I want to start by saying I am not a medical professional or sports therapist. I’m someone who has suffered from a variety of chronic conditions that cause pain and discomfort for years. I’ve found what works for me, I’ve learnt a lot of tricks along the way and happy to say I’ve been lucky enough to watch some of the people around me learn to be more active despite their own physical struggles (I must say, the AMAZING effect it has had on their mental state and their quality of life).
Any fitness, activity or lifestyle change should be brought to the attention of your doctor before you commit. Each individuals illnesses and conditions are vastly different and effect them in different ways so what works and is safe for someone may not be safe and healthy for another. Please do not take anything I say as a be all end all for being able to get out and about when you’re hurtin’.
This past weekend while out at Islendingadagurinn I had spent some time sitting on the side of the beach, in the shade, in what can only be described as the elderly people’s ‘parking’ lot. I was watching Mr. Mango, the kids, some of his work buddies and a whole lot of his family, playing around in the sand, splashing in the water and all in all having a massively great time.
An older lady had sat down next to me and I guess had noticed I was icing my knees with what was left of our frozen water bottle stash. She asked if I had injured myself and I politely said something along the lines of “no they kind of are always like this” not wanting to draw too much attention to the fact that until my meds kicked in I was in a constant state of torture at the time.
I assumed that either would be the end of the conversation, or like from many older people I would get the “oh your too old to understand pain” or “it can’t be that bad if you’re out and about. you bright haired freak.” Instead she said “you must be very brave.”
It takes a lot more effort both mental and physical than any normal and healthy person could understand for someone in pain to push themselves out the door, get away from the comfort of their home and safety space and spend some time pushing their body past the point the KNOW is going to cause some trouble later. On top of that, if your illness is invisible, people can downright ignore or dismiss your need to handle your body and activity differently or get offensive when you take up critical bench/handi-cap space and aren’t elderly or in a wheelchair.
Being active and in pain is no easy task, and it’s not for the faint of heart. You have to WANT it bad.
That doesn’t mean though that there aren’t ways to make it easier for your body to handle, tips to minimize any extra soreness, stiffness and fatigue. Find a way to get out and enjoy some family time, outdoor amazement, quiet park reflection etc. without practically killing yourself for it.
Here or some of my tips for making it happen.
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! Yes this means you will be stuck stopping at every public bathroom, porto-potty and possibly even wooded area you pass by but it is worth it. The body works at its best when it well lubricated and especially when heat and sun are factors, dehydration can cause some nasty side effects on top of whatever else you may be dealing with.
“TAKE YOUR DAMN MEDS” This tip brought to you by dear Mr. Mango. Yes that’s right, I’m giving out advice that I have trouble following myself. Don’t skip a dose of your scheduled medication because you’re out and about, bring it with you in a travel case. Don’t wait to take your breakthrough pain medication until you’re back at home, make sure you have it on you at all times to take the second you feel you need it. Even go so far as to preventatively take your medications (if this is a technique your doctor has already signed off on). This can have a huge impact not only on how much you can enjoy being out, walking, playing at the time but can insanely lessen the fall-back that may happen when you’re outing is done and recovery time sets in.
SEE A BENCH SIT ON IT It sounds simple, but when you’re with a crowd, getting everyone to stop and wait every 5 minutes can make you feel like you’re dragging down the team. Make em deal with it. Play I spy, see if there’s a bench by a park, statue, field or interesting thing to look at. I know far too many people that push walking for miles without a break until the point they feel like collapsing (and if you’re going a giant loop, it means you can’t make it back to the car/house). There is no shame in taking breaks. You aren’t running a marathon here. If anything, sometimes stopping different places can enhance the experience. We have found many cool things to see just because I need a spot to stretch out, sit to take my meds, or rest for a moment.
GET COMFORTABLE If you have a destination type outing (sitting at the beach, watching a sports game, hanging out at the park etc) make staying there as comfortable as possible. Bring a great travel chair if you feel comfortable sitting, bring a blanket and pillows if you feel better lying down. If it’s not a tree covered area don’t forget to bring a sun umbrella. If it is a treed area, maybe a hammock would be a nice place to rest (get someone to help you in and out… trust me). Have water, food, your meds, a book, board games, your phone and whatever else there with you. If that means planning ahead and bringing a wagon or cart or a few trips from the car for the excited kids to take with arms full, so be it. If you’re like me, there is something much worse than walking too long, it’s being stuck standing or sitting uncomfortably for long (aka more than a minute or two). No one is gonna judge you for having a little oasis away from home, if anything they’ll just be jealous they didn’t manage it themselves. There have been far too many times in our past where we decide to hit the beach with nothing but towels and suits or go to the park with only the stroller in toe. It is not worth the pain and discomfort at the time, the fact that usually it means we have to pack it in far too early and that the after effects are usually even harder to handle.
DON’T DO IT ALL If there’s one thing I could tell to anyone in pain that wants to be more active, to get out and enjoy a little more of the world or to participate more in family and friend time out of the house it would be take it slow and don’t do it all. You can’t go from being sedentary and inactive to fitting in a whole weekend of walking, hiking, swimming, dancing and shenanigans just by drinking water, resting often and taking your medications. Real and nasty consequences will happen. Start small at first picking one thing and see how it goes and how it feels after. Maybe it’s a walk to a park 2 blocks away or maybe its a few hours relaxing at the beach. You’ll find that some things are a no go and you’ll be happy you didn’t do them for longer or push through them and a bunch of other things. You may find that other activities may even help some symptoms, like walking loosening up some sore muscles or relaxing in a pool easing some inflamed joints. It’s gonna be different for everyone at every activity and disease level and even might change for you personally from time to time (pushing around the stroller used to take pressure off my SI when walking, but now that my wrists suck, it does more harm than good). Figure it out bit by bit instead of going all out.
REST AND RECOVER While all the other tips may be important, this one is absolutely necessary, even if you don’t think an outing put you out at all. Be like a party college kid, plan a hangover day after the big kegger. At the time you may not feel like your activity will effect your day to day plans (if anything sometimes the excitement, hormones and happiness makes you feel great) generally speaking, extra active time means extra pain. If you spent the day at the beach plan for a movie night curled up on the couch with delivery pizza instead of house cleaning and a 4 course home made meal. Get to bed early, drink lots of water and eat foods that fuel your body. Take a bubble bath, read quietly, binge watch your favorite TV show, use ice packs or hot packs or convince your spouse to give you a massage. It’ll make the recovery easier on your body and mind and in the end get you back on track for daily activities or another exciting time out and about.
There you have it. While I didn’t do the greatest job following along the whole time. It’s probably the most I’ve ever listened to my body and taken these tips to heart during such a busy weekend. I drank so much water I was able to understand why my Omi uses the phrase “till your teeth float”. I took my meds religiously (albeit with a lot of helpful reminders from the Mr.). I took time to sit down and stretch, even if it meant getting glares from dumb-ass judgmental assholes or that the rest of our crew went on ahead for adventure. We had the van stocked full of equipment (probably enough for a week long camping trip) just to make sure we had everything we needed to keep comfortable.
I will admit, I pretty much did it all though. That makes now, today, a really important recovery day. I’m not doing my physio, I’m not cleaning house, I’m not cooking a big meal and I have no big active plans with the kids. I am sitting comfortably on the couch, catching up on a weekends worth of blog posts I’ve missed, watching some crappy TV shows, eventually going through all the photos from the weekend, reading some of the kids favorite books and looking forward to some hot tub time later.
I might even give my new friend a call. Yes, that nice old lady and I had a great talk while we were both taking our sitting break from the festivals excitement. She lives up in town and even though her family is all out of province and she is in treatment for breast cancer she still tries to get out often and enjoy being around people. Definitely a brave warrior compared to me.
Amendment: The last and arguably most important think to keep in mind now found here.
So what about all you out there? Do you have any tips or tricks for getting out of the house while still respecting your body?