How I Tailored My Exercise Habits to Manage My Symptoms
Last updated: June 2022
Let me start this post by acknowledging my privilege: I am currently on hormonal therapy that prevents my periods from happening. Without progesterone, the situation would be completely different.
I would be bed-bound for up to ten days every month and possibly unable to sustain my current physical activity levels.
Six years before my diagnosis, the adhesions and scarring inside me caused me to develop a limp, and I also suffered from severe tailbone and lower back pain. Upon noticing my reduced mobility, I had a physical therapist who delivered a damning statement: "if you don't fix this, you will be an old woman by the time you're forty."
Physical exercise helped after my diagnosis
I soon discovered pilates and yoga and regained a lot of my mobility. After my endometriosis diagnosis, I started running and even managed to complete the London Marathon in 2019. Yet I did none of this because I am an endorphin junkie but am a legitimate couch potato.
I suffer from severe fatigue fifty percent of the time. My limbs and back hurt more often than I'll admit. Yet, if I didn't get enough exercise, my pain levels would worsen, and my health would be severely affected.
Exercising is not linked to making my body look a certain way, and it is not about maintaining a certain weight. It's about preserving flexibility that helps my pain levels, a strength that aids me when enduring the bad days.
Recently I have upped my fitness levels to include a wide range of practices. It includes boxing once a week, pilates twice, and weight lifting. I still run, very, very slowly. In June, I hope to complete a 10KM trail run.
Different types of exercise for each symptom
My stress and anxiety levels are lowered whenever I go for a slow jog or a hike. Swimming in cold water has had immediate effects on my pain levels, even during flare-ups. Yoga helps me keep the leg pain at bay.
I've gone deeper into my boxing practice in the last couple of months, improving my technique with a personal trainer. This exercise is less impactful than running and kinder to my joints and moody tailbone. Mostly, it is enjoyable, and just slipping on my gloves gives me a sense of power and independence.
Living with a wretched disease like endometriosis means I strive daily to reclaim the power over my own body.
I am okay with my limitations. When you live with endometriosis comparing yourself to others can be extremely cruel.
Recognizing my physical limitations
I have to constantly remind myself that I may not be able to do what other people do, and that's okay. My energy levels are often zapped, and my periods can leave me bed-bound.
In this sense, I know that just because I can do two boxing sessions this week, I may not be able to do them the following. When I set out to run the London Marathon, I knew that I had zero control over how my body would feel on the morning of the event.
All I needed was a flare-up, and marathon dreams would evaporate.
Managing my pain on my own
My approach to exercise works for me, for now. Doctors seem to be clueless about most of my physical pain and often prescribe me pills already in my medicine cabinet.
To live with endometriosis, I've had to become my advocate and my pain management fairy and constant self-caregiver. I may not be able to find a cure for my disease, but I will strive to give myself the excellent health and quality of life I deserve while I am still able to do so.
Which symptoms are you experiencing the most this week? (Check all that apply):