13 Jul 2022 Chronic Illness Exercise – Do you mourn your previous regime?
What’s your relationship with exercise? Has it changed over the years? Did a chronic illness diagnosis change your approach?
Chances are, things had to change. I know my approach did. My clients share their exercise history with me – many people going from being very active in exercise to finding their body just could not cope with it anymore. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of a chronic illness onset – it’s like someone flicked a switch and everything shifts, sometimes overnight. And we can mourn this change. That is perfectly natural response coupled with confusion, anger and resentment to this chronic illness condition.
I had been an active child – I was a sprinter and a cross country runner. I wasn’t the best, but I ran for my school at national events. I would perform well but I remember races where I either had to withdraw or came close to the back because I felt my legs were made of lead and I was running through treacle. I now recognise this feeling, of course, but back then. I had no idea what was wrong and felt pretty bad about myself. I developed severe knee pain when running – some days I couldn’t walk. Despite the running, I had not developed strong thigh muscles to support my knees. (I also developed the stretch marks all over my thighs which I blamed running for and never ran again).
I discovered yoga aged 19 and did this regularly until the birth of my first son in 2004. No one picked up on my hypermobility, but I could do most poses. Although I always had low back pain, I would have been hyperextending my lumbar spine a lot in those days. But I loved the slowness, the thoughtfulness of yoga and that kept me coming back.
It wasn’t until after the birth of my second son that a physiotherapist insisted I start taking Pilates classes because I was “hanging off my joints”. I didn’t know what he meant but signed up anyway. That’s when my journey with healthy movement began. It keeps me pain-free and it’s how I help my clients manage their pain. All my clients get homework or work with one of my online programmes.
Over the years, I’ve expanded my knowledge into other areas such as biomechanics, pain science and neuroscience. I apply elements of all of this to my movement therapy. I’ve modified the traditional Pilates approach to one that suited the body, hypermobility and chronic pain issues of my clients.
The journey to pain-free movement might not be smooth. We may have to try different exercises modalities to find something that works for us. But the body is designed to move and when you find the right form for you, it’s going to feel so good. It doesn’t matter what that looks like – if it feels good to you, it’s going to be right . I’d love to hear your exercise journey. I’ve met so many people with EDS and HSD who have adapted their exercises and after building control, awareness, stability and strength, have been able to return to their original sporting loves. What changed for you?