No Life Without Water

Ever since I discovered the wonders of my warm water class, I have gone on and on and on  about the wonders of water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike all water exercises, water walking is easy on the joints. “The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain,” says Vennie Jones, aquatic coordinator for the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas. “And it’s still a great workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle.” You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.

You can walk in either the shallow end of the pool or the deep end, using a flotation belt. The deeper the water, the more strenuous your workout. And it can be done in warm or cold water.

chris rock

Junction,_TX,_swimming_pool_IMG_4344What you need: A pool! That’s it – but for deep-water walking, a flotation belt keeps you upright and floating at about shoulder height.

How it works: You’ll stand about waist- to chest-deep in water, unless you’re deep-water walking. You walk through the water the same way you would on the ground. Try walking backward and sideways to tone other muscles.

Try it:  Stand upright, with shoulders back, chest lifted and arms bent slightly at your sides. Slowly stride forward, placing your whole foot on the bottom of the pool (instead of just your tiptoes), with your heel coming down first, then the ball of your foot. Avoid straining your back by keeping your core (stomach and back) muscles engaged as you walk.

water-walkingAdd intensity: Lifting your knees higher helps boost your workout. You also can do interval training – pumping arms and legs faster for a brief period, then returning to your normal pace, repeating the process several times.

Find a class: If you’re new to water exercises, an instructor can make sure your form is correct, says Jones. Plus, it can be fun to walk with others. To find a class near you, call your local YMCA, fitness centre or Arthritis Foundation office.

Don’t forget the water: You still need to drink water – even while exercising in the pool.

 

 

There is No Life Without Water.

Ever since I discovered the wonders of my warm water class, I have gone on and on and on  about the wonders of water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike all water exercises, water walking is easy on the joints. “The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain,” says Vennie Jones, aquatic coordinator for the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas. “And it’s still a great workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle.” You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.

You can walk in either the shallow end of the pool or the deep end, using a flotation belt. The deeper the water, the more strenuous your workout. And it can be done in warm or cold water.

chris rock

Junction,_TX,_swimming_pool_IMG_4344What you need: A pool! That’s it – but for deep-water walking, a flotation belt keeps you upright and floating at about shoulder height.

How it works: You’ll stand about waist- to chest-deep in water, unless you’re deep-water walking. You walk through the water the same way you would on the ground. Try walking backward and sideways to tone other muscles.

Try it:  Stand upright, with shoulders back, chest lifted and arms bent slightly at your sides. Slowly stride forward, placing your whole foot on the bottom of the pool (instead of just your tiptoes), with your heel coming down first, then the ball of your foot. Avoid straining your back by keeping your core (stomach and back) muscles engaged as you walk.

water-walkingAdd intensity: Lifting your knees higher helps boost your workout. You also can do interval training – pumping arms and legs faster for a brief period, then returning to your normal pace, repeating the process several times.

Find a class: If you’re new to water exercises, an instructor can make sure your form is correct, says Jones. Plus, it can be fun to walk with others. To find a class near you, call your local YMCA, fitness centre or Arthritis Foundation office.

Don’t forget the water: You still need to drink water – even while exercising in the pool.

 

 

Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!

Last night I went to hydrotherapy. Holy cow! Major workout!

Technically, it was no different to all my other classes (in fact, we have a set routine) but my body really didn’t like moving. I’m guessing that it’s because it’s been about a week and a half since my last session (which was a self-help session), where I felt like I was moving through molasses!

I had given up my self-help session while I was attending rehab as I went to a hydro class there, but their hydro was very low impact and I had built up my session to be quite physical – so it seems that I had lost my momentum during all of this.

Mind you, I am finding it harder to walk the same distance that I do every day – but I am still doing it, at least!

Because it is (seemingly?) getting harder, it would be easy to just say that the exercising is not helping my FM – a very self-sabotaging mode of thought – BUT we know we should be exercising. All the research tells us so! But when it comes time to actually get out there and start moving, many of us have a long list of excuses not to exercise:

Excuse #1: I Don’t Have Time!

What is it that is sapping all your time?

If it’s your favourite TV shows, how about during your shows, you use resistance bands, or walk in place; or you could record your shows so you can skip the commercials and see a one-hour show in just 40 minutes – that’s a 20 minute walk right there!

If it’s work that’s sapping all your spare time, try exercising on the job. Close your office door and walk in place for 10 minutes. (It’s not a long time but it all counts!)

People who exercise regularly ‘make it a habit’ – they don’t have more time than anyone else; instead, they have prioritised their exercise time as something that needs to be done and is of great value.

Excuse #2: I’m Too Tired…(said in a whining voice)

It may sound counter-intuitive  but working out actually gives you more energy, says Marisa Brunett, spokeswoman for the National Athletic Trainers Association. Once you get moving, you’re getting the endorphins ( the feel-good hormones in your body) to release – in turn, this WILL make you feel better (in the long term).

Excuse #3: I Don’t Get a Break From the Kids.

This is the time to multi-task (says the woman without kids!) Take the kids with you – while they’re swinging, you can walk around the playground or the backyard. Walk the kids to school instead of driving them. During their soccer games or practices, walk around the field. Use your family time for active pursuit – go for a bike ride with your kids or just walk around the neighbourhood with your children. When the weather’s bad, you could try all those new exciting interactive video games like Dance Revolution, Wii Sport, and Wii Fit. (Do your kids want any of these as a Christmas present? They could be a gift for you, too!)

Excuse #4: Exercise Is Boring.

“Exercise should be like sex,” says sports physiologist Mike Bracko, EdD, FACSM, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and director of the Institute for Hockey Research in Calgary. “You should want it and feel good about it before you do it. And it should feel good while you’re doing it.”

So how do you get there? First, find an activity you love. Think outside the box: try dancing, walk to the post office or gardening. Or, if you love music, try ballroom dancing. There IS an exercise for everyone.

If it makes exercise more enjoyable for you, it’s okay to watch The Good Wife or read Fifty Shades while you’re on the exercise bike or treadmill — just don’t forget to pedal or walk.

Working out with a group also helps many people. I’m not talking bootcamps or running groups. Check out your local Arthritis Foundation office – that’s where I found my hydrotherapy classes.

And, every once in a while, try something totally new: for one term I joined a Tai Chi for Arthritis group (again through Arthritis Victoria). Mix it up so you don’t get bored!

Excuse # 5: I Just Don’t Like to Move.

There are people who really DO NOT like moving but how about walking in a mall? Window shopping counts as walking!

If it’s sweating you don’t like, you can get a good workout without perspiring excessively: you can work out indoors, where it’s air conditioned; you can swim so you won’t notice any perspiration; or, try a low-sweat activity like yoga.

If exercise hurts your joints, try starting by exercising in water (my favourite – hydrotherapy!) The stronger your muscles get, the more they can support your joints, and the less you’ll hurt.

If you don’t like to move because you feel too fat, start with an activity that’s less public, like using an exercise video at home. Walk with nonjudgmental friends in your neighbourhood while wearing clothes that provide enough coverage that you feel comfortable.

Excuse # 6: I Always End up Quitting.

Set small, attainable goals – then you’re more likely to feel like a success, not a failure! If you exercise for five minutes a day for a week, you’ll feel good (maybe not immediately, but soon enough. I promise!)

Don’t try to increase your exercise by too great an amount each time. My rehab physio reminded me that Olympians try to increase their best by 5 per cent – so why work harder than an Olympian? If you do 5 minutes one day, try 6 minutes (okay, it’s actually 5.25 minutes, but really?) the next. I started at 10 minutes of walking and am now up to an hour by doing it this way – I only increased my times 4 times a week; the other 3 days, I walked for the same period of time as I had the day before.

It also helps to keep a log (especially as fibro fog can have us forgetting where we are up to). A log may help you see if you’re starting to fall off the wagon (or the treadmill).

Having an exercise buddy keeps you accountable as well – when you back out of a scheduled workout, you’re letting down your buddy as well as yourself.

And look toward the future. It’s harder to start than it is to stick with it once you’ve got your momentum going!

Any more excuses, people?

Other exercises you might like to try:

Fibro Friendly Exercises slideshow

My Face of Fibromyalgia

A long time ago (but what was actually March), I was messaging another FM page person (Fibromyalgia Wellbeing) about promoting awareness within the community. At the time I was very hesitant about putting my face with the condition and she wanted to promote her book (which is actually being launched July 14th at the Walkerville Town Hall at 10:00am).

I tried to contact all the current affair shows and lots of print media, with no response. I had attached a purely factual account of FM and perhaps that did not have enough appeal.

So, now, I have attempted to contact the print media again (I’m a bit scared of TV right now) with my own story (all I want to do is get the word out there!) – and I have already had some interest shown.

Now, if anyone has some media contacts, here is what I sent them (and what you could pass on, if you don’t want to share your own story:

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Fibro-My-What?

Me – prior to breakdown/depression

In 2010, I was about to turn 40, single and about to embark upon an illustrious career in law.

Prior to this new life, I had worked in hotels, at Crown Casino, on cruise ships and then back to Crown. While I was at Crown (the second time), I spent 6 years working (in the ‘real’ world) and studying (in ‘academia’) to get my law degree. About halfway through my studies, I had (what I call) a major breakdown.

I stopped working – I was broken. No getting out of bed. No getting in the shower. No getting dressed. I was depressed. I had depression. It took about 3 years to swim out of those murky waters (with lots of drugs acting as my life-preserver – and definitely no photos from that time!)

With the help of my family, drugs and counselling (& some photoshopping for wrinkles) – graduation!

For some reason the only thing that kept me going was my studies. Maybe it was the opportunity to start a new life, to get away from shift-work, or to live within the mainstream – but whatever it was, my studies saved me (I was never suicidal. I always thought that it had to get better than THIS otherwise how did other people survive. My psychologist said I was a very positive depressed person!) and I made it through.

I was able to ‘practice’ law for one whole month before the debilitating purple wave took over my life – FIBROMYALGIA!

Fibro-My-What?

I had never heard of it, either. But this isn’t some exotic, rare condition. This is a condition that affects between 2-4% of the population – most people (and, unfortunately, doctors, don’t know what to call it). It affects more women than men, and more adults than juveniles.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a collection of signs, symptoms & medical problems that occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause…which makes this disorder so incomprehensible to many, and so frustratingly cruel to those who have it.

The symptoms of FM vary a great deal. People with FM often suffer from varying degrees of muscular pain, stiffness and fatigue.

The pain of FM is usually described as aching, throbbing or burning and is unpredictable in nature. Its severity varies from day-to-day and different parts of the body tend to be affected at different times. Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness.
  • Headaches
  • Jaw and/or facial pain
  • Abdominal Discomfort
  • Numbness and Tingling, also known as “paresthesia”,
  • Cognitive Disorders
  • Disequilibrium
  • Environmental Sensitivity

Fibromyalgia Syndrome is often described as the ”Irritable Everything Syndrome” and increasingly, additional symptoms  and syndromes are being associated with FM.

One of the first things I did when diagnosed with a ‘probably fibromyalgia’ was get on the internet – leading me to blogs, medical pages and associations. Although, disappointingly, there was nothing I could find in Australia. Historically, FM has been considered either a musculoskeletal disease or neuropsychiatric condition. As such, it falls under the umbrella that is the Arthritis Foundation, despite the Foundation being ill-equipped to deal with the multi-faceted problems that arise from the condition.

Prior to any diagnosis, FM sufferers receive all kinds of comments from family, friends and even doctors: ‘It’s just you getting older,’ ‘it’s all in your head,’ ‘do you really think there is something wrong with you?’ Even after a diagnosis, which itself takes a long time and an exorbitant amount of money, as a FM diagnosis involves at least 3 months of pain and the exclusion of everything else so sufferers must be tested for everything beforehand, many health practitioners are unwilling to consider this condition as a REAL condition.

At this stage, those that do believe that what you are suffering is REAL refer you to a rheumatologist. Yahoo! Finally we get a diagnosis – however, there is no cure. Nor is there an acceptable amount of pain relief.

Notwithstanding that I take approximately 14 medications each morning, that I have a Bachelor of Laws (Honours), that I have a Diploma of Business, and that my brain thinks I can do anything, I am writing this from my couch. There is no word for the fatigue that I feel throughout my entire body. My ankles and wrists feel swollen and at least twice their size, despite no outward change. My face, head and neck are throbbing from some unknown pain. And I am sitting in the dark because the natural light is killing my eyes. So, no, sufficient pain relief for a FM sufferer does not exist.

Mind you, this is not every day – sometimes there is respite from many of these symptoms (although never all of them); however, it is impossible to predict when these better days will happen. This can make it impossible to hold down a job. What kind of employer wants some-one who cannot be relied upon to turn up at every shift. Chronic illnesses are fickle. It’s quite possible (for me, it’s common) that one day I am able to walk to the park and back, and the next I’ll struggle to reach the kitchen.

So what do people like me do?

Making a phone call is an energy-consuming activity that requires a rest afterwards. In fact, most things require a rest afterwards. We clean our homes in stages because it is too hard to vacuum the whole place in one go – even though I only live in a two-bedroom unit. We incorporate gentle exercise classes such as, hydrotherapy, yoga, tai chi for arthritis, into our lives (for those that can afford it). We grieve for the person we used to be. We try to maintain relationships with people around us – even though, most of the time, we have to cancel any plan we might have made.

I am currently on Sickness Benefits, which gives me almost $500 every fortnight. Should be able to live on that, right? What about when your medications cost about $250 per month, and your mortgage/rent needs paying, and your doctor has a gap of over $150? Then what?

The Disability Pension is slightly more but I was rejected. I was told that my condition was not completely diagnosed as I had further doctors’ appointments. I am currently appealing as those extra appointments were made by me because I do NOT believe that this is the best that medical science can do for me. It is almost like Centrelink wants me to give up totally before they are willing to help me.

Don’t get confused – I am not a permanently-complaining, miserable old cow! You need to understand the difference between ‘happy’ and ‘healthy’. When you’re sick, you probably feel miserable, but you also know that it will pass. I’ve been sick for so long that I can’t afford to be miserable all the time. In fact, I work hard at not being miserable. So I can and do sound happy a lot of the time; but this means that I’m happy – it does not mean that I am well. I may be in pain and sicker than ever.

I have a limited amount of energy to expend. I can’t spend all of my energy trying to get well. With a short-term illness like the flu, you can afford to put life on hold for a week or two while you get well. But part of having a chronic illness is coming to the realisation that you have to spend some energy on having a life now. This doesn’t mean I’m not trying to get better. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I am NOT giving up. It’s just how life is when you’re dealing with a chronic illness.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. This means that it will last a long time – perhaps forever.

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So, that’s it – I really don’t know what else to do at this stage; as I am feeling quite down because most of my efforts are hitting a brick wall. I know that WE know about FM – but WE need to get THEM to know.

It’ll all look better tomorrow.

Risk Free Tai Chi

I have previously told you about my experience with Tai Chi – I go to a modified class for Arthritis, held by the Arthritis Foundation. We practice a modified Sun tai chi, which has 12 forms (this info is just so you can understand the next part).

Clinical Rheumatology reported, on May 13 2012, that the Oregon Health & Science University’s Fibromyalgia Research Unit held a randomized controlled trial of 8-form Tai chi to gauge any improvement in symptoms and functional mobility in fibromyalgia patients.

Previous researchers have found that 10-form Tai chi yields symptomatic benefit in patients with FM. The purpose of this study was to further investigate earlier findings and add a focus on functional mobility.

Participants met in small groups twice weekly for 90 minutes over 12 weeks.

Of the 101 randomly assigned subjects, clinically and statistically significant improvements were seen in:

  • pain severity
  • pain interference
  • sleep, and
  • self-efficacy for pain control

No adverse events were noted.

Accordingly, the study reported that tai chi appears to be a safe and an acceptable exercise modality that may be useful as adjunctive therapy in the management of FM patients. Yippee! Tai chi class on Wednesday is still on!

Hydro Harpy

I have just realised that, with all my references to hydrotherapy, I have never described one of my sessions.

The term hydrotherapy itself is synonymous with the term water cure as it was originally marketed by practitioners and promoters in the 19th century. A hydrotherapist therefore, is someone who practices hydrotherapy. Needless to say, the hydrotherapy that I am talking about is NOT the form of torture in which a person is forced to drink large quantities of water. I am talking about a course of medical treatment.

Firstly, you already know that I LOVE my warm water classes. Just stepping into the water (which is a gorgeous 32-34 degrees celsius) is heaven! Most of the pain just dissolves away, like sugar in hot tea. A lot of the time, I am tempted just to float around for an hour, absorbing the warmth into my bones, listening to the lapping of the pool and meditating (I have been told off for that – sometimes the leaders think you have died if you are too still for too long!)

Ok, I’m here to exercise. Every fibromyalgia expert will tell you that exercise is an essential component of any fibromyalgia treatment program.  However, most of us complain––with valid reason––that exercise is difficult and painful.  This is where Warm Water classes come in. The warmth of the water provides several benefits that make exercise easier, less painful and more effective.

  • Water’s buoyancy decreases the effects of gravity, displacing 85 per cent of your weight.  As a result, it takes less effort to move because you don’t have to support your whole weight.
  • The buoyancy of the water also takes the weight off your joints, allowing for more flexibility (surprisingly, I can stretch my legs up further and higher).
  • The hydrostatic pressure of water reduces joint swelling and inflammation, which makes exercising easier and less painful.
  • Water provides resistance, which helps you increase strength and improve balance. The resistance factor also burns more calories.  An exercise done in water can burn twice as many calories as the same exercise done on land.
  • Immersion in water promotes relaxation, reduces muscle fatigue and lessens pain perception.

In the water, all of a sudden, you feel like you can do all the things you used to do! You can work at your own pace to gradually improve joint mobility, muscle strength and general health and fitness.

I go to ‘special’ classes held by Arthritis Victoria (best resource in Melbourne!) throughout Melbourne (update on 31 May 2015, sadly Arthritis Victoria no longer run these classes). Water exercise programs can be done on an individual basis or in a class.  While individual programs are custom designed to meet your specific needs, classes are far less expensive and can be just as effective (unless you have a special need that cannot be addressed in a group setting).  An added benefit to exercising with a group is the opportunity to interact with other people and make new friends. The classes are run by volunteer leaders who have been trained appropriately. During my first term, I went to an under 55/back class. The class was fun, had music and everyone chatted; but it was further from my home. This term, I started going to another class (closer) but all the fun was gone!. Needless to say, I’m going back to the first one. So lesson one – if you don’t enjoy the first class you go to, try another one!

You do not need to know how to swim (although you may be more comfortable if you can) as hydrotherapy pools are not deep. Also many of the exercises are done with flotation devices. We do a series of exercises, with a floatie-thing around our necks and a buoyancy belt around our waists – there is NO way that you are going to drown! Some of the exercises involve wrapping your arms around the side of the pool and floating, and then stretching your legs in a series of moves – cycling, frog jumps, stretches. Then we turn it around so our feet are holding onto the edge, and we exercise our arms – it may be just moving a plastic soda bottle around, against the weight of the water; or stretching. Everything gets moved, exercised and stretched. The great part is that it doesn’t feel like exercise.

What You Should Know Before Beginning a Water Exercise Program

As with any exercise program, check with your doctor before beginning any kind of water exercise.  There are some patients for whom water exercise is not recommended.

Find a program with a qualified instructor.  Your local Arthritis Foundation and YMCA are good places to start looking.  You might also ask your doctor or physical therapist for a recommendation.

Ask about the temperature of the pool.  Since most people with fibromyalgia are very sensitive to cold, the closer the pool’s temperature is to body temperature, the more comfortable you will be.  However, do not attempt to exercise in a hot tub without your doctor’s permission.  Just sitting in water that hot can raise your blood pressure.  Exercising in hot water can be extremely dangerous.

Start slowly, exercising no more than 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a week.  Gradually increase your time until you are working out 45 minutes to an hour.

Don’t overdo.  Exercising in the water can be deceptive.  Because you don’t feel like you’re straining, it is easy to do too much without realising it.  Until you have a few sessions under your belt and know how you feel after working out, take it easy.  Any time you feel tired, stop exercising and relax in the water or leave the pool.

Do not try to push through the pain.  If you experience new or increased pain, stop. For us, pushing through the pain is a definite No-No!

If a particular exercise is causing you pain, stop and talk to your instructor.  There may be an alternative way of doing the exercise or you may just need to sit that one out.

Relax, have fun and enjoy your newfound freedom of movement in the water!

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