressure on yourself and detract from the experience. 

– Don’t be afraid. It can be really daunting to expose yourself and fears can creep in? Don’t allow your fears to stop you from trying. 

– Be reassured by The Sunshine Blogger Award that the blogging community is based on the ethos of support and community. The support and connections I have made with others has been such a reward and source of motivation. We’re rooting for you!

– Reflect on your work – what can you learn to develop further?

8. What’s the biggest goal you want to achieve before you die?

The immediate answer that sprang to mind is “Staying Alive”! 

My biggest goal I want to achieve before I die is to pursue self development- to find the path that’s right for me to bring peace and happiness. 

9. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who do not use manners.

My Grandmother used to say that manners don’t cost anything, so there is no excuse. Hearing “Good Morning” or holding a door open for someone feels nice. Spread the kindness people, it comes back at you 💐

10. What do you think the biggest problem in the world right now is? How do you think we can fix it?

Greed seems to be the biggest problem in the world right now. I would like to think it can be fixed with an a more equal division of wealth. Yet, I simply don’t see that all of humanity will work together for the greater good. The class structures and notion of the survival of the fittest seem to prevail. 

11. What is your favourite book?

Argh! How does a book fan choose one book as a favourite? I think I will have to say my favourite is Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. To me it’s a fun beginners guide to Philosophy – who hasn’t asked themselves “ who am I?”

To spread the sunshine further, here are my 11 nominees for The Sunshine Bloggers Award:

Fibrofitter

Ladyfibrowarrior

Craftschronicillnessandadulting

Stephaniesnovelfiction

rekhasahay

Susan Pearson

The F Word

arthritisfighterleann

mscapricorn

Terri,reclaiminghope

E.L.Cussen

11 Questions to you:

It was a tough choice to select only 11, but rules are rules! To my 11 nominees –  I would love you to take part, but please don’t worry if you are too busy or inundated with nominations – such is your brilliance ⭐️ If you do accept the nomination, the rules are above and your 11 questions are:

1. What do you enjoy most about blogging.

2. If you could travel back to observe a moment in history, where would you go and why?

3. Which song means the most to you?

4. If you could possess a superhero power, what would it be?

5. What is your favourite smell?

6. If you weren’t a blogger, what would you be doing instead. 

7. If you held all of the worlds wealth, how would you spend it?

8. What would be the ‘perfect’ occasion for you?

9. If you were a food, what would you be and why?

10. What would you banish from the world and why?

11. What are your best hopes for yourself?

Congratulations to the nominees, I look forward to reading your responses Em x

Easy meal prep for fatigue and fitness – Goodful resources

HAPPY FRIDAY ALL, FOR TODAY’S POST I OFFER SOME RESOURCES FOR MEAL PREPPING. HOPE IT HELPS ✅

Meal preparation is really great but time consuming. ⏱⏳

Today I wanted to share with you this fantastic video link to a recent post by Goodful, demonstrating quick low carb meal prep ideas for your whole day. Here’s the link & a picture of my results 😊

https://www.facebook.com/officialgoodful/videos/1831232083613916/

Here are a few low-carb recipes to meal prep your WHOLE day! ✨💡
FULL RECIPES: http://bzfd.it/2gTAhvC

(Good full.com 2017 via Facebook)

It’s 😋

My attempt at the video recipes.

Meal prep for bodybuilding:

I suspect that even if you’re new to bodybuilding you’ve heard the phrase ‘macros’ – I’ve posted about this before so I won’t discuss too much now.

Essentially, macros refers to the amount of carbs, fats, proteins and fluids you need in a day to achieve your goals, whether it’s weight loss or muscle mass. However, ensuring that you eat the right foods as often as you should can be really tough within our busy days. Particularly if you’re trying to prep each meal as you need it – less likely to happen.

That’s why advice like this is useful to get you started with prepping in bulk and of course for recipe ideas.  

For me, I’m naturally small framed but want to build muscle mass, this means a lot of carbs and proteins per day but I find it really tough to eat as much and as often as I should – much of that is due to my lack of preparation.

You know  – I couldn’t be bothered to prepare my lunch that day so ended up grabbing something that I told myself was healthy but in reality was not.

While on days that I’ve meal prepped – I stick to my goals; eating the food both because it’s there and because I don’t want it to go to waste. 

Meal prep for fatigue.

The thing about fibro flare up’s is you never know when one will happen or how long it will last. We know that conserving our energy is essential but sometimes you feel like you’ve done all you can to help yourself and it still results in flare misery. Fibromyalgia is very unjust. 

When in flare, we are often too tired to ensure we eat and drink well. We know our bodies need fuel, but don’t have any fuel to collect the fuel!! This is where meal prep is really useful. On bad days, just knowing that all I need to do is grab something nutritious out of the freezer and warm it up immediately changes my mindset about how impossible I believe the task is. 

I do believe that along with lifting weights, focussing on nutrition is a major factor to the reduction of the symptoms I experience and what keeps me well for longer. Over time new habits have formed, so on my worst days I actively crave nutritious food to heal my body and mind.

My message: 

Meal preparation in bulk is a great way of ensuring you meet your macros – whether you’re conserving energy, losing weight or building muscles (or all three😁)

Video’s and recipes like this one from Goodful is a great simple way to get you started. As you grow in confidence you can trying switching ingredients to suit your tastes and needs. 

Stock up on tubs to store your food. Goodful show jars in their video, but for me while it looks great, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to eat. I eat a lot so I don’t want to struggle to get my fork to the bottom!! Plus I don’t want the extra cost when I have plenty of tubs already. Again personal choice. 

Hope it’s helpful – and inspires you to meal prep to make your day just that little bit easier and stick to your goals.

Until next time when I share some really exciting news……. x

 

Diary entry – Emotions rule – Putting life on hold never helps – live today.

It’s been emotional

It’s been almost 3 weeks since my accident. I realise now I’ve lived a wave of emotion in that time. Today’s post comes in two parts, I’m sharing a diary post I wrote a few nights ago – in the moment of a low episode. I decided to share that and finish it with some reflections and an update.

I do question posting these personal insights, particularly if they’re negative as I wonder what value they bring to you as a reader. What I hope is that by honestly sharing this aspect of my life the message I convey is bad times come and go and it’s ok not to be ok.

Thursday 23:34

It’s late and I’m lying in bed with lots of thoughts whirring so decided to write. I’ve managed my mood well up until this point, but find that the loss of independence, inability to drive and not being able to train is having an impact.

It’s to be expected I guess, basically stuck in doors, unless escorted to yet another medical appointment. Yet I know I’m doing so well and it could be much worse and for some it is. It’s mindset of course but even the most positive of us have our moments and that’s where I’ve been today. I’m telling myself how fortunate I am, but find I’m kind of flip-flopping between experiencing a negative thought and then trying to balance it with a positive one. While that strategy is useful right now I’m finding it tiring. So instead

I’m going to clear my head with this entry – Get my worries down on paper and file them. 📄🗄

Next I’m working to deploy the strategies of saying NO to my negative thoughts; to see them for what they are and alongside that, focus on being in the moment – working to accept that things are simply the way they are and to focus on the here and now.

My emotions right now are my emotions right now and that’s OK.

So yesterday I had a appointment to check an apparently new wound developing on my left ankle, I have an open sore and the concern is a foreign body maybe a bone chip is trying to make its way out. I’m pleased to say all is OK, they think internal bruising and no infection but they want to see me again on Monday to monitor. This morning I had an MRI to check for possible ligament damage in the knee fracture area and I get the results on the 6th. I’m grateful for the comprehensive care I’m receiving but I’m bloomin fed up with all these appointments.

Then this afternoon my GP surgery rang to say following a bloods check a week ago they need to repeat my Liver Function Test and can I come tomorrow morning. While I sought some reassurance from my Mum and tried not to get ahead of myself I think it added another layer to my dropping mood. From this lower mood perspective I did what I usually would never do…..I hit google typing in liver function test. From the information I read, what I should have focussed on is an abnormal liver test can be quite typical, knowing I can rule out alcohol use (as I rarely drink) instead what I focussed on is “can be linked to autoimmune disease”.

Google isn’t always helpful, be mindful of what your searching for, why your searching and where your head is at…

Probably because I’m feeling a little low the idea of Lupus and Fibromyalgia has popped into my mind again. Despite all the information I saw, my negative thinking brain chose this – as much as I feel I’ve finally accepted the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, given my history (please see blog ‘my annus horribilis’ for details) it made me once again wonder if they got it wrong – what if 4 years later in turns out I do have lupus, what then? I tried to add some rational thought, examining the evidence and telling myself that surely if it was lupus I would have had more indications of this over the last 4 years. An abnormal liver function test is probably because I have gone from no medication to lots of different medication over the last 3 weeks.

A flex triggered a blub!

While I tired to busily work my way around my emotions rather than accept, it all came to a head when my son ( he’s 25 years old) came home from the gym and proudly flexed his pumped arm muscles at me and I burst into tears – wailing at the poor boy about how miserable I feel and how I’m going to lose all my progress (meaning muscle size and tone effectively) it shouldn’t matter, it is what it is and I’ll get it back but nonetheless in this moment it matters to me. He held me and offered reassurance while I sniffled my apologies and loudly blew my nose!!

Fortunately that didn’t last too long, since this journey has begun the one habit that has stuck with me is the will to always do something positive to help myself. You know me that’s weights, so determined to pull myself out of my reverie, using my couch for support I used some 2.5kg plates to do some mixed shoulder raises, bicep and tricep curls and some sit ups (legs elevated on my arm chair for support!) I managed and a short time later was able to balance my low mood with some happy and proud vibes that rather than wallowing in my self pity, I made the effort to do whatever I could to pick myself up.

Tired now….to be continued 😴😔

Monday 18:36

Picking myself up – reflections in daylight.

Lupus or Fibromyalgia – neither a slightly irregular LVT.

Since Thursday nights musings, I’ve had repeat bloods and been reassured by the Nurse that only one aspect of my liver function test was slightly higher than the norm, she thinks this is likely because my body sustained such a trauma during the accident that the its enzymes are probably all over the place. The repeat test is simply a procedure. She also said it was always nice to see me but can I please make sure I stay out of trouble – which made me laugh. I duly promised😂 That’s put an end to the any other autoimmune queries, besides now I feel stronger I know these thoughts will not change the outcome. There’s no point in upsetting myself by worrying about something that has not even been suggested (well done brain – nice work….not!)

Losing weight training progress.

Perhaps more than losing progress maybe I lost some serotonin and the other feel good chemicals that keep me level?  

Gym Session – boosting serotonin and stretching muscles…..

Today, my son took me to the gym and guided me through my first gym workout in 3 weeks. We did a chest workout, mindful of my legs, I focussed on machines with seats to support my legs. I completed seated hammers, incline, pec deck and bench flys with free weights. I wasn’t too fussed about weight instead enjoyed the feeling of the movement and inching closer to resuming my normal life. That said, I lift 20kg on the incline press – not bad. I clicked a fair bit but it didn’t hurt and stretching my muscles felt so good. I’m alive, I’m active, I’m so very thankful.

I’ve been discharged from fracture clinic and even better I can drive again YIPPEE 🎉

Both fractures are healing well as is the wound I mentioned. Plus no ligament damage. While I can’t train my legs for a further 3-6 weeks, I can drive and should be able to return to work soon.

The message…

The road takes lots of twists and turns and some of them are unhappy but all are part of the journey and they all lead somewhere. I learnt that for me routine and maintaining my independence are so important but sometimes you have to accept that things are just as they are.

I have realised that for me, while busily telling myself to accept what I did was ignore the moment and placed my life on hold until better times emerge. I think that’s what I’ve been doing and another contributor to a lower mood. 

It’s also been a reminder of something I knew already which when feeling low, the brain – automatically triggers negative thoughts which if we act on can find us applying meaning to issues that simply isn’t accurate or helpful, in my case here autoimmune disease. I remind myself again to not believe everything I think.

whatever I’m doing at the moment is my life. Right now I’m resting my mind and body. If I choose to sit out the bad times I’m choosing not live. It tells me to find some kind of peace at all times and maybe a little perfection in the moment.

Until the next time, take care ❤️

 

Top tips – Progress shots

Photos in your underwear!!? Are you kidding?! 

When I started training a friend suggested that I take some photographs to chart my progress. To begin with the thought of taking photos in my underwear horrified me, much as I expect you’re feeling now! Yes I was slim, but slim and fit are two very different things. I’m guessing we all have some body insecurities, I certainly did. Social media and fitness apps are full of ripped and toned bodies that can make us feel both inspired but also a little intimidated. I didn’t feel like a bikini model so never thought it was something I should do.

However, I trusted her advice and reasoned if nothing else it would be an interesting experience – don’t knock it until you try it right?

My friend was right! 

Progress shots have in fact been really valuable to me and thus another recommendation I make to you. If you are thinking about losing weight or starting some exercise – get your kit off, find someone you trust and get some photos of your front and back!!

Before you run away, I’m not suggesting you share them, unless of course you want to. These are private photographs for you only. I take them every 3 months so have compiled a quite a lot at this point. That said, I can hardly recommend the benefits of progress shots without showing my own so (deep breath) I’m going to share some of my own to this post – so be warned 😳 (argh!!!!)

So what are the benefits?

Motivation as you probably know can be a real challenge to exercise; to get results consistency is key but with busy lives and of course chronic conditions to manage, it can be really tough – that’s the time I look at my pictures. I’m proud to see how far I’ve come, how much my body has changed and then I ask myself “do you really want to waste all that progress?” For me the answer is absolutely not. I haven’t come this far to let it all go now.

Developing aims: The pictures are also really good for you to see yourself in a different way and in doing so identify areas that you think need further work, so I may think “my shoulders look good but my lats need further work”. Knowing this helps me to plan my training regime and place extra focus where I think I need it. What’s more, it’s useful to check you’re in proportion, you don’t want massive calves and tiny hamstrings – Well I don’t anyhow! You might, but actually seeing your body in a picture can really help to plan where you want to head next. You hear people say that they were motivated to lose weight for example, when they saw themselves in a particular photo and didn’t like what they saw. The power of the impact of that image was the final element they needed to illicit change and achieve their aims, it’s the same principle for bodybuilding.

Self-esteem: I think lower self-esteem has always been an issue for me and this at times has been exacerbated by my conditions. The emotional aspect of fibromyalgia and other conditions can lead to lots of negative feelings about who we are and what we’re capable off. My progress shots also serve as a reminder of how much I’ve achieved, despite initially believing it wasn’t possible. Looking at my pictures boosts my confidence and in turn my self esteem. I can now say “I look good and mean it” which is a real buzz. This confidence spills over into other areas of my life too, feeling strong, seeing my strength makes me feel strong inside. I also look at my first shots (one of which I will include) and see fragility and vulnerability. The picture says so much more to me about where I was at that time – both mentally as well as physically. In my opinion, I look frail but in my later shots I feel like a warrior – A FIBRO WARRIOR, they serve as a reminder of how strong I am to overcome my fears and make lifestyle changes that felt really scary.

So as I recommend you do something, I shall do it myself…….. look away now if you’re bashful!

 

 

20171024_153306-COLLAGE.jpg

Grr for some reason I can’t put them in the right order – never mind. Wow,  it does feel very raw to expose myself in this way, hey ho it’s no worse than a bikini on a beach (I’ll keep telling myself that!)

The second photograph is one of the first, it was taken in 2013 just as I started the gym. I was feeling pretty sick and sorry for myself at this point, but ready for change. The first photograph was taken last year in 2016. As you can see I added another tattoo in the interim – my first since diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I won’t digress here but I might write about just how painful I found tattooing after diagnosis. I can’t know whether I’ve whimped out over the years or indeed whether enhanced pain receptors caused by the fibro extend to tattooing too, which is my preferred theory!

I hope the pictures speak for themselves in explaining the merits of progress shots. In my eyes, I look and feel completely different. Gone is my skinny frailty replaced by a strong and confident woman. Yet, the second shot, as much as I was pleased, made me focus more on working my abs and decide I would like more muscle definition – which I continue to work on. Fibromyalgia may mean that I can’t achieve that ripped physique I see on social media but it won’t stop me trying. Of course as I’ve written before my mission is my health not the IFBB competiton.

I do hope you find this interesting and indeed feel inspired to take your own shots. I wouldn’t advise you take them too often though, you need to leave it long enough to actually see some change, otherwise it can lead to despondency if you don’t see progress. A bit like weighing yourself, go with how you feel.

That’s it for today, as always I value your feedback.

Back soon x

Continue reading

I had an accident – lessons in life

 

I’m going to continue with the personal entries at the moment by sharing with you a recent experience. It’s not related to fibromyalgia but it will shape future entries. Besides, I feel a 
connection with many of you now so want you to know.

Allow me to explain

Last Monday during my usual last mile walk into work, I was hit by a car. A lapse of concentration and everything has changed, although I’m relieved to tell you not too seriously and only temporarily.

My memories of the incident remain hazy which I’m grateful for, but I do know I wasn’t paying enough attention – earphones in, coffee in hand, I was in my head, planning my day. I was in my happy place. The walk is so familiar and I did look but not enough – I checked my side was clear, negotiated crossing in front of the traffic queuing on the other side but this done rather than check my side again, I stepped out and was hit by a car that had turned into the road after my first look.

I’m not sure whether I believe in fate or guardian angels and the like, I think I want to believe more than I actually do, but if it is possible, mine was definitely there. I was hit at 25mph, apparently I hit the car, bounced into the air, landed and sat up immediately. My hazy memory starts from there, sitting up confused. I remember wondering why I was sat on the wet road and why people were surrounding me…It remains a blur but I am so grateful to the off duty Nurse that happened to be passing (and was with me the moment I sat up as I recall but not been able to confirm) the Police, Paramedics and Emergency Department trauma team, who devoted their care and attention to me. I feel that having these amazing people immediately available to me was a gift but mostly the fact that I walked away from this incident, albeit some hours later and on crutches makes me feel that I was protected that day? It seems incredible that I my injuries were so minor – I’m welling up as I think about what could have happened and I know I need not say more to you.

So if Guardian Angels 👼 exist and I have one……Thank you – I will heed your warning.

I am very very lucky, my injuries are:
concussion (bruising and swelling to both sides of my head) A CT scan of my head confirmed no fractures or bleeds.
A CT of my chest, pelvis and spine confirmed no significant injury or breaks.
Significant soft tissue injury (bruises and aches mostly) to my elbows, ribs, knees and ankles and left hand.
A slight fracture to my left knee and a probable hairline fracture to my left foot.

Emotional health is getting there.

I’ve been on something of an emotional rollercoaster recently possibly not helped by the concussion, shock and pain medication. I’m doing OK at this point. I feel calmer inside and I’m affected less by negative thoughts. When it first happened my feelings were a combination of euphoria that I’m ok and deep shame that I am responsible, I placed myself here and caused untold distress for the driver. I accept now, it was accident. I remain sorry that the driver had that experience but equally I feel sorry that I have too. I am also sorry for the fright I gave my family and friends and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their care and support.❤️

New learning:
It was an accident.
Headphones and traffic don’t mix.
Be in the here and now.
Don’t allow familiarity to lead to complacency.
Remember I am a competent woman.
Even the best get it wrong sometimes, 😉😁

Finally I feel convinced that…..Weight training really is a life saver

I do believe that my physical strength has been a major protective factor too. I question how well the old me would have coped with this accident. My husband (who, as you all know has never been to etiquette school!) thinks fours years ago my legs would have crumbled with such force. I agree entirely and think the strength of my muscles made a real difference to the severity of my injuries.

Listening to my body is helping my recovery but I must listen to my head too……finding the balance.

I also think my strength is helping with my recovery too, I’m already off crutches and improving daily. My muscles feel robust and my determined mind are key; I’ve discussed before the confidence that comes with achieving what you never thought possible and how this creates a positivity that helps to overcome the fear that can slow progression. However in this scenario, coupling my inherent impatience with the desire to dust myself off and move on increases the risk that I’ll overdo it. I know I’m doing it and agree it’s pointless to push myself too far but I also think that’s who I am and I trust in myself to know what’s best for me. I accept though; it’s a delicate balance, but think that maybe living with chronic illness is an advantage in this case because one thing I know how to do is balance, pace and I know exactly what overdoing it feels like.

What’s next? – 
Moving forward.

Training:
I’ve had my first fracture clinic review and all seems positive except I can’t drive or go the gym for 6 weeks. Well as I said to my Mum later “what I heard was don’t drive or train your legs for 6 weeks – which I’ll do!! 😂😇😉

It’s nearly 2 weeks since I trained and I miss it so much. Now you and I both know I’ll be in the gym to do uppers soon. I genuinely don’t feel I’m being unwise, on the contrary, I’m doing everything I know to promote my physical and mental health. For me that’s training.

When I feel ready and fracture clinic are happy, I’ll book a Personal Trainer to support me through my first leg session. I want to ensure I’m protecting myself while sticking to my goals. I’ll update you as it happens. Quick shout out to Morgan’s Wellbeing Centre who have kindly frozen my membership until I’m fit enough to return, best start thawing guys I’m on my way soon! Thanks to you also.

Epsom salts:
Now I can bend my leg more I’m going to take an Epsom salt bath. As you know it’s a firm favourite of mine to rest my muscles and soothe my aches. I’m thinking candles, oils burning – the works!

Aromatherapy:
I have been using some essential oils to help soothe my senses and my mind. Currently burning the N02 BlackBerry and Bay candle from Aldi (which smells great and is good value too) and 100% lavender oil in my burner at night, I never compromise on the quality of essential and base oils.

Arnica cream:
Arnica is seriously old school but sometimes the old ways are the best. Some of my injuries were very sore and swollen so I’m using the arnica 4 x per day which has helped to develop the bruises and reduce the pain and swelling.

Nutrition:
Eating clean is apparently an alien concept right now – Oh my guys I am craving fat and sugar! Not sure what that’s about. 🍕🍟🥞 I’m going to chill for now but get back to my eating plan next week. Although I’m going to start the spinach smoothies again from tomorrow as my GP has taken bloods as she thinks I’m a little pasty. I personally think it’s me with no make up!! But I think it’s good to get the full MOT so when I return to training I know I am safe and well enough.

I going to push the nutrition and put some clean meals together next week so I’ll make sure I include some here. I have been pushing the water so just need to keep that going. Hydration is key as you know, although of course don’t overdo it as with everything balance is key.

Mental health.
I’m going to continue with the mood boost strategies and meditations I have started.
I have been doing lots of you tube, listening to Ted X talks about brain development and maintaining good emotional health plus Michael Sealy’s hypnosis and meditation videos. I’m practising mindfulness and grounding techniques and telling my overthinking brain to “shut up” as advised by someone special. It’s surprisingly powerful and snaps me out of whatever thought I’ve found myself responding to. I won’t rule out talking it through with a counsellor if I need too but right now it’s early days and I think I’m settling as I should.

Work:
I’m currently off sick but aiming to make a staggered return with the support of Occupational health as soon as possible. One day at a time.

My Message….

Life has chucked me a major hurdle. It’s a cliche but true that everything can change in a heartbeat. I’m enjoying my family so much and remembering what’s important in life. There are lots of negatives here but dwelling on them won’t help in any way – either me, or those around me. It’s irritating that my life and training routine is disrupted but rather than focus on my losses, I’m figuring out what I can do. As a chronic illness warrior I live with adversity and while I frequently need to change the plan: I will never change the goal.

RESILIENCE IS ME, SET BACKS ARE OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEVELOPMENT.

I’m keen to get back to talking about training and nutrition so I’m currently working on another top tip entry about progress photos and I’m going to include mine ahhh!😳😱I hope you’ll join me then.

Until next time – for now I rest x

Time to get personal – My ‘annus horribilis’ – Fibromyalgia diagnosis.

When I created Fibromystory, I had every intention of writing a personal account of my diagnosis as the first post, but for some reason I still haven’t done so. I’ve been thinking about why this might be the case? First, I’m not sure if it will be of interest to you, and secondly, and I think on a more subconscious level, l’m avoiding going back to that dark time because I don’t want to feel that way again.

2013 was quietly frankly the worst year of my life, in the words of Our Majesty my “annus horribilis”

I write now because it feels like an important part of Fibromystory, important to explain the journey I have travelled. Moreover, that the story I’m telling is real not fiction, the sort of change I write about didn’t just emerge overnight – but it is possible. I keep saying I’m no expert and indeed I’m not.

What I do know is where I’ve come from and where I am now, how finding the courage to listen to my own body, to challenge and motivate myself to overcome my fears and commit to change, has led to such a positive difference in my life and I want to share that and shout loud…..

“THERE IS ANOTHER WAY” – maybe you can tune into you in a way you haven’t before and find a way to personal happiness and peace. That’s my best hope for Fibromystory, my best hopes for me and for you. ❤️

So I realise the best way I can relate to you is to face my fears and return to my Annus horribilis! Though just before I launch into the events surrounding my diagnosis, I think I need to add a bit more context by telling you about my pre-existing ailments!

A sickly child.

My friend always jokes about me being something of a sickly child, but fact is I wasn’t, not in the way you would imagine anyway. I had kid illnesses growing up, measles, mumps, chicken pox – you know fairly standard stuff, but the one big problem that dominated my growing years was chronic kidney infections. It wasn’t as though I was permanently infected, but symptoms like frequent cystitis is fairly traumatic for a little girl and I was hospitalised twice for treatment. Lots of testing revealed no obvious cause – now that sounds familiar doesn’t it! 😂😡😜

Perhaps it was an indication of the chronic illness to come or possibly no more than my unhygienic childhood habit of sucking my thumb! Although looking back on it, what does seem more apparent are my joint problems that would come to dominate for a time. I wasn’t clumsy but had very little grace and was never able to do handstands and the like. Not a natural athlete by any stretch of the imagination!

By the time I was 17 years old, my joints were becoming really problematic. I was living with pain, swelling and stiffness. My hands hurt really badly, and I couldn’t lift my arms up without pain and shaking, and the pain in my right hip often caused me to limp. Off to the GP I went and understand was subsequently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I think I would have been more scared had I been old enough to understand what that means.

A Christmas to remember – 2004: 10 years later. 👪🚨🎁

I jump ahead to the next pivotal moment – it’s Christmas Day, we’re in the car, I’m driving, son strapped in the back, wrapped presents in the boot and my husband beside me, we set off in high spirits to enjoy Christmas with family.

Before we had even reached the end of our street, we were involved in a car accident.

I still remember it clearly, it all seemed to happen in slow motion. I watched the man look up (we later learnt he was looking at his phone on his lap, while trying to help a friend in an emergency and rushing to get to them – which helps with any negative feeling) Anyhow, as he looked up in horror and hit his brakes, there was no way at the speed he was going he would stop before he hit us. There was also no way for me to get out of his way, other than tucking my nose in as much as I could, which I did. I could see what was going to happen and as I watched him skid his way toward us, I even had time to tell my son that the car was going to hit us and to hold on really tight. We literally braced for impact during those brief seconds that felt like minutes. Because I was tucked in, when he hit, the impact was heaviest on the drivers side – On me.

We got lucky – almost…👍

As car accidents go, this was not too bad, we all emerged seemingly fine. Although the car was a write off, once the Police had gone, determined to enjoy our Christmas we arranged a lift and carried on. Later though, at my Mum’s as I got up from sitting, my right leg gave way and the pain was intense.

For the next few years, my son worked his way through PTSD symptoms and my life was further complicated by mobility problems, lots of pain, medications, treatment and testing.

The conclusion – Not RA likely HMS with Osteoarthritis to the right hip.💉🔬

My blood factors were not high enough to confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. The Rheumatologist’s said they were sure that the problem is Hyper Mobility Syndrome, except my Rheumatoid factor was higher than is typical for Hyper Mobility Syndrome alone. They concluded “Hyper Mobility Syndrome but we’d best hang on to you for a while and check once a year”. “Hmmm, not one thing, not the other, the same old story” 🤔🤒😰

As time moved on,  they seemed more certain about HMS and added Osteoarthritis to the right hip. The view is that significant hyper mobility of the right hip has caused wear and tear which is why I had hip pain prior to the accident. Possibly because of this, when the car hit us my right hip rotated, exacerbating the existing problem. The reason I hadn’t felt it until hours after the accident was likely due to shock. In the subsequent insurance claim because of this, I was told that my injury was due to a pre-disposed pathology and I was lucky I wasn’t being pursued for fraud. I still feel very bitter about that.

At the age of 29 I was discussing hip replacements and steroid injections. Neither of which were particularly recommended or appealing to me. I agreed with Doctors that I would return when I was dragging my leg with me and left it at that. I kept going but it did leave me feeling really fearful of doing anything might hurt it further and I would always avoid any activity that might pose a risk. It has impacted on my relationships with my husband and son at times.

Immune what?

The other thing to tell you is I catch pretty much everything. If it’s viral – I’ll get it. If it’s not, I’ll catch it! I have had both pleurisy and pneumonia at different times which I think would result in the recurrent chest infections I suffered annually for years after.

I’m sure you can imagine that this, coupled with a very stressful job was impacting a lot on my mental health. There have been dark, depressed and anxious times, which I’m not going to elaborate on but suffice to say, left me feeling permanently frightened, vulnerable and questioning if I would ever feel truly happy and carefree again.

I did eventually find some middle ground and by making changes in my job found a zest for life that got me through these dark times and yeah; I was happy enough I suppose.

The beginning of Fibromystory – the diagnosis.

It’s November 2013, dark and gloomy. At this point I had been coughing for about 3 months following a bad cold I had caught ironically in July and just couldn’t shake. I was also concerned about infection due to an environmental issue I was exposed to via my work at that time. I was wiped out much of the time. My husband had been consistently nagging me to go the GP but I just kept thinking it will go away. This was because I was privately worried that I was a hypochondriac – all I seemed to do was talk about my health. Never mind annoying others, I found myself really irritating and had started to wonder who I was.

Because he was so worried, I went to the GP. The Doctor I saw was the best I had ever had before or since, because firstly she believed me and secondly, she assessed me holistically. She was the first Doctor who took the time to research my medical history. It was also the first time that my blood results were significantly high – with white cell count, inflammation, viscosity all an issue. Something was going on, my immunity was on the floor, I caught everything.
I think my lowest point was sitting in work and aware that my shirt was sticking to me, curious I took a look to discover white pus leaking from my belly button. It was almost funny at that point ….”seriously? Is that even a proper ailment!?” 😲😡🤡

What was serious though were the dark times, when I secretly worried I was dying and the longer it took to find out, the less my survival chances would be. My fear of hypochondria prevented me from sharing this with anyone, so it sat heavily with me. My head was everywhere. I felt dreadful. I looked dreadful. It was the worst time of my life. I was a total mess basically.

You have by now realised that I use humour a lot as a coping mechanism. As I write this, one such example during this time springs to mind as I was moaning to a friend; 

Me: If I was horse, I’d be dog food right now.
Friend: I wouldn’t feed you to my dog!! 🐶🤣 That just about sums me up at this point!

After some time, the Dr told me she was now certain what was wrong with me.

An answer finally something other than I am insane? She was certain, so certain she told me go and research. She was confident I had lupus but felt it right to send me back to Rheumatology to confirm her diagnosis. The last words I recall her saying to me is “my worst fears for you is that you end of being diagnosed with something like fibromyalgia because it’s nothing more than an umbrella term to explain what they don’t know”.

She was so sure, so I was sure. I had lupus. I read as much as I could. It scared me. I was afraid, but there was an answer. As bizarre as it sounds I was delighted. Now I had an answer, now I can treat something, maybe even get better. Of course it’s a serious disease and I wasn’t taking it lightly but it gave me hope. If I have LUPUS – I know what I’m dealing with, and once I know I can usually deal with it whatever. It’s the unknown that gets to me.

You know what happened right?

Apparently my bloods weren’t high enough. Yet again the same old story. All these months had come down to this. The Rheumatologist said what I have is Fibromyalgia. With my GP’s comment ringing in my ears, what I heard was “we don’t know” “it’s in your head”. It sent me into a free fall of despair, anger and denial. I don’t have enough space to tell how badly that affected me. I didn’t even believe the condition was real, I was angry and ashamed, I was miserable and I was still really ill. How can this so called invisible illness truly feel this bad? They MUST have got it wrong, but I also felt really guilty for feeling that way and being so narrow minded. There were times in my quest for answers that I had asked questions on forums that had offended others with fibromyalgia, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt others, so it meant again I carried my questions inside. I felt so guilty, after all, I had asked for an answer and I had been given one. What was I saying? 

“No I don’t like that label thanks, it doesn’t suit me, can I have another one?”

What did I do?

I completely ignored it and in doing so continued to struggle downhill. Eventually my Mum and husband did what our American friends call ‘staged an intervention’. My family were struggling with what was going on too, they supported me but for them Fibromyalgia was clearly the answer. They accepted it, but my refusal to accept and my obsession to find an answer I had already been given was leaving them frustrated – I received some straight talking from them both. They tag teamed me!! 🤼‍♀️

It did me good and it resulted with me promising that I would;

1) “Acknowledge that Fibromyalgia is a real condition”
2) “Accept that I have it”

As I’ve mentioned before I am a woman of extremes, so therefore I threw myself wholly into this too. I read everything I could, followed the guidance, took the medication and sought to challenge the stigma of the fibromyalgia – including my own. I threw myself on the mercy of the NHS, I took every piece of advice and every pill prescribed.

I did ok and this approach got me by for a while and still does in terms of acceptance, but the negative feelings returned. I felt so guilty that I was permanently resting, that I withdrew from others because of my inability to plan anything had led me to frequently let people down that I cared about and I couldn’t cope with that, so tried to remove myself. I felt I was neglecting my family and my life.

I was also on loads of medication and it was making me feel dreadful. I felt every time I would complain to the Dr (never seem to have seen the same one twice after my favourite moved on) I would be prescribed yet another tablet to deal with the side effects of the ones I was on. It was also costing me a fortune.

Mentally I was slipping again but I believed in myself and knew there must be another choice for me, but I was just so scared for so long. My experience made me afraid, but my trust in my husband and my desperation to find happiness are the reason this journey began. You can read more about this in the post I actually published while running from this one – “why the gym”

Here it is, my soul on a page. I hope it’s a useful backdrop for you to think about when thinking of your own hopes. Wow I feel I written a novel. Time for the sequel but maybe a snooze first!

I couldn’t have explained macros better myself. Thanks to Sophie at Together with Frenchie. Pretty much everything you need to calculate your macros.

So I touched on this subject a little on Sunday’s blog post, in case you missed it, click here: What really matter on food labels. Let’s dig a little deeper into calculating Calories and your Macro groups. And just remember that even if you follow my advice to the letter, it’s still estimation and some […]

via Calculating Your Calories and Macros — Together With Frenchie

Mindfulness and Fibromyalgia

On my social my social media page I often refer to mindfulness as one of the tools I use to manage my health.

Those of us living with the condition know all too well the existing debate as to whether fibromyalgia is a psychiatric or neurological condition. After all, here in the U.K. the treatment plan for fibromyalgia often involves antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy. Whereas neurologist’s assert issues with our neuro receptors enhance pain and prescribe medication and physiotherapy.

Not wading into that debate – ouch hot 🔥!

While I can see both sides of the debate, for me, I simply don’t know and more than that, I’ve reached the stage where I’m not sure if it really matters. In any case what will it change for me? I do however feel that my mental health impacts heavily on my pain and fatigue levels. Mind and body go hand in hand – you can’t have one without the other, which is why I think it’s so important to manage both together. So as much as training to support my physical self, I also train my emotional self 💆🏻

I use a lot of strategies but particularly like mindfulness as it calms my mind and I can do it everywhere, especially in the gym.

So what is mindfulness?

The google dictionary tells me;

‘1) the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something...

2) a mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations’

While Mindful writes;

‘…mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us’

For more check out their page at mindful.org

https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/ 

Listen to your body but accept your mind – ‘tuning in’

Acknowledging what I maybe feeling both mentally and physically but not attaching meaning to it – simply accepting that’s where I am right now. It takes practice, but I try not to get caught up with overthinking my feelings which leads me to feeling worried and anxious.

There was a time (and it still happens at times) that my fibro symptoms would lead me free-falling into obsessive negative thinking…

“How will I cope tomorrow?”…

What if I get worse?”

“What if I can’t work?”

“Why me?”

How, what’s, why’s and where’s 

These days another mantra is “it is what it is” (until it isn’t!!)

(So many mantra’s, I think I might devote a future blog to my mantras alone 😎)

Mindfulness in the gym

As you know, the gym has become therapy for me. It’s my time to put the world down for an hour, no work, family, fibro. I just focus on me and the exercise – being fully present in the moment.

Ok, I’m addicted – here comes yet another mantra!

By “sticking to my own game”, I block out others around me – baseball cap on, earphones in, eyes shut (yup I look as odd as you like and I don’t care!)

As I do each repetition I focus on the feeling of my muscles stretching, the sense of strength I feel. In my mind, I visualise the muscle group – so for example, if I’m doing pull ups (assisted) I ensure each movement is slow and deliberate. As I pull up, I feel the stretch and in my mind I visualise the muscle group and imagine the compression in tandem with the movement. All that tension being eased out. It gives me a sense of peace and a satisfaction that I’m managing the fibromyalgia and I’m doing it for me – because I’m worth it.

I’m managing this condition (and the HMS) in a way that I instinctively feel is right for me. So regardless of the differing medical views, I leave it there – taking enjoyment from the present, letting go of any past regrets or fears for the future. Right now, all is well.

That’s it. Thank you for joining me. I hope you take the opportunity to try mindfulness and take the opportunity to focus your awareness calmly on the present.

Until next time x

The challenge of fatigue part 2

Last week I wrote about the difficulty of dealing with fatigue while not giving up. I thought before proceeding I would give you a quick update.

http://fibromystory.com/2017/09/17/the-challenge-of-fatigue/

I took my own advice; took a week off the gym and stopped walking the last mile into work and back, taking the bus instead. I did really miss it, and come Wednesday I was tempted to return to both – my body was aching and I really wanted to stretch it out, but I stopped myself and committed to the full week break. I’ve been dealing with some cold and flu symptoms too, which may be a virus, but as you know, is also synonymous to a fibromyalgia flare, so I decided to be cautious.

My appetite still hasn’t been great, I think mostly to do with the fact that work has been hectic and I’ve been prioritising that over myself. I realised I wasn’t meeting my macros, so come Tuesday really focussed on ensuring I ate well.  Since then, I’ve been managing to eat 6 small meals/snacks a day. I start the day with a fruit smoothie with added oats, 2 hrs later, muesli with linseed and Greek yoghurt (it has the highest protein content), chicken, spinach and five bean salad for lunch, nuts for a snack, more chicken with rice and veg for dinner, rounded off with a protein shake for supper (sometimes with a scoop of peanut butter for that extra Mmmm!) I’ve haven’t gone far without my water bottle either and tried to substitute coffee for green tea….mediocre results here.. coffee for me has always been non-negotiable!!! ☕️

As the week has gone on, I’ve definitely felt my energy levels picking up and symptoms reducing – in the words of Eminem … Guess whose back? Back again, Em is back – tell a friend!!!

So today I made it back to the gym. As I haven’t trained for a week I decided to ease myself back in gently with a relaxed all over upper workout. Specifically, 2 sets back, 2 sets chest and 2 shoulders. I completed:

3 sets x 10 reps – Assisted pull ups (back)

3 sets x 10 reps – Assisted dips (chest and a little triceps) 

3 sets x 10 reps – seated shoulder raises with the smith machine) I don’t fully extend my arms due to the HMS injury risk, but keeping a (very slight) bend in the arm provides a great compression exercise too, so no loss there.

3 sets x 10 reps – Bent straight arm pull down (back)  (One of my favourites, I love the stretch on my lats)

3 sets x 10 reps – machine chest press.

3 sets x 10 reps – machine lateral raise. (Shoulders)

Urgh Abs! 

I finished off with 3 sets x 10 reps of abs and obliques. I will share with you I hate training abdominal’s even more than I hate training legs! Because of that I complete one set of abs every time I go to the gym to spread,the pain!  At home, I complete this AthleanX 7 minute work out when I’m feeling brave!

I enclose it in case you’re interested and feeling sadomasochistic!!!! I tell myself it’s only 7 minutes – how bad can it be?! I end up swearing at the TV 📺 (sorry Jeff Cavalier – I know you expect it though lol!) My aim is to complete the entire workout without stopping once. I’m still working on it!

Summing up,

I was feeling like the week had cost me some gains so it was nice to see some muscles popping (the body doesn’t forget) I pumped really quickly. I weighed myself and have only actually lost about a pound, so no major loss there. So all in all, I think I’ve gained from this week off.

Come the end of my session, I was shaking and feeling nauseous so got myself home for a protein shake and some eggs. I’m resting now and busily hydrating. But feeling good 😊 

If you try 7 minute abs – do comment and share your experience. In fact comment about anything you like, I love hearing from you. X

 

The challenge of fatigue.

This week has seen my return to my full time job after 8 weeks off, as last year I have had the good fortune of securing a term time job. It has been the most amazing Summer as you can imagine, focussing on my fitness and blog and well, anything I chose to really. Enough now I don’t want you to go off me!

After all this time, I still feel shocked about the impact fatigue has upon me. 

I expected to be tired and overwhelmed and told myself it’s to be expected. I had started preparations a week before with reverting my training to evenings and meal prepping. Nonetheless, I find I’m battling with it. Since Wednesday I’ve been unable to ignore that I’m running on empty. I’ve  been thinking about how down right weird some of the symptoms of fatigue are and wondered if others experience the same?

It was then that I decided that I should write about this while I’m experiencing it to make it as real as possible.

Let’s talk Fatigue.

If you live with a chronic illness I suspect that you will understand explicitly how I’m feeling when I use the word fatigue. I am consciously not using the word tired. Tired is how I feel on a good day! I’m talking Fibro fatigue, HMS fatigue and all that goes with it.

I think the reason I feel the need to clarify that stems from a pet hate, which is probably unfair, but I think it, so I’m honestly going to say it. My pet hate is when people throw around the word fatigue too casually. There is a huge difference between feeling tired and feeling fatigue. For me, it’s like when people say they have the flu when they have a cold or they’re depressed when they’re fed up. I think experiencing any of these makes us far more mindful about using these words. (Rant over – exhale!! 😤)

Let’s get my facts straight – Defining Fatigue. 

According to the English Dictionary fatigue means:

‘Extreme tiredness resulting from mental and physical exertion or illness’

Specifically linked to Fibromystory, www.nhs.uk advise:

Fibromyalgia can cause fatigue (extreme tiredness) this can range from a mild tired feeling to the exhaustion often experienced during a flu like illness….Severe fatigue may come on suddenly and drain you of all your energy. If this happens, you may feel too tired to do anything at all’

To me it means:

‘I’m not sure that I could move myself to safety if a bomb were about to explode!’

Over dramatic? –  Nope. A reflection of how I’m feeling? Definitely.

Yay I’m in Snow White – this is me…..

   

Fatigue creates a catch 22 dilemma in respect of my fitness regime. 

Knowing that if I don’t train for two days or more, my muscles tighten and the pain kicks in is a great motivator. Problem is, the fatigue impacts on this and in fact everything I usually do to stay well. Yet we know with training, consistency is key because the less you do, the harder it is to get back into it. Training keeps me well but I’m not well enough to train?

What’s more, I take my diet seriously and always try to elect for foods which provide nutrition but find this is so much harder to achieve when I’m fatigued. Quite simply, I can’t be bothered to cook!

Here’s the catch 22 – when fatigued  it’s really tempting to grab fast food, because it’s a fast delivery and fast energy boost but ‘fast’ i.e. Sugary, fatty and processed foods impacts further on energy and increase fatigue. Yet, preparing a healthy nutritious meal requires energy!

Of course this also impacts mentally as I simply can’t be bothered, feel frustrated and need to work at simply being. I also feel a little guilty about the impact on my husband and son who obviously are aware but brilliant. Yet I know beating myself up won’t help though. I’m there for them the majority of the time. What a pickle.

Right enough whinging – what to do about it. 

It’s not ideal but it’s what I expected. I’ve been here before and always got through it. Experience tells me that if I ignore fatigue I head into a flare, and that will delay my progress further so it’s time to listen to my body and prioritise. 

Combine rest and routine.

When fatigued it’s easy to stop doing everything and sometimes we have no choice in that. For me, I find sticking to my routine in whatever way I can is the best way to support my recovery but aim to do it in a way that ensures I’m not over doing it.

For me maintaining my routine in some way keeps me focussed and reduces the risk of me giving in entirely. For my mental health, I worked out that I need some sense of routine. I’ve mostly worked out what’s right for me and it’s important to maintain it, in any way I can.

While I re-adjust,  I plan to: 

Rest body and mind: I’m easing up and resting where I can. I’ve decided to take a week off from the gym but use some light free weights at home to stretch out sore muscles as I feel able. I plan to do this over the course of the week IF I’m able to.

Chill out dude! 😎 I’ve been practising mindfulness, and you tube meditations. Keeping noise and disruption to a minimum.

Soak in the tub – bring on the Epsom salts: A soak in the tub before bed relaxes my mind and muscles. I find bath’s are better if you can convince someone to run it for you 😉! (I do hope my husband reads this!)

Get the bus!: I usually park my car at the local Park and Ride and the last mile from and to work. The walk takes me 20-30 mins and walks me through a beautiful park with lots of nature, animal and people activity. As well as giving me 10 miles a week of cardio, it refreshes my soul and clears my mind. I can’t  recommend nature enough as therapy. I’m loathed to miss it but until I settle back in I’m going to use the bus instead.

Quick nutritious meals – little but often. I’m meal prepping as I feel able to, doing little bits here and there. I’ve planned my weeks menu around quick prep 15 minute meals.  I’ve bought canned beans such as black bean and black eyed as they’re a quick source of protein I can add to sauces and salads. I’ve planned some one tray meals where I put meat and veggies in one tray with herbs. This week it’s surf and turf with some lean beef and prawns. I’ll add mini corn, and sweet potatoe, along with some courgette, mushroom and chilli, seasoning and bake. That way, I can bung it in and not have to fuss too much. I also find smoothies are great for getting a nutrition hit each morning and they’re quick. I always add spinach regardless of whatever else goes in! 🌽🍆 The aim is to maintain my insulin and hydration levels as best I can.

By planning my meals now I feel more relaxed about ensuring I eat well next week.

Keep a sense of humour 😁 Laughing is great therapy, for me humour is a coping mechanism and I even apply it to my symptoms – why not – it’s better than the alternative of worrying.

Be nice to myself and enjoy my family. The last thing I want to do this week is enjoy my family and watch a lot of TV! 👪

Oh boy the summer is over! I know I’ll adjust soon and be lifting like a goddess before I know it!

Please share your experiences, I’d love to hear them.

Em x

Ps I’m sorry for any typo’s – I know you will forgive me.

Diary entry #1 – I’m learning too – new insights

I launched Fibromystory to develop my writing skills, to share a positive experience of managing fibromyalgia, and to connect with like minded others. I reasoned, if nothing else it would be cathartic for me to detail my journey since diagnosis. Something for me to look back on and to share with my family.

Thank you for making this experience great 👍 

Well so far creating the blog has been an amazing experience. In 3 weeks I have already connected with others who have both inspired and supported me. I’ve learnt lots about blogging and finally figured out that elusive Like button (yes I know a cheap and blatant reminder!)

What I didn’t expect was the positive impact it would have on me too. I find after writing a blog entry, I reflect on it during my next workout and in doing so have developed new insights to learn from.

I thought for today’s entry, I would share these thoughts with you,

1) A new mantra is born!

2) The want for that 50kg.

3) Listen to your body – Accept my limitations?

4) Taking my own advice – Trust others with your condition – Squat clinic.

Allow me to explain,

Tonight, my husband and I decided to try a mid-week leg workout (whoa shudder!!) we’re both keen to progress our legs and as they’re the biggest muscle group, we decided to increase leg days to twice per week. I wasn’t looking forward to it!

My body was feeling sluggish. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling physically strong enough or whether mentally, my nervousness about change and over doing it was the cause of the way I felt? I suspect a little of both. Yet as we racked up for squats, I found myself hungry for that 50kg squat. However, I immediately thought of my recent entry ‘listen to your body’ and thought to myself ‘take your own advice’. As I waited to do my first set of squats I found myself asking “do I take my own advice?” …”do I write one thing, but do another?”

During that first set of squats my legs felt good, they felt strong. I started with 25kg and completed 10 reps with ease. I was listening to my body, and it felt good. I realised I do take my own advice, by wanting the 50kg I wasn’t being dishonest. As I’ve said before, living with fibromyalgia means you never quite know how your body will respond to activity until you try. Yes, I was feeling sluggish and was tempted to shy away from my capabilities because of that, but by not quitting and trying anyhow, what I learnt was I was on fire 🔥! 

Yup, I lifted that 50kg although once again I stopped at 4 repetitions.

So as you can imagine, I’m buzzing at this point, no pain just exhilaration as I skipped over to complete my sets on the leg extension machine. I was therefore both surprised and concerned to hear and feel both knees cracking, something they haven’t done before.

In that moment, I began to ask myself if 50kg is my limit. If you lift weights, you probably know that it’s quite addictive. For me I think it’s because when you achieve more than you ever felt was possible you begin to wonder “what else can I do”. Lifting makes me feel so powerful and strong. In my head I’m shouting “have that Fibro!” I think bodybuilder’s feel the same, the more you achieve, the more you want.

However, I needed to remind myself that my motivation to weight train was my health first and foremost. Obviously protecting my knees is a priority.  I found myself thinking about how I will feel if it turns out that I will have a limit on my progression. While I reasoned that’ll be enough, I was feeling disappointed.

I needed to balance my ambition with the reason for my mission.

While protecting my health is the top priority, I wouldn’t have come this far if I quit as soon as an issue occurs. Rather I’ve adapted.

To give myself every opportunity I discussed this with one of the Personal Trainers at our gym  and booked myself into squat clinic. The plan is to have a look at my technique, taking into account the Osteo, HMS and Fibro. It wasn’t until I booked that I thought I do take my own advice – Trust others with your condition! 

What I learnt is Take your own advice will be a new mantra. It’s really helpful to keep me on track and ensure my experience is as real as I can describe it.

I’ve discussed how my current challenge is not to forget about my conditions – even when I’m feeling well. I learnt that I love my sport and want to progress, but I need to keep in mind my primary motivation is my improving my health and maybe I need to accept that this is enough. It remains to be seen.

I hope by sharing these reflections with you, the message I convey is the variability and possible progression of our conditions means that we need to continually learn how to manage it. Along with you, I’m still doing that too. I suspect my learning will keep developing. I look forward to it with positivity.

Thanks for reading.

“Arguing with yourself” – Overcoming fear when exercising.

Fear is everywhere with chronic illness. 

Living with chronic illness can make you very fearful. Fear of today. Fear of tomorrow, fear for the future. Everyday your not sure how you’re going to feel and we all have life’s responsibilities to cope with on top of our illness. It’s powerful and it can completely overwhelm you. For a time it did, occasionally it still does. I’m learning to live for now and worry about tomorrow if I need to.

It’s hard to describe chronic illness, especially Fibromyalgia to others. Sometimes it’s hard to describe it to ourselves. On bad days, I would spend my time working on empty, in pain and worrying how I’m going to do everything I have to do. Leaving me feeling guilty, anxious and emotional.

Life becomes task centred. Life becomes hard work.

On good days, you want to rejoice and do all things you want to, but that exhilaration is closely followed by a fear of overdoing it and paying for it later.

Initially, I took this fear into the gym.😳😱

After a recent training session together, my husband complimented me on my progress,  commenting;  “You’ve stopped arguing with yourself”

Ding dong / lights flashing – a blog entry is born: “Arguing with yourself” ..yay!

Arguing with yourself – what does that mean?

To me, it essentially means allowing my fears to override my progress in the gym. Your mental attitude is often key to managing a long term condition. After all, it’s what got us to the gym in the first place right? The belief that we can help ourselves to live a life not dominated every moment by our health. That belief helped to overcome my fears about exercise to begin with.

We’ve already overcome the first hurdle by getting here. 

In my view, a positive mental attitude is also key to progressing in the gym. When I started my fears would often ‘psych me out’. With fear enveloping me, I would often choose a lighter weight than I knew I was capable of, or I would lift heavier but quit before I finished my reps.

There were tears and stroppiness at times with me insisting that I couldn’t do it/I’d had enough. After though, I would secretly regret not making the effort I knew I could have, all the while finding justifications, but as I’ve said before, I can’t con myself!

I allowed my fears and negative thoughts to overwhelm me. I allowed myself to imagine a joint popping or muscle snapping. However, my desperate need for change was the one thing that stopped me running back to the safety of my couch. That hadn’t helped so much either.

I needed to overcome my fears.

Helpful strategies when dealing with gym fear.

Here’s what I’ve learnt and what works for me. 🏋🏻‍♀️

  • Don’t disregard fear all together – at risk of contradicting myself, I also believe that fear is our bodies way of alerting us to danger so that we may take protective action. Nothing like chronic illness to make you feel the need to protect yourself huh? Though, as I explained, fear can also be unhelpful by overwhelming us. It all comes back to listening to your body- but do it honestly. Is your enemy your body or your mind?
  • Trust others with your health – Previous experience had left me feeling that I am the expert of my own body and therefore only I could advise me. That’s valid, but so too is listening to the observations of others as to your strengths and weaknesses. Trusting in others can really help with your fears and take you to that next level. Obviously, don’t do anything which you truly feel is not healthy for you but don’t always assume that others don’t understand as I did.
  • Get your technique right – don’t worry about how heavy you lift. Practising technique and getting that right helps to boost my confidence and reduce my fears. It also helps me to work out if I’m lifting too heavy; if I lose technique, it’s usually because I’m lifting too heavy.
  • Focus on the here and now – don’t believe everything you think. As you can imagine, allowing myself to hear bones snapping right before I try a new exercise or weight is more than a little unhelpful! So I don’t do it anymore. Injury is a risk in all sports. In fact life is a risk for us but we do it 😁
  • Take a few deep breaths and calm your mind.💆🏻‍♂️
  • Give yourself smaller repetitions- Don’t set yourself up for failure. For me, telling myself that I’m aiming for 4-6 reps psychologically helps more than you would think. When increasing the weight, 10-12 reps can seems daunting, but 4? That feels more manageable. You’ve guessed it, doing it this way while I aim for 4, I usually manage 6 – a triumph! Next time I aim for 6-8 reps and so on. 
  • Just do it (sorry Nike!) 👟Trust in yourself and your progress. When lifting heavier for the first time I tell myself it’s a natural progression. I’m not stupid (well…..!) Dont overthink it. Believe in yourself and how much you have accomplished already.
  • Increase your rate according to your progression and your body at that time, not by your mind. Sometimes I increase by 2.5kg if that feels safer. On strong days I increase by 5kg. If after one rep it feels too much, I stop. There will be another day.
  • Finally be lion and roar! 🦁

Well, I think I’ve covered everything. I do hope you have found this article helpful. If you would like more information or to disucuss further please feel free to comment.

Oh and if you like what you read, please use my newly installed like button 😉🤗 (imagine cheeky grin here!!)

Good luck to you all x

 

Adaptions in the gym to suit my needs.

For today’s entry, I decided to write about some adjustments I’ve needed to make in the gym.

Fitness training has led me to use muscles I didn’t know I had and in doing so learning more about my body, the way it works and importantly what it struggles with.

I thought I would summarise these and talk a little about what works and what doesn’t. I hope you find it useful.

Squats

It wasn’t until I started training that I realised just how wonky my hips are!

Do some research to learn good technique.

The more motivated I became, the more research about bodybuilding I did – I learnt that to achieve the optimum squat, I needed to squat as low as possible (I always imagine sitting onto a low chair, hips level, knees bent and back straight) I felt I wasn’t getting the technique quite right.

Get your mirror time! 

In the gym, people are often a little shy about looking in the mirror just in case others think we’re posing. Well I ignore them completely – stick to your own game. For me a little mirror time is a great way to check my technique. By doing this, I realised my hips are uneven, with the left being lower than the right. Obviously I knew I had a hip problem, occasionally limped but had no idea it was visible. I hadn’t really spent a lot of time squatting in front of a mirror before then!

I was fascinated by this new discovery and felt it important to learn more.

Over the following few sessions, by isolating my attention on my hip (listening to my body!)        I realised that my right hip would not bend as low as I wanted. It wasn’t painful, it just wasn’t moving in the direction I wanted it to! My husband told me that as I squat my right side also raises slightly which is consistent with what I was feeling. The more I tried to lower, the higher my right hip went – producing wonky hips!

Try as I might the perfect squat is for me anatomically impossible, so I have to accept what I can do, which feels pretty great all the same. In fact, part of my pride of my achievement is precisely because I’ve done it with limitations and had to work hard to figure it out and adapt.

Figure it out – don’t give up – reap the rewards.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, I also mostly stick with the Smith machine for squats. I read the free bar is most ideal for squats to minimise any back injury, but personally I’ve never had a problem. I tried the free bar and still do, but find I don’t have enough balance. It also feels like a lot of my pressure on my hip. I’m not decided whether this is actually due to my body or my fears getting in the way?

Because of this, I still use the free bar without weight or a maximum of 10kg to keep practising my technique and to activate my glute’s to get them ready for lifting heavier. I remind myself that I was frightened of the smith machine when I started that, but I remain open to the fact that physically I’m not going to be able to achieve squatting with the free bar – we’ll see. Fighting the fear is a topic I’m going to cover soon.

Lastly on squats, as well as the free bar, I use the shoulder pad too. Since fibro, I carry a lot of pain and tightness across my shoulders. The pad helps to support my shoulders and makes sure I’m not placing the bar on my neck – a definite no-no.

Deadlifts.

The research says if you want to get that ‘C butt’ (shaped as the letter C, not as wide as the ocean sea!) squats and deadlifts are the way. I want that ‘C butt’ but as with squats, deadlifts have been problematic.

I have always had problems with my hands and wrists, I think it’s due to the HMS, they’re as weak as kittens! I wear gloves with wrist supports but found deadlifts tricky. I feel that I have the upper body strength to lift heavier but it places a lot of strain on my wrists.

To compensate my husband bought me some hooks for my birthday (oh my I still can’t believe I asked for hooks for a birthday present, how my life has changed!) I’m sure you’ve seen them – hooks which are attached to wrist straps. They do make deadlifts easier but unfortunately I still find a pull on my wrists; sometimes making them sore, itchy and red. Alas, I won’t be beating any deadlift records, but I will continue to lift as heavy as I can safely do and keep trying.

I have also compensated with straight leg bends with the free bar as I find these give me a good glute workout without the risk of injury. Please let me know if you would like to know more. I’ll try post an example of the exercises on my social media accounts to explain in more detail.

Biceps/Triceps & Shoulders

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with HMS but Hyper Mobility Syndrome is essentially over existention of the joints which can lead to injury and wear and tear. I’m way fortunate than others I’ve met as not all of my joints are affected and I don’t suffer too much. However, I am aware that my right elbow and shoulder over extend. Consequently when doing certain arm exercises, if I overextend, I can either painfully click or worse; my arm can lock out – it hurts and can give me a fright.

I compensate by not fully extending my arms. I find this resolves the issue and also give the added bonus of acting as a compression exercise, meaning I’m giving the muscle an intense workout.

Running/Cycling

Just a quick mention that for me running and cycling is a no no in terms of cardio. Again due to my hip I find that I can run or cycle in short 5 minute bursts, but anything more than that leaves me wiped out and causes a lot of pain.

I learnt this the hard way. After some sessions of short bursts of running, cycling and the cross trainer with no issue. I decided to cycle only. When my son was small each evening after he went to bed I would do an hour a night on a exercise bike and loved it. Feeling nostalgic, I  enjoyed a 20 minute cycle which left me feeling great. Yippee!

The next day however, the pain in my hip was more than I have experienced for some time and my hip/leg frequently gave way. I felt terrible and won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

Just before I sign off that reminds me to touch briefly on pain. Any pain while excercising is not good and I stop. I have learnt though that it is usual for me to have a little hip pain for approximately 2 days after doing my legs. For me this feels quite normal now. I’ve gotten used to how that feels but a different, more intense pain or pain that goes on longer than 2 days, I analyse my last workout and try to adjust accordingly. Sometimes of course, I just rest.

I think that’s more than enough for now.

As always, thanks for reading and good luck in pursuing your goals.

Fibro Blogger Directory: Lets get together and help spread awareness of Fibromyalgia

I’m new to blogging as you know, so every contribution feels like success. The greatest success so far has undoubtedly been connecting with like minded others. That experience has been far more enriching than I could of hoped for. I thank you for that.

Spurred on by your encouragement, on Friday I shared my link to the Fibro Blogger Directory’s ‘Fibro Friday Link up’. They wrote;

Welcome to the Fibro Friday link up. We are excited to have you here.

Fibro Friday is a weekly link up by and for people with Fibromyalgia — A place to share and help others understand more about fibromyalgia.

1. 20 Things People With Chronic Pain Can Relate to…
2. Fibromystory
3. Synch Your Body’s Clock – Sleep Like a Baby!
4. Learning to trust yourself
5. Chronic isolation risk for Fibromyalgia – part 1
6. Over 30 treatments for pain
7. New Season New Me
8. Back Pain
9. Addictive Personality Type & Fibro
10. combat your fatigue.

http://www.fibrobloggerdirectory.com/2017/09/lets-get-together-and-help-spread.html?m

I’ve been working my way through the featured blogs, interesting reads and great to learn more insights or simply to feel reassured that I’m on the right track. The link is above if you would like to take a look at them for yourselves.

Check out number 2…. oh you did!! I feel so proud to be adding my voice, thank you so much for your support. ❤️

Perhaps you’ll be adding your link one day or, perhaps a different adventure awaits you.

What will it be?

How will you know when you get there?

Listen to your body – Pacing.

I woke up this morning with pain and a headache. Nothing too dramatic but you know that feeling when your muscles ache, they feel tight and burn a little? That’s what I mean. Fibromyalgia basically.

Shoulders!

Most annoyingly though, I have a lower back pain to my right side, affecting both my glute and my hip. I don’t know if different body parts are worse than others for you? But for me I’m aware that my right side is definitely more problematic. Having osteo to that hip and it being my dominant side, I’m sure, plays a part. I overextend more on this side too with the exception of the hip which is not exactly what you might call flexible!

Today is the sort of day that poses a challenge. Today is the sort of day when the old me would reach for the meds and curl up on the sofa. Today is the sort of day where the new me knows it is vital to keep active. Today is the sort of day when I listen to my body.

Every day I listen to my body. 

I did OK today, I got myself to the gym, because of the lower back ache I opted to listen to my body and focus on shoulders. I found I fatigued easier than usual but I’ve learnt it goes like that. I’ve accepted that now, as long as I keep trying – that’s the main thing.

All in all I had a good workout. Really starting to see some shoulder definition now (I’ve attached a piccie, selfies are not my thing!) The husband said I’ve even got neck muscles now too – what a charmer huh?! (Yeah I’m chuffed really!) About half way through I decided I’m going to post ‘Listen your body’……ta da!

‘Listen to your body” is the best advice I’ve been given and the best advice I can offer to you. It’s one of my mantras!

Your body is the key indicator upon which to base your training and nutrition regime.

Over the years, as my health and fitness has improved, my symptoms are so reduced (or I don’t really notice too much) to the extent that I can completely forget about my health. Days like today remind me why that is a mistake and poses my current challenge.

There have been times when I’ve not felt too great and curiously said to my husband “what do you think it can be?” He gives me one of those looks and says “urgh fibro?” and I’m like; “oh yeah that!!” I still get a lot of “be careful’s” from my Mum though, she’s seen me at my worse so does worry about me over doing it. And at times I do. Fatigue remains the enemy.

I have previously been described as a woman of extremes, because I am either one way or completely the other. Rarely is there middle ground. Four years ago, my life was arranged according to my health. It felt necessary at the time, but living this way impacted on my mood.

While I am so amazed and proud of how far I’ve come, I’m learning that it doesn’t pay to forget about my health either.

In the autoimmune communities we hear a lot about pacing. There’s a wealth of advice out there. The Fibrodirectory is a great resource. I enclose the link http://www.fibrobloggerdirectory.com/

For some time, the word pacing was a dirty word for me. Pacing means my spontaneity, freedom, my life has been stolen by the Fibro thief. What I learnt is pacing is essential, it doesn’t have to be a rigid formula. For me it comes from listening to my body and being really honest with myself.

What I mean by that is, you know those times when you’re not really in the mood to do something so decide you can’t because of your fibro symptoms? That’s the time to be honest.

I have a little dialogue with myself.

Me to me ” ish it’s been a long day, still have to cook dinner, not sure if I feel up to the gym..I’m tired and my muscles are tight. It might not do me any good”

Me back to me, “Does your body hurt that much or can’t you be bothered”

You get my point, I can justify all day long to others, but I can’t do it to myself. My inner self always wins…darn her!!

There are times when I know physically I don’t feel up to it. Interestingly I don’t have the internal debate at these times I just know. So I nurture my mind and body instead.

The majority of the times I didn’t want to go and I did. I had a good workout and felt better for going.

Listen to your body.

Soon

Em x

 

Continue reading

Great leg day – but no 50kg squat.

Last week via social media I excitedly shared that I had achieved a personal best with a 50kg squat in the gym. Prior to that my PB was 40kg and 50kg seemed a long way off.

At the time, I wrote;

‘Oh my goodness, I am so excited I have just achieved a personal best with a 50kg squat in the gym. I’M SO CHUFFED!

 I did 4 repetitions (last set of 4; including a warm up with no weight) as I’m mindful of my arthritic hip and energy levels but I listened to my body and felt strong enough for the challenge.

When I started training 4 years ago, I could barely squat the bar, never mind adding weight!’

I was so excited I was writing the post before I even left the gym!

This week I had a great workout but my maximum squat weight this time was 40kg. I felt my muscles were fatigued and I had worked hard so didn’t push myself further than I should.

I was listening to my body but I also felt disappointed. During the same session, I overheard a man on the bicep curl telling his friend that he had lifted much heavier during the same exercise last time. I could hear the frustration in his voice and it echoed mine. I realised we all kind of do it.

That prompted me to write today’s post about expectations.

Reaching for and exceeding your goals feels incredible. It’s a buzz I love, and does wonders for my mental health. However, the downside is it can also lead you to expect to do so every time you train and that can lead to frustration and being hard on ourselves. Particularly if you’re as impatient as I can be!

Yet what I’ve learnt is there are so many variables to each workout. Your workout can depend on your activity, stress levels and nutrition of the day. Plus with chronic illness you never quite know how you’re going to feel until you do it. You could have had a great day, feel motivated but not lift as heavy once you arrive, or vice versa drag yourself there, feeling like it’s pointless but have a great workout and leave feeling 100% better.

Yes I want to hit a 50kg every time I squat, I want to build on my reps and technique and maybe just maybe lift 55kg even. I will get there, but it takes time. It won’t happen overnight. There will be good and bad sessions. You’ll feel exhilarated sometimes, frustrated the next but – ALL OF IT IS PROGRESS.

Every time I get off my couch and get to the gym, I have made progress. For every lift I make, regardless of weight, I have made progress.

For every time I feel frustrated, ignore my body and push to lift heavier, I lose progress.

The Message;

Don’t expect to perform the same every time you train.

Celebrate every effort – it’s not all about how heavy you lift. Every session is a victory.

Listen to your body – don’t be tempted to push yourself too far but don’t be too easy on yourself either (a tricky balance)

Finally be patient. You will get there!!

“50kg – I’m coming for you!”

Just to mention, I’m currently working on an entry about Cardio. I’ll keep going and get that to you as quick as I can.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences, either here or via Facebook. I love to hear from you.

As always thank you for your support. I hope you achieve your goals.

Em x

Nutrition 1 – Chicken and broccoli is so boring!

Today I thought I would make a start on discussing nutrition, prompted by a friend’s comment on my Facebook page about the impact of diet and specifically sugar on our bodies.

For me, my nutrition has developed to support my weight training and body development but my research suggests it is similar to the dietary advice on offer in respect of Fibromyalgia. That said, I have also read that there is little evidence that a special diet will reduce the symptoms of FMS, rather that eating a healthy and balanced diet will support body and mind overall. (www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/articles/fibromyalgia)

A Healthy Balanced Diet – which essentially means:

  • Getting your 5 a day.
  • eating plenty of protein, good meats (we eat so much chicken in our house we could open a franchise!) oily fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, beans and pulses.
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day (I admit I struggle here)
  • Ban the white! For energy, choose wholefoods where possible, brown rice, bread and pasta. I do love a roast potato but use mostly sweet potatoes these days. Do check the sugar content on your bread choices too – you maybe surprised.
  • Aim for good fats, unsaturated, like nuts, avocado etc.

Insulin Levels.

A symptom of HMS and FMS is a lack of energy and fatigue. A double whammy; no wonder I feel flatlined at times. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what that feels like.

Because of the fatigue, when busy I would often hit the junk food for a quick boost to get me through the day, you know – grabbing a chocolate bar and a coffee during breaks. I found though I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home.

A GP advised that this is because when we eat this sort of food, our insulin spikes (sugar rush) and we feel great for a time but as it wears off our insulin levels drop, and we subsequently crash, which along with our daily activity is why we feel absolutely knackered come evening.

His tip to me, which I pass to you is to try to keep your insulin levels as stable as possible. I acheive this with good carbs’ – slow release energy like porridge, whole grains and nuts.

I’m not a nutritionist but think when our fellow Fibro friends identify sugar as an issue this is why? If you know different do comment.

I’m far from perfect and sometimes succumb to some choccy or cake, but realise I often complain about feeling tired sometime later. Everything in moderation right?

Eating Clean – what does this mean? 

In bodybuilding communities, I often hear the expression eating clean.  A quick google search of the term brings some mixed reading. Some hate the phrase as it suggests some form of diet. For me, I don’t diet, I have made lifestyle changes.

Freeletics.com advises: ‘Clean eating is a healthy nutritional lifestyle that is based on whole unprocessed foods. By eating clean, you provide your body with all the right nutrients it needs to function at its best.’

If you’re like me and love your food but are not exactly a chef, it can be daunting and the result is endless chicken, rice and broccoli…. yawn. I find this so dull that I eventually fall off the wagon. To help I have bought some cook books . I’m determined to make clean eating fun eating!

Counting macros – the technical stuff.

I was putting the work in at the gym but found I wasn’t getting the results I wanted (for me a little bigger with muscle definition) It was time to think about macros.

Macros are essentially working out the amount of carbs, protein and fats we individually need to meet our fitness and lifestyle goals. Our bodies are our vehicles 🚗 and therefore need the right fuel to maintain their performance. Calculating our macros is a way to acheive this.

Online you may have come across phrases such as Base Metabollic Rate (BMR) or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. These phrases seem daunting right? Not to mention weighing our food. There is so much out there. I think it’s too much for this blog entry so next time I will focus on these specifically.

Supplements 

To supplement or not to supplement? I don’t take too many vitamins as I feel I keep up my levels via nutrition (a nice kale smoothie mmmm!)

For training though, I find I cannot eat enough protein to meet my macro needs, so I use a low sugar, protein shake post workout to feed my muscles and promote growth. For energy and recovery I use Creatine and Amino acids pre and during workouts.

Resources.

I started with 5 weeks to sugar free by Davina (McCall) The recipes are tasty and suitable for all the family so you don’t have to exert more energy by making different meals for the family. In case going sugar free scares you, she suggests you initially start with alternatives like natural honey and maple syrup (I buy the best I can afford) I also bought Davina’s Smart Carbs too.

As I grew in confidence, I moved onto to specific bodybuilding recipe books: I use ebooks by Jessie Hilgenberg and James Layton.

I think that’s enough for today.

Next: More on macros and I will include some recipes too.

Em x

So why Weight Training?

 

When I tell certain people I manage my condition with weight training, they either think I’m crazy or my symptoms were never too severe. I won’t compare myself to others as simply it’s not possible; but I do know where I was and where I am now.

I should also point out that I parted company with my local NHS Physiotherapy department because on my last visit. I was told that having both HMS, a joint condition and FMS, a ligament and muscle condition, I needed to be really careful and would regret weight training in future.

I was given a professional opinion and I respect that. It remains to be seen whether it will be right. What I heard was “don’t live your life”, which for me means depression – a black hole to which I simply cannot return. After all I have suffered, it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

As it seems so little is known about FMS, how can anyone give a prognosis? If the worst happens I believe I will take comfort in the great years I’ve had over the life I was living.

You see this is why I have been so careful with a disclaimer – some will disagree with me.

It was my husband who first suggested I join the gym with him. I had been really ill for about 18 months at this point. My GP was sure I had Lupus and I was awaiting a Rheumatology appointment for confirmation (I was diagnosed instead with Fibromyalgia, I’ll write about that soon)

I was so upset and angry with him. I remember thinking he really doesn’t get it. I was also having some ‘gynae’ problems, can you imagine HMS and Fibro fatigue plus anaemia and pain. So I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

I can still recall shouting at him; “I’m sick, every day is unbearable; I’m hanging on by my F’ing finger tips and you want me to add another activity into that and the gym of all things”

He replied “Yes…. just try.. if you strengthen your muscles, you will support your joints, the serotonin it produces will lift your mood, and working your muscles will keep them active”

“I might make it worse”. I have previous experience with Personal Trainers who said they understood my conditions but encouraged activity that I knew was wrong for me. This experience had also put me off. Not to forget I felt I was seriously ill.

He suggested weight training would enable me to control the weight I used and therefore the pressure on my body, lifting free weights will allow me to control my movements; to reduce the risk of over extension of my joints. By my listening to my body I can be alert to muscle or ligament injury.

At this point I believed it was impossible so ignored him.

However there was one statement I made over and over – “I would do anything to feel better”

Some weeks later, I caught myself in this thought – “I would do anything”

“I WOULD DO ANYTHING”

Would I? Would I really do anything?

My husband’s advice sounded logical. I was on antidepressants, Lyrica/Pregabalin, Napraxen, paracetamol and tramadol in reserve. I rattled, I was miserable. I was struggling to manage my life. I was at my rock bottom. What exactly did I have to lose?

I would do anything?…….I went to the gym.

I began weight training and unbeknown to me then, I began a journey that would lead me here.

(The best advice is listen to your body – be honest with yourself. My inner self is leading me somewhere and I feel brave enough to follow. What’s yours telling you?)

Join me next time. Please feel free to comment.

Em x

 

 

So why a blog?

Hello and welcome! Thank you for joining me. I’m very new to blogging so a little anxious to do this right. My research tells me that I need a snappy byline to capture your interest and keep you reading, guess what? … I haven’t got one!!!

What I do have is a passion for writing and my personal experience of living with two long-term conditions. I hope as the name suggests you realise one of those is Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with the condition in 2013, in addition to the existing 2004 diagnosis of Hyper Mobility Syndrome and Osteoarthritis to my right hip, which,  as I understand it, is a result of both persistent over extension of the joint and notably a rotated hip sustained during a car accident in 2002. Those of us with HMS damage easily!

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that living with chronic health conditions is hard. Rarely are two days the same and the variability restricts everything, the symptoms can be so weird and varied that you truly couldn’t make them up, but the pain and fatigue OH MY, those are the life thieve’s aren’t they? Not being able to plan anything, struggling to live life, the impact on our families, helpless and struggling to understand the severity and unpredictability of these so-called invisible conditions. After all we look so well don’t we??!  It’s none too surprising that our Mental health is affected too huh? And don’t even get me started on brain fog. I function in a professional world where competence is assessed, so I find the associated short-term memory and word finding difficulties especially embarrassing in this context.

What a lot we’ve been dealt.

What do we do about it?

Before I go much further, I feel I need to be really clear in saying that I realise the we are all affected differently and affected to different degrees. Some unfortunately worse than others. Perhaps as someone on social media pointed out recently, I’m clearly less affected than others, and perhaps like her I will find my symptoms progress and my current lifestyle will not be the answer after all? Perhaps, my symptoms are less, perhaps they’re not. Perhaps the symptoms will progress, perhaps they won’t? That’s kind of the point isn’t it – we just don’t know. This blog will not be for everyone but I hope some of you like me will be keen to have a go.

I am not a Doctor and state clearly I can take risks with my health but have absolutely no right to do so with yours. I write about my own personal experiences in the hope of inspiring and connecting with like minded others. It is not a prescription, just a “hey I’m trying this, perhaps it might work for you too”. Please listen to your own body and always take your own advice over mine. We are the best experts of our own health and what works for us. Take what you like, leave what you don’t.

For me I hit rock bottom – in pain, depressed, anxious and frightened. From that perspective I felt I had nothing to lose.

I changed my life in every way I could think of. I took up weight training, changed my nutrition and eating, practised positive mental health and wellbeing strategies and most importantly listened to my own body. Over the last four years my body and mind has changed dramatically. My joints feel improved, my flare up’s are shorter and further apart and I have stopped all medications except some as and when use on bad days. I still have symptoms and the fatigue remains a bitch but I feel so proud of how far I’ve come and for first time in a long time I have hope and a zest for life.

This blog will cover all of these changes, – the how’s and the why’s. What worked what didn’t. A diary of my journey, as well as spur of the moment thoughts. I’m feeling this is a whole new adventure and would love you join me.

Fibro is my story and I share it with you and hope you will tell me your story. Together we unite and together we fight!

Em x

Welcome to Fibromystory

Many thanks for joining me – it’s great to have you!

Fibromystory is a personal blog of my experience of living with Fibromyalgia and Hyper Mobility Syndrome. More importantly, how managing them with a combination of weight lifting, nutrition and alternative therapies has transformed my life.

It’s been quite a journey but now flare up’s are few and I’m more about counting squats than spoons these days! I know I’m not cured but finally I feel as though I’m managing my health and not vice versa. I also have a banging body (if I do say so myself!!!) I’m medication free and most importantly, I’m happy.

I don’t have all the answers and I realise that one size does not fit all. I acknowledge that the same condition can affect us all differently so managing it can be very personal. I’m no guru, just an everyday person, but I’ve learnt a lot along the way and hope my experiences may help you to find a path that works for you. So take what you like, leave what you don’t.

Fibromystory.com will contain an honest diary of my journey from diagnosis until now as well as in-depth explorations of related factors. Topics will cover the conditions, physical health, mental health, diet and exercise guidances and resources. 

My blog topics will be categorised for you to find easily via the menu tabs. I am also going to compile a more in-depth Newsletter so please subscribe if you would like to be included. You are also welcome to leave your comments. It will be really great if we can connect and contribute to the existing communities.

Good luck to you and thank you for your support.

Em x