May 29, 2021
Part 2 – Exercise: Making Movement Fun
Welcome to my Health Saturday’s B.R.E.A.T.H.S. blog post. This space I have open to discuss my lifelong battle with the genetic connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), type-3: hypermobility (HEDS). I started this health blog the first week in May, describing my difficulties with falling, breaking bones, bruising easily, temperature control issues, subluxing/dislocating, and mental health issues associated with HEDS. Last week, I discussed the best low-carb lifestyles that I have been following for over 15 years to maintain my body weight to keep less stress off my ligaments, muscles, and joints. This week, I will discuss the best exercise plans that work for me to keep the extra weight off without causing me too much pain, discomfort, or inflammation. I also included a special Memorial Day movement edition in the marathon section.
No Regular Workouts
When I first found out about my HEDS diagnosis in 2017, doctors told me that I could not go to the gym and lift weights because that would over stretch my already stretchy body. Same advice for yoga and Pilates. No running or jogging either, but walking is fine. “So what exactly could I do to exercise?,” I asked. The doctors said that I could do water aerobics, swimming, and light gardening, that’s it. They also added that I choose something fun and engaging so that I will stick with it.
When I was living in Long Beach, CA in 2017, there was a huge outdoor Olympic pool right on the beach. The year-round daily temperatures were around 60-80 degrees making it perfect to enjoy the outdoor pool. I signed up for their water aerobic classes in the evenings and would go after work two to three times a week for a few hours each time. They played fun upbeat music to get us all motivated. I did get a good workout, but I found sweating in water was kind of weird. My body was hot from the workout and I thought the water would cool me down but it didn’t. I did that for a few months then I got bored with the same routine, so I looked for something else. I still do go to a local beach or indoor pool for swimming every month, but I prefer not to do the water aerobics.
I know what you might be thinking, marathons, didn’t she say she couldn’t run or jog? True, but I met a teacher friend who had gastric bypass surgery to help her lose a great deal of weight so that she could start a family, she was successful. Her doctors told her to keep the weight off permanently, she would have to commit to weekly exercise she enjoyed and she chose marathons. She informed me that marathons can be competitive races for some people, but for most, they are forms of personal enjoyment. You don’t have to run, you can walk they even have special vehicles to transport people to the finish line who might need the extra help finishing the marathon (see, I did not call it a race).
The purpose of a marathon is to finish something you started and improve each time you try. My friend made marathons fun by dressing up for them, inviting friends to tag along, picking a couple each month with different distances and locations, improving her times, keeping her weight off, and the best part, the medals at the end. Everyone who crosses the finish line gets a medal, no matter how long it takes, you win every time!
Although I did finish in LA, that was my first and only long marathon. I had to listen to my body and find something that would not be as physically demanding. For the last couple years I have been involved with weekly virtual races where I get to choose the date, time, distance (2k, 5k, or 10k), and location (local neighborhood). I plan a couple months ahead to order the bib and medals that I want to do for each month (about 4). The best part about Virtual Run Events is that every race gives a portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit, so it’s a win/win for everyone! They even have a Memorial Day Race benefiting Operation Gratitude who support our military troops and first responders.
Nature is the best medicine, or is that laughter? Why not both at the same time and get double the healing power? This is what I found to be true with community gardening like at The Kindness Farm, located in Portland, Oregon. No matter what city I visit, I find local gardens and farms that have volunteers to help out. This was especially good during Covid because I could still get outside, add some movement, and talk to people at an acceptable social distance (nobody is close during gardening). If there is nobody near to have a good chat or laugh, I pop in my headphones or just crank up the volume on my phone for the plants to hear my music. Another opportunity for me to improve my physical and mental health, all while helping others in the community, more winning!
Combination of Lifestyle Efforts
To lose and maintain weight, my lifestyle is a 80/20 combination, where the majority of what I focus on is my food intake (diet=80%), and the 20% is the exercise or movement. I try to keep my diet and exercise simple. For food, I write down what I love to eat, then I find the keto alternatives (there is a substitute for everything, see my lists of kept-friendly foods from last week). For exercise, I make it fun with a combination of the marathons and gardening like I mentioned above, but there are several other fun movements like silent disco dancing in the park I do every weekend, swimming or kayaking in waterways, walks through botanical gardens, rolling in buggies across dunes, and small hikes for chasing secret waterfalls.
Thank you for reading!
Sending lots of love and healing energy,
Dr. Jaime Brainerd, Ed.D.
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I am not giving any medical advice. My doctorate is in educational leadership and technology. I am a health enthusiast who feels that sharing health-related information I learn about myself might help others heal themselves as my mentor/teacher/favorite author, Louise Hay has taught me.