Getting Fit

I work out. I was diagnosed with RRMS in 1981 and didn’t go on a DMT until 2000. I’m seventy-six years old, and before I turned 50, the hardest physical thing I ever did was turn a page.

Twenty-five years ago, I started working with a trainer, and I still work with a trainer from my local gym remotely over video chat. We work out together three times a week, and here’s what we do.

Working on my balance

I start with warming up on a rowing machine I got from Craigslist at the beginning of the pandemic, recommended by my chiropractor. They’re pretty cheap, they don’t take up much floor space, and the machine imposes the correct form. Then I work on balance, using exercises like standing on one leg with your other leg drawn up to your chest.

Sometimes I have to hang on to a bookcase. I lost the use of my left leg to a flare in 1992, and it only cooperates grudgingly. I hold on to the bookcase while practicing balance. We do squats with me standing on tiptoe and holding on to the bookcase.

I stand on one leg and slowly swirl the other leg around in a circle. Sometimes I do the yoga pose Virabhadrasana (Warrior) three, which is standing on one leg and leaning over holding the other leg out behind me. I do lunges. Sometimes I do dips off the edge of a nearby arm chair.

Exercises from a floor mat and more

Once I’m tired of standing up, I stretch out an old exercise mat on the floor. I have a basket with equipment in it, like yoga blocks, five-pound weights, and an old pair of ten-pound dumbbells.

We do about half an hour of calisthenics, such as forward folds, Russian twists, and a great set of tricep exercises called ten-ten-ten. I lie flat on the mat with my knees bent and my hips in the air. Ten-ten-ten includes ten chest presses with a 10-pound dumbbell, ten exercises where I lower the dumbbell from above my face to my hairline ten times, and then I hold the weight over my head and lower it behind my head to the floor ten times.

I do that half shoulder stand I was talking about, or the yoga pose known as Halasana, or the Plow.

With my butt on a block, I do a series of exercises with my legs, whacking my feet together ten times, criss-crossing my legs ten times, and finally lowering my legs to the floor ten times. I also propel myself off the block thirty times, which we call Butt Explosions. We do twists of various kinds to exercise my core, and then it’s on to the endurance exercises, which consist of holding poses for a period of time.

Adjusting my routine

Before I got COVID over Christmas, I could hold a plank for four minutes, but the longest I’ve been able to hold one since COVID is two minutes. I particularly enjoy a challenging pose known as the BEAR, which starts with me sitting in Virasana, or hero’s pose, to stretch my ankles and my quadriceps. I then get on my hands and knees and lift my knees off the floor and relax into the pose. I’m building back to two minutes or more.

Let me add the one invariable caution: before attempting any program of exercise, check with your doctor.

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Why I exercise

I exercise for strength, flexibility, and endurance. Don’t forget: when I started twenty-five years ago, I was too weak to use a treadmill. I started with a trainer then, too, and she put me on a recumbent bike, which I pedaled for a year until I was strong enough to use the treadmill. I got stronger slowly, and we added exercises one at a time as I gained strength.

One of the unexpected benefits of getting comparatively fit is that a case of fibromyalgia I acquired in 1988 stays very nicely in the background. I still have some symptoms, but I don’t have unending and debilitating pain.

Now doesn’t this sound like I know what I’m doing? I assure you I don’t, but I’m an old lady (shortly to turn 76) and I use a forearm crutch because my left leg still forgets that toes go in front. But I can sit on the floor and get up by myself without using my arms, and THAT, to me, is priceless!

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