Exercise and Chronic Fatigue/Fibromialgia
by Cathy Deevey
If you suffer from CFS/FM (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia), don't think that you have to give up your fitness training.
I am 51 years of age, and was diagnosed with CFS/FM at the age of 41. Upon diagnosis, I was told I would have to give up exercise and work. My life as I knew it was over. The fatigue was so extreme I could barely walk, or even lift my baby finger, or hold my own head up.
Only a year before being diagnosed I had started kickboxing, and found my true calling and passion (though it was late in life). But I did not let my age stop me from my goal of fighting in the ring. While training for my first ametuer fight, the fatigue started, but I got through that fight, and won! Such a great accomplishment. I was then 42, and my opponent was 21, with 3 fights under her belt! At that time I thought I was tired from perhaps my age, or training too hard. When I tried to start training for my next fight though, the fatigue became so extreme, I became completely disabled. I had to seek medical attention, and was diagnosed with CFS/MS.
Now, western medicine used to dictate you stop everything, but alternative medicine dictates otherwise. I began accupuncture treatments and within 6 months had my second fight. Then I began NAET treatments, and had my 3rd fight, and later on went to Ireland for yet another, and to Africa. I was on cloud nine. I strongly recommend NAET treatments, as they actually help heal the body. Acupuncture is also definitely a great way to assist in healing.
I learned the hard way that you need to train at a lesser level, get your sleep, (which is very difficult for those who suffer from CFS), eat the right foods, and take your supplements. You should keep your workouts between 65% - 80% of your maximum effort. You also need to listen to your body, and when it starts to feel fatigued, stop! You need to recognise the difference between being tired from exercise, and fatigue from your illness. It is a fine line, but you will learn it soon enough. If a normal athlete would take 1 day to recover, you may need 2 - 3 days. So pace yourself. Get used to where your limit is, and be good to yourself.
This does not mean no exercise. You can still take long walks, stretch, meditate, do light yoga, but listen to your body. You can do strength training, and maintain a normal life of fitness.
CFS sufferers do not rebuild their ATP (cell energy) as quick as healthy people. We need up to 3 times as long to rebuild, sometimes it can take days. So, always make sure you never burn out.
I am now 51 years old, and hung my gloves up at 50 years old. I became a certified personal trainer in 2008, and with one of my fighters that I train and coach, who is also my friend, and partner, we have started up a BootCamp program for women. We also do Family Fun Fit, Intro to Fit, and Stretch Class. Although CFS never really goes away, it can be brought under control, and you can lead a fairly normal life.
Strength training and cardio are still very possible, just at a lower level. Keep your weights or resistance a bit lighter than most, and don't move quite as quickly or with so much vigor. You do not have to be the first to finish, or to be the best in the class. You just have to finish! I am as fit now as I was when I was in my 20's, because I refused to give in, or give up. I am a fighter in the true sense of the word, and I am sure you are too! You can do it! Just remember, start off slow. Learn your limits.
Try this workout for a quick strength training session.
Start with a 5 minute warm-up, doing some jumping jacks, running on the spot, knees up, kicking your butt, swinging your arms and light kicks to get the blood flowing and the muscles warm.
Do 2 sets of the following:
Mountain Climbers x10
Squat to Medicine Ball Shoulder Press (or you can use bands or dumbbells) x10
Rear Lunge with a kick Right side x10
Rear Lunge with a kick Left side x10
Wide Squats x10
Push-ups with arm raises x10
Bicep Curls (use bands or dumbbells) x10
Tricep Kickbacks (use bands or dumbbells) x10
Full Planks x30-60 seconds
Oblique Crunches x15 on each side
Stretch your hamstrings, quads, glutes, biceps, triceps, shoulders, abs, chest and back.