A few years ago while recovering from rotator cuff surgery, both of my knees swelled enormously and I could barely walk. Barbara, a highly knowledgeable Pilates-based personal trainer, kept me moving through my limited range twice a week until I was diagnosed and treated successfully for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Unlike most patients, I have no permanent damage from those six months of severe swelling, thanks to Barbara, and it is her example that’s inspiring me to reach out and help others. I’m currently Level One Mat Certified by Power Pilates.
Once we had the diagnosis, I went onto the correct medicine and achieved 80-90% of my pre-RA fitness. My friend, an orthopedic surgeon, suggested I try water jogging using hand bells and fins for extra resistance. I still didn’t have full range of motion in my shoulder so this sounded perfect … and it was! The time in the pool took away the last of the swelling and I had relief in my joints for the first time since before the shoulder surgery.
One day I said to my friend, “My goal is to be fit enough to try indoor cycling.” Not one for excuses, my friend signed me up for my first cycling class whispering “you don’t have to turn up the resistance when the instructor says so. Just get through the class.” I loved it! At first my knees weren’t stable enough to stand but I kept going with her encouragement.
Slowly something amazing started to happen. The old patella injury I’d had for many years stopped hurting! My doctor had assured me it would hurt until I had a full knee replacement “one day” but with cycling, I no longer had the low-but-persistent pain I’d had for many years. My theory is that strengthening the muscles around my knee gave the patella the space needed to avoid the painful bone-on-bone grinding. Who knew? I’m currently a Spin Certified instructor.
I now work with Lisa, a trainer, doing a variety of training including Pilates and weights. Lisa and I are also working on strengthening the muscles around my shoulder looking for a similar success as we had in my knee.
When my heart rate went high during a stressful time last year, Lisa increased my cardio requirement and the condition passed with medical monitoring but without any medical treatment. I wrote about this experience in Stress Test Stress. Lisa also introduced me to MELT Method, which uses soft foam rollers and rubber balls for pain and stress management.
With medicine and regular exercise, I’m now asymptomatic and my rheumatologist now cites me as her healthy “poster child” to motivate her other RA patients. She’s also become a dear friend and workout buddy. Still, when I go to her office and see her waiting room filled with people bent over in pain and fatigue, I want to do more.
I will turn fifty (50!) in January and I’m the healthiest I’ve been since my mid-thirties. I want to help others with chronic conditions or injuries, and can best do this from a position of knowledge. This is why I’m moving forward with a full NASM personal training certification program.
No one can help having a medical condition or taking the associated medications with their associated side effects. Everything else is your choice including what you do to exercise and what you eat. Everyone can influence their own health and I want to be there to help.