Fibromyalgia and Fitness - My Story

Monday, October 26, 2009

A friend once asked me, “Why do you workout when you have fibromyalgia? Doesn’t it hurt?” Well, yes it does hurt. But then again, I’m going to hurt regardless – so why not try to be fit and healthy?
I haven’t always had a weight problem. When I turned 21, I had to buy pants in the children’s section to find something small enough to fit. (Bonus: children’s pants never needed to be hemmed.) I was an aerobics fanatic at the time and worked out 7 – 8 hours a week, but I didn’t know much at the time and ended up with a stress fracture to a rib in my back due to high-impact aerobics on horrible flooring. As a result of the injury, I quit working out for awhile and, since I was completely ignorant about nutrition, I gained a lot of weight.
Fast forward about ten years. I had tried to get back into the habit of working out, but just couldn’t find anything I liked enough to hold my interest. (I still don’t have the self-discipline to do a workout I don’t like for any length of time.) Still completely ignorant about nutrition, I had gained over 100 lbs in ten years. I hated it; I hated the way I looked, the way I felt. I allowed my weight to dictate my life to a huge degree. I refused to participate in activities I really enjoy because I was so embarrassed about my appearance. I didn’t want to do much of anything, so I’d sit home and try to stifle my emotions with food. Since our emotional health and our physical health are intertwined, I was deteriorating in every aspect of my life.
Several years ago, I decided enough was a enough and started on a quest to get fit and lose weight. (I have to be honest here. I really don’t care what the scale says – I just know what I want to look like and this isn’t it.) I found a great workout program that shrank inches very quickly, but then life decided to throw a wrench in the works and suddenly, I wasn’t able to work out like I wanted to. Doctors didn’t seem to have any answers for the constant pain I was in and the extreme exhaustion I was dealing with on a daily basis. I quickly spiraled downward and in no time, I had regained every inch I had lost, with some reinforcements. Again, my emotional state plummeted, and so did my physical condition. I was beginning to think I was crazy when, finally, I got a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
On one hand, I was so relieved; these aches and pains ARE real and no, I’m not crazy – but on the other hand, what the heck is fibromyalgia anyway? My reading on the subject didn’t do much to encourage me. Fibro is a very poorly understood and often maligned condition. Fibromyalgics LOOK healthy. A little tired, maybe, but generally healthy. Looks can be deceiving.
At any rate, I was tired of being overweight. I knew I needed to find a good workout, but it had to be FUN, too, or I wouldn’t do it. Thankfully, I found Turbo Jam. It appealed to me on several levels; I love to dance, and Turbo Jam has some fun dance moves. I don’t deal with stress very well and have a tendency to hold in anger and frustration; Turbo has enough punching and kicking that I get a healthy, safe outlet for negative feelings. I was so enthralled that, when I had the opportunity to get certified to teach the gym version, Turbo Kick, I signed up immediately.
I passed my certification smoothly. Well, as smoothly as it could go for an asthmatic fibromyalgic! I was about a size 16 at that time, and had to deal with the emotional garbage of being the largest person at the certification event. But I persevered and just acted like I most certainly DID belong there (if you’ve never been fat in a gym, you won’t understand how out of place a fat person can feel). And it paid off – not only did I pass my certification, but I found a friend and mentor in the presenter, Russell.
Unfortunately, I never quite believed in myself and slowly let the fibro take control of me. I didn’t stay focused on my fitness and my eating habits were atrocious. As the pain grew worse, I was desperate to try anything to ease the constant pain. My chiropractor, also feeling desperate at this point, suggested I give up the Turbo Kick. He felt it was just too strenuous for me with the fibro. I sank down into despair and gave up the idea of ever having a nice, fit physique again. The inches and pounds came right back again.
For the past couple of years, I have allowed the fibromyalgia to dictate what I do and when I do it. It got to the point that I didn’t seem to have much of an identity beyond the fibro. But I finally realized that no one can help me if I am not going to help myself. So I started to clean up my eating and decided to rebuild my fitness level very slowly so I wouldn’t over-do and throw myself into an exercise-induced fibro flare.
This past spring, I started to slowly rebuild my fitness level. I have a Wii Fit and used that daily until I didn’t feel much of a challenge from it anymore. Then I went out and bought “Dance, Dance Revolution” for my Wii and used that until I could easily do an hour without a lot of cardio challenge. That’s when my focus returned to my beloved Turbo. I knew I had to be careful, so I didn’t throw myself into firbo flare after fibro flare, but this time, I approached it with a better attitude and some sense. At first, I could only do 20 minutes at a time, but I quickly built back up to being able to do the 40 minutes “Cardio Party” workout with (relative) ease.
Since I picked my Turbo Jam back up, I’ve dropped to a size 12 and I am really starting to see changes in my body. I haven’t lost much weight, but again, I don’t really care much what the scale says. I have more energy and a brighter outlook on life. Yes, I still hurt a lot thanks to the fibro, but as long as I keep movin’ the body, the pain stays at tolerable levels.
So why do I workout when I hurt? I do it because exercise makes me feel better, both physically and emotionally. I do it because, far too often, those 40 minutes a day is the only time I have any real control over my body. I do it because I refuse to let fibromyalgia define me.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    So .. where are you at today with all this? Am I just not seeing any more of your blog? Thanks.
    2541 days ago
    i work with people that have MS and fibro. they are also trying to make healthy changes in their life to help manage their symptoms. Pain for no reason is not fun.

    Have you ever tried using yoga? sit can be realaxing on joinds and some therapists will suggest some poses for pain maint. emoticon
    3696 days ago
    Loved the story. I too have severe Fibromyalgia to the point I was legally disabled. Not physically able to continue the stress and strain of being a floor nurse and the change in cognition became a real detriment to my job so there weren't any choices for me...however, I have also refused to allow it to completely stop me. I've seen first hand what happens when you give into this disease and am not about to let that happen to me. I hurt constantly but continue to exercise as much as I dare...I unfortunately didn't have any resources to be able to 'buy' helps with exercise, heck I stopped the medications because of the cost and no longer having insurance, which doubles my pain most days. Point is, you don't have to do whatever you can...and I will continue on my own...Congrats on your win!!
    3720 days ago
    what a great story!!!! sooooo inspiring! congrats on the contest and soooo proud of you!
    3720 days ago
    emoticon to coming in 3rd in the SparkPeople/ Fitness Story Contest! I have Fibromyalgia also. There seem to be a lot of us who do. If you're not on a Fibro team (which I'm sure you are), join us on the Fibromyalgia Weight Loss Team!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon Time to emoticon !
    3720 days ago
    3720 days ago
  • RAJAH3166
    Finally a buddy with the same problems I have. Only you are working on it positively. I have Fibro also besides many other physical mishaps.... the familiar phrase "But you look so healthy" boy does that sound familiar . 20 years ago when I was first diagnosed I was declared nuts by people someone not believed at long last I got the diagnosis confirmed and was on my way to disability feeling very sorry for myself. Your post has given me hope to "h..ll" with the scales just get healthy

    Thanks for your post I am adding you as a buddy hope that is ok?
    corry emoticon
    3720 days ago
    Congratulations on winning third place in the contest. I know it took a lot of work and great writing to achieve this. You are to be congratulated especially because you won out of all the entries and I understand there were a great many.
    emoticon emoticon
    3720 days ago
  • STEFFI264
    my friend has Fibro and other physical issues. I have a tough time knowing when to sympathize and how much to help motivate her into action.
    I know she wants to feel "normal" and get back to her right weight too
    thanks for helping me to understand her
    3720 days ago
    Bravo to you! Thanks for sharing your story.
    3720 days ago
    Boy do I understand how you feel. I too work out so that I don't hurt as much. I also work out so that I can breath better( I have lupus and it likes to fill my lungs up with fluid). I also wake up not knowing where my pain will be. It likes to be in a different place than where it was when I went to sleep. Which joint it will be in is like a guessing game and not a fun one either. Some times it likes to attack my ear drum and that little tube that runs down into your throat which is very painful. As for the gym been there done that too. .
    3742 days ago
    Thanks! It's been a rough road, but I'm getting there. And all of the challenges I face make me a better person at the end of the day. (At least I think so LOL)
    3742 days ago
    Sounds like a tough situation, but you are taking control and not letting your condition affect your desire to be the person you want to be. Good luck to you.
    3742 days ago
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