My journey into nutrition and yoga started following after I was diagnosed in 2006 with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) which is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have worked hard to get myself into a good place where my health is stable, and my symptoms are at a very manageable level. You can read more on my journey into nutrition and yoga here.
However, there have been a couple of incidents recently that have really triggered me into feeling frustrated about my health condition. Generally, I manage it really well and have managed to turn my thoughts around so that I don’t get as frustrated with not being able to do things I used to. However, as a natural sporty person I still find it really hard that I can’t go out running, swimming, canoeing and doing other things that I love to do. I’ve seen a number of social media posts about people doing crazy exercise routines and/or weight loss journeys and for me it’s a real trigger that makes me feel that I’m not doing enough.
Over the summer I have been on a couple of family holidays during which I have been able to do things I haven’t been able to do for years. The highlight was going on a 4 hour sea kayaking trip in Scotland. I was so proud of myself for being able to do it and for how quickly I recovered afterwards especially as I have no choice but to keep going whilst running after a toddler!
Whilst these adventures were great it has left me feeling that I want to get fit again, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to tone up and lose a few pounds in the process but my overall aim is to increase my fitness so I can go on more adventures and so that I can join in when my little girl wants to do them. Whilst I teach yoga and do yoga most days to help keep me well, I feel like I’m not cardiovascular fit and it feels like I’m not practising what I preach about looking after my body!
I accept that I need to start small and work my way up to ensure that I don’t burn out, but this is blooming hard for someone who is naturally competitive. So, I started looking for YouTube videos that were 10 minutes long that I could do every other day. I have found it hard to find videos that fit my needs, everything I found was a 10 minute HIIT style class designed to get you burning calories and toning up fast but leaving me crumpled in a heap! When I searched for videos for people with health conditions even those were too hard for me.
For those of you that don’t know much about M.E./CFS it is basically constant extreme fatigue, the only thing I can liken it to is like having jet lag and flu at the same time!! I get 2 types of pain; muscle and bone pain, the muscle pain is like having really bad lactic acid after a gym session only not having done the exercise first.
So I decided to recruit some help, I approach Emma from Seal Fitness (http://www.seal-fitness.co.uk/) to see if she would be interested in helping me. Most PT clients need their trainer to push them to their limits whilst I need Emma to reign me in and hold me back. I needed someone who knew about injuries (I have a lot, from my former sporting days) and about pacing. Emma has lots of experience in both of these areas, her journey into becoming a personal trainer started when her husband broke and dislocated his neck (fortunately he made an amazing recovery). As a sports person, he was frustrated with the advice to rest and wait for a year so between them they gently strengthened his body again. Emma has also had her own journey through recovering from injuries, so she was the ideal choice for me.
I met up with Emma and we agreed a plan that we would start very slowly and do 10-15 minute sessions to help me build my strength and fitness up. I’ve decided to document this journey to help other people like me who are frustrated with not having access to videos and workouts that start right at the beginning of a fitness journey. I’m hoping the workouts will help people with health issues, postnatal and other issues to see that you don’t have to go all out to make a difference to your body. This isn’t going to be about the stats, how much I weigh or how many inches I’ve lost but a journey about getting my fitness back and the barriers along the way. Recently someone said something to me along the lines of “it’s ok for people like you, you look like a yoga teacher and it’s not hard for you to do yoga like it is for the rest of us”. My first instinct to this comment was to be really hurt, I felt like I was being unfairly judged that because I look healthy and well that I must be. My second was to feel incredibly proud of myself as I have got to a place where I look healthy and well and that my yoga looks good (as I am prone to being hard on myself my ego liked this). My third thought was that I want to show people how yoga can help by just doing a little bit at a time, that 15 minutes a day can make a massive difference and that I know what it’s like to live with a health condition and to have to manage it on a daily basis. So I will also share some of my personal practice with you all to, to give you an idea of what you can do each day to improve your health and to show that the style of yoga I do is suitable for everyone.
Session 1 – Getting started with ME
I was super excited and nervous about my first session with Emma. I tend to overdo things and then pay the price later; I can generally do quite a lot and then the pain and fatigue kicks in a few hours later. I was nervous as having a toddler means I don’t have the luxury of taking a couple of days off to rest if I overdo it.
Emma was fantastic we talked through issues and plans and decided on a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session, each activity would last 20 seconds and there would be 3 activities in the circuit. I would then have a rest and repeat the circuit 2 more times. I did 2 different circuits altogether. There is a video of the first circuit I did, I was finding it really challenging to walk not run between each ball throw and please don’t judge me on my cheating shoulders on the ropes, I couldn’t get them to stay down at all!
In total I did 6 minutes of circuits plus warm up and cool down stretches on top. I had a mixture of emotions all the way through. I think if I called myself a wimp one more time Emma may have wacked me over the head with the punching pads!! On one side I loved it, being back doing exercise felt great, I was super proud of myself for doing it and for not going out all guns blazing. However, I also really struggled mentally with how little I could do and physically my legs were wobbly by the time I finished. Covering a friend’s yoga class that evening was possibly not my cleverest plan and so the following morning I could feel my legs had worked, for anyone that saw me walking up or downstairs or squatting during class that was the reason I was wincing.
Lessons learnt after my first session:
- The level of intensity was enough for me and I need to do it more often to gradually build up. So, Emma is creating a routine for me that I can do at home
- Mentally I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, however, I need to increase my meditation to help me be kind to myself
- In the next session I am only going to use positive language when I speak to myself