Tag: weight lifting

10 Tips for exercising with MS

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.

Just to clarify, the mark on my top is water as I’m a mucky pup who can’t eat or drink anything without spilling 😂

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 a f*cking badass!

There’s a moment where you realise that this disease isn’t going to beat you. I had that moment this evening in the gym.

Prior to being diagnosed with MS, I was a reasonably consistent gym goer. I found a love for lifting heavy shit and I didn’t really look back. But then it all just stopped. I couldn’t face the gym. I was mentally exhausted trying to come to terms with the hand that I’d been dealt.

In a bid to reignite my passion, I switched gyms in April, leaving X4L (which quite frankly had really taken a downward turn) and moved to DW, which has now merged with Fitness First.

I was still at X4L though until April but nothing seemed to motivate me to go. That was until the day I somewhat dramatically had a complete melt down and realised that perhaps the only reason my MS wasn’t particularly showing itself physically, was the strength I’d spent the last four years building. Then I got really hysterical, or rather irrational and realised that if I didn’t go to the gym right this second, I would have a relapse tomorrow that would put me in a wheelchair.

Melodramatic as this was, it was probably the gigantic kick up the proverbial that I needed. I found my “why”.

I tentatively began dipping my toe back into the gym in early April, but I couldn’t face the free weights area on my own. I was terrified! I always had so much confidence at my previous gym, but I knew it and I knew lots of the faces. It was familiar. To help combat this, I dragged Lou to a couple of Body Pump classes, but then Clare told me that she wanted to start lifting weights.

Brilliant! This was just what I needed! I needed a project. After four years of having a personal trainer, I no longer need one. I know what I’m doing. So using everything I’ve learned, I have developed a training plan for me and Clare. Having someone to go to the gym with, makes it harder to not bother. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I skipped a session. Believe me!

So this evening, as Clare and I trained back and arms, I had that realisation.

I don’t lift the heaviest weights in the gym. I don’t have the body of someone that lifts weights in the gym. I don’t count my macros (I’ve learned that it’s ok to just eat whatever you want and it balances itself out anyway!)

But do you know what I am?

I am a fucking badass

I had no idea that I have MS and I lifted all the heavy stuff. Why stop now just because I have a “label”?

So I’m not stopping. Sure, my goals have changed; I’m less bothered about hitting certain personal bests or targets and more bothered about just remaining strong and consistent. My grip has always been a struggle for me. Quite often my grip has hindered me before my strength has. It comes with the condition so it’s time to accept that that will always be a pitfall for me.

Just because I have MS, I don’t have to stop. In fact I can be less tough on myself when I don’t hit that personal best anymore. It’s ok. The fact that I’m even in the gym and lifting stuff that’s not exactly light, is pretty damn awesome.

***According to Urban Dictionary, apparently the first rule of being a badass is not talking about being one. I’ve clearly broken that rule, therefore I’m probably not a badass. But never mind. Because I’m a badass I don’t care what Urban Dictionary says.***

“The Fear”

Ok. Confession time.

I’ve gone from being a 3 or 4 time a week gym goer to not going at all for two months.

Wanna guess why?

Nope. Not because I have MS.

Want another guess?

I’m shattered? Yeah well that’s true but it’s only a small part of the reason.

How about, I’ve been too bloody scared!

I’ve been a member of a budget gym for nearly four years but very recently, I cancelled. Sam hasn’t been personal training there for nearly a year (at a rough guess) and despite it’s recent facelift, the place is tired. It lacks a buzz. Although I don’t do many classes anymore, preferring to train on my own, the timetable has gone pretty naff too. If you like spin and boot camp, fill yer boots. Anything else and you’ll be disappointed.

So this year, through our employee benefit scheme, I moved gyms. Incidentallty, this is one that Sam teaches a couple of classes at, and she’s been selling the place to me for months!

I’ve been a member for 17 whole days and today I took the plunge and went.

The point is, why has it taken me 17 days though? I’ve been so excited about joining there, I should have been banging down the door at opening time on April Fool’s Day!

I got “The Fear”. And then I started thinking too much about “The Fear” and ended up in tears after thinking all the irrational things last Wednesday.

It all started whilst I was writing the “My Big Why” blog post. I came to the realisation that I’m probably still as mobile as I am from the work I’ve been doing in the gym for the last four years. I never saw myself as physically strong, but in the time I’ve trained with Sam, I’ve lifted weights I never imagined possible.

Then I started thinking how I needed to get back to the gym. I’ve been in a lot of pain over the last month. By a lot, I mean quantity of pain rather than level of pain. I’ve been getting stiffness and pain in my left knee, sometimes extending to cramp in my thigh. I’ve been feeling a LOT MORE spaced out than I usually do.

It can’t be a relapse, because these symptoms aren’t exactly new. They’re just more pronounced at the moment. Just because I’ve been told I have MS, it doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly in excruciating amounts of pain. Nothing’s actually changed.

Except it has. I stopped training.

So then I started thinking about “The Fear” and that I need to get back to the gym and that’s the thing keeping me physically strong and mobile. Then I got REALLY upset and I couldn’t get past ending up in a wheelchair but I still had “The Fear” so how was I ever supposed to stay strong?!

(Are you following? I’m exceptionally confused myself now, and also getting mad at how ridiculous and irrational I was being!)

Anyway, “The Fear” was replaced by another fear. Fear of becoming immobile (we’ll call this “The Real Fear”).

Because “The Real Fear” had set in, it was time to get over myself and drag myself to the gym. For one reason or another, I had booked this afternoon as annual leave. My original plan fell through, but I decided to keep this afternoon booked off so that I could go to the gym whilst it’s quiet.

So today, I “announced myself” at the gym. All it involved was giving them a number that I’d had emailed to me. Well that was easy enough. I gave her the details, and she let me through the door and promised me that a welcome pack would be waiting by the time I was finished. She directed me to the changing rooms, but apart from that, I was on my own!

Gaaaahhh! This bit was my “Worst Fear”. Wandering around aimlessly like someone who didn’t have a clue. All my usual words of encouragement to others who are first time gym goers went out the window! I ended up tentatively taking two steps into the free weights area and then running a mile, quite literally on to a treadmill instead.

I hate running (that’s how big “The Fear” had set in again), but all the same I ended up doing 25 minutes of HIIT sprints. Urgh. What did I do that for?! It’s enough to put anyone off!

The main thing is, Day 1 is out the way and I feel good. I’m extremely happy that I successfully didn’t fall over my own feet (which is likely to happen at snails pace on a normal surface, never mind on a treadmill), and my legs felt the strongest that they’ve felt in ages. I’d felt really sceptical about them to be honest as I’ve been feeling so weak in that area over the last couple of months.

Today was a huge win and hopefully it’s the start of me getting my mojo for the gym back, if only for two or three days a week.

Next stop, Zumba with Clare and Lou. I bloody hate Zumba and I last time I did it, I fell over my own feet (of course I did!) so this ought to be good.

My Big “Why”

I have been obsessively on a diet for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t say I have an eating disorder but I’ve certainly had an unhealthy approach to food at times.

Last September I decided to put an end to that after reading “The Goddess Revolution” by Mel Wells. I highly recommend it to anyone that’s struggled on diets or has a love hate relationship with food. It’s a fantastic read and helps you to see how you can change your attitude towards food . You ditch the diet mindset and focus on intuitive eating. Trouble is, as I’ve not been banning pizza and chocolate, I’ve intuitively just eaten a lot of that stuff.

Not great!

Luckily, I’ve only put on about half a stone as a result. But it’s time to heal that.

Mel works on you finding your “BIG WHY”. Why do you want to heal? It’s got to be big and something that you emotionally connect with. It’s got to be big enough to make you want to stop and truly look after you by eating good, nourishing soul foods. And no, I want a sexy summer bod, ain’t enough!!!

For some people, it’s so that they can get a body that will give their unborn child the best start. For others, it’s so that they can lead a happier life filled with vitality and adventure – where they truly love and respect their body and don’t let it hold them back.

For me it’s something else. For me, my “why” is so that I’m strong enough to fight this battle I’ve got. My strength that I’ve built in the gym in the last four years is something I will eternally be grateful for – I seriously question if I’d still be as mobile as I am if I hadn’t built my strength as much as I have done.

This realisation is the immediate kick up the arse I need to get back to training and eating well.

In the spirit of this, I’ve spent the last hour prepping Buddha bowls and I’m off to a new gym tomorrow!

My Buddha Bowl! Wild rice, sweetcorn, edamame beans, roasted broccoli, squash and peppers, carrot and crunchy chickpeas. Topped with a nice cajun chimichurri dressing 😍

Unfortunately, the 10K that I really wanted to run for Wigan MS Therapy Centre this year, isn’t going to happen – there’s no way with going in for treatment I’d be able to be fit enough in time.

For now however – I’m just going to do me, without a diet plan and without setting myself stupid goals that I obsess over and then feel crap for because I’ve failed at them. They make me unhappy and they do not nourish my soul, never mind my body!

Here’s to strength and vitality!