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Working Out Past the Pain

My journey to keep fit with an autoimmune disorder.

A New Challenge

If you read my article, “Balancing Life's Highs and Lows,” you will have learned that I recently experienced a resurgence of Sjorgren’s Syndrome. This condition used to be secondary to Lupus, but now it appears to be primary. Currently, I am managing this flareup with the help of my Rheumatologist and medication. My auto immune disorder had been dormant for several years and I remained medication free until overexerting myself a couple of months ago while working on our vacation home ‘The Hive’. I performed prolonged manual labor under strict time constraints, and since then have suffered from fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty speaking, brain fog, inflammation, and widespread dryness, stiffness, and pain.

Being normally physically active, I have shared my lifestyle and exercise routines in previous articles: ‘My Secret VIP for 1 Hour Every Morning’, and ‘Find Out The Benefits of My Flexitarian Lifestyle’. Unfortunately, my current health condition has reduced my tolerance level for physical activity and has undoubtedly slowed me down, which forced me to alter my workout regime. (On the opposite spectrum, my waistline has increased). The pain and fatigue are a daily struggle. When experiencing these flares, I have learned to focus on what is important. I would love to say that I keep my health at the forefront of my thoughts, but if that were true, I would not have experienced this flare. Sometimes it takes compromised health to make us realize the importance of good health.

My current reduced physical activity, and those few unwanted pounds, have invoked a sense of urgency that I have to assess daily. But pushing myself too fast could worsen my condition. I realize that my health must take high priority. Practicing the best choices daily will allow me to exist in a capacity that best benefits loved ones who depend on me, and to be an asset to my community. To slowly get back into shape I am currently forced to rely upon trial and error when it comes to workouts. I decided to write a plan because developing a written plan is truly instrumental to success. While reading a Forbes article recently, I learned about an applicable phenomenon called the “generation effect” which supports this theory. It was summarized this way: “individuals demonstrate better memory for material they’ve generated themselves, than for material they've merely read" (2).


Initially, I was afraid that exercise would further exacerbate my condition, but what I’ve learned has proven contrary to that belief. With my morning-stiff joints it is imperative that I stretch upon waking. After talking with my medical provider and conducting research I feel better about easing back into an exercise routine. According to the Mayo Clinic “if you have a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health. Aerobic exercise can help improve your heart health and endurance and aid in weight loss (1)”. I have opted to implement my own workout instead of traveling for prescribed physical therapy.

Some people look at me and think that I’m healthy and already in good shape, but that is not always the case. While I may not be far from reaching my fitness goals, it is a common misconception that a thinner physique equals a healthier person. We are all intrinsically different and come in various sizes and are entitled to embrace our differences. I placed an emphasis on health nearly a decade ago after developing a chronic illness and I prefer to maintain a physique which feels best for me. Now that I am in the process of recovery, my immune system is ready for a boost to put this disorder back into remission despite the pain.

Taking my new limitations into consideration, I have reduced my normal workout regimen and intensity. The next couple of months will reveal my success, but I will consider any improvement a success. Here is my new weekly workout routine that I hope to implement for one month as I push past the pain. However, I will give in to fatigue if it decides to dominate my system. If this routine goes as intended, I will gradually increase my workout routine over the following weeks or months.

Exercising in Moderation

Day 1: Morning

Stretch, 3-5 min

10 minutes of low impact cardio at 2-minute intervals with 30 second breaks between each exercise.

Repeat: noon and evening, if I feel energetic enough.

Day 2: Morning

Stretch, 3-5 minutes

10 minutes of low impact cardio at 2-minute intervals with 30 second breaks, or I’ll walk for 10 minutes.

Repeat: cardio or walk, noon and or evening if possible.

Day 3: Morning

Stretch, 5-10 minutes

15-minute brisk walk 2 times per day

Day 4: Morning stretch with a break from my routine.

Day 5: Repeat Day 1

Day 6: Repeat Day 2

Day 7: Repeat Day 3

If you suffer from a chronic illness or pain and you want to work out, please be sure to consult your physician as I have. I have decided to work out past my pain and share that it is possible for me, because I believe that it is possible. I am beginning this journey with my end results in mind. I hope that my journey will provide encouragement for others to live their best lives regardless of any challenges. Start slowly. Start over, if needed. Just start and take it one day at a time!

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This article is not intended to serve as medical advice in any way. Always consult a physician prior to participating in any physical activity especially if you have a chronic illness or if you are pregnant.

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