best exercise?

13Jan13

Finally back here–I spend a crazy amount of time trying to stay ahead of work, so that I can spare a few moments as I need them (like earlier today) when my body just crashes (yeah, Body, I’m talkin’ about in the shower today when I felt like I could no longer stand up from the pain of exhaustion. I guess this is the “debilitating fatigue” that I luckily rarely feel?)

I was talking with a fitness instructor friend recently about what the best type of exercise is for someone with rr MS. Not only do I take personal interest to try to strengthen and heal my body, but I’m also a geek about the whole thing–anatomy/physiology and nutrition teacher, and rehab Pilates/exercise specialist that I am, and if you spend any time around me, you’ll know I’m passionate about those fields.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep my body in the best shape it can be (exercise-wise. Nutrition and lifestyle are a whole ‘nuther post):

My priority has been strength and balance training. And in strength training, I prioritize deep core work and leg strength (in my case, my MS affects my balance and has mildly affected left leg strength). I have noticed a very minor drop-off in left arm strength, as well, so I keep up a good weight routine for my whole body. I do Pilates and/or yoga every day. No excuses.

(Having said that, while I realize that I no longer have time/room for half-assed workouts, I understand that there are occasional days where my body is totally beat up, and beating it more would be counterproductive. I still do some sort of core strength work, but involve more stretching and take the intensity down a notch.)

Again, balance is something I focus on as well. I work on this during my Pilates and yoga work and specifically focus on it at least 3 times a week. Most MS patients have trouble with balance and coordination, and developing stabilizing muscles to compensate for any inadequacies will work wonders.

I do get some form of cardio every day. In the past, I’ve been a hard-core athletic type, and I still do some bootcamp style workouts to push my limits (and keep them high). But I find myself incorporating more choreography-based workouts–the kickboxing classes at the gym, and I have a favorite Zumba instructor (one of the few who works us really hard)–because I think it keeps up my coordination skills. I never thought I got a hard workout in one of those classes until I recently checked my heart rate mid-class…. yeah, I was around 85% of max! Sold. (Just distracted from my effort by thinking of choreography… which will further help keep my brain in shape!)

I also teach spin/group cycling whenever I can, and that helps me work on leg turnover. I’m trying to keep on running for as long as I can, but my speed has slowed–so I’m hoping that supplementing with speed workouts on the spin bike will pay off in my running.

All in all, as an MS patient, your workouts need to work around your needs and symptoms, but I encourage you never to give up. There’s always an opportunity to get stronger and to stay as healthy as possible!

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