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31 August 2021

“My mind is occupied when I’m moving.”

Susan shares why moving her body regularly is so important to her, mentally and physically.

Every morning, when I awaken, I can’t help but think; “How does my body feel today?” Living with MS means living with uncertainty. You never know what the day may bring. After that daunting assessment, I go downstairs to have morning coffee and start practicing the Overcoming MS lifestyle for another day. Mornings before work mean quick stretches and some meditation and mornings on my day off mean; “what form of exercise do I feel like doing today?”.

Moving regularly

Step three of the Overcoming MS program advises us to “exercise regularly” which is defined as thirty minutes, five days a week. Exercise can be any kind of movement. Running, biking, swimming, walking, hiking, yoga, and pilates are just a few of the activities that I see fellow MSers doing. It’s inspiring.

I follow several like minded pwMS on Instagram and they motivate me on days I just want to be a slug and watch movies on the couch. But the truth is, I feel better when I move. My fatigue is better after I exercise. My mood is better after a sweat session on the elliptical. I also sleep better and my anxiety abates after exercising.

Keeping your mind occupied

But you know what is the best part of exercise? I feel “normal” for a bit. My mind is occupied when I’m moving. I’m not fretting the tingling to my left foot and wondering if it is a new symptom or not. When I’m walking outside, I’m looking at the trees, listening to the birds, smelling the flowers, and generally just trying to move (and not trip over something).

Sometimes I think, look at me- I’ve got MS and I’m out here like everyone else but for the most part, I’ m just walking for exercise and enjoying being outside.

'Motion is lotion'

Years ago, my yoga teacher told me that “motion is lotion” and boy is she right. So some days I do a series of standing asanas and cooling stretches.

Even the Overcoming MS website has free yoga videos for us. I highly recommend doing them as they help your body stay strong and flexible plus the beauty of yoga is that you can modify the movements to any ability level.

Last year I had some trouble with my knees so I saw an orthopedic doctor who gave me some braces to wear and advised me to keep exercising both for my knees and for my MS. Thankfully my knees recovered and I’ve realized the importance of varying my activities so as not to wear out a body part and to challenge my muscles.

Finding motivation

So for now I aim for five days a week of various activities from stretching, yoga, arm weights, beginner pilates videos, walking, elliptical sessions, canoeing, and swimming with my fins. It all just depends upon how I am feeling and what I have going on for the day.

What motivates me is knowing that I will ultimately feel better after moving my body and also being inspired by my favorite Instagram accounts that I follow including: tamingthewalruseatsrunslifeasatomsconor.devine, and embry.mathew. Check them out when you are feeling sluggish and perhaps they will inspire you to just do something as well.