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Fatigue & Exercise: How do you exercise when you are exhausted 24/7?

Have you found yourself thinking or asking these questions? I know I have!

I think when it comes down to exercising with chronic illness you have to look at your mindset. I know for me its no longer "ooh can I be motivated to go for a run after a long day at work?" and now more of "what can I do today with very low energy and bladder spasms?".

In this blog I talk about 4 areas of your mindset to help you get your body moving in a way that suits you and your illness/condition.

1. Let go of the guilt!

I think as a community we shoulder a lot of guilt. The way chronic illness is spoken about and that we joke, ‘oh still sick, have you not tried yoga?’ ‘my friend cured herself with tai chi’ etc. We are often made to think it’s our fault we are ‘still’ sick, we must not be trying hard enough or doing the right things.

Exercise is never going to cure you but it does have a role in the multi-factorial approach we take to manage our health. But feeling guilty about not doing as much as you feel you should, or not doing it often enough does not help. Then when you do work out you won't enjoy it as you've guilt tripped yourself into it! So don’t exercise because you feel you have to and don’t feel guilty if you are unable to. Instead switch it so even if you do 5 heel raises whilst waiting for the kettle to boil think of that little bit of good you are doing to you and your body.

2. Enjoy it!

Being chronically ill isn’t all cosy days in bed with Netflix as movies often portray. They are long days of appointments, unexpected hospital stays, days and nights by the toilet and fatigue you can barely concentrate on Netflix! So much of our day is taken up by unpleasant activities, that I feel strongly exercise should not be one of them. Changing your mindset from exercise being a chore, to thinking positively about spending time on you and your body as a form of self-care can really help.Also, if you find a way of exercising or moving you enjoy and it may help you find what your body needs and enjoys too.

3. Find how to motivate yourself!

I find after set-back, after set-back, after another set-back, is when I find motivation the hardest to find. I have thought “what’s the point in trying to keep fit and getting stronger if something is going to put me flat on my back again”. However I dig myself out of these thoughts by turning it around and thinking “if I had never tried to keep fit and get stronger, I could be a lot worse”.

As everyones situation is different it depends on what motivates you. Is it to get stronger? Feel more comfortable in your body? Be able to transfer in and out of bed or chair by yourself? Self-propel your wheelchair? Find what makes you passionate about moving your body and that will help you have a goal and reason to move!

4. Plan and adapt to your energy levels!

However you talk about your energy, whether it is the spoons theory or the theory I like from @strongerthanpots about how many usable hours you have in a day, its good to work out how exercising will fit in. For example, I won’t plan to push myself to do a cycle when I have to then travel for an appointment later that day as I know that will too much and will take me a long time to recover. Instead that morning I may plan to move though yoga or stretching ahead of a day of travelling and waiting (forever) in waiting rooms.

The more you accept what energy you have for things, the easier it becomes to plan around and fit in exercising where you can. If you have a crazy week, whether its work, appointments or flare and you have no spoons left, you have to accept that this week I wont be able to do much and that’s okay (re-read guilt section if that doesn’t feel okay).

Hope you found some of that helpful. My last tip is to tick/stamp/give yourself a sticker on each day you manage to move (even if its 10 minutes!). Click here for my free chart to help you see how often you can squeeze it in - and if you only have 2 stickers at the end of the month, at least its better than none!

Lots of love, Zoe xx

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