Run, Rabbit, Run!

27 Jan
A Runner in the Park © Jess Bruce 2015

A Runner in the Park © Jess Bruce 2015

The past weekend marked another big milestone in my journey thru ME/CFS.

It has been four and a half years since I last went to the gym. And on Sunday, I went for a run! Rather than hitting the treadmill, Mr B and I headed to our local park and ran around there. It was a crisp Winter’s day and the park was full of Sunday morning runners, five a side football matches and kids whirling around on scooters and bikes. It felt wonderful to be part of it.

As I’ve said in previous posts, walking has been a key part of my recovery. I have gradually built my walking up from literally a couple of minutes during some of the worst times of my ME/CFS to most recently walking 4.78 miles on Saturday with Mr B. Walking a few miles has become part of mine and Mr B’s weekend routine. As on Saturday, it usually centres around walking to a cafe for tea (and of course Jess friendly cake), having a sit down and then walking home. I love it.

Me! Running! How many bright colours can one girl wear?!  © Jess Bruce 2015

Me! Running! How many bright colours can one girl wear?! © Jess Bruce 2015.

Walking is very much in my ‘safe’ activity column now. I can do it without ill effect, without triggering ME/CFS symptoms. So on Sunday we decided to step it up a notch and actually go for a run! Now to be clear, I’m not talking about a long run, or a fast run. I’m not trying to pass off any great sporting feat, but for this ME/CFS survivor, who just 15 months ago had to use a wheelchair to be able to go out for more than 20 minutes, anything faster than a walk is an achievement of which I am very proud 🙂

Mr B considers himself a gym bod and fitness guru and so has devised me a programme to start me off running again (I say again, but I wasn’t exactly a runner pre ME/CFS. At most I used to hit the gym treadmill a couple of times a week so that I could eat as much cake as I wanted).

To start my running journey we are alternating a light jog with a gentle walk, doing a minute of each. Using Mr B’s fancy pants running watch (which I struggle to turn on at times…) we set a target average pace of 9 minutes 30 seconds per kilometer. When I walk, I use the Nike Run App to track my distances. and from that I know my average walking speed is 10 minutes 45 seconds per kilometer. So my target speed for my running/walking combo is quicker but not by too much. The aim is to ease myself into running rather than to knock me out at the start line – which I nearly did by deciding to sprint before Mr B had fully explained his strategy to me. He said he was worried at that point that I may not have made it round the park! We are using all the pacing and incremental activity knowledge we have gained over the last few years for managing activity for my ME/CFS and simply applying it to running.

So there we were jogging for a minute getting our pace 30 seconds in front of our 9 minutes 30 target and then once we hit 30 seconds in front we slowed to a walk to let the pace fall back to the 9 minutes 30 seconds target. This pattern also gave my little legs time to recover before repeating the jog! Each jog and walk lasted about a minute each time. Turns out a gentle jog for a minute is well within my ability. I am pleased to report I did not collapse in a heap, turn bright red or have to to be carried home 🙂

In total we jogged/walked 2.12 km in 19 minutes 30 seconds and I absolutely loved it.

My TINY Cherry Bakewells!  © Jess Bruce 2015.

My TINY Cherry Bakewells! © Jess Bruce 2015.

My reward was of course cake. We stopped at a local coffee shop on our way home where I had gluten free dairy free Bakewell tarts (yes plural, they come as a pack of 2 as they are tiny!). If I’m allowed that after each run, I will keep on running!

My challenge this week is to go out and repeat the exercise on my own and then next weekend Mr B and I will do it together again,. Depending how I’m doing, we will probably increase things slightly by either upping the distance or the average pace. We’ll do one or the other, not both together. And gradually over time my running will get faster and longer. You never know maybe you’ll see me running the London marathon one day. Yeh right. And maybe there are pink pigs flying outside my window!

I am perfectly content with my gentle jog/walk. I absolutely loved it, yes that was a surprise to me and Mr B too! It felt great to be alive and well enough to be moving my body that bit faster than a walk – I’m not knocking walking, I’m still going to be keeping that going too. I am forever grateful that I’m well enough to be able to walk as much as I like after so many years of being too ill to do more than a short strictly paced walk that would see me needing to rest for hours afterwards.

ME/CFS wise I felt pretty much okay after my run. I feel as I do most days now. So it’s with immense pleasure and relief I can say that my gentle run has not upset the recovery apple cart. Thank goodness. That is not to say my legs feel perfectly okay. Oh no. Walking up and down stairs is a bit of a challenge. I think they are in shock that I required them to move more quickly than a walk and are rebelling! It feels like I have muscles I didn’t know existed until now! But no pain no gain. It will pass and it’s very much normal post exercise soreness rather than acute ME/CFS myalgia body pain. There is a difference. A big difference.

When we got back from our little run, I managed to convince Mr B to do a short yoga for runners cool down sequence with me from Yoga with Adriene. Mr B usually refuses all of my yoga invites so I was very pleased that he joined me on the mat. And I’m sure that the stretching will have helped. Without that, I’d no doubt be even more sore and stiff today!

So now my challenge is to go running again. I have motivation, not least that I enjoyed every minute of it. But more so because my sister is moving home in the summer and wants a running buddy and then there’s that small matter of fitting into a gorgeous white gown in August.

So yes, run Jess, run. You can do this!

ME/CFS zero, Jess a giant win!

15 Responses to “Run, Rabbit, Run!”

  1. Elizabeth Milo January 27, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Wow wow wow. Well done, you! X

  2. K January 27, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Hi Jess,
    I’ve been following your story and cheering for you with all the progress you’re making, your engagement, your wedding plans – so happy for you that life is looking up! I can feel your excitement, your joy and your caution, and identify with all of them.
    As someone with ME and an ex-runner/hiker/walker, I REALLY identified with your joy at being able to get back out there. It made me want to share my experience with exercise and ME.
    After the initial onset of my ME (serious viral infection), I made what I can now see was a really nice recovery over the space of a little over a year. I was mild, and was able to work full-time within 6 months, social life gradually crawled back over the next 6 months, and I then had about 6 months of really great health where the only difference from my previous life was a little less social stamina and less exercise. I had been able to walk right from the outset, and did, both because I always had and because I was told it was good for me. I had no ill-effects. In the great 6 months I very gradually got back to hiking, building up super-slowly and again with no ill-effects. We went on a little hiking holiday, which involved a few days in a row of hiking for a number of hours – amazing, no ill-effects, was so happy. Was practising lots of sensible things like a week lazing on the beach after the few days of hiking. It seemed clear that I could reasonably try an itty-bitty run. I did, and it went great, as did the next, and the next, and the next. No ill-effects, and a lot of joy.
    And then, a wonderful fun dinner party with best friends and…things changed. I relapsed that day in 2010, and have not recovered. I have gradually deteriorated from mild to moderate-severe, housebound, despite excellent pacing, nutrition, meditation, and support. Somewhere in there I even did Graded Exercise Therapy, which seemed to actually help a little initially, and then was a likely contributor to a really significant drop in my health, from mild to moderate. I was so positive and optimistic and had such a strong belief in the “goodness” of exercise, and was so happy to take all the precautions and proceed at a snail’s pace, that I just didn’t see what was happening before my very eyes. There were little signs, and I missed every single one of them, with numerous doctors’ blessings. I didn’t have big PEM crashes that might have alerted me to a problem. It took many months of happy and seemingly beneficial extremely light and very graded exercise for the more insidious signs to gather – feeling coldy after sessions, needing naps every day instead of every 3 days, joint pain. And by then it was too late. Not increasing didn’t help, reducing didn’t help, stopping didn’t help.
    I know that you’re not doing GET, and that you have buckets of common sense and self-care from years of practice. We are all so different, and I’m not saying that what happened to me is going to happen to you. I know of people who have benefitted from self-propelled exercise programmes and GET. But now, I also know the other side, as I keep up with the medical literature. And the evidence is just chilling given my experience, e.g. findings of Van Ness (search for Mark Van Ness exercise ME in youtube) and Newton. I was a little horrified to see the results of the MEA patient survey, with 56% getting worse with GET and only 22% improving. I genuinely don’t want to rain on your parade. I think it is possible to use exercise in a way that is pro-recovery and I hope that you find a way to do that.
    I have learned that the phrase “No pain, no gain” just isn’t applicable to exercise in ME. Even GET practitioners generally suggest maximum increases of 5-10% at a time, and staying at a level for a good long time, often a month or more, before considering increasing again, and even that can prove too much for some people.
    A friend wrote a really interesting blog on this area, which contains some videos from Nancy Klimas’ team of exercise physiologists who take a very specific and very different approach to exercise which makes a lot of sense:
    I am sharing this because when I did what I did, I just didn’t know the other side of the story. I hope that you will take my response in the spirit in which it is meant. I wish you ongoing progress and joy – you deserve it so much.
    Cheering you on,

    • BONNIE JOHNSON January 28, 2015 at 5:45 am #


      • myjourneythrume February 6, 2015 at 9:55 am #

        Thank you Bonnie! I’m so excited for our wedding too! I’m loving every minute of the planning. Don’t worry I’m being careful. This week I have a touch of a bug or flu or cold or something. Got such a sore throat and feeling achy in that flu kind of way so am ensconced on our sofa watching boxsets taking it very slowly indeed. You take care of yourself.

    • myjourneythrume February 6, 2015 at 10:04 am #

      Hi K,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for taking the time and energy to comment – I know how valuable energy is and really appreciate you using yours to message me.
      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. I wish you weren’t sick, but it helps so much to have support and contact from people in similar situations who really get what ME/CFS is like. It is so important to have the full story and with ME/CFS with so much confusion and stigma and basic lack of information and knowledge, getting the full story is often so hard. So I really appreciate you sharing your experience.
      So far so good with my ‘exercise’. I’ve done two ‘jogs’ (I put it in speech marks because it really wasn’t much more than a walk), one each weekend. Decided trying to push myself to do it on my own midweek wasn’t a particularly smart or kind move. Your comments guided me in that so thank you. And I will continue to remember your advice as I move forwards, listening to my body and being very careful.
      I hope with my whole heart that your health improves.
      I am sending you lots of love and support.
      And thank you again for your kind and thoughtful words, I really appreciate it.

  3. Sparrowgrass January 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Wow this is awesome! And you even enjoyed it! Love the strategy – such a good way to keep things sensible.

    • myjourneythrume February 6, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      I was surprised I enjoyed it too! Being very sensible, last thing I want to do is push myself too far!

  4. thehomeschoolingdoctor January 28, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    I think it’s great that you and Mr. B are walking and doing yoga together! My husband and I walk together lots and lots–actually we get a babysitter just to do this. We solve all the world’s problems in those walks, you know! And bond. We used to jog together, but we got too old (chuckle) and like our walks and talks better. At least I do!!!! There will be no relapse, but Rome can be conquered in five years just as well as one!

    • myjourneythrume February 6, 2015 at 9:53 am #

      Thank you Terri! Your comment made me smile. And your take it steady message is received loud and clear, I appreciate your kind thoughts. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed our ‘jog’ but yes walking together is special – We solve the world’s problems on our walks too!

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor February 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

        LOL! We should all 4 walk together!

      • myjourneythrume February 6, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

        If only there wasn’t 3000miles in the way! If we ever met I think we’d chat for hours and hours!

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor February 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

        Your island. Your favorite food-weird bakery. . . Five to ten years. 😄

      • myjourneythrume February 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

        Most definitely!!! 😀😀😀😀


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