Q1. What inspired you to initially start looking after your body?
I've had arthritis since I was a child and have tried all types of things to 'manage' my condition and make the most of what my body can do. For the last two decades I have been very aware of the consequences of my actions and as you find things that work, that make you feel better, means that you have little bit more to work with. Having a chronic condition means that you make compromises regularly. If I do this now, I won't be able to that later because I will need to go home to sleep and I will be in pain for a few days. All chronic diseases are different, but I do relate to 'The Spoon Theory', a story from Christine Miserandino, a Lupus sufferer who uses spoons like a currency to explain what it is like to have a chronic condition. You start off the day with only so many spoons available and you need to figure out how best to use them. Every activity costs you spoons. Getting up. Getting ready. Today you might use them to work. Tomorrow it might be play. The next day you might be wiped out in bed and in pain. When you have a chronic condition, you become very aware of the costs of your actions. I'm no angel. I have saved my spoons for a big party and dancing like a maniac once in a while. Looking after myself most of the time means that I can afford the times that aren't so good for my body.
When I first came to Paul, I had heard about his 'magic' and wasn't overly convinced. Like many things (magnets, diets, all kinds of supplements, all kinds of exercise, all kinds of therapies), I figured that it doesn't hurt to try. It might not work for me, but it might.
It did work for me. I made the most of the extra spoons.
Q2. What do you currently do to look after your body?
I am four months post-op so what I am doing at the moment is a little different to my normal routine.
In April of this year, I had both hips replaced. Since then, I've been seeing Reese once a week for trigger pointing and facia release. In this appointment we measure my hip ranges, work on stretching and review my program. I'm also at the pool for hydrotherapy once a week. I've also started back at Pilates once a week.
I can use an elliptical! When I was 20, I tried this at the gym. Bone on bone grating really hurts. I couldn't walk when I'd get out of the car when I got home. This was 14 years ago. I can do 20 minutes most days now, before my cardio fitness limits me - not my hips!
My daily program involves stretching and other exercises to help improve my range of movements.
Pre-op, with my worn out hips, I would see Paul weekly and two studio Pilates sessions a week. This was my routine for a number of years. Stretching and self trigger pointing were a regular part of my life. I couldn't do too much cardio or even walking as the condition of my hip joints limited the amount of activities that I could do. Standing too long or walking too far would cause pain and fatigue. Gentle exercise was all I could do and it had its limits. It was a balancing act. I needed to do just enough to make a positive difference but not so much that the results were negative. I had to listen to what my body was doing on any given day to try and work where those limits were. In 2000, a specialist told me that I should see a surgeon about replacement. This wasn't something that I was ready for and I believe that as a direct result of my treatment with Paul, knowing my own body and its limits and things like Pilates, I was able to get through the next decade without too many compromises and without surgery.
Q3. What motivates you to continue being proactive with your body?
With these new hips, the sky is the limit. The more than I can do now, the better the long term surgical outcomes will be. I am already in better condition than I was pre-op and I know that I am going to be able to do things that I've not done since I was a child. Each time I have improvement, I'm spurred on even further. I will be eventually able to run, to ride a bike, go for a walk down to the local store and many other physical activities that I haven't been able to do for a long time.
Q4. What is your favourite form of exercise?
I enjoy Pilates. I have for a long time. Some of the new things that I can do are pretty amazing to me. Usingthe elliptical is pretty amazing to me. I'm still using a cane for longer walks as I'm still rehabilitating but I think that I might enjoy going for walks pretty soon.
Don't be afraid to ask questions of your health professionals and ask for help. If you don't feel comfortable with the answers and solutions you have been given, seek more assistance. Not every health professional is right for every person and neither is every solution. You need to be an advocate for yourself and not be afraid to keep searching until you find what works for you. I've gotten a lot more out of my life than some said was possible.
Q6. How do you know when your body is asking for help?
Over the years, I've gotten to know my body pretty well. You start to see the pre-cursors to pain, so you know where the limits are, when you can help yourself and when you need help from someone else. One type of pain means you've gone too far and another means it's just a bad day. Unfortunately, with the kind of joint damage and inflammation associated with arthritis, the rules change on a daily basis and pain is an inevitable part of life. At a lower level, it's just something that you get use to and the varying degrees are kind of like limit tests as to how much more you can get away with before you really need to help your body out.
Since my op, this has changed. When I was in the hospital and the early days at home, I knew what felt right and wrong and I though I've been dedicated to the recovery process and proactive with all of my activities, I've also been cautious. I listened to the 'that doesn't feel right' and didn't push in those directions until I felt my body was ready for them. This was mostly around movements that were restricted for the first six weeks of my rehabilitation. My body would tell me when I was close to the restricted points and to stop. After the restrictions were lifted when the risk of dislocation has reduced, there were a few movements that I still took time to adjust to. I felt that I pushed as much as I could to advance my recovery within ranges that would not cause damage of pain that would set back the rehabilitation process.
Q7. What strategies do you find work best for you?
I have to listen to my body and figure it out as I go. It's worked well for me up until now and it's the way that I'm going to move forward. Even though life changes on a regular basis, releasing fascia, stretching, trigger pointing and moving are always going to be a part of getting the most out of my life. I don't think I'll ever stop Pilates even if I take up other more active pursuits. I need to get enough sleep and eat well most of the time too or my body complains!
Q8. What is your greatest physical achievement?
I'll let you know! It's still to come!
Q9. What is your goal for the future of your body?
Right now it's about training to do the things that I want to do. I don't mean traditional training, like you would do to compete in a sport, but training to improve my body. Right now the focus is on improving the range of movement in my hip joints. The joints can move in a full range but the muscles haven't caught up since the joints have limited them for over two decades. The ranges are already so much better than pre-op but there is room for improvement. One of the first goals is being able to reach to tie my shoelaces. I'm working on establishing a normal gait pattern (walking properly), something else that I haven't done for a long time as I compensated for the lack of joint spacing and no cartilage in my hips. In twelve months when the fracture risk for my femurs is reduced, I'd like to give running a go. I might not enjoy it but I'd like to see what it feels like, to be able to see if I do like it. That's really the long-term goal, to have my body in a condition where I don't have the limitations that I've faced in the last two decades and lead the best life I can with it.
Q10. What is your definition of a Body Leader?
No one is going to do it for you. It's your body and you are in charge here. Life isn't always perfect and the body that you have might not be perfect but it's the only one you have and you need to make the most of it. There are consequences for your actions. It doesn't mean you always have to be an angel and always do the right thing, but you need to deal the times you don't and get your body the helps it needs. You need to know how your body works, what the signs are for you and what you need to do to get the best life possible.
It's no good just listening, you need to act and to stand up for yourself. Find yourself a team of health professionals to help you make the most of what you have.
We'd like to thank Lorraine for her time and providing us with an insight into what she does as a Body Leader. If you'd like to find out more about Lorraine's experience you can check out her Blog for all her updates. Keep a look out for our next months Body Leader - it could be you!