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What I Do at the Gym to Strengthen My Body With Lupus

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The three most dreaded phrases in my world are weight loss, body image and working out. Body image used to be the number-one thing on my list that was constantly on my mind…Used to be. As someone suffering from lupus, I completely understand how important it is to be healthy and in shape. Sadly, it seems for my generation, it isn’t just enough to be healthy. You must post Instagram pics of your six-pack abs and toned arms so you can get enough “likes” from your friends in your Crossfit class. I’m not holding anything against these classes… I take spin class once a week and it’s amazing! Being a young person, I feel there is pressure to look your best, so what does that mean for someone living with lupus?

Exercising takes a large amount of effort and strength, something I don’t have when I’m having a bad flare-up. After my diagnosis and a lengthy hospital stay, I knew that I had to find a way to strengthen my body, even if that meant going to the gym on days my knees were sore and I could barely stand up straight. So that’s what I did. I got a gym membership and started going every other day. I made the right decision. After some initial soreness and aching, I started to get into a good rhythm. I had the opportunity to work with a trainer my first week and he taught me some really good low-impact workouts.

So here is my short guide to what I do at the gym:

Low-impact – do the research! I look up low-impact workouts that won’t put stress on my joints. My favorite thing to do is the stationary bike. This is my favorite thing to do at the gym. I put on my favorite techno music and let out all my frustrations and anger. Before I know it, I’m a gross, sweaty mess and I’ve biked 10 miles.

Row your boat. One of the coolest and scariest-looking machines is the rowing machine. I love this thing. It’s a great arm workout for me and again, it’s low-impact. I’m not a weightlifter, so it’s my one chance to show off in the gym (it’s OK, everyone does it).

The pool is my best friend. Working out in the pool may seem odd, but I think it’s wonderful. When I do pool workouts, there is virtually no stress on any of my joints and it’s much more beneficial for my muscles and heart. If there is a pool at your gym, there probably is going to be an aquatic class you can take. I take one, and yes, I’m the youngest one in the class.

I take time out to recharge and rest muscles and joints. I know it’s tempting to want to go as much as you can, but you must listen to your body. If there is a day that I’m having a bad flare up or just really sore, I take a day off; my body needs to recover.

Whether it’s walking, jogging, swimming or cycling, the key is to get off your butt and get moving. As with any workout program, talk to your doctor first. I recommend asking what you need to work on so flare-ups don’t leave you completely weak. For example, my doctor wants me to work on strengthening my hips. So off to the pool I go.

It’s not about getting the perfect body; it’s about being healthy enough for you.

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

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Originally published: April 19, 2016
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