At any given point during the day, someone is bound to ask, “Have you worked out yet?” Cue the sheepish face, rolling eyes, and “no…..” Then comes the “Ok.” And they walk away. The deed is done, the guilt trip is complete. Nothing more needs to be said, because you secretly know you should have busted your butt on the elliptical hours ago. You see, my family is incredibly supportive. They have two teenage daughters with POTS and honestly know more about it than we do. Everything is pretty easy to do (albeit annoying). I mean, medicine, is something you automatically do at some point. I finally finagled and only have to take it twice a day, morning and night. It’s a regimen, and quite an easy one to follow. And thus, almost impossible to forget. My morning protocol is the same way.
First I hear the alarm. Sigh accordingly. Reach over very ungracefully and text my family good morning (knocking over a water glass in the process). Then I get up, microwave a cup of bullion broth and drink that under my covers. I pop a pill, then get up and have breakfast (usually oatmeal with craisins, walnuts, and cinnamon). I go to get changed and remember I haven’t done my stretches/exercises/thingymajiggers. So I do the following:
1. 25 tip toes (there’s probably a real name for this somewhere). My doc at the Mayo clinic coached me into making it a stretch with four beats. You life your heels up, one two, back down, three four. This is probably the easiest stretch to do but it will make you wicked dizzy if you take is fast.
2. 25 (I usually cheat and do 20…) squats. Don’t look at me like that, you can start out in small increments. You just have to take them reeeally slowly and make sure you don’t hyperextend your knees. This means if you look down your knees should not go past your toes. They made me really dizzy when I started out, I could only manage five. I worked my way up, you can too. And I freaking love that picture. So appreciate it : )
look at that smexy broccoli lifting weights. Gosh, this is what happens when I’m allowed to choose my own pictures…
3. Lifting weights in increments of 25. I do 2-3 each morning mostly because I really hate how weak my arms are. Between roping, swim, and tennis I used to look like pop eye the sailor, now, not so much. Anyways, only one set is required (ask your dad or someone who works out, it’s pretty easy).
1. Know your schedule. Make a list of free hours you have during the day, what days have more homework, and take note what time of the day it is. For some reason, POTS kids have more energy in either the morning of afternoon. For me, its usually the morning. But that’s a bit unusual. Apparently everyone else feels less than stellar in the morning. So take that into consideration. There’s no point in scheduling a workout session that most days of the week you can’t complete because you feel terrible. Also, if you know you have class right before, wait half an hour. We’re not bunnies that can go jumping from one activity to the next. I usually need 30 min to an hour to relax before I can even think about working out.
Here’s the tough part. Working out. It’s a huge mental block, whether you want to count walking to class exercise, or even just putting on a clean shirt in the morning. No. This is an addition to normal daily activities to ensure you can do them in the future. My parents motivated me at first, but as I got better and able to self-function a little I made a chart. Mine had flowers and doodles on it, bribery for making it in the first place. Just say how many minutes a day you’re going to do, and then add about five each week. Keep adding until you get to 30-45 min. I’m at about 45 min of run/walking. I run for half and walk back. I generally walk up hills because I don’t want to look like this:
It also helps if you stretch and warm up your muscles for five minutes of working out. It’s less of a stress on your body. One thing Dr. Papa often tells me to do is to wear my anti-embolism stockings while run/walking. I wish I had in the beginning, my calf muscles had gone kaput. The stockings keep your calves taut and increase your blood flow to keep you from getting dizzy. And as awkward as it feels when you put them on, people generally are impressed (especially if they’re a cool bright color!). Oh, sock update, I got AMAZING anti-embolism stockings at Fleet Feet. They’re colorful, comfy, and they make sure they fit perfectly. No one questions them when I wear them to pick up Ultimate Frisbee games either, I suppose because they’re considered “Athletic” now. No one needs to know they’re also for old people. And POTS people. So be proud and wear your socks high!
When you’re done, drink a huge glass of water an pedialyte (maybe two!) and sit down. Don’t lie down or sleep. Wait a bit before you take a warm shower (not hot, hot water can cause your veins to dilate and you could faint). It’s also a good time to do facials because you will be in one place for a time and can then wash them off in the shower. I dunno, I like masks and stuff like that because my skin is a finicky creature. My favorite to use are from LUSH because I know all the ingredients (they use nothing synthetic) and they leave my face all glowy. Cosmetic Warrior (good for acne), and Mask of Magnaminty (it’s cool and makes your skin tingle. Plus I really like the smell!).
Working out is an every day struggle. But if you aim for every day you will probably end up with approximately 4-5. That’s the reality of our situation. This is the one way we can really see a tangible result besides just waiting out a bad day. You want to get better. You can get better and you WILL get better. But instead of feeling useless, put your mind to working at it. My parents used to say working out is a job, it truly is. It ranks above friends, homework, work, everything except sleep and medicine. This is well within your power. You are strong enough to improve your body. Pie and I both have. It gets better.
There’s this last thing. I was trying to encourage a friend recently and I told her to celebrate every accomplishment. I think that is the most important. Have your best friend or little brother buy you flowers when you work your way up to working out for fifteen minutes or a half hour. You aren’t working out to become normal again. You’re working out to become extraordinary. You are worthy of flowers. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and completely adept at dealing with this. We have a saying as Christians that God never gives you more than you can handle. It’s true. You can handle what would break most, the loss of everything that formerly made them proud of themselves. But there’s something else inside you, something indomitable.
“Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.”
– T.S. Eliot