All my life, I heard people say that the key to exercise is to find something you enjoy. When you’re living with psoriatic arthritis – or any chronic pain – that’s not as easy as it seems.
I’ve struggled to find an activity that I could tolerate, let alone enjoy. I enjoy walking, but not so much if the weather isn’t ideal. Or if my knee hurts that day. Maybe last time I walked, I got a severe foot pain and had to hobble back, and then the trauma of that sticks with me.
Sometimes, I enjoy working on machines, but again, the environment and situation must be right.
Over the past few months, I’ve been in physical therapy to deal with these back issues I’m struggling with. And guess what? I love it! I have always loved PT. After knee replacement, I fought to continue with PT, but it became increasingly difficult to justify.
It feels great to have specific goal that is not about forcing my body to change its appearance. (That’s a whole other topic that I’m not going to get into now, except to say that I’m trying not to let this be my focus anymore.) Someone is helping me and encouraging me. My physical therapist allows my pain to be the guide for what I can and cannot do. We don’t simply stop because something hurts. We evaluate how much it hurts and if I’m potentially doing damage to my body, we change it up. She challenges me and I want to do more in each session than I did before.
I’ve also learned to do new activities that I take into my personal workout routine. (You heard that right! I’ve got a personal workout routine!) It just so happens that my physical therapy is at the same wellness center where I am a member. So, I learn these activities and then take them out into the gym. My favorites are noodle cycle and my TRX workout. I've recently heard more about joyful movement and these are my joyful movements!
I bet you’re wondering what noodle cycle is, right? I get in the pool, sit on a noodle as if it were a bike and I pedal, pedal, pedal…back and forth through the deep end of the pool. I also use my arms for an additional workout. I found this video on YouTube where you can see what I do. I also add my aqua PT into this, as well.
I’ve only recently added land work back in to my routine. It’s much more difficult for me given my back and nerve pain, but it is so rewarding when I do it. TRX squats give me so much relief from my lumbar pain, even as I’m doing them. TRX rowing helps prevent my upper back and shoulders from giving me so much trouble. My newest activity is the leg press. I’ve always loved that, but it’s now harder than ever since my nerve pain has created so much leg weakness.
How funny is it that I thought that I hated exercise and then realized (and remembered!) how much I love it when I’m with a physical therapist. Could it be because I’m too hard on myself? (Bear with me here…I’m thinking this theory through as I type.) I’m not super nice to myself. I know that I’ve been to the gym before and felt pain and thought to myself, “what’s wrong with you? Everyone else is pushing through. You’re just too lazy to do it.” The truth is, I’m not lazy at all. I hurt. I have been trying to work own my own and then beating myself up for not knowing how to create exercise limits for myself. (I honestly did not know that exercise wasn’t painful to everyone until a couple of years ago.)
Another thing that I’ve found, and this may be the most important takeaway, is that I needed a facility where I could feel comfortable. And, I found it! If you’ve got chronic pain and are looking for a gym without judgement, look into area wellness centers. These are often tied to a health care system and tend to offer more than simply a workout gym. If you’re not comfortable at a facility, you’re not going to go. Also, I’m not saying that you can only work out at a health club. Maybe you’re motivated enough to just do your thing at home. I am not.
Now that I have realized that the key to really joyful movement is my physical therapist, I feel that I have more insight and ability to stick with it. It’s good for my body and my emotional well-being. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some noodle cycle to do!