If you’ve had an experience, due to ill health, where you have been out of action for a long time period, then the body becomes unconditioned. This had never happened to me before I became ill, and so I didn’t know how challenging it would be to move around, on top of feeling so sick, exhausted and full of pain.
I was unable to do exercise for over a year and was using a wheelchair for another eight months after this period. Therefore when it came to a time that I could do more than just about get down my apartment steps to the garden, I was in for a real journey of physical re-building.
I didn’t dream I could learn so much about the body through this experience. In fact, I now have a far better depth of knowledge about how to maintain a sustainable exercise programme, than I had before I was ill, and I also have the discipline to keep to it!
My re-building didn’t happen over night and there were stages to it, as continues to occur. However I was somewhat at the mercy of many factors within my body, throwing me off continuously, so I just did the best I could until things became more stable naturally.
Trying to stick to the NHS graded exercise therapy, at times, made me want to pull my hair out, because it really doesn’t take in to consideration the reality of ME/CFS. There were occasions, when trying to follow the guidebook just stopped me from listening to myself. The graded exercise can only be begin once you are at a certain stage of recovery. It’s quite ridiculous to force a super sick body into exercise before it’s ready because the illness will simply deepen. Of course we need to re-condition, but this can only occur once other pieces of the recovery foundations are in place, i.e sleep, rest, diet, routine and time for further recovery in general. However, I took the general rule and used it in my own style. This is also where muscle building indoors can become invaluable.
Even when I was housebound, I still managed to mostly keep up to daily stretches and light Pilates moves. When I could first start walking a few meters then a couple of hundred, it felt incredibly tiring and I’d be subject to crazy nerve and muscle pain afterward. Building tendons, ligaments and muscle, takes time and doing it really slowly and regularly is the key.
I purchased a few tools to use at home to strengthen my muscles again a year and a half after the crash stage, and each one I tried felt like a mountain to climb. I began with the thigh master and the hand grips. I had to do the hand grip with two hands and I couldn’t even do one at first. It hurt immensely but I carried on with five a day for five days a week, using both hands. Now I’m strong again, I can do fifty one handed with great ease!
I worked up to around ninety daily with the thigh master. Once I could get out for short daily walks I didn’t need to use this anymore, in fact my thighs became quite huge and Beyoncé-like so I gave it a rest!
The arm and legs weights came three months later. I still get some upper body pain in my arms so I use these a couple of times a week. But my body is strong now due to daily walks, general living and a couple of bike rides a week. I tried the roller ball a few times, but this exercise was simply too demanding and unhelpful to my body. Instead I took to sit-ups, every day to strengthen my core. I worked up to 85 a day but I listen to my body and what else I’m doing. I’ve learned, its never a good idea to push yourself when rebuilding, it will just make recovery longer. It’s about listening, and allowing what you an do. It should feel easily manageable, otherwise, you are going beyond your limits.
I bought my equipment on Amazon, very cheaply. I’d never join a gym now because I know how easy it is to exercise at home and out in nature. Doing exercise regularly enough and setting a sustainable lifetime programme is far superior to an irregular pattern of gym attendance, or fits and starts of intense activity. I feel the same about diet.
Just think, anything you put in place for your recovery could be with you for the long haul. If you set a routine that’s doable and pleasurable, you’ll find it easy to enjoy it as a continual part of your life even beyond recovery.