During the early days of my illness with ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis/ Chronic fatigue syndrome) moving proved to be very difficult, my body was weak and heavy. I’m in my third year of recovering with ME/CFS and here is how I have managed to get moving again. Please note that although I have found this to help me, it may not be ideal for you. Everyone is different and this illness affects everyone differently.
When my doctor referred me to an exercise physiologist to help with my recovery, I was confused and didn’t understand why… “how could I exercise if I could barely hold myself up?” This being my only option from my doctor, I went and gave it a go.
At the exercise physiologist I was given a couple of exercises and was told to start walking, this sounded like pure torture. I did want to get better, which meant I was willing to give anything a go.
The exercises I did off and on, but the walking I have kept and maintained since day one. I started off with a walk down my driveway; to the mailbox and up and down 2 small flights of stairs. That was me done! I struggled up the stairs, while breathing heavily. Gradually I started shuffling a 5 minute walk to the beach. It was literally two blocks away and took me 10 minutes to get there. I started this walk with someone each time, I was too scared to go by myself and scared that I would fall over and be too weak to pick myself up if I ever needed to. I would stop when I got to the beach and get a chai latte. Usually I would need to rest for around half an hour before heading back again. When I got confident I started do this walk on my own, I remember the first time I was out on my own and I was shuffling along and an elderly man passed me, I was so disheartened. The old me would have lapped that elderly man, twice!
I started to walk around 2 – 4 times a week, this become the highlight of my day and even week. I would look forward to it, it became good for my physical health and mental health. If I could manage a small walk on my struggle day’s, then that was something and something is better than nothing. There were days where I didn’t want to do it though deep down I knew that if I got out into the fresh air I would feel better for it and I always did.
I remember one occasion I was having a bad day, I was feeling down and had no motivation to face my walk. I was mentally struggling and it was late in the afternoon. I thought to myself I need to do this walk today, I got myself together and slowly made my way down to the beach. When I finally got there, I ordered my chai latte, sat down and looked out over the ocean. I was rewarded with the beautiful sight of whales splashing around in the distance. I was so happy and proud that I had made it down, it was such an amazing reward.
After almost a year of this, things got easier and we moved into a different area. We lived close to some shops that were under a 5 minute walk. I would walk up there, run an errand or two, have a chai latte and sit down then walk back when I was ready. Gradually I didn’t need to sit down and rest, I would find that I would be walking around for 20 – 30 minutes easily.
That’s when I took on a new challenge of walking Snow. We only had her for a few months, after a bit of walking practice around the backyard. I started to feel comfortable walking her. We started our walks and got into a habit of walking 2 – 3 times a week, walking around a few streets in the area that would take me around 20 – 30 minutes depending on how I was.
When I returned back to work I had to make sure not to push things. Usually when I went for a walk it would be on my days off and the walk would range from 20 – 30 minutes. I took her on longer walks when we would go to the beach, they were always at a strolling pace. Beach walks were good to add in as the terrain is a bit harder to walk on. This helped build strength, we would bring Snow along to the beach and I started off by walking a quarter of the way and then back. Every-time I would go, I would assess how I felt and then turn around and walk back. Eventually after doing this for just over 24 months I made it to the end and back comfortably.
I have managed to build up a solid pace from the shuffle that I use to do back in my earlier days. I now can complete regular walks weekly ranging from 2 – 5 times a week. I always assess how I am each day and during the week, if it feels like too much then that’s ok, I limit what I do.
I recently completed my first walking event since illness, it was 6 km’s and I completed it in 54 minutes (click here for details). My goal is to complete CITY2SURF I did it back in 2012 and loved it, due to illness I haven’t been able to do it since. It’s 14 km’s, fingers crossed next year is my year for it!!!
I believe walking can help on so many levels, do you enjoy walking or find helpful at all? Have you noticed any progress over time with your walking? I would love to hear all about it!