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My Excuses for Not Exercising

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Karl W. Palachuk
October 27, 2013

Yesterday I had a particularly painful Bikram Yoga* workout. I always have some pain due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis. But this was a bad day.

Other than Yoga, I never go barefoot. You see, walking barefoot for me is a bit like walking on a floor where some kid has scattered Legos. You know those little 1×1 pieces with really sharp corners. And the pain isn’t in a specific spot, so I can’t avoid it. I never know when I’m going to step on a Lego.

Then at random intervals I get a shooting pain like a needle sticking into my foot very suddenly.

Some days my toes feel like they’ve just been hit with a hammer. That usually doesn’t last more than a few minutes.

The joints in my hands hurt when I put pressure on them – like interlacing my fingers and making a fist. Or holding my feet in Head to Knee pose. Oh, and standing on my fingers in Hands to Feet pose? Not happening.

In general, R.A. makes me feel fatigued a lot, and sometimes my muscles are just tired. So don’t worry if I’m twitching or getting cramps or spasms. I’m fine. It will pass. The heat helps.

I currently take two medicines that affect my equilibrium, so I’m just a little dizzy when I try to stand on one foot. Luckily we only do that for half the class!

Outside the yoga studio I walk or bicycle for exercise. Both of those are pretty hard on my joints, especially feet, knees, and hips. So if I do that kind of exercise, I’m more sore and my muscles might be more fatigued during yoga.

But I DO Exercise

So why go through all that? Well, about ten years ago I was walking with a cane. I could NOT interlace my fingers and make a fist. It took me three years of Bikram Yoga to accomplish that.

I no longer walk with a cane.

Back then the joints in my back were so immobile that one would occasionally pop during a back bend and I would suddenly go back an extra inch. Instructors were frequently alarmed if they were near me when this happened.

I am no longer popping like that. My spine happily moves all the way forward and quite a ways backward. And it works pretty well side to side.

I get to do all that because I exercise.

I danced at the Halloween party last night. It was great fun. And my hips are sore this morning. But 1) I danced, and 2) I got to dance because I did Yoga in the morning.

Pain Is Just a Physical Thing

Fifteen years ago I found out that I had R.A. The doctor warned me that they have to be very aggressive with this disease to get it under control, otherwise I would be too crippled to work in ten years. Well it’s been fifteen and I am not crippled. I’m not disabled.

I’m just in pain sometimes.

My first reaction to being in constant pain was to move less and try to minimize the pain. But that’s very deceptive. Not moving leads to weight gain, loss of flexibility, and more pain. So avoiding pain is actually bad for someone with a condition like this.

Working through the pain of exercise reduces pain in the long term. It helps me keep my weight down. It keeps me flexible – which reduces pain more.

Think about all those athletic types out there (I am definitely not an athletic type): They are constantly icing knees and shoulders and heads. They seem to be in pain all the time. If one thing isn’t hurting, something else is.

So why don’t they all give up? It would hurt a lot less . . . in the short term. My assumption is that they don’t give up because they know it will hurt less in the long term. AND they get to HAVE a long term. They get to be in pain for an extra 20-30 years because they go through the pain now.

Pain is the pill you take to live longer and feel less pain over time.

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*For those unfamiliar with Bikram Yoga, it is a program with 26 poses that you move through in 90 minutes in a very hot room (over 100 degrees). It is strenuous, but the heat is great for such exercise.


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