Tag Archives: Exercise

Not ready to take my final run yet

I ran today.  I thought that I might never run again, but I did.

The last time that I went for a run was probably a year ago.  At the time, the only symptom that I had with my MS was a tingling leg and slightly less agility.  Over the last year, the symptoms have progressed a bit and I have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

For the last four months I have gotten serious about fitness.  Most days I do some combination of body weight exercises and either squats or riding a recumbent exercise bike for my legs and cardio.  As my balance has gotten worse though, I have accepted that my running and jumping days are behind me.

Until today, that is.  I’m not sure what the inspiration was.  Maybe reading online about others with ms that are running marathons and the like.  But whatever the catalyst, this afternoon I was on a mission to run again.

MS or not, everyone reaches a day where they can no longer go running.  With MS, that day comes sooner than we plan for.  This afternoon I thought, why does that have to be now?  What if I can still run?  What if I don’t reach that day in a month, or a year, or forty years?  How would I feel when that day came and I reflected back on how I hadn’t run all that time when I could have?

I had to try.  I strapped on my asics and headed out the front door.

I’m not going to lie.  It wasn’t easy.  My one leg is completely normal while the other is a little stiff, uncoordinated and weak.  This asymmetry made it a bit of a challenge.  But I don’t care.  I ran today.

In all honesty, I walked more than I ran on my run.  But I don’t care.  I ran today.

No doubt that the uneven strength and coordination of my legs caused a gait that must have appeared a little awkward to anyone watching me.  But I don’t care.  I ran today.

I thought that I might never run again, but I did today.  Everything is more precious if you realize that you might not have it for much longer.

I loved my run today and I am feeling really good about myself right now.

My bedroom as a gymnasium

No, this isn’t about that type of exercise.

Of course, exercise is important for everyone.  It’s critical for people inflicted with multiple sclerosis.  Many of us are too tired to exercise, so we find excuses to skip it.  Skipping the exercise makes us weaker over time.  Being weaker makes us more tired.  Being more tired makes us less likely to exercise and the circle goes on.

We are all susceptible to this, but the cycle accelerates for people with MS.  The disease itself causes fatigue, which steps on the gas pedal for this spiral towards poor fitness.

Two months ago my MS doctor gave me a hard time because I have not been exercising.  I said that I had done tai chi once a few weeks ago.  She said that’s good but it doesn’t cut it.

For some reason, this time it really struck a chord.  It has really hit home that I have this disease now and that there is no cure so I will have it for life.  That means for the rest of my life I will be taking strong medications.  And that for the rest of my life I really need to be serious about my diet and exercise.  It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.  In fact, an endless marathon.  This is not a new year’s resolution that gets pushed to the side two weeks later when work gets busy.  This is permanently adopting a new lifestyle.  This is having a choice.  Am I willing to live more healthy if it could possibly make a difference in dancing with my daughter at her wedding some day, versus being in a wheelchair for it?

My wife is incredibly supportive.  We have a family membership at a local fitness center, but we both know that it will be tough for me to stick with the commitment of going there in the evenings.  We have an extra bay in our garage and I suggested turning that into our workout room.  My wife knew that it would still be prone to out of sight, out of mind.  She insisted that we turn one end of our bedroom into a workout area.  I have no choice but to walk past the equipment at least a few times a day and hence, much tougher for me to make excuses not to use it.

I am a fan of bodyweight exercises so my emphasis has been on that.  It also fits my lifestyle in that I go on frequent business trips.  While most of the hotels have a fitness center, it’s too easy for me to skip it.  If my workout it doing pushups or squats in my hotel room, I’m much more likely to actually do it.

In my bedroom I have the following:

  • A power tower.  This is a device that allows you to do many body weight exercises.  Pull-ups, dips, knee tucks etc.
  • A back extension bench
  • A recumbent bicycle for cardio
  • Some lightweight dumbbells

I block off time each day when my wife keeps the kids occupied for me to do the recumbent bike.  The rest I do randomly as I walk by the equipment.  A couple of sets of pull-ups now.  Some crunches and back extensions when I walk through later.  I pick one or two body parts to focus on each day, in addition to the bike.

Two months is not a long time but so far, so good.  I have  exercised almost every day that I have been home since my doctor made me see the light of my new priorities.

It’s a little ironic that coming down with a debilitating disease is making me get in shape and be healthy again.  I may have MS but for all that I know, the MS motivated diet and exercise may prevent me from having a heart attack or something else that might have occurred otherwise.  Life works like that.


My first experience with Tai Chi and MS

Having multiple sclerosis can be a humbling experience in many ways.  We all hit points where we can no longer do physical things that we used to do with ease.  When you have MS, you hit these points much sooner in your life than you would have anticipated.

When I was younger I very much enjoyed martial arts.  Most of my exposure was to Chinese martial arts.  But like many, when the mixed martial arts craze took off I also tried my hand at  jui-jistsu and muay thai.  Even with the Chinese martial arts, I always preferred the real thing to gymnastic dancing.  That means strapping on the gloves and putting in the mouthpiece for full contact sparring and kick boxing.

If I had any doubt that those days are behind me, being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis did a good job of convincing me.

Twice in my past I had northern shaolin teachers that insisted that we learn a little tai chi.  At the time, I really had no interest in it.  While tai chi can be a serious martial art for a skilled practitioner, I think that the individuals that can actually use it to fight are few and far between.  Tai chi was for senior citizens to do in the park early mornings.

MS is causing me to reconsider the benefits of learning tai chi.  Regardless of whether you believe in chi and that exercise can help you cultivate it, tai chi definitely requires you to practice your balance and your coordination of movement.  If my immune system is eating away at my myelin, it only makes sense that training my ever changing nervous system to try and overcome that to force the signals through can only help.  If nothing else, I doubt that it would hurt anything.

But hanging out with the grandmas early in the morning in the park?  That’s just not me.  Except that MS is telling me that it has to be.

I went online and found a few tai chi schools in the area and decided to check one out for a free trial class.  First off, when I arrived at the location I realized that it was at a dance studio.  I guess that is no big deal but just plays right in with the rest of my struggle to accept that my kick boxing days are long gone.

I got there early.  Two students were there warming up.  Both women, probably in their 70s.    I closed my eyes and just remembered the feeling of things like delivering a great combination to knock my opponent flat on his back.  So much has changed in just a few years.

More students arrived.  All women.  Ranging in age from approximately 60 to 90+.  I swallowed my pride and fought to suppress my ego.

In the end there were about 16 students.  Besides myself, two were males.  One was about my age.  Everyone else was 60+.  But maybe the most humbling thing of all was not my new martial arts classmates.  It was that I really had a tough time doing some of the movements.  Balancing on one foot while moving slowly has become more difficult for me.  I know that I shouldn’t complain; many people with ms are in wheelchairs.  But it’s all relative and it was eye opening to me to see how my balance has been affected.

The difficulty of it also convinced me of the potential benefit.  I am going to try another school after the holidays and see if it is a crowd that I can relate to a little better.  As I continue my tai chi journey, I will add updates as to how it is helping my ms or not.  If other readers have experience with it, please feel free to post or contact me.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!