Friday, November 30, 2018

Hypermobility Ehlers-Danlos, Sugar, and Working Out Anyway

Say "au revoir" to feeling that limitations are greater than possibility, but also to thinking it will all one day be figured out, nice and tidy and conquered. When what is in front of you, blocking your path is you, there are ways around, under and over yourself. Playing mind games helps. Long, deep conversations with good friends, a good husband and one's children help. Being the helper helps; the people I encounter in my job, in my life, who are living through difficult situations with dignity, never losing their gratitude for what is in front of them today, is a great motivator as well.

This applies to getting one's posterior up and off of the sofa too, even if you suffer from hypermobility of the sort that makes injuries more likely than not, as I do. Movement is the goal, now that the cold and snow have set in and things are just too cozy next to the fireplace or in the sun by the window. So many reasons not to ever go out again. 

As to the mind games; my mom was the first person in my life to use a timer as a motivational tool. If I had to use it today, I would do it backwards for results. As a child, I was a picky eater. Mom would set the timer, exasperated, for the time limit for me to finish my dinner. Granted, this was when everyone else had finished and left the table, after everything but my plate and fork had been cleared away. Today, I mark out days on the calendar and promise myself to avoid sugar or alcohol for X number of days. Thank you, Fly Lady, for your contemporary timer suggestion. If I set a timer and do nothing but the planned activity for that period of time, I fool myself into all sorts of activities of an indeterminate nature (that was today's synonym for "stuff"); like exercise, paperwork, and yes, even de-cluttering. Going to an exercise class, hemmed in by other individuals and with a teacher right in front of you is helpful too, like a super-charged timer.

Healthier and active makes for a better life for me. It means an easier time moving, easier to feel good about myself, and about the whole rest of the world that continually seems to be breaking out of its mold to fly into a million messed up pieces. If I wake up and move, it starts the day out right.

It can be hard to start when the journey looks so forbidding and strewn with obstacles large and small. If it is the sheer number of pounds overwhelming one, I do understand. If I count the weight gained and lost (with difficulty) over a lifetime, I could easily be obese. Here is the math, offered as proof of my own struggle; after one year abroad as an exchange student; 25 pounds, five children; 40 pounds times 5, and one major weight gain at age 41; 30 pounds. That makes me plus...hold on, let me mulitply and add a minute...over 275 lbs.

During pregnancy number four: (and not at the end, either!)

As we grow older, it is the physical limitations that can easily discourage us from exercise. I have had many times when it did not look like my long-term fitness had a gnat's chance in a barrel of honey. 

Due to some serious hyper-mobility of my joints, I have always injured easily; I might pick up the market basket the wrong way and my wrist will hurt for three weeks. 

The advice, and logic, was to "rest until it no longer hurts to use it." Once I finally had to quit everything I had so valiantly (in my opinion) managed to incorporate into my life; running, weight-training, long, daily walks with the kids, because my foot was broken from simple overuse, I knew I needed a new plan. It was the sports medicine physical therapist who helped me find ways to modify activities to accommodate and protect the injured part while still keeping active. Brilliant. Necessary. Strongly advised. Don't stop moving.

High-achievement comes naturally to humans, and I seem to excel in things that might be an excuse not to exercise, including skin so fragile that it can locate a rash floating in the air and cover itself with it in about two nano-seconds. If you have this sort of skin, you know I am not joking. I began my new gym-going life in long sleeves and white cotton gloves, with a pair of biking gloves over them, for  protection and to hide the eczema. Six years later, with the rashes mostly departed, I still wear the gloves, with the fingers cut off, under my weight-lifting gloves, for protection from the leather and synthetic mesh that would make me break out afresh if I sweated with this directly touching my skin. I keep my hair up off of my neck, because I seem to be allergic to my own hair too; I can develop angry, red welts in a fifteen-minute sweat session that will last for two weeks.What this means, is that sweating can seem like a really bad idea. How's that for encouraging the gym or a walk in warm weather?

The prognosis I am able to accept does not include; (as encouraged by some most informative websites) giving up weight-lifting, contemplating surgery, resorting to cortisone in any form, or sitting around with my booty on a heating pad for hours a day. I DID just buy my first heating pad since our hermit crab and lizard days; they needed it under the aquarium, I prefer it behind my shoulders.

Recently, things that kept me up and going; seeing a chiropractor as needed, a little acupuncture, a massage or two and a physical therapist for specific misbehaving body parts. I have pt-assigned exercises for my wrist and foot, and instructions from her for modifying certain movements in the weight-training class. For now, I am using lighter weights and some excellent gloves that support the wrist and thumb, Trideer is the brand I found, there are others, these have a wrist strap attached that offers excellent support.

On the other five days, I walk, jump on the trampoline and do Essentrics. A few times a week, Thierry joins me in the cardio cinema (this room in our Y with treadmills, bikes and elliptical things), and we watch part of a movie while working out. We rent our favorites for date night so we can see the whole thing.

And diet? More vegetables and good fat, no sugar. (BEEP: Lecture beginning, NOW. Only continue reading if you want to feel better and look better than you ever have.) Sugar is a factor in injury and failing to heal; see article links below for more information. I read a life-changing book this summer on the topic, but it has not been translated into English, from what I can see. It is called "Zero Sucre" by Danielle Gerkins. I read of her one-year, sugar-free experiment, and how she felt healthier, lost weight, and had skin that did not age a day in that year. Besides that, she details what sugar does to a body at a cellular level, damage I had not imagined possible, diseases no one would have if they only knew the price they would have to pay beforehand. (This has not necessarily always been able to convince me to put that mini-Snickers back in the trick-or-treat bowl right away, but it is good to have in the back of my mind as I  make choices.)

I have nothing but compassion for anyone attempting to establish your own fitness and wellness routine, with or without the addition of a connective tissue disorder. Maybe the journey has not even begun, it may be towards weight loss or weight gain, nevertheless, movement is life. I choose not to let anything keep me from moving, most days. My biggest impediment is simply inertia, the feeling that creeps across you when you are under the covers and the wind is howling outside, or you have a warm dog in your lap, a good movie on the laptop and an easy knitting project, all of which seem to be adroitly not whispering to go outside. 
Even housework or family can be non-incentives; there is too much to do, too many people to take too many places, or the sweetness of an afternoon playing games by the fire, sharing a newspaper over a cup of tea. It is easier for me to get out of bed and go early, than to fight the call to stay, under the rising level of conversation, needs and necessities keeping me here later. If the kids can't see me, they can't ask me a question that might lead to an answer that involves me dashing down to the basement to look for a missing sock, or to the computer to print out a form for school, I know you know, and you have your own reasons. These are mine, simply put, to let you know we are all on a similarly-shaped river or sea-worthy vessel. If yours are more compelling, please share below, and I promise to address finding a way around them. But before writing back; take a walk around the block, then tell me how you feel.