I have an autoimmune disorder that challenges me daily. I used to be relatively healthy and active; then I got sick. I was unable to do many things without pain and exhaustion. I say this not for sympathy, but so you can understand how important exercise is even when it’s hard.
Over the years I have tried a variety of exercises such as walking/jogging, yoga, weight lifting, and kickboxing. I usually exercised in spurts; meaning I would get very excited about a type of workout and do it for a few weeks or months then decide it was too hard or something else was more important than exercising. I wasn’t taking my health seriously. I was overweight, tired, and cranky.
Consistency is key. There won’t be progression without it.
Around September of last year, I decided I needed to focus on my health. I was still recovering from torn wrist ligaments, and we had a lot of family stressors, so workouts were hit and miss. Some weeks I made it to the gym two or three days a week, and other weeks I went once or didn’t go at all. I knew that was not going to make the changes I needed.
In November, I made a promise to myself to not miss any of my friend’s strength training classes. She teaches body pump or strength training twice a week and urban kick once a week. I’m the type of person that won’t work out at home, so classes are a must. I put them on the calendar as appointments so I wouldn’t accidentally schedule something during that time.
In January, I promised myself that I would add in cardio at least once a week whether that was the urban kick class or running on the treadmill. Now I am attending all three of my friend’s classes and running on the treadmill at least once a week. If I miss a class due to scheduling that is out of my control, I add in a cardio workout followed by 20 minutes or so of weights. I’ve become a gym rat.
What Consistent Exercise Taught Me
- It’s okay to go slow. Having an autoimmune disorder means some things can be more difficult for me or affect me differently than most other people. I started out using three-pound weights and sometimes skipping repetitions to rest. I also wouldn’t schedule anything after class or the next day, in case I had a severe flare-up. Over time, the exercises got easier, and I got stronger. Be patient with yourself.
- You may be more tired than usual, at first. This was the toughest thing for me to push past. For the first couple of months, I would come home from class, take a shower, and basically sleep the rest of the day. It wore me out! But I noticed I was starting to get some muscle definition, so I didn’t want to quit.
- Your stamina will increase (eventually). Now, after months of focusing on eating clean foods and working out consistently, I can say I have more energy than I did before. I am also sleeping better, which helps my energy levels stay more consistent. I rarely have that mid-afternoon slump, and I can complete some errands or household chores after a class.
- You might gain weight before you lose it. This can be very discouraging but remember that you are moving your body more than you were before, which means you are more hungry. For a while, you will feel like you need to eat every hour after working out. It’s temporary, but during this time you may gain a few pounds. I gained 10 pounds in the first two months and almost gave up.
- Take your measurements. Measure around your chest, waist, hips, and thighs once a month for a more accurate impression of your success. Even though you may gain weight, you might lose inches. When I told my friend about gaining weight, she told me to take my measurements. I did, and to my surprise, I had lost almost three inches overall.
- Your mood improves. It’s true. Some things popped up over last weekend, and I missed my usual Saturday morning workout. By Sunday afternoon I was so grumpy that my husband asked me what was wrong with me in that tone of voice that let me know I was being a jerk. That’s when I realized that I had missed my run and my body was feeling it. I feel happier when I exercise, and my family and friends can see it too.
- You will want to eat better. It’s completely pointless to spend money on workout clothes, shoes, and a gym membership if you’re still eating highly processed foods and candy. Plus your body starts to crave fresh foods. I noticed my eating habits slowly shifting as I worked out more. I had the desire to eat healthier, but not the willpower. Exercising gave me the boost I needed to cut the junk from my diet. Now what used to be my favorite ice cream doesn’t even taste good to me.
- Consistency is key. There won’t be progression without it. It doesn’t matter if you change up your workout routine; in fact, you should be including a variety of exercises. But if your workouts are not consistent, you will most likely not notice any changes in your condition. I didn’t have many positive results until I became committed to my workouts.
If you are seeking to improve your health, make a promise to yourself to exercise for 30 minutes twice a week. It can be anything you think you might enjoy. If you absolutely hate it, find something else. If it’s just hard, but you discover yourself smiling during or at the end of it, keep going because it will get easier. The benefits are worth the journey.
Note: Please consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine or diet.