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.
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 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!