So here we go… the start of things to come. As mentioned in ‘My Story’, at the start of February (2017), I bit the bullet and invited my personal trainer, GarryFitness Langler PT around to discuss home workouts. I was bricking it. Although I have done dancing for many years, I have never seen myself as the ‘sporty type’. I was terrible at P.E. at school and I have generally seen exercise as a chore my whole life. I have ALWAYS come last in races and been the girl who goes bright red after any form of exercise (made obvious by my pale complexion) and now I had the added fear that exercise would cause me to relapse. I had cancelled Garry once before though so I knew that this time; I at least had to hear him out.
So far, my recovery was in my own hands. It involved gradually building up my strength and endurance by slowly doing more and more of my usually daily tasks, applying the pacing technique I had learnt from the persistent symptoms clinic (this was not easy, despite being an occupational therapist myself! Read more here). I would make my bed, have a cup of tea, get dressed, watch some T.V, put some washing on, and have another rest and so on. Slowly, I saw improvement. A mile stone for me was the first time I managed to complete all of my dishes without using my perching stool! It’s the small things which mean the most! At the point of meeting Garry, I had worked up to being able to go out for coffee, complete household chores and walk my dog for up to fifteen minutes (this would get me out of breath but I still did it!). I felt like I was finally starting to live a ‘normal’ life but it was still frustrating me that tasks which most people take for granted (I did before I was unable to do them) such as preparing a meal, took me all day. Even though I was happy that I was able to do them as this was a massive improvement, it didn’t feel enough. It had been weeks and I didn’t feel like my tolerance of activity before getting fatigued or in pain was getting much better. I had plateaued but I wanted and still want more.
When Garry came over, I was nervous but I decided to be honest with him about everything. My worries, my medication list which at the time was as long as my arm, and my current level of fitness. I knew he was only going to be able to help me if I am honest with him throughout this process (no lying about what I have eaten or saying I have worked out when I haven’t!). If I wasn’t, I would only be cheating myself and I am determined to master this and conquer my various health problems. What is more, I am paying this guy! I want my money’s worth (no offense Garry!)!! After our chat, I was determined to give exercise a try. Garry taught me a warm up which for me, was a workout in itself but I did it (despite my joints cracking and me feeling like I am an eighty year old women, not in my twenties!). After that session, I felt motivated to do more and commit to this process completely. I saw Garry again a week later and managed to complete another workout without having a heart attack or ending up in bed for the rest of my life!
Now for the food – I am a complete ‘foodie’. I love sweet food and I am totally addicted to sugar. I would live off chocolate and cake if I could so as you can imagine, it was slightly gutting for me when I learnt that sugar could be contributing to my fatigue and that I am going to seriously have to cut down. It wasn’t easy but with the help from Garry, I was able to dramatically cut out the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in my diet and to my surprise, I do feel that this has helped my energy levels! Now, I am human…I did cheat a few times but I was honest and told Garry who was able to put me back on track. In the past, I have tried every diet you can think of, as like many teenage girls and young women, I have always wanted a body to die for! My weight however, has always fluctuated and I have never been able to stick to a diet for long. With this diet (Ketogenic diet), I am enjoying everything I eat, I am never hungry and I feel like I could do it forever. I still have my cake and chocolate but once a week as a treat. I thought I would miss it more than I have but so far, so good! When I have been desperate, I have had a square of dark chocolate (70% cocoa or above) and my new favourite treat to get over a sugar craving is full fat yogurt with a bit of lime juice in and a table spoon of desiccated coconut – delicious! For me though this diet isn’t about weight loss. I just want to be healthy and manage my fatigue. See more in my post ‘Me and the Ketogenic Diet’.
I am determined to keep going and every time I have a session with Garry, I achieve something new. I have since walked up my stairs with kettle bells in my hands, I’m on the way to doing a proper press up and I have walked up some famous steps near where I live which was a big deal for me as it showed my level of fitness has improved but also I overcame a massive fear of heights and slipping down stairs! The last time I worked out with Garry, I felt really fatigued beforehand and had woken up with my old aches and pains. Nevertheless, even with this fatigue, I managed to repeat the first workout that Garry taught me and I managed to complete more in the time slot given! Yes, I needed to sleep after and I was fatigued for a few days after this session but I did it and it feels amazing to be able to do that when walking to my kitchen would have fatigued me a few months ago.
To anyone else who is going through similar issues to me, you have to listen to your own body we all different as highlighted in my post ‘A piece of the puzzle…’. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend getting a personal trainer if you can. Having someone guide me has kept me motivated and has given me so much confidence. With CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia, it is extremely important to not do too much too soon. Trust me; it is very annoying when people just tell you to work out more as it is becoming common knowledge now that too much exercise can do more harm than good for people with my conditions. That doesn’t mean no exercise is good either as it does cause your body to become really de-conditioned (as I found out) but I have also experienced extreme fatigue when I have pushed myself too far (I got carried away one day recently and did three workouts which was NOT advised by Garry and it put me out of action for almost a week). Having a trainer however, I feel confident that someone has my back and they know enough about their profession that I won’t be pushed too far. I still have to work hard though!