One of the first things I learned about RA is that exercise will make a huge difference in how one feels. Exercising causes the release of chemicals that act as a pain reliever. Cool! I could use that. Exercising also strengthens the muscles, permitting smoother working of joints. Great! I could use that, too.
Which exercises? is the big question. Sure, a swimming pool would be best, but a heated pool (indoor, so it can be used all year) is a bit out of my price range. The public pool is too far away. I loved it when I was teaching swimming lessons, but didn’t feel well enough to drive an hour to the pool and had to give that up.
In all honesty, except for our stint swimming, my track record since the kids were born shows that I’m better at intending to exercise than I am at actually doing it. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on exercise equipment only to have it turn into an expensive coat rack.
I settled on an elliptical trainer. Based on the online research that I did, it sounded like the machines under $400 have a 30-day warranty. The $1000 machines have only a 90-day warranty. The machines that have a 20-year warranty cost many thousands of dollars. I bought a cheap one that I found on a half-price sale. The store had one on display so I was able to try it before making the purchase.
Once the thing was set up, it’s amazing how many excuses I could find to not use it.
- I’d intended to exercise first thing in the morning while the kids were still asleep. Unfortunately, I discovered that the machine made enough noise that it disturbed people’s sleep. That meant I couldn’t use it until everyone was awake. Once the kids were awake, I needed to be working with them instead of exercising. Hmmm… Not when they’re asleep and not when they’re awake. It took some juggling, but I finally found a time that I thought would work with everyone’s schedule.
- I’d hop onto the elliptical, check the time, and within thirty seconds would remember that I hadn’t folded the laundry yet. Stop. Fold the laundry.
- Try again. I’d make another attempt and only last 45 second before thinking that it would be great to mop the kitchen first so that the floor could be drying while I was doing my exercises.
- I’d try again, and this time think of yet another chore that just couldn’t wait. My husband would get home at the end of the day and marvel over how nice and clean the house looked.
Finally I told myself that instead of feeling guilty about being unable to exercise for thirty minutes, I’d take the “some is better than none” approach. I started with two minutes. Physically I could have done more, but it was incredibly boring. Setting an easy goal let me feel a sense of accomplishment instead of a sense of failure.
My next step was to rearrange some furniture and set up a television where it could be seen from the elliptical. Spinning my feet around in circles didn’t seem so mind-numbingly tedious when I was occupied thinking about something else. When the family sat down together to watch Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune after dinner, I slipped into the other room. I didn’t feel like I was neglecting a bunch of jobs that I should be doing because that time had been set aside for the whole family to watch those shows. Usually a couple of the kids would come in and keep me company. That worked well all winter.
Once spring arrived there was gardening and yard work to do. We got an above-ground pool for summer exercise outdoors. I didn’t manage to do it every day, but between the pool and summer chores, I kept active. Now we’re back to rainy weather again, so I’ve just begun a new evening exercise routine. For a little variety, I have some options instead of being stuck with the elliptical. Over the summer I found an exercise bike and something with a label that makes me think of this: