Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Work It, Baby!

Alright, it's time to get this tush in shape! I'm talkin' about working out. Pumpin' some iron! Hittin' the pavement! Burnin' the calories! Breakin' a sweat!

Apparently I'm also talking about dropping my G's as well.

It's a known fact now that my Rheumatologist, Doc Wiz, prescribed me a work out regimen. He proposed that I get a trainer at my gym to help me build my muscles back up after all the time I spent on the couch with swollen joints.

It's no mystery that if you refrain from any physical activity your muscles will weaken. Doc Wiz knew that I was motivated - that I was desperate to get myself back in shape. So he hooked me up with my trainer over at Fairhaven Fitness to help me get moving again.

My first worry was the cost. I had never had a personal trainer before and I knew it wasn't cheap. But after talking with Doc Wiz about the importance and that my physical well-being depended on getting my body back together, I realized that it was something I was just going to have to budget in.

I admit, it still hurts a bit when I see the bills. But honestly, if it's between buying a hot new dress and getting my body in shape with my PT, I pick the gym.

What's the point of having a hot dress if you don't feel confident in it?!

Anyways, once my doc got me hooked up with my trainer, Ginny, I was set. Ginny is awesome. I never thought I would have so much fun at the gym. She is smart about joint pain and knows her stuff. She even has struggles of her own so she understands better than most people what I'm going through. She made sure she knew everything about my history, what I needed, and what I was looking for.

She also uses positive reinforcement, which is necessary with me. I don't get those TV shows that have the trainers yelling in the faces of the people working out. If I was in that situation, I might throw a punch or two. I respond much better to, "hey you're doing great!" rather than "suck it up lazy butt!"

Ginny helped me realize how important it is to keep moving. Putting it in perspective for me, I realize that if I don't do this for myself now, I might not be able to do this in the future. Getting a membership to a gym might be an expensive cost, but it's the most important investment you can make, because it's YOU. Your body! 

(If you do not live in Whatcom County and can't go see Ginny herself, I hope this can help you to realize what traits to look for in a personal trainer. To me, finding a good personal trainer is like finding a good doctor. You need someone that you can trust and be honest with, that will listen to you and understand your needs, and that will make you feel comfortable and taken care of.)

Studies have also found that movement and physical activity are the best cure for arthritis pain, and can actually prevent pain and inflammation in the future.

. . . If done correctly.

Another important thing I've realized is that I need someone there with me to make sure that I am doing things right. Especially when you have a weaker body, doing a form of exercise incorrectly can actually cause more damage than good. Left to my own devices who knows what I'd do to myself!

(Can't you just see me pinned down by too big of a dumbbell, kicking my legs, whining for help? Bahahaha!)

So it's crucial that any tips I give in this blog aren't meant to be used on their own. I highly recommend getting hooked up with someone who can help you through a workout that is fit you personally.

But here are some things to think about . . .

First of all, my biggest issue was my leg muscles. Having so much swelling in my knees, the joints aren't doing so hot and what makes it worse is that I had little muscle in my legs to support myself. And I couldn't do just the regular leg-workouts because of the pain in my knees. Squats and lunges just weren't working for me. And don't even get me started on that machine where you sit and push the weights forward with your legs.

So I asked Ginny what to do about it.

She introduced me to the TRX system. Suspension training.

At first it seemed incredibly intimidating. I was picturing those people who hang by their feet on the ceiling doing sit ups upside down. But this is a little different. This uses straps that are hung above you and your body weight is what "creates resistance as you exercise" It's an amazing workout that strengthens every muscle, especially your core, and does it in super speed time.

I don't have my own pictures of TRX at the moment, so this is a picture borrowed from the Fairhaven Fitness website. Ginny said she would help me supply some pictures soon!

Ok I might be exaggerating, but you do see improvement very quickly. I had been working out by myself for months before I tried this and I saw more results after just a couple weeks of TRX training than I had in the entire time I'd been working at the gym. My balance was better, my core stronger, and I had no pain while doing it.

What is amazing and always surprising to me is that I can work out my leg muscles without putting any strain on my knees. Sometimes when Ginny shows me a new move she wants me to try, there's that little part of me that says, "oh boy, there's no way I can do that with these knees." But then I do it, look at her with a shocked face, and she says "No pain, right?"

I respond with laughter and say, "RIGHT!"

Fairhaven Fitness offers classes and private sessions in TRX training. And if you don't live here, I highly recommend finding someone in your area who is certified to teach TRX and give it a shot.

But if you don't? Well the other great part about getting set up with a trainer is that he or she can help you to figure out ways to get the same amount of workout without the strain on your joints. Ginny recently showed me moves I can do on my own (since using the TRX system at the gym must be done with a trainer, unless you own your own straps).

A lot of this involves ball work: working with one of those big inflated balls. Having the ball high up against a wall, at the top of your back and doing squats surprisingly was painless for my knees. I think it's a matter of leaning backwards while doing the squats that's the ticket, since that is how I do them on the TRX. It feels a little odd to stick my butt out while doing this, but hey, if it works my legs without hurting my knees, I'm for it!

Wall-pushups can also be done with a ball, which is easier on you than doing floor pushups, but is a little more challenging than doing regular wall pushups. You have to keep your core muscles engaged in order to keep your balance.

Cardio is important too. Very important. I have found that ellipticals are awful on my knees. It seems weird - I always thought the circular motion would be better for my joints than anything, but surprisingly not. What works best for me is either a treadmill or a stationary bike.

On the treadmill, I set it to a steep incline and simply walk at a quick pace. I don't run. Running is too jarring for me. But with the incline I get a great cardio workout.

The bike on the other hand, I thought would cause bad knee pain as well. The key here is to have someone who knows the bike set it to fit your body. Ginny busted out all the measurements and set that bike so it fit me perfectly. And again, I was surprised to find that I had no knee pain while riding it. It was amazing.

I also have a long list of floor exercises given to me by Ginny that I do everyday. Every. Day. But I love it. It's mostly core work (I talk about that a lot, but it's the most important. If your core isn't strong, the rest of your body won't get strong. It all is based on that core. The belly, baby!) but I also have some moves for my legs and arms in there.

Specifically, my favorite, in which I am laying on my back, raise my hips and do a sort of marching movement in the air. It probably looks crazy but talk about getting that tush in shape! HoooWee!

Someday soon I'll lay those out for you in a little more detail.

But I am not a professional. I can't tell you how to do it perfectly, especially through my blog. I am not recommending you take my routine for yourself. It might not fit you like it fits me.

But I do want to show that it is possible to get physical activity while having arthritis.

Joint pain be damned!

Remember, it's your body. You have to live in it every day. Take care of it.

I'm out!

Bellingham Tennis and Fairhaven Fitness Official Website
Fairhaven Fitness Blog
Facebook Page

Check out this video explaining the TRX System!


  1. This is a great post for me to read! I have inflammatory arthritis from Sjogren's Syndrone which is an autoimmune disorder as well. I avoided exercise for years because of it and recently (2 mos. ago) decided I had to take better care of myself. I cannot do a personal trainer but have been exercising regularly (cardio and weights)...I have also found the incline on the treadmill to be a huge advantage because I can't run at this point either. Despite a very difficult start getting used to exercise, I have found a significant improvement in my joint pain now. It has also helped the asthma component of my illness. Good for you for getting it together in the gym!

  2. Hey Christine, I'm glad to hear you liked the post. Also glad to hear you're keeping yourself moving. I've found that it's the most important thing! For me, even the smallest amount of exercise of any kind is better than nothing. I lost so much muscle and stamina because I kept myself from being active and I'm paying for it. But the good part is that working on this now will ease whatever pain I have to deal with when I'm older. Aye the troubles! But great for you!! :-) Take care


  3. Way to go girl! I recently joined a gym and have a training appointment this coming Thursday - with a trainer who also has arthritis! My last one didn't seem to understand what exactly I couldn't do, so hopefully this will work out better.

    Have fun!

  4. KirBir: I had the same experience - I started with a good trainer, but unfortunately he didn't fully understand how to handle my joint pain issues. I also think he was a little unsure of how to deal with someone young with arthritis. But then my doc got me in contact with my current trainer who was more knowledgeable about arthritis and it was perfect. So now I'm certain that with the right trainer you can do anything!

    Good luck to you! Let me know how it goes!


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