RD Blog Week Day 2: Flexibility for Staying Fit

Today’s Topic: Tips How do you stay fit, cope with stress, relax, or capitalize on a great day. Tell us your secrets for the best life possible.

When the arthritis gods chose what type of arthritis to add to my life, they picked one that was a good fit for me. That sounds crazy and of course I wish that my list of chronic health conditions did not include any type of arthritis. My systemic arthritis is inflammatory spondyloarthropathy. It is a type of arthritis where for many people pain and stiffness improve with movement as opposed to rest. Before my diagnosis, the most painful thing for me was sitting and I couldn’t drive for more than 20-30 minutes without getting out of the car and stretching. But I could hike 10 miles or walk 18 holes of golf and feel great. My symptoms did not fit with many types of rheumatic conditions because I did not experience fatigue.

These days I deal with both spondylitis and osteoarthritis and I am extremely lucky that fatigue is still not part of my daily battle. A good day for me is a day with exercise. My body feels better with movement and for sure my soul does. My biggest challenge is that my feet, hands, and elbows do not allow me to participate in many of my favorite activities.

So how do I incorporate exercise in my life? 

Flexibility is the key.

Flexibility in replacing previous activities with activities that work with my body. Tennis and other racquet sports are a distant memory. But I can ride a bicycle and participate in studio cycling classes as long as I wear my lace-up hand/wrist braces.

Flexibility in how I participate in sports. I am still reeling from the recent, but probably permanent inability to walk for 9 holes of golf much less 18. But once my left hand fully recovers from surgery, I will be able to play golf using a riding cart. 

Flexibility in where I exercise. I previously belonged to a Lifetime Fitness Club. Although participants in the fitness classes were encouraged to modify exercises to their abilities, I found that I was modifying everything. I moved to the local YMCA and have thrived with a menu of senior-oriented fitness classes. 

Flexibility in the level of my activities. I used to do “regular” yoga. Now I do “Forever Well” yoga and occasionally gentle yoga. Both my 12-1/2 year old Labrador retriever and I have difficulty with long walks on pavement, but we can take multiple shorter walks through the day and go to the dog park with wood chip paths.

Flexibility in my attitude. I work hard to appreciate what I can do and not mourn over what I can’t. Acceptance improves with practice and my glass half full personality helps with that.

Flexibility in my joints, muscles, and tendons. That is kind of a joke because it is the hardest of the flexibilities for me to achieve. But I do my best to keep moving everything. I have to laugh at my rheumatologist who recommends that I push myself but only hard enough that I am not sore afterwards. I’ve never been able to figure that out until I’m sore afterwards….

In general my two kinds of arthritis feud over exercise. Undifferentiated spondylitis says “Go, Go, Go!” and osteoarthritis says “No Way!” But somehow we work it out with the goal of as many good days with exercise as possible. 

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If you’d like to read other posts on today’s RDBlog Week topic, click here.

3 thoughts on “RD Blog Week Day 2: Flexibility for Staying Fit

  1. Glad to hear your trying to overcome your limitations. Silver Sneakers and water aerobics adapt their programs for every fitness level. They have chair exercises, chair yoga and water aerobics. The pool is great because there is no pain in the water, the only obstacle is regulating your blood sugar for the 45 minutes your off the pump in the water.

    Hope this helps.

  2. I thin kmy two arthritis’s are also at war. Move, move move, yells my back. Sit, sit, sit says RA. I may take the women’s class at my local Y.

    No come to think of it last time I did that with water aerobics it was complicated. Nevermind.

  3. So much of living with chronic illness is about being flexible and thinking outside the box. And you’re absolutely right — just because you used to do something a certain way, doesn’t mean that you have to give up that activity if you can’t do it that way anymore. If you can’t get through the boulder in your way, go around it.

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