Disclaimer: I am by no means an exercise expert, this is just my experience!
When it comes to exercise, I’m a bit of a masochist. Anything I can do for 30-45 minutes that makes me feel like I’m about to die and prevents me from thinking about anything else – that’s my happy place. While trying to navigate around the world with endo and PCOS, I’ve also been experimenting with various types of movement and how they affect my body – both positively and negatively.
Before I start, I’d like to remind readers that healthy bodies can come in all shapes and sizes. We are all different, and our bodies respond to things differently.
I’ve had people look at my body and say things like “well, with your health problems and body type, I think (insert exercise here) would be best for you”. This is HIGHLY frustrating, and has happened on multiple occasions. I’d give a lot to avoid daily fluid retention, inflammation, swelling and insulin resistance, but it’s just not that easy!
Moving on, these are my experiences with different types of movement over the past year, and how they’ve positively impacted my life and health journey.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) with Weights
Tabata training is one of my favourite forms of HIIT that I can practice outside, at a gym or in my own living room (which is perfect when I’m feeling like garbage). I find videos and routines (via Popsugar Fitness) and can complete a difficult workout in 30 minutes. I’ve found that this has been a very effective way for me to build muscle and endurance while not straining my body too much. If at any point I’m starting to feel a lot of pain, I can stop the workout and take a few deep breaths.
Don’t underestimate the power of a brisk, long walk. Even on days when I’m feeling a lot of pain and swelling, walking is an attainable activity for me. Getting outside on a sunny day ups my PMS moods, stretches out my legs and can increase my heart rate ever so slightly. I like walking to work – which takes almost an hour – as a way of incorporating some extra activity without really realizing that I’m working out!
I LOVE SPIN. If you’ve ever followed me on social media, you’ll know how much Hustl&Flow did for me in terms of boosting my self confidence and developing my endurance. That being said, extended periods of cardio do funny things to those with already high cortisol levels (e.g some women with PCOS). After a few months of doing spin, I noticed that I had a lot of difficulty recovering from workouts, had increased fluid retention, and felt like I was gaining weight. Some moves on the bike also weren’t the most friendly for those with pelvic pain, but I was usually able to figure out an alternative movement or chat with an instructor after class to find something more comfortable. Once I’m able to control my cortisol levels by getting more sleep and lowering my stress levels, I’ll be back on that bike!
Ah yes, another great form of movement I can do with no pants on in my living room. I like to follow instructional videos from Yoga with Adriene and Fitsugar Fitness. Pilates incorporates exercises that assist in building control for movements I do in my daily life, while working on lengthening and strengthening my muscles. This is especially helpful for my tight hamstrings, connected to the base of the pelvis. Yoga is something that I like to save for particularly uncomfortable days. I can light candles and set a pillow under my lower back while stretching my pelvis, and give myself a little self-massage to release fluid and tension.
Recently, I began rock climbing at Grand River Rocks in Kitchener. It’s a really wonderful and inclusive space that’s only a litttttttle bit intimidating. Climbers are able to either purchase or rent equipment necessary for some walls. Otherwise, you’re able to boulder with just climbing shoes and chalk. I’ve really enjoyed challenging my strength and stamina, while keeping my mind occupied. Each route is like a different puzzle that needs to be solved in order to reach the top. The harness has not been nearly as friendly and it can put a lot of pressure on my pelvis. I need to limit my time climbing and belaying if I want to avoid an endo episode.
Overall, exercise is often risky business for me. Oftentimes while working out, I’m in pain and it’s tough to muster up the motivation to move. “Funnily” enough, movement is one thing that helps release endorphins and reduce pain! Whether it’s getting outside for a walk, grabbing a day pass to GRR or hanging out in happy baby pose for an hour on your living room floor when you feel kinda crappy, I promise, your body and mind will benefit greatly.