An apple lifting weights and an orange blow drying their hair

Putting the ‘Me’ in Movement

If you asked me 20 years ago what movement looks like for me, I would say it’s an intense workout in the gym that leaves me sweaty and sore. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now, with MS, it’s a different story.

MS changed my views on movement

When I was diagnosed in 2005, my first relapse was severe. Overnight I went from a fully-functioning college student to having trouble doing basic needs for myself. It was a shock to say the least. However, there was and continues to be a silver lining to living with multiple sclerosis.

Losing control of my body at 19 completely changed my view on movement. It shifted the idea of movement from something I have to do, to something I get to do. After that relapse, I cherished being able to pick up a spoon or put one foot in front of the other. All of a sudden I was grateful for what my body could do vs what it could not do. It was a refreshing and welcome shift.

That moment was powerful, but no one is perfect and there were times in the early years of MS when movement went back to being a chore. On top of that, I had yet again convinced myself that unless it was an intense workout, it was not worth it. This meant that I would constantly pass on the opportunity for movement because it wasn’t hard enough. I ending up moving even less and became more discouraged.

Redefining what works for me

Then in 2015, after a particularly hard few years with MS and my mental health, I wanted to be active consistently and with purpose again. In order to do so, I knew I needed to widen my perspective on what movement meant and be flexible based on how my body felt. So, I redefined what movement was to me so it actually worked for me - from that time forward, any movement I did would be classified as good movement.

Instead of beating myself up for not being able to keep up with the intense ‘no pain no gain’ mindset, I congratulated myself on whatever movement I did do that day.

Life (and movement) started looking more like this:

  • Going to the store? It’s movement (especially if you park a bit further away on a good day)!
  • Folding laundry? Also movement. Go you!
  • Washing and styling my hair? You guessed it, it's movement (and an arm workout)!
  • Having a rough day and just going to do a few stretches in bed? Yes, please - gimme that movement!
  • While I do higher intensity workouts every once in awhile, they are strategically planned and not a mandatory thing. If I fall into the comparison trap, I remind myself it’s pointless to compare myself to someone else - it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Life-changing

The result of reframing the idea of movement and my self talk around it was life-changing. It was so freeing and empowering. This flexibility did wonders for my mental health, confidence, and overall health and wellbeing. I loved how approachable and easy it was to incorporate more activity in my day. Plus, I saw more opportunities for movement throughout the day. And, it was nice to only worry about myself vs comparing myself to what someone else is capable of doing.

MS will always throw its fair share of twists and turns, and sometimes (ok, most times) I am not a fan. But, if I am going to thank it for anything, it’s the fact that it opened up a whole new world of movement to me.

So now I ask: we know that MS is not black and white, why treat movement like it is black and white? In my opinion, we need more gray and more flexibility in what ‘counts’ as movement, not just for our physical health, but for our mental health, too.

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