How to Start Exercising When Everything Hurts

Get some tips from someone who has been there on how to start exercising when everything hurts!

Women enjoying some physical movement in a way that shows how to start exercising when everything hurts!

If you have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or another chronic health challenge, you may be frustrated with the topic of exercise. Well-meaning doctors and friends will tell you that you just need to get more exercise and get to the gym. But figuring out how to start exercising when everything hurts can feel like an insurmountable task.

Exercise is a proven mood-lifter and helps keep our weight in healthy range. While it is a good idea to move more, you have to begin at the beginning or you can get hurt, and that can be frustrating. There were many exercise classes and gyms I’ve joined, only to quit after a few sessions because I got frustrated, pushed too hard and hurt myself. And when everything already hurts, well, it’s not like exercise is at the top of your list of things to do!

Here are some tips to keep in mind so you can get the benefits of exercise without adding to your discomfort:

  • Try for more movement, not necessarily exercise.”
    Even an Olympic athlete doesn’t perform a gold-medal-winning gymnastics routine in her first time on the mat. Start where you’re comfortable. For some folks that means taking a mile-long walk. For some, that may mean to try five minutes of gentle stretches from a seated position along with a DVD. You can start by parking a little further away when you go to the store and using the stairs at work for the last flight or two. Stressing yourself to join a gym or a class that may not be aligned with your ability level is a recipe for injury. Slow and easy wins the race. Just keep trying to do a bit more each week.

  • Choose an activity that you truly enjoy. 
    If you love to be outdoors, a sweaty gym is not gonna cut it. If you’re not outdoorsy, hiking through the woods in the elements will not be fun for you. Think back to when you were a kid. Did you love riding your bike? Try to work that in, weather permitting. Maybe you love music and dancing. How about trying a dance DVD like Zumba or go “old-school” with Jazzercise or Jane Fonda. Sometimes when I am at my desk too long I’ll blast some club music and dance in my office. Anyone looking in my window probably thinks I’m a lunatic but hey, it’s fun and it feels good.

  • Stay relentlessly positive. 
    A few years back I was enjoying Pilates class but as time went by I was not progressing as quickly as hoped. Also, I had to use more modifications than anyone else in class and I started to let that sour my experience. I began to throw a pity party in my head, “Why can she do it and I can’t? And she’s older than I am! It’s not fair I have fibro. I can’t do anything anymore! Why do I even bother to try? I should just go take a nap and never exercise again.” NOT motivating. Since I had already paid for four more sessions, I made a pact not to compare myself to anyone else and to just do what I could – and I instantly started to enjoy the class again. Yes, I made slow progress but I tried to focus on gratitude that a year prior to that class I could barely get up out of bed. It’s all perspective and you get to choose. Be a victim or be FABULOUS! Up to you.

Do you struggle with getting activity in your life? What has worked for you? Do you have some ideas for how to start exercising when everything hurts? Leave a comment below and let us know how you are making it work.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Maya

    I love this post! What has worked for me during my worst episodes of fibromyalgia, I would just walk for 15 minutes toward my favorite park, listening to music I love, and when my timer went off after 15 minutes, I would walk back. Every day, I took the same route, so I could actually see and celebrate my progress. The first day, I hardly made it to the entrance of the park. Day by day, week by week, I could walk further and further and enjoy my favorite park more and more!

    1. Deborah Genovesi

      Thank you so much for that thoughtful comment Maya! YES! This is exactly how to begin. Baby steps, right? Rome wasn’t built in a day 🙂

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