How MS Has Changed My Workout
Last updated: May 2023
A lot has changed for me over the many years since I’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While I often lament the loss of my career, cognitive abilities, and many relationships because of MS, there is another very important part of my life that I feel was stolen: my ability to work out. Well, OK, not completely stolen, but it has definitely changed. Over the years, MS has changed the way I exercise and what it means to me.
The old days
Back when I was diagnosed and for a long time after that, I was a bit of an exercise nut. I played hockey in college when I was diagnosed, and I also spent a ton of time in the gym. Physical activity was definitely a passion for me back in those days. Even after I was diagnosed, while I wasn’t quite the athlete I had been, I was still very active (between exacerbations anyway). I lost a lot of my coordination, which impacted hockey, but I was still really into running and lifting weights.
During those first 15 years with MS, I was one of those folks that had MS but still ran a lot of road races and still hit the gym pretty hard. It’s possible I over-compensated for MS by using exercise, feeling that I needed to be in tip-top shape to combat the disease.
Changes with MS
Eventually, things took a turn and the damage done in all the relapses began to add up. My fatigue was worse than ever. Pain became an ever-present issue. Forget running, simply standing on two feet for longer than a few minutes became nearly impossible. I started to fall and drop things at an alarming rate. Over time, running and lifting weights started to seem like a far-off fantasy for me.
Being unable to work out like I once did is something that absolutely bugs me. It’s one more source of grief and depression that gets added to a seemingly ever-growing list of everything this disease has taken from me. I’ll sometimes see someone running on the side of the road and start to tear up thinking about how that used to be me. Like my career, being very active was a huge part of my life and one that I desperately miss.
Adapting to new ways of exercise
While I am unable to be as active or do the same types of workouts that I once thrived on, that doesn’t mean I don’t get any exercise. I still think exercise is very important so I do get some in; it’s just not as much as I’d like. I’ve made changes, like swapping weights for resistance bands that I can use at home (and even from a seated position, if my legs are having a rough day). I also keep trying to walk. I’ve had less success there, but I’ve been getting better. I do it on a treadmill with an air conditioner on one side (to battle the heat) and a bed on the other (to catch me when I fall). It also has safety rails to hold on to.
I’ve discovered that there is a lot you can do, even when you are limited. My biggest issue has been consistency, because there are days when my body won’t work or the fatigue will be too great. When I can get any kind of workout in, though, it’s incredibly helpful for my mental well-being. I still miss what I could do in the old days, but I’m learning to really appreciate what I can do now and focus less on the past.
I definitely encourage everyone with MS to do some sort of physical activity, as much for your mental as for your physical health. Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
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