I have had several “good days” in a row over the past few weeks! They may not have been anyone else’s definition of a “good” day, but to me they were. I have always tried to exercise in some shape or form each day for the past 26 years. For many years now I have been confined mostly to walking around the house for as long as possible before having to sit and rest. Once I have recovered, I walk around again, rest, and so on. My hubby is an avid cyclist and I have at various times tried to ride with him. I start out doing okay, but inevitably wear out in spectacular fashion because I refuse to listen to my body when it starts to get tired. As a result of my own stupidity, I end up having to stop riding for weeks or months.
In fact, the last time I dared to ride a couple of years ago, I became so utterly undone by the endeavor it took three solid months to come back to a baseline similar to the one I had previously. After that, I promised never to do that to myself again and put my bike away in the deepest, darkest, corner of the garage. Like someone lost in a foreign country and unable to speak the language, I just couldn’t understand that I could do more over time by slowing down or stopping before inevitably self-imploding.
I follow several MS related research websites and have recently noticed an uptick of studies related to exercise and its effect upon disease progression, regardless of which type the participants had. Of course, exercise doesn’t stop MS progression and disability, but it does have a positive impact. People who exercised to their fullest potential, even if wheelchair bound, retained more physical skills for a significantly longer period of time than cohorts who didn’t exercise on a regular basis. That got me thinking again about riding my bike.
I’ve certainly noticed a decline in my overall stamina, coordination, and balance for several months, despite my regular efforts to walk around the house. I’ve also heard myself repeatedly telling my husband how jealous I am of him being able to ride. I got to thinking maybe I should push myself to try cycling again. So, with a healthy dose of trepidation, I put my courage to the sticking place, and pulled my cobweb covered bike out of its long confinement, put some air in the tires, and set off on a short ride. I managed to get around our block five times in ten minutes before feeling the tug of tiredness. Yay for me!
Feeling encouraged, over the course of the last few weeks I’ve managed to slowly build up some stamina and increase the range I ride. I’d forgotten how delicious it is to feel the breeze on my face, to smell hay and wild honeysuckle in the air, and to hear the choir of various birds singing and chirping from electric lines and treetops. I’d also forgotten how it feels to get my heart rate up, feel the burn of long unused muscles, and enjoy the rush of endorphins when finally finished.
There have been days when I’ve only been able to ride for a few minutes. For example, my ride this morning was abbreviated because fatigue set in pretty quickly. I had a feeling I wouldn’t make it long since my legs were already heavy and slow to respond to the demands of walking. However, two days ago, I was actually able to ride for 37 minutes! Perhaps you saw or heard about Kayla Montgomery in the news a few years ago. Kayla’s a young track star who runs races despite the fact MS has left her unable to feel her legs. When the race is over, she collapses into her coach’s arms unable to get up or walk for several minutes or hours. Well, that’s pretty close to how I am after each ride. It requires a lot of resting before moving on with my day and attempting to conquer other tasks like cooking or folding laundry. I’m trying not to be afraid of what will happen in the future with my MS. I’m going to do my best from day to day trying to obey the constantly fluctuating whims and fancies this dumb disease dictates because I want to be able to continue to enjoy the ride for as long as possible.