Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Exercise, Pacing yourself, and Richard Simmons

I committed myself last summer to getting serious about regular exercise, and getting stronger. I had to be patient with myself, and let myself take breaks, work incrementally, and listen to my body. And I love how I feel after a great workout.

Unfortunately, when I've been in the middle of a lupus flare, fast-paced, sweaty aerobic workouts were not an option. I missed them a lot. They were a great stress reliever, fun, and of course good for me.

Pushing too hard too fast can lead to worse than sore muscles or injury; it could set off a lupus flare for me, or leave me in fibromyalgia pain for several days.

One other consideration: I also had to pick a workout I like.
I love music. I love to dance.  So one of my "when I'm better" fantasies was to be able to again do the aerobics record (yes, record! an LP!) that I used to do when I was 15. I loved that record. I forget the title of it, but it was Joanie Greggains and it had all kind of great music on it: Hall and Oates, BeeGees, Village People. Not on my top 10 favorite albums of all time, but great music for working out. And way better than that boring drum-synthesizer non-music track on most music videos these days.

Of course, after I had a stroke in 2002, I couldn't even get up and down one stair, never mind do aerobics. So back then I started really small. I got in the pool and kicked around. Then when I could get up and down the one stair to the outdoors by myself, I went for short walks. To the stop sign and back. A few yards further each day, with my cane, never far from the house, just in case I fell. I worked on it a little every day. Eventually I could climb stairs and get around normally, without a cane.

Fast forward about 2 years. I found a copy of that Joanie record on ebay and Joe transferred it to CD for me. But there was no way I could do the workout. I mean I was literally crawling up the stairs on all fours at that time. How was I ever going to be doing jumping jacks, leg lifts, and running in place? I tried it anyway, in a moment of pure wishful thinking/ delusion, but I just could not get through it and I ended up with a big migraine.

So I started out just walking. Brisk a walk as I could do, which for me was one 20 minute mile. I know that's not fast, but that's what I could do. Me and my ipod, with David Lee Roth singing "Just a Gigolo," looping around the neighborhood. After I eliminated dairy from my diet, I had more energy and I threw in short little passages of jogging. Bolstered by my newfound energy, I decided to try the Denise Austin "Fat Burning Blast" 25-minute workout that I used to do (on VHS). Aimed too high again. Needed percocet that night. Back to the walk/ jogs.

Then I remembered Richard Simmons. His videos don't have a lot of jumping around, and that jumping was what always aggravates my system. So I got his Disco video (great tunes!). And at first, I just did one song. Because it takes me time to learn all the moves, and I had no stamina. Then two songs. And after a couple months I could get through the entire workout.

After sweating with Richard all summer, I went back and did the Denise Austin video and now I could handle it just fine! So, I added in a Dancing with the Stars video to the mix. Wow, that was hard. I had to stop the video and catch my breath a few times. But no pain. It took a while, but now I can get through the first 2 dances (that's 30 minutes of swing and jive) without much trouble. So... it was time for the ultimate test: Joanie Greggains! I put on the CD, and Yes! I did it! And I felt fine. It was challenging, but I did not need percocet or any other remedy afterwards.

People whose lupus is not under control have to be even more gentle and more careful. It's important to move. It's important to be wise. It's also important to hope and to try.

And it was patience, persistence, listening to my body, and Richard Simmons and his totally doable workouts with fun songs that made it doable for me. Dare to dream big, but start small and check in with yourself.

Yours in health-

Carla Ulbrich

The Singing Patient: Author, Humorous Songwriter and Entertainer

www.thesingingpatient.com- performance  info and dates
www.youtube.com/user/carlaulbrich - funny songs

"I am reading Carla's book How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This? and loving it. I LOVE Carla's songwriting, so I'm not surprised that her prose writing is as smart, funny, and insightful as her music." - Christine Lavin

http://tinyurl.com/348hroc- Carla's book