Always Essential, Sometimes Optional

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Today’s post is dedicated to all those Superheroes who, despite all the challenges they encounter, still manage to find a way to incorporate exercise into their daily lives.

Swimming SupermanAfter missing a few weeks due to cold weather, flares, and extreme back problems, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is please to announce that he returned to the swimming pool earlier today.

As many of my readers know, just last week I was barely able to move, and was ordered to extended bed rest.

During this time, acceptable reasons for movement could be counted on one hand: bathroom visits, going to the kitchen to get something to eat or drink (when my oh-so-dedicated and patient partner begins to feel like he’s running the room service department for a major hotel), and medical appointments including, but not limited to, physical therapy.

Everything else just gets placed under the “optional” column.

And while I myself am a strong advocate of trying to incorporate exercises into my life as much as possible, the fact of the matter is there are times when it’s flat out not possible. It’s not a question of  ‘should I’ or ‘shouldn’t I’; it’s just a question that is sometimes not even asked. And during these times, the mere mention of the need to exercise is one of the few things that can still manage to send me in a tailspin. Case in point: a Tweet that was sent out this past weekend, from an individual/organization that I know had nothing less than the best of intentions, included the phrase “To rest is to rust.”

And at that moment, I interpreted these words in the worst way possible. “Yes, I’m resting right now, which is exactly what I need! And if I’m rusting, so be it.” (If I were a character in Cars, I’d make Mater look like a shiny new Ferrari.)

But I quickly got over my sensitivity, and part of me realized that I was in fact angry. While many people consider physical activity to be a superfluous item in their lives, ever since I started my journey with rheumatoid arthritis I’ve always thought of it as something essential. (To the point where a few years ago, I did power yoga on a daily basis and actually reached the point of being able to enter into an unsupported ‘no-hands’ headstand!)

Which is why I’m not too happy when exercise gets bumped over to the previously mentioned “optional” column.

Last week, I kept on asking my physical exercise if there was anything I could to to both help these state that I was in, and try to prevent such a recurrence (especially with the back problems.) Her answer was always the same. I needed to return to the swimming pool and do my aquatic exercises, which had proven to be quite helpful during the previous months. Of course, she wasn’t implying that I needed to do such a thing at that moment, but was instead establishing this as a goal that I needed to reach. During yesterday’s session in which I showed a marked improvement after my weekend of bed rest, she suggested that I was ready to go back to the pool.

When I woke up this morning, my first reaction was to not go swimming. The pain, the cold, and the morning stiffness made me just want to stay in bed, under the covers. But I pushed myself forward. While I was shaving, I kept on telling myself that there was still time to call everything off and jump back into bed. I refused to give in, though. And then I told myself that I just needed to remember how wonderful it feels when I am actually in the heated pool, bending my knees and my elbows, swimming slow laps, doing my hand exercises, and just plain floating. And just like that, I had absolutely no doubt that I would be swimming within the hour.

And it was as wonderful as I had remembered.

If I need to move my exercise back into the “optional” column sometime again in the future, I’m sure that I will do so without any regret or self-blame. I know such a move would only be temporary, and that no matter what challenges I encounter, I will find a way to bring it back into my life. For the time being, it’s nice to know exercise it is once again an essential part of my daily routine.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!