What about the bad days?
On days I hurt the worst, I do just a few minutes of the simplest yoga moves or spin on the bike for no more than 10 minutes. The goal is just to stir up a little circulation and get my joints in motion, and to stir up a little adrenaline to get me feeling like moving. Almost always, the gentle movement results in a lowering of my perceived level of pain, and puts my body into a more energetic state.
With a little more adrenaline flowing, and a natural rise in body endorphin levels, my ability to handle the pain increases, and my perception of the pain decreases. It’s just the biology of movement, nothing more. This is the effect of exercise that is so counter-intuitive to the pain. You don’t naturally think it will happen when you feel like stilling still, because every motion of your joints hurts.
Balance exercise and rest!
Balancing exercise and rest – remember moderation!
Take care to balance exercise with rest or when you hurt. Our doctors rightly tell us not to overdo, or to move in ways that cause more pain. The right amount of exercise, done with moderation and restraint, should help the pain decrease almost immediately when you start moving. Increasing pain means it is time to stop the exercise. Caution to take things slowly is always first when thinking about exercise.
It may take a while to build up to enough exercise to get an aerobic effect. For me, the pain drastically reduces when I reach the aerobic point in my routine. My breathing deepens, my strength suddenly increases and my pain reduces. I first learned to find the aerobic point when I went through physical therapy for a damaged shoulder and rotator cuff.
Approaching and crossing aerobic point
Magic of crossing the aerobic point
The therapists used computerized equipment that measured the movements and changes in my strength levels during the routines. They would point out the moment when the computer registered the rise in my strength, and I could associate it as a point when I experienced a drop in pain. The bursts of strength would occur several times during the therapy routines, and each time I would feel a little stronger and move more easily.
I sense a response similar to the physical therapy with gentle sustained exercise. My first sense of the change is usually about 12 to 17 minutes into my cycling. After that, I feel like going a little faster, and immediately feel a little more energetic. I usually try to cycle long enough to reach that first point, and push beyond it a little.
Just do it!
Building up, slowly
If I am having a string of days or weeks of quieter lupus, I can build up to about 30 minutes of exercise, never adding more than a minute each day. Some days, if I am hurting a lot, I slowly cycle for only about 5 – 10 minutes, never pushing speed to a point where pain rises. Even moving very slowly helps a little! I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel at least slightly better after exercise than I did before it.
Try it. Really!