I have a love-hate relationship with exercise. I love how it makes me feel when it's over, but hate the mind games I have to play to get myself moving.
A few years ago, I had completely lost the love. My mental cheerleading capabilities failed and I caved to my own excuses: "I don't feel like exercising," "I'm too busy." But the most legitimate excuse? "It hurts." Pain in my hip from osteoarthritis resulting from corrective surgery I'd had as a baby always limited the duration of my physical activity, but it had never stopped me before. Despite living with mild chronic pain, I began using osteoarthritis as a cop-out to exercising. Me! Someone who knows better and helps others overcome these kinds of obstacles. Something had to change so I made a commitment to find a challenging, safe exercise that I'd enjoy and stick to for good.
Exercise #1: Dance-Based
After watching the infomercials and hearing how much my friends liked it, I decided to try a dance-based exercise class. I loved the tropical music, but after 15 minutes of "shaking my bon-bon," I realized this wasn't the challenge I was seeking.
Exercise #2: Hard Core P.E.
After listening to me rant about my exercise rut, a friend invited me to her 5 a.m. exercise class. With its high-rep calisthenics exercises and no-frills equipment, it felt like a high school P.E. class gone hard core. Challenging? Yes! My style? Not really. Guidance by the trainer was encouraging, but due to my physical limitations, I had to modify several moves, which made me feel like I couldn't keep up with the crowd. I felt this class would eventually cause me more frustration and pain than joy. My search continued.
Exercise #3: Spin
I have always loved riding my bike, but for some reason spin class at the gym intimidated me. I finally felt ready to give it a try. The instructor guided a 60-minute, self-paced class that was easy to follow, challenging and, amazingly, simulated an outdoor bike ride. As I visualized riding on a flat road to conquering a tough seated hill, the class stimulated my body and my mind. As long as I maintained proper form, my hip wasn't aggravated and I could concentrate on enjoying the ride. By the end, I was sweating buckets, out of breath and on a mental high — I loved it and couldn't wait to come back! I found my perfect match.
What Living with Osteoarthritis Is Like
After years of denial, I've accepted my physical limitations and have gained an appreciation for activities I can still do living with osteoarthritis. This degenerative, chronic condition can't be cured, but its progression can be slowed if I continue exercising safely and regularly, manage my weight and eat foods that control inflammation and help keep my muscles and bones strong.
Some of these foods include cold-water fish such as tuna and salmon (with bones); bright and deep pigmented fruits and vegetables brimming with phytonutrients such as berries, citrus and leafy greens; and high-fiber foods such as beans and whole grains. Many of these foods also have bone-building vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium.
While neither exercise nor diet alone will fix my osteoarthritis, keeping good, consistent lifestyle habits will contribute to my overall quality of life, health and happiness.