One of the most frustrating things about becoming ill was how little exercise I could actually do. Even just walking with Fibromyalgia was a challenge. Two years prior to the symptoms starting I had introduced quite a rigorous exercise regime and had lost over 3 stone in weight. Initially, I thought the pain in my back and knees was caused by ‘over doing’ it with the exercise and so gradually I reduced what I was doing until I wasn’t doing very much at all. The weight started to pile back on.
Hiking through the Yorkshire countryside has always been something I loved to do and something we tried to do on a regular basis. Over time it became clear that I couldn’t keep up, that I needed help carrying my backpack, that I needed to stop more often for a breather.
I was even struggling with the short walk from my car to my office 5 days a week for work. Every single day it became more and more painful. I would worry constantly that I was doing damage to my back, that my knees were going to pop out and that with every step I took I was aggravating ‘whatever was wrong with me’ and making it worse.
When I got my Fibromyalgia diagnosis and started to do some research, I soon realised that exercise could well be the key to getting my life back. Exercise brings oxygen and nutrition to your muscles which helps rebuild stamina, boost energy and reduce stiffness and pain. Exercise also helps elevate mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Something I was definitely struggling with by this time.
I tried to get out for a walk more often, not just on the way to and from the office, but also at lunch time and at weekends with the children, but it was hard. Hard to keep motivated when it hurt so much, hard to enjoy when it seemed to be a never-ending cycle of pain and frustration, hard to stick to when it was easier to stay sat down. Having always been a ‘dog person’, but not having one due to living in rented accommodation, I really felt that having that companion on walks and that incentive to go out was what was lacking.
In 2014, I changed my job and started working from home and it opened up many new possibilities for me. I started to look into voluntary dog walking options; contacting a number of local organisations. The main problem was that any dog walking positions were for dogs currently in kennels. They needed you to travel to their location and walk the dogs on or near to their grounds. While this wouldn’t have been a problem as such, it wasn’t always going to be possible for me to do as I was looking to walk the dog during my lunch breaks and that didn’t give me a lot of time.
Then I discovered The Cinnamon Trust. The Cinnamon Trust is a national charity based in Cornwall that was set up set up to relieve the anxieties and problems, faced by elderly and terminally ill people and their pets. A network of 15,000 volunteers work with pet owners who are elderly and terminally ill to provide vital care for their pets; keeping them together through dog walking, fostering, helping locate animal-friendly care homes and even taking on lifetime care of a bereaved pet.
The Cinnamon Trust – Peace of mind for owners, love, care and safety for beloved pets.
I signed up immediately, gathered references and waited for my first case. I was soon walking a 10-year-old jack russell cross called Sadie for Mrs R; a lady who lived very close to my home in Sheffield. Mrs R has sight and mobility issues and was struggling to walk Sadie regularly enough. Sadie was her long term companion and a huge part of her life so she had approached The Cinnamon Trust for help.
I walk Sadie 3 lunch times a week; come rain or shine, come pain or not. Some days it’s more of an effort than others to get out there, but I know that I have Sadie and Mrs R counting on me to turn up – I haven’t cancelled yet.
I truly believe that volunteering to walk Sadie, saved my life. I was miserable, I was tired and I was sore … I could see no way back into exercise and I needed something to help me focus and help me keep on track. Sadie has done just that and much, much more. Along with the benefits of walking, Sadie has also allowed me to love her and we have built an incredible bond.
Exercise really is the best medicine and I would encourage everyone with Fibromyalgia to consider starting a walking programme. I know that it feels like an impossible task but you could start with a short 5-10 minute walk, every other day and build from there.
Here are my tips for walking with Fibromyalgia.
- Walk every other day.
- Do short bursts rather than long stretches – a maximum of 30 minutes each time.
- Don’t leave your walk too late in the day, when fatigue is at its worst.
- Get involved with a walking group or volunteer as a dog walker to motivate you to stay on track.
Have you tried walking with Fibromyalgia? What about other low impact exercises? Perhaps you think that exercise is impossible? Or maybe you have a great exercise plan that is really working for you? Please get in touch and let me know.