The three cornerstones of a well rounded fitness regimen. The triangle of awesome, that I used to aim for when looking forward at the “be the best me I could be” or finding a new kick ass program to follow. Now it’s more like trying my best to maintain what of the 3 I have left on good days, and having to scrap the whole thing on bad days (ok so not really…. but I’m having to learn I can’t really aim high for goals anymore).
My physiotherapy sets themselves concentrate on a decent amount of strength compared to most. A lot of core, glute and hamstring work to keep my pelvis and hips in place. It also helps for posture, which can improve many thing when living with a connective tissue disorder. I may never be able to dead lift double my body weight, but I do have a good strong set of muscles that are now needed more than ever, to be able to help support my weak ass joints carrying my actual body weight around.
My routine also involves a lot of endurance. Not the kind involved with running a marathon (there is no way my feet or knees would handle that, no matter how awesomely in shape I was or what type of footwear I might try) or hanging in there while my mother runs her mouth for hours over the phone. Endurance of physical strength. Speed was and never will be my end game. It’s quite the opposite. Being able to hold a plank for 5 seconds more this week than last. Adding 10 more bridges each set. Yes, and also being able to walk/ run longer or further with good form and little pain too when my body allows. This helps my body learn to cope with physical stress for longer periods of time. An uncomfortable position when cuddling for story time or when having to awkwardly stand in line, waiting for the grocery store. It has made a huge difference.
Last but not least, flexibility. This avenue is the one I have to be most careful about. My therapist has reiterated many a time that I am more flexible than I am strong (something that apparently also is quite prominent with connective tissue disorders of different kinds) and this isn’t a positive thing. My joints and ligaments can stretch and bend much more than my muscles have strength to support them. I’ve had to re-learn how to be flexible. How to stretch at the right angles to relieve pain but not to pop anything out of place or over extend anything, both of which would make everything worse. Being more flexible in the RIGHT ways has made little parts of every day life go from tasking to on most days almost mindless. Like taking off a sports bra without pulling or popping my shoulder (something Mr. Mango used to have to help me with at the end of every day) or being able to bend down to tie my shoe without pulling on my SI joint.
This trifecta of fitness however great in the physical sense, also has taught me a lot about how to handle other areas of life. Many people already know the Serenity Prayer (Serenity, Courage, Wisdom) and are able to try and live life with those 3 amazing tools (God given or self taught). I have my Strength, Endurance and Flexibility to help me.
It takes incredible inner STRENGTH to try and stay positive and optimistic about the future when you are sick, tired and in pain. Just being able to get up out of bed, get dressed, get washed up, get breakfast and start the day can take a lot of physical strength and energy sure, but it also takes that emotional and mental strength to get through it too, instead of giving up and giving in. Not to mention needing it throughout the rest of the day.
It may not be a marathon, channel swim or mountain climb but for someone living in chronic pain, just a trip to the grocery store, a day to the zoo with the family or an 8 hour shift at work can take an insane amount of physical endurance. We have spent days, months and years ‘training’ our bodies to handle the stress of our illnesses. Sometimes though the mental and emotional stress is even harder to ENDURE. Under the surface of trying to keep calm and stay pleasant and on task, we are handling so much more than people can see. Keeping up with medications with horrible side effects, remembering appointments, trying to keep awake and clear headed through exhaustion. I dare someone to say that doesn’t take an insane amount of mental endurance to handle on a day to day basis.
And again comes flexibility. This here is probably what we all have to aim for first and foremost. Without being willing to be FLEXIBLE, daily life with a chronic illness like lupus would be next to impossible. I used to run on schedules, plans and formulas. Being in control of what would come next and how we’d get there made me feel safe and ready. Now however, I’ve learned that expecting to have control over all the little things going on does much more harm than good. Sometimes we have KD for supper because the lasagna I was planning was far too work heavy for my hands. Sometimes date night has to be a quiet night in front of the TV instead of a night out dancing. Being flexible in life, makes life with chronic illness much more livable. We can’t do everything that everyone else does and we can’t always control when our symptoms arise. Having to change plans or do things differently doesn’t always have to end bad, if anything sometimes we get to be pleasantly surprised.
Right now things are quite chaotic here, and unlike the last couple weeks, my body isn’t handling it so great at the moment. Between a migraine, worsened joint pain and my anxiety being high, it’s taking a lot of strength and flexibility to endure the last couple days from beginning to end. Of course I am hopeful that this is all just a result of hormones and pushing a little too hard instead of being the start of a new flare. If it’s not though, I’ll be relying on these 3 life tools much more over the next few weeks since the chaos isn’t ending any time soon.