Know your limits

If there is one thing I have learnt over the last two and a half years since my diagnosis with CFS and Hypothyroidism, it is to listen to my body and know when I can push myself and when I need to step back from the ‘edge’ of my physical limits.

This week has been a case-in-point: Wednesday I had I quite an intense day, busy and finished off with 2-hours of networking with the Southern Entrepreneurs group. I have always found the mental effects of the CFS and hypothyroidism the hardest to deal with and there was a long time when I couldn’t cope with socialising with more than one person at a time. Being in a room with lots of people talking at the same time was a real challenge. Having said that, I am now much improved and can cope with loud parties, chatting to many people at once and “all that jazz”.

However, Wednesday evening I had reached my physical and mental limit and my EAP exercises were the thing that had to give to avoid a major set-back.

Similarly, yesterday (Thursday, I’m writing this on a train with minimal interwebs connection so not sure when this will upload) when I had intended to do two lots of EAP exercises, one morning, one evening, to make up for missing Wednesday, I knew I couldn’t push my body that extra bit. Today (Friday) was a different story, I did my “Riders in Balance” and “Weighed in, weighed in, horses away” workouts together. I did find it a challenge going into the second lot of excises but as much as a struggle as it was, the feedback I was getting from my body meant I knew I could safely push myself bit by bit to get through it all without setting myself up for a fall.

If you are looking to get into exercising, already starting but finding it hard to sustain the exercise; take the time to get to know your body. Find out its limits. Learn to read the signs of fatigue so you know when you can keep going and push through the block, and when you are pushing too hard and need to stop.

Your body is pretty clever, it knows it’s limits. You just need to learn to listen to them and not ignore the signs.

2 thoughts on “Know your limits

  1. I can totally relate to the tiredness and also the mental frustration. At times I just want to keep on & believe I can do things, even though my body is already saying “enough…”. Knowing that other people my age or fitness level can do so much more than I can is what makes me push on. It makes me cry “No! I can’t stop now!”, because one thing I hate doing is not finishing something or having to quit. Without a proper diagnosis from doctors who just take blood test after blood test, shake their heads and say everything came back “normal”, you kid yourself that you must be fine! But deep down, you know you’re not. Being tired and exhausted for 5 months solid where you’ve had to give up every social outlet you had means “No, you’re NOT fine” and you’re just left to deal with it alone, and hope that friends can be understanding that you just aren’t well enough to keep your plans with them. At other times, despite being annoyed or disappointed that I can no longer keep that appointment to go salsa dancing or meet someone, when I finally give in and accept I need rest, it feels like spoiling myself to have an early night or an easy night at home so that tomorrow, I can have a new day to play with, and just hope there is a little bit of energy to enjoy 🙂

    Tell me what these EAP exercises are & how did you finally get diagnosed with CFS, as most doctors are reluctant to acknowledge it.

    Best wishes and lots of admiration for your healthy attitude towards the battle!

    • Hi Chris, thanks for commenting. Sorry it has taken me a while but I needed to be at the computer (and a proper keyboard!) for this one.

      Sorry you’ve been having trouble with CFS, and finding a doctor to take you seriously. I know where you’re coming from. I had Glandular Fever when I was 18 which went undiagnosed for 9-months (thanks to a doctor who I am sure wrote me off as a ‘lazy teenager’ on the 4-5 times I went to see him). That kicked off the next 13-years of having CFS undiagnosed, being constantly told by doctor after doctor that there was nothing wrong with me and I just needed to get fit (the implication being that I was just lazy), even though I knew there was something wrong. Eventually I got to the point where I had a bout of post-viral fatigue and one of the many tests for that brought up an abnormal thyroid function, which continued to be tested for 18 months until it became bad enough to be treated. When my body did not respond to treatment for the hypothyroidism, the began to think about CFS. But yes, I did have a sympathetic doctor who actually listened to me and wanted to help me get to the bottom of what was causing me the problems.

      The problem with CFS is that it is not a condition you can ‘diagnose’ in the traditional way – you need to exclude every other condition that can cause fatigue (and there are many). It is also worth asking for the actual results of the blood tests, rather than relying on being told that they are ‘normal’, as ‘normal’ in terms of blood-test results covers a broad range of levels. If you have had your thyroid function tested it is useful to compare where your TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) and free T4 (the level of thyroxine in your blood) levels sit within their respective ranges; my abnormal thyroid function was picked up because my THS levels were at the high end of normal, whilst my T4 was at the low end of normal, meaning my pituitary (produces TSH) was kicking my thyroid up the behind to get moving, and my thyroid just could not produce enough.

      It would be worth phoning round a few doctors surgeries in your area and asking if any of their GP’s have a specialism or an interest in CFS. Alternatively, I find that newly qualified doctors are a good bet – they like to explore the options and haven’t become jaded by the people who do actually waste their time with complaints that aren’t there.

      The EAP exercises are a programme called the Equestrian Athlete Plan – If you are in the early stages of managing your energy levels I wouldn’t suggest it just now as the exercises are pretty intense and have a high energy demand.

      I would highly recommend getting a pedometer and recording the number of steps you take every day. After a couple of weeks, take an average of this, then make sure you do your ‘average’ number of steps each day for a couple of weeks. Some days you will be wanting to do more and some days you will have to push yourself to hit the goal… however, it is REALLY IMPORTANT that you do your target number of steps, no more, no less. When you can easily do your average number of steps every day, upp that number by 500 and hit that new target for a week or two, then add 500 more, sustain it, and so on and so on.

      I have gone from struggling to do 1,000-2,000 steps per day in January 2010 to averaging 10k+ steps per day for the last three months and regularly doing 19-22k step days.

      Pilates is also really great, it is an exercise that you can suit the intensity to your levels, starting low and then increasing the intensity as your strength and energy levels improve.

      I hope you find this useful, if you want any more info or just to bounce a few ideas around, let me know.

      In the meantime, here are a few resources you might find useful they are links that I found when doing my own research on the subject:
      http://www.actionforme.org.uk/
      http://www.meassociation.org.uk/
      http://www.nmec.org.uk/
      http://www.bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk/our-services/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-me-service/
      http://www.supportme.co.uk/index2.htm

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