Exercise and My Recovery from Lyme

On my run today, I stopped at one of my favorite places by the falls along this amazing river. I love running through the woods beside the river and in the forest. I love the smell of the damp earth, the fog and the mist, and the soft earth under my feet.

Today as I sat on this rock (after push ups, planks, and martial arts practice) an otter came up to check me out. I feel so happy to be able to have this experience. It wasn't too long ago that I was barely able to get out of bed, to sit, or to stand. Watch this video to hear a little about my journey through exercise...from bed-ridden to now running 20-30 miles per week!

I had to start slow. Lyme really knocked me down. When I first become sick, my muscles atrophied very quickly. I was a wilderness guide, carrying heavy packs through the high mountains for 11-30 days at a time. I enjoyed backcountry rock climbing, canoeing, rafting, hiking, running, yoga and more! But when I got sick, my body disintegrated very quickly. I used to joke that I had to wear men's jeans because my quads were too big for the skinny leg women's jeans that were in style then. In two weeks I watched my neck muscles disappear and my clothes became too big. My muscles ached as they disappeared.

As an athlete, I was devastated. I remember being home lying in bed, watching my body disappear and trying so desperately to "stay in shape." I had light leg weights that I would Velcro onto my ankles and lift one straight leg, 1, 2, 3...whooo....rest and then I might fall asleep. Then the next leg...1, 2 and my body would be shaking, sweaty, and weak. I was disappointed. I got to a point where I was just too weak to even lift my legs up.

A year and a half into the illness, I had moments when I would feel better and think I was on the rise. During those times I practiced T'ai Chi. I practiced in my home in the morning, at first just a few movements to get my body moving, breathing, and soothing my muscles. Even this practice would exhaust me. I went to T'ai Chi classes in Portland with my Neuro Rehabilitation program that is if I could muster the energy to go. Sometimes I would sleep in my car right after the class because I was so exhausted and couldn't function to drive. I had learned to take a blanket and pillow with me wherever I went because I would never know if I would be able to make it back home without resting.

I practiced yoga and breathing to ease my mind and to try to stretch my muscles. Everything ached and I was in pretty severe pain so I had to take it very very slow and easy. My body would rebel if I didn't.

Once the active Lyme and Babesiosis was under control (through medications) and my body was being supplemented under the supervision of an amazing Naturopathic Doctor, I was able to continue my physical practice. As my strength and stamina built, I was able to sit longer, stand longer, and began to walk. At first walking to the mailbox and up the stairs were the only things that I could do in a whole day, but slowly I began going a little further and further each day.

I tried canoeing..very hard to sit in a canoe all day! and kayaking in a double kayak, exhausting! These were led also by Neuro Rehab and a Recreational Therapist. I had to implement strategies to ease my mental, emotional, and physical fatigue. I kept going and building my strength and stamina little bit by little bit.

I was able to do these activities, but soaked in Epsom salt baths in extreme pain afterwards. I'd sit in a tub as hot as I could stand it, and then get out and try to stretch gently. After being in bed for most of the time for 2 1/2 years, and my muscles disappearing....and then on top of that the nervous system issues... It was a challenge to keep moving despite the pain and the set backs. Sometimes going for a short kayak would land me in bed for 5 days..unable to function. I'm not sure I can even explain it, to be so tired that you can't think, that you can't make it downstairs to the bathroom, that you get winded at the top of the stairs that you crawled up. To not be able to think of the right process to dress myself or to make food. This is some of what I battled with in my struggle to reclaim my health.

In the winter I went snow boarding, again with the Neuro Rehab group. I spent a few hours on the bunny slopes, resting in the chairs that were brought out to me. And I needed an entire week to recover afterwards. Over that winter though, the beauty of the snow, the mountains, the fresh air, and the volunteers really helped my spirit come back alive and I had more hope than ever. My treatments continued, and I had ups and downs, but there was progress!

I was able to walk and then I had the strength and courage to go to the local YMCA. I remember the first day going pretty hard on cardio exercise and then I swam in the therapy pool after. And oh my goodness it felt awesome, however I was a complete wreck for days to follow. I way over did it! I made a habit of going 3-5 times a week when I had the energy and just tried to do something cardio or strength for a half hour. Then I would go home, soak, sleep, and rest. Slowly building strength.

In 2012, I met a strength trainer who helped me develop my core strength with specific exercises that were rather simple, yet focused and powerful. Building my core and my back was just what I needed! She also gave me this cool, hard plastic, spikey ball that I would stand on and roll under my foot, one foot at a time. The pressure on my feet relaxed my who body, it relaxed my feet, and helped my circulation and feeling in my extremities. She gave me stretches and helped me to regain balance of these muscles that were in a tug of war..and this eased some of the pain. We also worked on balance, and this is where I found a love for planks, especially outdoors! She helped to guide me to do 10 minutes of cross country skiing in the morning, and then 10 later in the afternoon if I still had the energy for it (or to rest if I didn't)...instead of plowing through feeling great for 30 minutes and then completely crashing out!

My training continued and I began studying a Japanese and Native Martial Art called Sho-Kai which has inspired me to strengthen my body, to run daily, and to stretch further than I thought possible. I've had alot of help along the way (Including rolfing, thai body work, reflexology, massage, specific training and body work with my Master, and more) but I keep on building and try not to get frustrated if I over do it, which still happens sometimes.

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I'm now running 20-30 miles a week and practice Martial Arts everyday. A long journey, but glad I am able to be here in this way.

The Lessons I have learned:

  • Be kind to your body
  • Nourish it with what it actually needs for fuel
  • Take it slow and steady
  • Know when to push, and when to rest.

Please feel free to comment, share, or ask questions!