Imagine that you’re in the best shape of your life, in the top percentage of the gym, with alot of quality muscle then suddenly get really sick, fatigued and in no time lose most of that muscle and a ton of your strength.
I don’t have to imagine this as it was my real experience. I could barely be bothered eating much for a while, felt really weak and didn’t know what was going on. Eventually when I went back to the gym I went from doing intense workouts for around 1 – 1 1/2 hours, to literally doing 1 really light set of 3 or 4 exercises, and still then getting lightheaded and sometimes feeling like I could pass out.
If you think this wouldn’t frustrate you, then you obviously haven’t been in this situation before. I started to feel uncomfortable at the gym all of a sudden because I could barely do anything, i’d get depressed, frustrated and want to just throw weights across the room and leave. But I had to keep going.
I did alot of searching online for ideas of how to workout in this situation, and I found very little information so I had to figure it out for myself.
So I want to talk about a few things to keep in mind, and at the end what I started doing and my new mindset this has lead me to.
- Really dial your expectations back.
If you’ve suddenly got lyme, other chronic infections you might underestimate how much of an effect it can have. The fact that I struggled with 1 light set of a couple of exercises says alot about how much of an impact this can have.
It’s even a good idea to do LESS than you think you can do. Some days i’d feel a little better and i’d push it a bit and regret it a few days later.
I’ve also found that most of my tightness and soreness appears at night, i’ll get up to goto the toilet and notice my muscles are tight, tender and a bit sore, especially if I overdid it.
When I say ‘overdid it’ I didn’t mean what normal people would consider overdoing it, sadly at the time it didn’t take much extra. So I had to increase really slowly.
Start really small, for now forget the idea of smashing your body just to get results, just do it to get some movement and look at it from the angle of health and feeling good in your body.
2. Consider more gentle forms of exercise.
This might be difficult if you’ve always been into the gym or bodybuilding, but consider something like Qigong or Tai Chi. I found Qigong really helpful for building energy in my body and helping me heal, aswell as to relax.
As i’ve written in other articles, being stuck in fight and flight in ‘high gear’ is an issue for alot of people with chronic illness, so finding ways to relax is very helpful.
Even when I was most impacted I still was able to do Qigong, it’s just gentle movements and breathing. I could could compare it to ‘moving meditation’.
I like Wisdom Healing Qigong, but there are many versions of Qigong you can try.
I was also told in the courses that if you can’t even do that you can still get benefits by imagining yourself doing the practice until you’re able to do it physically.
You’ll want to find ways to move that aren’t beating up your body, which is something you probably haven’t even considered before.
3. Joint Mobility, Warmups, Foam Rolling, Massage Ball are helpful.
When you’re impacted by this it’s even more important to warmup. Look at things such as joint mobility drills or gentle warmups to help get your movement back and reduce tension in your body. In fact these might even be your whole workout at first, which is fine and can only be helpful.
A gentle practice such as Feldenkrais to help get your natural movement back could also be helpful.
4. Heavy weights are out, atleast for now.
This isn’t something you’ll want to hear if you’ve been into heavy weights for years as I was. But I found that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve come really far but even recently I went back to kettlebells and felt so horrible for days after it, more than I should.
I know all about your body being sore when you start a new workout, but this doesn’t apply in the same way in this context. I’ve been working out for around 8 years so i’m not a beginner at this.
My experience in the last couple of years has almost forced me to throw out everything I knew about working out and look towards a more sustainable way.
Personally i’ve found bodyweight type workouts to be much better for me during this, where I can get benefits with less impact. DDP Yoga was really good as it helped me build strength with less impact.
This leads me to the new mindset i’ve taken on.
I used to just want to continually smash my body and do really intense workouts just wanting to put on more and more muscle, hoping that i’d finally feel good about myself.
But through all this, my priority has changed to feeling good in my body. Finding ways to rehabilitate my body, get rid of tension, move better, improve my posture.
One of the best things was the gym closing down for a while and having to workout at home, I got to try some new ways of working out.
Foundation Training is also really good, I do it at the end of my workouts now. It helps strengthen the muscles to improve your posture and soreness in your body. The comments on their practical videos are overwhelmingly positive.
I can’t say i’ve got those magical results from it, but it definately helps doing it regularly to sit more comfortably, and improve the tension in my back which I have alot of.
I still do want to be fit and look good. But I no longer feel the need to build more and more muscle like I did before. I can’t say I really got much benefit from building all that muscle other than the hope it would solve my insecurities (It didn’t).
You need to go deeper and dig into those insecurities and heal them, have a look at I Keep Building Muscle, So Why Don’t I Feel Good About Myself?
It’s important and beneficial to do some kind of workout or exercise when dealing with chronic illness, but really dial your expectations back, find ways to help your body feel good and release tension instead of always smashing your body with intense workouts.
Even if it’s only 5 minutes, or 2 minutes… it will help to do something instead of just stopping everything alltogether. I will say that at first I had a month or two off when I was really bad, but when you can get back into SOMETHING as it will help you.