Over the years I have always struggled to find the right balance when it comes to exercising with my RA. I tend to live in extremes: not exercising at all OR pushing my body waaaaay past its limitations. In fact, it’s only been very recently that I have conceded to myself that I am no longer a runner (more on that in a future post). But in October of last year, I hit my rock bottom. I hated the way I looked and felt, and I knew that I had to make some serious changes.The last seven months have not been without challenges or setbacks, but without a doubt, it’s all been worth it. In this time working out has become crucial to my physical and emotional well-being, and this post is my way of sharing what has worked for me (and my joints!) along the way.
Work Out Like a (WWE) Diva
No matter what your opinion is of professional wrestling i.e. the WWE, Stephanie Mcmahon is a bad ass: wife, mother, businesswoman, philanthropist and fitness fanatic. Recently she even graced the cover of Muscle & Fitness with her husband, Triple H (a professional wrestler). So when my manfriend gave me her fitness DVD for Christmas last year I was somewhat amused but not entirely turned off by it…
The WWE Fit Series: Stephanie Mcmahon DVD is broken down into five workouts: upper body, lower body, abs/core, cardio, and flexibility. You can follow the four-week workout schedule provided, or you can create custom workouts by combining any of the above. That’s my favorite part! Yesterday morning I did the upper body + abs/core workouts and got in a good, but efficient, sweat before work. I love the flexibility of being able to design routines around my pain level while still getting a good workout in!
If you’re unfamiliar with kettlebell training, the idea of swinging around an iron ball by its handle probably sounds slightly insane… But I absolutely love it. I feel like a total beast no matter what weight I’m working with. The best part is that there are plenty of kettlebell exercises that focus on building strength in your upper body, back and core for the days that my knees are too sore for squats, lunges, etc. My typical routine is low impact (happy knees and hips!), high intensity and incinerates calories.
I was able to master all of the fundamentals with the help of Sarah Lurie’s Iron Core Kettlebell DVD. I’m not a big fan of the actual workout routines, but for the money, there is no better instructional kettlebell DVD out there.
If you don’t think yoga is a workout, then you have never taken a 90-minute hot yoga class! Minute for minute it is one of the best, most challenging workouts I’ve ever done. That said, it is also easily modified to the fitness level of the participant, and so even when I’m not feeling 100% I can usually make it to the end of class. That’s actually my favorite time to go: when I’m coming off of a bad flare and need to ease my way back into my workout routine. Not only does it stretch out sore muscles, but I get a cleansing sweat (goodbye flare!) and the mental/emotional release I need to let go of the bad days and move forward. Two of my favorite studios in the Boston area South Boston Yoga and Open Doors Yoga Studios | Dorchester.
Helpful tip: Unless you have an established relationship with your Yoga teacher, I find it’s important to let them know about any limitations you may have. I usually try to get to class early and let them know ahead of time. A lot of teachers have never taught someone with RA/two total hip replacements, and so they’re looking to me to tell them what I do or don’t need. My canned response is always “I know how to modify poses within my limitations. Please do not try to help or re-position me unless I look like I’m about to legit hurt myself!”.