Woman viewed from behind wearing workout clothes with armband holding IPod with text overlay:How Can I Exercise Consistently When I Hurt All the Time?

How Can I Exercise Consistently When I Hurt All The Time?

My yoga practice is going to the dogs — literally. I’ve had company on my mat for the last two days.

How Do I Exercise Consistently When I Hurt All The Time https://reclaiminghopewellness.com

It’s not easy to have a nice, relaxing practice when you have to get a dog off your head because he takes lying on the mat as an invitation to lie down and roll on it. Somewhat better is the little guy who stations himself right in front of you and stares in your face. I didn’t have the heart to make him move because he’s not feeling well. I knew he just wanted to be with his Mama, so I just adjusted as needed to accommodate him.

Although these last couple of practices haven’t been what anyone would consider great, they have helped me get back to my mat. I got off-track after the skin biopsy I talked about in Is Your Chronic Illness Hiding A Problem? and have struggled to get back into my routine ever since.

Building consistency with exercise isn’t easy for most people, even those who don’t have health issues. It’s even more difficult for those of us who live with chronic pain, but there are so many benefits we can gain from exercise, it’s worth the effort.

As I talked about in I Like To Move It, Move It, the best exercise is the one you’ll actually do, but building the habit, even for the things you like to do, is hard. Once your routine is interrupted, it’s hard to get back to it.

Part of the problem with building consistency in our exercise program is that, for me at least, things that are typically effective for helping us build that routine don’t always work for those of us living with chronic pain.

Conventional wisdom concerning establishing the exercise habit has become the standard because it works — the majority of the time. We definitely shouldn’t ignore it, but because we deal with a unique set of circumstances, we may have to make some small adjustments to make it work for us.

As always, the first step in developing an exercise program and becoming consistent with it is to consult our medical team. Our doctor and the rest of our team know the challenges we face and the modifications we may need to make.

I thought I’d share a few of the tweaks I’ve had to make to those tried-and-true  recommendations to help me keep moving forward with adding more movement into my day and allow me to build consistency with my exercise.

Conventional Wisdom….

Then Some Fibro Hacks

Standard Recommendation: 

Make an “appointment” to exercise. Write it on your calendar just as you would any other appointment. This helps you avoid allowing other things to cause you to let your workout slide.

Fibro Hack:

Take a more relaxed approach to planning exercise. If you’re able to go the “appointment” route without feeling a sense of failure when you can’t keep the appointment, this is still a great way to go. If, however, this is a struggle, adapting a more fluid approach to planning your workout might be better. For me, adopting an attitude of “I plan to exercise today if my pain and energy levels allow” has helped me keep it at the forefront of my mind so I don’t forget about it, but allows me to avoid guilt if I don’t do it.

Standard Recommendation:

Work out at the same time each day. Doing the same thing at the same time each day is a great way to reinforce a habit. When we consistently take the same actions at the same time, it becomes automatic and keeps us from having to depend on our own motivation to do it.

Fibro Hack:

Realize that due to the ebb and flow of our energy and pain levels, we may not be able to do our exercise at the same time each day. Some days we have more energy in the morning; sometimes it’s better in the evening. If we listen to our bodies, they will usually tell us what the better time is. We just need to set the intention to exercise in our minds so that when they tell us, we’ll pay attention. We also will probably need more than one rest day between workouts if we do something a little more vigorous. Giving our bodies appropriate rest time helps reduce our chances of a flare, and helps us build that consistency over time.

Standard Recommendation:

Set small goals along the way to your ultimate goal and reward yourself when you meet them. Breaking down larger goals into smaller action steps and rewarding yourself when you meet them can help motivate you to keep going when you just don’t feel like it.

Fibro Hack:

If you wish to reward yourself, tie the reward more to individual actions than actual goal accomplishments. With Fibromyalgia, when we tie our rewards to goal accomplishment only, we can be setting ourselves up for yet another guilt trip. We need to set goals and work toward them, but tying rewards only to goal accomplishment may end up having a more de-motivating effect. Instead, we can set up our rewards based just on our individual actions. For instance, to help motivate me, I reward myself with my watercolor lesson after I do my exercise for the day. It gives me something to look forward to and encourages me to go ahead and get it done.

Standard Recommendation:

If you fall off the wagon, get right back up there. If for some reason you get off-track with your exercise program, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again as soon as you’re able. Feeling badly about what we didn’t do is not constructive. What we need to do is focus on what we can do now. As the old saying goes, “it doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is how many times you get back up.”

Fibro Hack:

There is no Fibro Hack for this! This stands true for everyone. Looking back doesn’t help us move forward. In fact, I even go so far as to give myself permission to be inconsistently consistent; I realize there will be many times that I’ll have breaks in my exercise routine. When dealing with an extended flare, I could go a week or two without exercising at all. That’s okay, though – I know that as soon as I’m feeling better, I’ll just start over.

As I said earlier, the standard recommendations regarding exercise consistency are called conventional wisdom for a reason – they work for most people. They’re based on behavioral science, so we shouldn’t ignore them; we just may have to tweak them a bit to meet our needs.

This can be the key to becoming more consistent overall with our exercise program.

Have you had experiences of having to make adjustments to the standard practices of habit-building to make them work for you? Please share!



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Person wearing black capris and a white t-shirt riding a stationary bike with text overlay: How Can I Exercise Consistently When I Hurt All the Time?


    1. Thanks so much Charlie! I seem to remember that you’re a runner…I’ve read several articles about how yoga can really benefit runners. 😊

    1. Thanks so much Marie! The “I plan to” philosophy has really helped me a lot. As you said, it keeps the goal in mind, but it helps me avoid feeling guilty if I just can’t do it.

    1. Thank you so much Wendi! They are sweet little guys (most of the time anyway). We adopted them from a shelter when they were about 7 months old. They’ll be 10 this year. I don’t know where the time has gone….

      1. It really does! I just can’t even believe they’re that old…. It seems like just yesterday we were having to teach them to how to live in a house and go down a couple of steps from the back porch because they had spent their life in a cage….Now they think they own the house.😁 Hope you have a wonderful week! Hugs!

      2. 🙂 just like my furry buddy……….she thinks she owns the house and my bed. But we are so blessed to have them in our lives!
        May your week bring you smiles 🙂

  1. Great fibro-life-hacks!! I had to laugh about the dogs, though. I use Yoga with Adrienne videos for my at-home practice and her dog Benji is featured prominently. You just have to train your dogs to follow along.😂

    1. Thanks so much Cynthia! The pups definitely make it interesting – I wish I could train them to at least stay off my head lol! 😂

    1. Thanks so much Sarah! Can you believe they’re 10 already? It seems like just yesterday they were babies….

  2. Great post – love the idea of alternatives to standard exercise stuff! One size definitely doesn’t fit chronic illness!

    1. Thanks so much Melissa! I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. Blessings to you!

  3. I loved this Terri. Such a timely post for me. I try to exercise everyday and lately I’ve noticed that my normal exercise time has me a little fatigued. Granted a hard day’s work could be the factor but it was never like how it is now. I need to rethink when I exercise and should try something different and start in the morning.

    1. Thanks so much Mark! I appreciate your kind words. I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling more fatigued with your exercise. If you keep feeling fatigued, you may want to check in with your doctor just to rule out anything other than exercise that could be causing it. Blessings to you!

      1. I’m glad to hear that you’re seeing your doctor Mark. Much better to get checked out and make sure there are no reasons for concern. Wishing you all the best!

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