A slightly longer than anticipated gap between this and my last post – G.E.T. Started – as work and ‘life’ have intervened during that time to keep me incredibly busy. However, this experience has brought into focus one of my next topics: ‘Wants and Needs’. I will get to these in more detail in my next post but first we need to revisit our activity log and talk about next steps.
Average is your friend
In my last post I talked about keeping track of your activity in an Activity, Rest & Sleep Log as the first step for GET. Before you start to think about increasing your activity, you need to work out what activity you are actually capable of at the moment.
By now you should have a good set of data to work with; up to three-weeks worth. From this you can calculate your average daily capacity for high/medium energy activities and average step counts if you are using a pedometer (daily average calculated as total hours/steps for a defined period divided by the number of days). These averages provide you with your starting baseline for GET.
These baselines in high/medium energy activity and/or step count will be less than you can manage on a good day but more than you can manage on your worst days.
Your challenge now is to try to reach, but not exceed, your daily baselines. You may not achieve them every day but continue trying to hit them until you can sustainably reach that target baseline every day, without setbacks, for at least a week.
If you are struggling to reach your baseline on a regular basis, or if reaching it continually produces setbacks, then reduce your daily average until you are able to sustain this every day without setbacks.
You may want to carry on for two- or even three-weeks at your first baseline until that level of activity feels easy and comfortable rather than challenging and draining. The chances are you have been struggling with ME/CFS/Chronic Illness for a significant amount of time and a few extra weeks at this stage won’t be much of a sacrifice but will set you up for success.
The Key to Success: Leave Behind the “Boom and Bust”
Establishing your baseline and being able to achieve it every day without setbacks is essential to being successful with GET. Don’t rush. Don’t push too soon or you will stumble and loose your confidence.
I know I have said this before, but it doesn’t hurt to reinforce it again: although the end goal of graded exercise therapy is to increase your activity, the key to success with GET is to initially do less than the most you can do.
As many sufferers of ME/CFS are high achievers to start with, doing less than your best is counterintuitive and requires a great deal of will power; I know it did for me. The temptation to do everything that you’ve been unable to do when you’re having a good day is almost too much to resist.
If you want to succeed, if you want to take back your life you must have a will of iron to stay within your baselines. Essentially, your first few weeks establishing sustainable baseline activity is like building the foundations of a house: rushed, unstable, improperly set foundations will ruin the house further down the line with subsidence, cracks and even collapse. Conversely, strong, well constructed and solid foundations will produce a house that will stand the test of time.
Alternatively, think of time as money and your body as a life assurance policy: the more you put in, the more you will get out at the end; managed well, you will get a good return on your investment but poorly managed, you could loose all you have paid in.