Chronic pain makes everyday things hard. When it is an ordeal to get out of bed or go grocery shopping, the idea of working out becomes laughable. It is easy to set aside fitness, and ignore it. This was my thought process when I was first learning to deal with my chronic pain. Working out was a luxury activity when I couldn’t tie my shoes. As a result, my weight shot up over 500 pounds! What made me wake up was the realization that it was my weight, not my chronic pain, that was going to kill me. I knew that I was going to disappear from the world before I was able to have any impact on it. At the time, I was able to take advantage of a deal for three sessions with a personal trainer for a reduced rate. I didn’t have the money, but I did it anyway. I told the trainer that I wanted to work on building my core to hopefully reduce my pain, and If I lost weight, that was a bonus. The trainer showed me how to work around my pain and disability to start moving in a positive direction. I used the knowledge from those three sessions to lose 150 pounds. I still have a long way to go, but I have established a way to approach my own fitness with chronic pain.
The process of approaching fitness with chronic pain is not an easy proposition. I have tried everything, and I have found that the there are no shortcuts. Diet and exercise are the two necessary parts to any fitness or weight loss endeavor. Planning a schedule to increase fitness with chronic pain is not super realistic. You will never know what to expect from one day to the next. It is better to decide how many times per week you would like to work out and try to get there. I learned very quickly that I had to take it one day and one choice at a time. There is a balance between rest and work that takes practice to master. What is right for another person is very likely not right for you. It can be frustrating to see another person be able to push harder and surpass you in your journey. Especially in the age of social media, you will often see people sharing their results, and might begin to feel frustrated and defeated in your journey of fitness with chronic pain. This defeat and frustration is compounded when you are forced to the sidelines with setback after setback. It makes it easy to throw in the towel.
Rest is as important as working out when you are pursuing fitness with chronic pain. Several times I have felt that I needed to rest and ignored it. As a result, I end up putting myself down for a month or more, and caused myself an even longer setback. It is ok to rest! You have to listen to your body, and give yourself a break. If you do not, then you will only hurt yourself more. What is even more frustrating is that you can do everything right, listen to your body, and still end up having setbacks due to pain. This is why pursuing fitness with chronic pain has to become a lifestyle change. You have to take comfort in the fact that you will get back up when you can. It is not a race! It is an addition to your daily life. It is ok to set goals and time limits, but it very likely might add to your frustration as a chronic pain sufferer. If you are undertaking a regimen of fitness with chronic pain, then you have to give yourself an extra helping of grace as well. You have to go easy on yourself and let it be ok that you have to rest.
Fitness with chronic pain can be a long, hard, rugged fight at times. It is not fair that the pain makes this hard process even harder for us. This is why mindset is an essential part of this undertaking. You have to find a way to set your mind for the battle, especially at the beginning. Music is what helps me to get my mind right, and I recommend creating a playlist that makes you want to move. It does get easier as you get stronger, but you will always have to get that “Eye of the Tiger” mindset to push yourself. I used to see these muscle bound people at the gym and envy their body. Until I realized that they may be physically stronger than me, but they may never be as mentally strong as I am. This mental strength is probably the biggest benefit of my journey of fitness with chronic pain. For a person with chronic pain, the mental strength to fight forward, no matter what the setback, is priceless. Getting to a place where you have the ability to shift into that mindset when you need it, will help you in the battle against chronic pain.
Committing to living a lifestyle of fitness with chronic pain may seem like making a hard situation even harder, but my benefits have far outweighed my struggle. My weight loss has made the exertion on my joints less, and has made it much easier to get through my daily life. The strengthening of my muscles has reduced my pain considerably, even though I still deal with pain daily. Most importantly, my fitness struggle has given me the will and mental strength to fight for my life, and to be able to enjoy that life more fully. It is difficult to get that momentum going at first, but if you decide to undertake this journey of fitness, you are also committing to increasing your inner strength and self esteem. You did not choose this situation, but how much you choose to fight for the life you want may have a direct correlation to how successful you are at dealing with your chronic pain.