In the last couple of weeks, I’ve drastically increased my physical activity.

For ‘normal’ people it wouldn’t be much, but for me, it’s a huge change.

At the moment, I go to the rehab-gym once a week, and run through a physiotherapist-designed program of balance work, pelvic and lower back training, arm/shoulder exercises, some leg strengthening and some cardio.

On the first day there, I was astounded by some of the older ladies doing the most amazing balancing acts at the same time as strength exercises. I had enough trouble moving my gaze around when standing still on the balance cushions!

By the fourth time at the gym, I have noticed an improvement in leg strength and cardio. The crunches and bridges are still quite difficult, but I think it’s because of my sore neck. I did have to modify the crunch position to have include neck support (pull the mat/cushion up with me as I curl, instead of reaching straight for my knees).

I’m also seeing the physiotherapist twice a week, and next month add a water fitness class to the mix.

I thought this was a ‘slow’ increase of activity for me, but my body disagrees!

Planning for an increase in activity level

Any change in activity level can cause problems when trying to manage a chronic illness, especially as one as sensitive as fibromyalgia.

That’s why it’s important to start slow.

I thought I did.

  • I started with a light hour at the gym, when most start with 90 minute sessions. Almost no resistance or weight for any exercise.
  • I spaced out the start of the gym and the water aerobics class to give my body time to adjust to the new 'normal'.
  • I scheduled an extra manual therapy session each week to deal with the inevitable muscular fall out. For two days, I can hardly move.
  • I started taking valerian a few weeks before starting to make sure I slept and had more energy (it helps a bit, but not enough).

New activities cause chaos

For a couple of days after a gym session, I’ve had to make sure my legs and lower back have heat packs regularly applied to prevent bad muscle cramps, and I must take really hot and long showers. Getting in and out of a bath is not possible at that point.

Walking around the flat or around the block helps somewhat, but anything more strenuous has flattened me in bed with a fever. That includes cleaning the house, unfortunately.

Stupidly, last weekend, I helped carry something both heavy and unwieldy up the spiral staircase to my apartment. Hello costochondritis and back cramps! Even with physiotherapy after the gym session to reduce the trigger tension for a costochondritis flare, this one extra activity pushed me over the edge.

When in a costo-flare - no rowing-like movements at the gym during and after.

It takes me two full days to be able to move my legs and arms without lots of pain, and to get rid of the light fever that always seems to arrive after any physical activity.

A long adjustment time

Healthy people would have no problems with one weekly and light gym session. Even a moderate session would probably not have the same impact.

It’s been a month since I started gym, and the fall-out is just now starting to be less after a session. I don’t think it will disappear completely - there will always be some increase in pain and muscle soreness, but I am seeing a slight improvement.

It’s similar to starting any new therapy or medication, I need about a month to start to find a new base level.

So, I suspect I’ll be doing much better in a month.

Or not. As I’ll have started the water fitness class.

Then I’ll adjust to a new baseline again.

How long do you need to adjust?

If you start a new therapy, treatment, medication or exercise routine, how long does it take for you to find your new ‘normal’?