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21 August 2020

Weight lifting my way through MS

"Weight lifting is a great stress buster. There is nothing more satisfying than challenging yourself and winning." Read Smita's story and how her MS diagnosis has not stopped her love for weight lifting.

I was diagnosed with MS in the summer of 2015. I guess its redundant to say it came as a shock, because, let’s be real, who is ever expecting to hear something like that? I remember googling my symptoms and even when it showed the possibility of a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I shrugged it off. 

My reaction literally was, “pshh.. such hogwash.”

I was fairly healthy, not overweight, I exercised, and thought I ate alright. So someone like me should never in theory get a ‘deadly’ disease, right?

So when the final word came from the neurologist, I spiralled. I raged, at everything and everyone!

 At the time I used to train at one of the most elite gyms in Boston, and I attacked my workouts viciously, almost as if to say, “You can’t take away my mobility, I can do this, and I will always do this.” 

I had a newfound appreciation for simply being able to walk and run.

As I went through the grieving process of this diagnosis, I realized there was plenty that could be corrected, in how I ate, and juggled life, i.e, stress, which is a silent killer. 

Finding OMS

This new found knowledge came through various books and online articles, the star of which, for me, was ‘Overcoming MS’ by Prof George Jelinek.

There’s nothing quite like looming disability to motivate you into doing whatever it takes. And that’s what I did. 

Fast forward five years, and here I am writing for OMS. 

Over the years, the one thing that have found myself never getting tired of, has been weightlifting. And there are a couple of reasons for that – one is, it is measurable, so you can track your progress and literally see yourself lift a little more as time goes by, and you can be sure you’re stronger this week than the last. The second reason is, and I’m sure you can relate – I hate cardio. 

Life in lockdown

When Covid-19 hit the US, and businesses started asking people to work from home, I found that I had more free time than usual, since my job can’t be done from home. I am a flight instructor, and so the only teaching I was doing from home was sporadic zoom sessions with student pilots.

I had more time to spend on exercising too. Over the years, we have been fortunate to have accumulated some great equipment in our basement. No better time to put it to use than when confined indoors during a pandemic.

A great change that the pandemic may have brought about is, I started looking for fun ways to do some cardio, even if it is only about 10 to 15 minutes. I found that high intensity interval training can be really fun, except when it involves burpees. (Everyone hates burpees, right?). Jokes aside, my personal favorite has been jumping rope. I’ll jump rope for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds, and keep that up for 10 rounds.  

Love for weight lifting

I’d like to come back to my first love though – weights. It began a few years ago with conventional dumbbells, and body weight movements, and graduated to olympic lifting when I lived in Boston. So a typical week comprises of a day each, devoted to strict overhead press, front squats, pull ups and deadlifts. 

Weight lifting is a great stress buster. There is nothing more satisfying than challenging yourself and winning. Losing feels great too, because you know you pushed yourself to your limit.

So a question you may have is, does MS affect any of this? I’ve been fortunate in recovering from most relapses completely, with the help of the OMS guidelines. I have not had a relapse since 2017.

For a while I’ve had some nerve pain in my right shoulder and right arm. There’s fatigue and discomfort associated with it, and a few weeks ago I began to notice that when doing overhead lifts, my right arm would struggle to go up at the same rate as the left arm. 

I have been seeing an acupuncturist and have been recovering and feeling better. 

If you’ve been on the fence or dismissive of lifting weights, please give it a try, with the help of a coach. It can be life changing!