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Friday, January 1, 2016

Jump-In January!

*This photo is 3 years old from when I first started swimming.

There are many small changes I've made to make my autoimmune arthritis feel better. Not all of them are always easy to do or the most enjoyable to participate in. Not all of them are things that make me feel like I'm living my life deliciously. 

As with the realization that my extreme love of sugary treats has been causing me more inflammation, so is my realization about how I feel when I'm not active. Though it may seem like a Catch 22, when I am in pain and feel like I don't want to move sometimes the best thing to do is get up and actually get my body moving. A body in motion stays in motion. So, over the years I've tried many types of movement and exercise. Many forms of movement can feel hard and rough on my joints and ligaments or feel like they are grinding my body apart. These have been the times that I did not feel like I was living deliciously. Other people with autoimmune arthritis might like Tai Chi, Qigong, golf, walking, low impact biking, swimming, dancing, or even yoga. I, for one, have found yoga to be the absolute worst thing for my arthritis and though I'm happy for anyone that it works for, I do not plan to continue trying to use yoga as my best form of movement.

I have found over the years through much trial and error that my four best forms of movement for my arthritis are:
  1. Swimming: In my opinion, swimming is the best form of movement for someone with an autoimmune arthritis. Not only are you weightless and therefore not putting any weights on your joints, but you are also able to use all muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones in a continuous fluid movement as you swim. Swimming is one of the only activities that make me feel fully emerged in the moment. I find it meditative and rejuvenating. 
  2. Aqua Aerobics: Though I'm often the youngest person in many of my aqua aerobics classes (by thirty or so years), I find them to be extremely enjoyable and really a great workout. I often make an effort to get to know the instructors so as to ask them how to get the most out of my class and to ask them if they might let me know how I can make any of the moves that they are leading, even more impactful. In addition to having tons of fun in the classes, I rarely feel self conscious as most of the other participants are so welcoming and kind. Unlike being at a gym where I sometimes feel judged by those around me, in aqua aerobics I often feel a communal sense of encouragement and play. I almost always leave feeling like my day is just a little bit better.
  3. Swing Dance & Lindy Hop: I've been swing dancing on and off since 1997. When I began swing dancing as a preteen lead (often assumed to be the male role in dance), I fell instantly in love with everything about swing dance and swing culture. I read books about the swing era, watched any and all movies I could fine with great dance scenes, and tried really hard to get other friends excited about swing dance. Unfortunately it took me another twelve years before I met others who were as excited as I was about everything swing (during which time I learned how to be a follow). I'd only taken classes up to that point and had never participated in the dance scene. I had multiple year gaps in my training. No matter what though, I kept coming back to swing dance. Lindy Hop has always made me feel supremely happy. In 2009, I finally found other people my age who liked to swing dance and began dancing socially. At the same time though, I was going through a massive flare up that lead to my diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis in the summer of 2009. Despite my pain, I've found Lindy Hop and my swing dance community to be an anchor in enabling me to push through my pain to find joy in movement. Arthritis and dancing are not mutually exclusive. Knowing that I will dance again makes me feel motivated every day to reduce my inflammation.  
  4. Long walks: As cheesy as it sounds, walking is known as "America's past time." It makes sense though, because walking is literally the easiest way to get up and move. I can always find a way to walk more in my daily life. Though some folks love hiking and walking in nature, my favorite walks are long walks through cities. I've been known to walk 13 miles through London in a day or 10 miles around San Francisco in an afternoon. The best thing about walking is that it costs practically nothing. Once you've found some good walking shoes, you're completely set.
In the spirit of my December challenge to go partially dessert-less, I've decided to use January as a motivator for me to get moving. I'm jumping in this January. I'll be spending the month jumping in to the pool, jumping back in to the dance scene, and jumping in to my walking shoes. In addition to continuing to experiment with how best to fight inflammation through the food I eat, I'll also be experimenting with how best to jump in this January. 

My goals for jumping in this January are:
  1. Go to Aqua Aerobics a minimum of 3 times a week = Totaling a minimum of 12 classes.
  2. Swim a minimum of 1 time a week = Totaling a minimum of 4 times.
  3. Swing dance a minimum of 2 times during the month.
  4. Go on at least 2 long walks during the month of January.
I'm beginning with these three very realistic goals with the hopes that they will help get me back in to old patterns. Since I'm luckily not currently in a big flare-up, I'm hoping that jumping in in the above ways will not overwhelm my body and will help me feel better and more agile. I plan to share updates with you here as well as tips around how to add more movement in to your life as well as how best to eat anti-inflammatorily while jumping in.

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