5 Steps to Start a Workout Routine When You Feel Terrible Most of the Time

12 May

That was fun. Amidst the past year, which began with the death of and grieving for my beloved doggo (that part not at all fun), moved into falling in love with a childhood pal, then the coolest tour so far of my speaking career, to a cross-country trip with my human, then the whirlwind of moving, setting up a home together, selling my house…. There was a LOT of pasta. And cheeseburgers. And pizza. And whatever the heck else I wanted because, I’m grieving, I’m adventuring, I’m too busy to shop or cook….

Now it’s time to fix the mess I made of my weary arthritic body, which means not only eating better, but doing the things to improve strength, flexibility, and energy. Yeah, exercise. Ugh.

Well, I’m actually doing it. I’ve got to tell you, it’s hard. Those of us with chronic pain and fatigue seem to have the deck stacked against us when it comes to doing the very things that can make us feel marginally better.

I’m not really at a point yet where I’m seeing any results, but I am at a point where I am committed and optimistic. So that means I’m comfortable sharing a few tips here with you, while also logging them for myself to refer back to when my motivation wavers.

There are plenty of other places online with health and fitness advice and motivation, but they’re soooo ableist. They’re written by and for people who are healthy to begin with, in that they’re not starting every day exhausted and in pain. This is for us.

So here’s what’s working.

  1. I got rid of my excuses. You know, it’s easy to say “no excuses,” to call for people to simply stop making excuses, but let’s admit we’re not living perfect lives in perfect worlds and acknowledge that some of these excuses are actually quite valid. Take my most recent excuse, for example. That I was moving, and too busy and exhausted to make time for exercise. Totally valid. So how did I get rid of it? I finished it. So in the real world what we sometimes need to do is identify the big excuse or obstacle and solve it, get it out of the way, or simply wait it out. Just remember, once it’s gone, don’t replace it with another big excuse. Your next project is now you.
  2. I made myself my current project. Adulthood is a revolving list (yes, a revolution! viva revolution! hehe) of Big Life Projects. There usually seems to be one, maybe two at a time. Maybe more. Getting a job, training at the new job, planning a wedding, training a puppy, remodeling a kitchen… Make yourself the (or a) project of now. My current projects are making me healthier and writing my next Splat book.
  3. I got the “no fair” out of my head. This is a theme throughout my blog. It’s pretty important so we don’t lose our minds and get utterly depressed or in a rage of anger at life. It’s necessary for working on my physical fitness. The emotions would be way too distracting and disruptive if I let myself think about how unfair it is that this is so easy for all the non-disabled folx out there.
  4. I used a literal “now or never” inner dialogue. It went just like this:
    • Me: I’m too tired to work out today.
    • Tough-love me: But you’re this tired every day. Is a workout something you want to do in a day, ever?
    • Me: Well, yeah.
    • Tough-love me: Then to make it a regular day thing, do it now. Because this is a your regular day.
    • Me: (punting that “no fair” demon out of my brain): OK, fine…
  5. I did it to prove to myself I can, and then I remember I proved I can so I do it. Yeah, just like that. I do truly love this trick, and I’ve used it plenty in the past and will use it plenty more. All I have to do is convince myself to do it just this one time, and then that one time acts as the proof I keep in the front of my mind so that no doubts or excuses can stop me from doing it again and again.

Two more things.

One I’ve got to say that disclaimer thingie where I’m not a professional and you should consult a professional before doing the exercise stuff. OK, but also, don’t forget to use Splat and your Impact Map! If the severity of your pain and/or fatigue and/or depression (you get the idea) fluctuates from day to day, use the Impact Map to still keep a routine and establish what your activity looks like based on how you’re feeling each day.

picture of a mostly-white calico cat sitting on Total Gym brand home gym equipment
my workout buddy, Scout, holdin’ it down

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