A few years ago after being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, I was told that getting fit and exercising was essential to keep myself standing. I literally had to start getting stronger or I would end up not being able to move properly. Not really the sort of news you want on a rainy Tuesday when you’re 21 and starting a whole new life, but there we go. Being given a fitness ultimatum by various doctors and physios is probably a pretty good source of motivation to actually get out of bed and start doing something, but getting over the mental hurdle was and is really hard.
We all know that exercising is good for us, medical condition or not. Granted, it can be extremely hard, or physically impossible for some, so I count myself lucky that I can go to the gym and go out running (when my hips are not falling out of place that is) or swim when I feel like it. But I remember when I first seriously started to psyching myself up to change my fitness and strengthen my muscles (my arms still look like string, so this maybe hasn’t gone well so far), and I would plan it all out in my head like some sort of Olympian.
“Tomorrow I’ll go to the gym in the morning.”
“Next week I’ll go out running three times.”
“I will definitely, 100%, no matter how hard it feels, go swimming tomorrow.”
You know the score, you get all excited and determined purely from planning all this exercise in your head, but then it never happens and you realise you’re still on the sofa, eating another Kit Kat and wondering how it’s already Thursday. And then the cycle repeats.
Wanting to get fit is usually a pretty big desire. You want to feel better, look better, get stronger and feel good about yourself. For me, apart from the demands of my joints and the medical need to be as active as possible, I wanted to just not feel so guilty if I got a croissant on my way to work, or ate chocolate as a snack, because all the while I fed my sweet tooth, I felt more and more guilty about the lack of exercise.
It takes a lot to get over that mental hurdle. I know some people would call it sheer laziness and find it bizarre that you can’t just get up at 7am and go for a quick 2 mile run, but actually getting motivated to the point of taking action is no mean feat.
I’ve been continuously exercising (apart from 2 fun weeks with a delightful chest infection) since February now, and recently I’ve upped it and joined a new gym with frequent classes. I can’t do everything, because I have certain body parts that are fragile and attention seeking, but breaking through that mental barrier and taking the plans from my head into real life has been rewarding.
I feel better when I exercise- more awake, more alert and happier knowing I’m doing my body a favour, even when I can’t cough without welling up with pain from disgruntled abs. It might sound like a really small victory, to actually have gotten through the ‘tomorrow I will..’ mindset but it’s been pretty big.
if you’re struggling to do the same I seriously suggest just forcing yourself, with all the mental determination you can to hit two targets a week. Even if one is just getting out of bed slightly earlier to do 15 minutes of stretching in your pyjamas. Tiny victories turn into bigger ones.
Oh and if you’re a morning gym person sleeping in your gym clothes (is this mental?) is actually really good motivation for when you wake up!