The self-love movement saved me in a year that I felt completely let down by my body. It gave me a distraction, but also helped me to identify what I’m grateful for and appreciate the little things in life. In spite of my body not quite doing what I wanted it to, I could forgive it and fall in love with it.
Personal growth and development has become a huge part of my life, but what I seem to find is that to do this socially (i.e. with other people) it can be really costly. I don’t think it should be a luxury that only some can afford. So it inspired me to set-up my own Facebook group. Because it should be accessible to all.
It’s an idea I have had cooking for a while, but following a conversation with some friends I have made through the self-love movement, now seems like as good a time as any.
So, “Project You. A year to mindfulness, self-love and fulfilment” launches on 2nd January but is already open for members. If you fancy joining, or just want some more info just click here.
The plan is to add new content weekly. It won’t be a massive amount of work – I want it to fit into people’s everyday lives.
I’m in the process of trying to restore some normality to my life. On Tuesday, it was a year since I got told that I might have MS. Obviously it took another couple of months until I found out for sure, but I now feel that I’ve had my year of it being at the forefront of everything, and now it’s time to just get on and live with it.
To do this, I’ve been making tentative steps back into the gym this week. Dave joined the same gym as me, which is helping with motivation massively! I’ve been so nervous about going back since Lemtrada and with the ankle pain I’ve been having. I’ve learned that the ankle pain is triggered by walking for more than five minutes though, so it hasn’t actually stopped me training. As long as I’m doing more static stuff, I can train easily. I’ve had three sessions in the gym over the last week and I’ve been enjoying them. It feels good to be back. So here are my Top 10 tips for exercising with MS.
1. Be kinder to you!
I was always so tough on myself in the gym. If I skipped a session I’d feel guilty. If I had a bad session, I’d beat myself up. If I couldn’t hit that new personal best, I’d dwell on it for days. But these things just don’t matter anymore. They’re not the be all and end all. Now I’m so much nicer to me. If I don’t hit a personal best, as long as I’ve tried as hard as I can that day, that’s all that matters.
2. Be honest
If you have a personal trainer be honest with them. Let them know how your MS impacts you in general, but even more so how it’s impacting you that day. They can’t be an expert in MS, but with your honesty, they can tailor your training to fit how you feel on that day. It might also be worth being open with them up front, that you might need to cancel your training at short notice if you’re feeling particularly fatigued that day.
3. Listen to your body
Get to know your body and what it’s trying to tell you. Tune in to it. If your body is telling you that you can’t train today, listen to it. It’s ok to skip a session if you’ve not got much fuel in the tank. Some days you might just need to change the way you train. If your leg is causing you a bit of pain, don’t run so fast, or train your upper body instead. Maybe you need to reduce your weight and go for higher reps. You might need to take longer breaks between sets. Do what you need to do.
4.. Drink lots of water
We all know that with MS, controlling your body temperature can be a nightmare. I’ve literally overheated in the gym before and seen stars because I’ve got that hot. Drinking lots of water while you’re training will help keep your body temperature down. And on that point…
5. …Train near the air con
It keeps you cool and stuff! I find that wearing layers in the gym can be really helpful because as quickly as I get really hot, I can go freezing cold. Keep your temperature comfortable – it’ll make training so much easier.
6. Change the time you train
I used to go to the gym straight from work, but I find this really tough now. Many people don’t have the motivation to go back out to the gym at 8pm at night but this has two advantages for me. I get to have a bit of a break after work which helps to recharge my batteries. Add to that, training later makes me tired right before bed time so I get a better night sleep. You might find changing the time you train means you can have a better session.
7. Change your goals
I was always chasing a 100kg dead lift. I managed to get to 90kg, but it only happened once. Generally, I struggle to get over 70kg as my grip fails me. Grip is something I struggle with because of my MS, and I’ve learned that that will probably hinder me in achieving that particular goal. What I am good at though, is high reps. So my goal has now become less about strength and more about stamina and achieving higher reps. And I’m good with that.
8. Don’t waste time worrying what other people might be thinking
The other day, I was finishing my workout with a 3.5km/h walk on the treadmill. And the guy running next to me was looking at me as if what I was doing was kinda pointless. Before that I’d been dead lifting a 16kg kettle bell next to a girl lifting 75kg. I couldn’t help but think she thought I was pathetic. Firstly, it was unlikely that either of them were thinking those things, and secondly even if they are they don’t know that I have MS and anything someone with MS does in the gym is pretty damn awesome.
9. Remember you’re bad ass!
You really really are. We aren’t MS warriors for nothing. We grin through pain, fatigue and everything else we get stuck with. It doesn’t matter if you’re running 1k or 10k, or lifting 5kg or 50kg. You are bloody amazing for even being there, working out. As long as you can always be honest that you’ve tried as hard as you can on that day, you’re an absolute rock star in my opinion.
10. Don’t Stop!
My number one tip is “Don’t Stop!” When I was told I might have MS, I was physically no different to how I was when I was none the wiser. So there was no need for me to stop. I didn’t need to change how I trained in the gym (at that time). I did stop for a while which looking back, I regret. I should have carried on! It’s so important to stay active for so many reasons. It releases endorphins which can really lift your mood and it helps you to keep your strength up. There’s evidence to suggest it reduces relapses and flare ups. Most importantly, for me it has helped me to feel like “me”.
I’m really conscious that I’ve not posted for almost a week, and not since my meltdown.
So to confirm, I’m ok. Just about. Ironically after my hysteria of the pain never leaving me, I’ve not had bad “night time leg pain” since. I think the temperature dropping has done me the absolute world of good. I just feel more comfortable. Not all the aches and pains are gone and my ankle is giving me a quite a bit of hassle today but for the most part, I’m ok
On late Friday afternoon I ventured down to London to attend Mel Wells’ Self Love Summit which was quite frankly the best thing I’ve done in a while. I’m experiencing a spiritual awakening of sorts and all the signs for me to attend were there. I was offered a free ticket the week prior, the Hilton Hotel opposite the venue was 41,000 points on their loyalty scheme (I had 41,086 in my account) and the money I’d claimed through my healthcare plan for staying in hospital covered the cost of the train ticket TO THE PENNY! Add to that, during a Reiki healing therapy session a couple of weeks ago, my therapist told me I just needed a lot of love. I kind of dismissed this at the time. I’m happy in my relationship and I’m happy with my friendships. I only considered at a later date that maybe it was a bit of self-love that I needed!
The day itself was incredible, and rather than writing it all up myself, if you’re interested in knowing a bit more about these events I’d like to share the blogs of a couple of absolutely wonderful women I’ve been writing to (I mean Snail Mail!) for some time, and have now had the pleasure of meeting!
I was staying in the same hotel as Laura on the night before the Summit so had the chance to get to know her, and it was so brilliant. She’s an awesome girl and I really feel that this is the start of a beautiful friendship. Read more here.
Becky also has a blog, which is raw and honest. And quite hard hitting. She is incredible. Her blog is truly worth a read as she tells her story and she does it so well. She is the bravest soul I’ve ever met. She’s gone off piste with her blog though for her latest post, and wrote about the Summit which you can find here.
My only key addition to this, is that for the first time since being diagnosed with MS, I didn’t think about the fact that I had it once. More days like that please.
N.B in case you listen to what my dear friend Clare says, no it’s not a Cult 😂 Just a bunch of women trying to find the best version of themselves, whilst also empowering one another.
Tomorrow night, I’m heading down to London on my own. I’m staying in a Hilton (thanks to the copious amount of points I acquire through staying away for work), and on Saturday, I am attending a Self Love Summit, hosted by Mel Wells.
If you read the “off-topic” posts on my blog, you’ll know that last year I read Mel’s book, “The Goddess Revolution.” And it was life changing. Years of yo-yo dieting ended and I started to accept me for who I am. That’s a journey that I’m still on, but as part of that journey, there was the option for me to go to the Summit.
At the time of getting tickets, I didn’t know when I was going to be getting MS treatment, or where I would be at in my recovery. I’d more or less written it off and that was that. Admittedly, I was getting a bit of FOMO, but I also knew regardless of that I needed to prioritise ME.
But on Sunday just gone, a ticket was going for free. With a quick check on train prices and seeing if I had enough hotel points to cover the cost of the hotel (London ones at short notice are generally not very cheap!) I realised that going to The Summit was something that I could make happen. I snapped up that free ticket and tomorrow my adventure begins.
The Summit is billed as “revealing the most unapologetic, untamed version of you.” Or as I like to refer to it, as the authentic version of me.
Empowering women such as Megan Jayne Crabbe and Rebecca Campball will be guest speaking at the event, helping to motivate, inspire and teach you to love yourself that little bit more.
Why do I just NEED to do this?
Well firstly, I deserve a treat after the year I’ve had, don’t you think? But mostly, I kind of feel like I’ve had an identity crisis of sorts. Trying to work out “who Jo is” and “who Jo is with MS” has sent me into a tail spin. Slowly realising it doesn’t actually matter and now trying to accept that, is something I’m working through. For the most part, I’ve got it sussed but I’m still having moments (albeit rarely) where it really hits like a train crash what’s happening to me. And it’s upsetting and scary.
I feel like this year has been the start of a real journey of personal growth and development, and going to the Self Love Summit will be a key part of that journey.
I’ll undoubtedly be back to share my experience after the event, but for now this is pretty much all I can tell you!