1 March 2018

How Exercise Helped My CFS


In August 2016, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome after a spring and summer full of infections. 18 months later and my life is pretty much unrecognisable but I think I can honestly say it's changed for the better, and after a year or so of coming to terms with my condition, I've managed to adapt my life to make my CFS manageable. On a daily basis, I don't even remember I have chronic fatigue. I never thought I'd be able to say that. 

I'm sure I'll post about the various ways I manage my CFS in the future but today, I'm gonna talk about exercise. Now, I know you might be reading this thinking I'm going crazy, saying exercise has helped a chronic fatigue condition. It seems like the opposite of what you should be doing and when I was first diagnosed, I would have never even considered exercise. Most days, I wasn't up to getting off the couch for more than 10 minutes at a time let alone working out, and at that time in my life, exercise would have been counter-productive. Now that my health is generally a lot better, exercise is my way of staying in tune with my body and improving my physical strength.

Rewinding to late 2016, I started off doing really gentle yoga and stretching most days. When you're spending most of your time in bed or on the couch, it's so important to get up and do some gentle stretches to keep your body moving, even if it's only for 10 minutes. Back then, I suffered from a lot of muscle pain, especially in my legs and back, and stretching helped so much. I used Yoga With Adriene's videos for my yoga - she's wonderful. Yoga and gentle stretches kept me feeling human and reassured me that I'd be able to get stronger and more active again in the future.

Around about June/July of 2017, I decided to try my hand at resistance training. I was starting to feel more capable and my fatigue was getting better over time. I was also off uni for the summer and was wanting something new to do because the holiday felt way too long. So, I bought some 3lb weights, a resistance band and subscribed to a bunch of fitness YouTubers, then started easing myself into the workout life a small step at a time. I never had any aesthetic goals and definitely didn't want to lose weight, as I'm naturally petite. My goal was to get stronger and to feel more capable. I created a wee routine of having breakfast, watching the previous night's episode of Love Island, then working out for 20-30 minutes. I never pushed myself too much and took it all very slow, as I was well aware that I'm a bit more delicate than average. 

Jumping forward to now, I'm lifting heavier, pushing myself a bit more and seeing actual muscle gains. I feel so much more capable now than I did a year ago and my body's just functioning better overall. Little things like being able to carry a heavy uni rucksack around all day without getting back pain or being able to walk up stairs without my legs crying. Although I never had any aesthetic goals, being able to see muscle definition has been such a rewarding thing and I get a wee thrill whenever I see my baby biceps. If you'd told me this time last year that I'd be able to exercise a couple times a week and that I'd be feeling as strong and capable as I am now, I would've laughed at you for a very long time. 

I think the thing I've gained most from venturing into the world of exercise (apart from quads, woooo) is feeling in tune with my body. When I was at my weakest, I never felt like my body was my own and I had absolutely no control over it whatsoever which was horrible. Now, I actually feel connected to my body, and it's the best feeling in the world.

Catriona xo
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