I rarely blog about my medical conditions. Perhaps because I rarely openly discuss them. I think about it a lot, and I asked myself recently why I avoid them. I think the real reason is when I talk about them, it reminds me they exist. I like to pretend I am invincible, and sometimes I even feel like I am. I know this does not make sense but it is how I feel.
The truth is, I have some medical conditions and I am grateful that they are not life threatening and can be managed. But that does not change the fact that they do exist and that sometimes I do have some issues dealing with them. One of those conditions is my rheumatoid arthritis.
Living with my RA became a lot easier when I lost my weight. It limited my ability before I lost the weight because I let it. I am lucky that it does not bother me every single day. I have a lot of good days. But there are some days that it really hurts.
On the days it is very bad it reminds me that I am not invincible. My RA reminds me that I am not a robot. This week I have been experiencing some harsher symptoms from it. Every single morning I wake up in pain. My hands hurt and my thumbs are so swollen I cannot do much of anything. My knees and ankles swell too and I dread that first step out of bed. The pain shoots up my legs as soon as I put pressure on my joints. I feel like I am 90 years old in the morning. My hips ache and my shoulders even hurt. It is so hard to force myself out of bed when I am in that much pain.
My body feels like it is inflammed. That is the best way I can describe it. I am achy all over, and I feel like I am too stiff to move. The morning is the hardest. Night time I am restless and have a hard time getting comfortable enough to sleep. My body gets stiff the longer I sleep so that is what pains me most in the morning. I force myself out of bed early in the morning to take my ibuprofen, then I wait for it to start working.
It usually takes a good hour and half for my body to "wake up". I stretch and start moving my joints and it helps but it still just takes some time for it all to calm down. I feel bad, its hard to open things. Peanut asks me for things and I cringe, or sometimes I just am cranky because I am in so much pain. I try not to think about it, I try to block it out and distract myself with other things. But I think the worst is my hands because I use them so much. In fact this post has taken days to write because typing cramps them up so bad and I have to stop and start again and again.
I realized Tuesday morning that running in the morning, or in the extreme cold, cannot happen right now. It was a realization I came to after attempting a run and having to come home after 2 miles. Every single step hurt my joints. I did not give my body enough time to wake up and I was almost in tears outside trying to run. I came home feeling defeated and depressed. I felt that pang of being no longer invincible and I felt like a wimp not being able to run in the cold.
Later on in the afternoon I went to the gym and had a good tempo run on the treadmill. It lifted me up. I got about half way through the run and I realized something, I was lucky. I was lucky to be able to run when 6 hours earlier I was barely able to walk. I know it is not my favorite, or ideal, but being able to run still is amazing. I need to breathe in deeply in those mornings and fight through the pain and remember that it will go away in a few hours enough to be able to exercise.
It is a double edge sword, I always feel amazing after a workout, the endorphins do wonders for pain relief. But I know that the pounding on my joints also might make things a little worse later in life. I am 29. I worry about what I will be like by 49. But I fear that without exercise my body will stiffen up and I will lose mobility.
So how do I run with rheumatoid arthritis?
I run when I can. I run when my body feels better later in the day. Mid day is best for me because my joints have loosened up and I have enough time to unwind and fall asleep. I find if I run at night I run ok too but that it is harder to fall asleep as I am all wound up. I have become a trail and ultra runner. This is so much better for my joints. The pounding of pavement during a marathon or a long run on pavement makes my joints ache for a week or 2. When you run on dirt or trails or even a softer surface like a track it is so much less impact and I find I am not sore as much.
I do not try to be a hero. If it is bitter cold out and I am in the middle of a bad flare up, I run inside. This does not make me less of a runner, it does not make me wimpy, it makes me a runner who runs with some conditions. It makes me smarter because I am getting quality runs done and not messing my body up even more. I got in 3 solid treadmill runs this week and actually ran better than I would have trying to run outside and in pain. Plus the after effects of subjecting my joints to that bitter cold are not there.
I listen to my body. When I am in pain I take it easy. And I remind myself that it could always be worse. I remember to appreciate the fact that I can run. I do not try to force things that I know will be bad for me, or that could keep from running in the future.
I stick to my nutrition plan. No gluten keeps my body much happier and I make sure to be strict with my nutrition I also have found that eating very clean keeps my body stronger.
When I was young I was diagnosed with this condition. Then it was just juvenile arthritis, and it was a symptom related to my immune disease. I used to be kept inside during recess on painful days, and I was told to take it easy. That way did not help. I let myself think that because of medical conditions I should not exercise and I should take it easy.
I have learned so much these past 3 years. I have learned most of all, that exercise only helps keep me mobile and healthier. Keeping my weight at a healthy level keeps the most pressure off my joints as well. Exercising every single day keeps me mobile and strong. Strong muscles take pressure off joints. So my plan is to work hard every day and keep fighting through the pain. At the end of the day the pain will be there regardless of my activity level, and it is much less with the activity than without it.
So I run with rheumatoid arthritis to keep it under control, and to stay as active and healthy as I can. I run to be strong. I run to be mobile longer.