Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Compound Exercises Are My Friend and Could Be YoursToo

Working out with sore joints can be tricky. Some days it’s just not going to work at all no matter what you try and do, because everything just hurts too much. But other times, if you choose your activities wisely, you can get a pretty good workout in.

For me, I like a bit of weight training as it’s got so many benefits. Having stronger muscles around your joints has to be a good thing and it’s been shown to help maintain joint flexibility and strengthen your bones. Weight training also reduces stress and helps you sleep better, while any more muscle mass that you may gain as a result, means you burn more calories overall which helps with maintaining a healthy weight.

So where do compound exercises come into the equation?

I suffer sore elbows and wrists most of the time and as a result, any sort of isolation exercise such as a triceps press or bicep curl is not really possible. The amount of force that is put on the joint in those exercises, even with only a moderate weight, causes far too much pain for me.

The beauty of a compound exercise is that they of course use multiple joints and muscle groups, so any forces are spread out and not just focused on the one joint. For me, this can often mean little to almost no pain sometimes, which allows me to get in a total body workout and all the benefits that come with that.

Some of the more beneficial compound exercises, such as the squat and deadlift, don’t even require the flexing of any of the upper body joints. All the movement is really in the hips and knees, yet they are both exercises that provide total body benefits.

Another example is doing some sort of bench press exercise (barbell or dumbbell, incline, decline etc.). Although this does clearly use the elbow joint and work the triceps muscles in the movement, because the muscles of both the shoulder and chest also support it, it can often be pain free for me. I can get similar or even better benefits, than working any of these muscles on their own.

Some experts go as far as to say that compound exercises are all you really need to build your physique and that unless you are an advanced weight lifter or wanting to do competitive body building, you can leave out any isolation exercises altogether. I don’t really have a choice in the matter, but its still good to know that sort of thing.

Lots of Benefits

Other benefits of compound exercises are that they stimulate the release of various hormones throughout your body that gear it towards both fat mobilization/burning and muscle growth. You are always going to burn more calories doing compound movements, so even if trimming down was one of your only goals; they are one of the best options for you.

If you have previously thought that weight training was not an option for you because of painful joints, hopefully this has given you some hope and you’re willing to give it a try.

Check out this article for a bit more information on some of the best compound exercises. Good luck!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Good Days and Bad Days

If you have RA like me, you will no doubt be able to relate to the whole good days, bad days thing.

For me, I usually have a pretty good idea within about 20 seconds of waking up, as to which way its likely to go. Sometimes it can be a bit on the fence and I have to wait until after my shower to know for sure, because the magic shower can be a game changer at times. Other times, the inflammation is too strong and its going to be a painful day no matter how hot the water is.

At the moment, my RAs joints of choice are my hands (the classic) all day and everyday, my elbows, which I can't fully extend or flex, and my neck. With my hands, I have two knuckles that have been swollen for over two years. One is sore but the other is not sore at all which is very odd to me. Its my only joint that looks sore but actually isn't.

With my neck, I describe it as being similar to when you sleep on it funny and next day you can't move it properly. For me its like I do this every night. I am not able to look over my shoulders either side on most days and it makes you realise how much you actually need to do that, especially when driving (don't worry, I am good at using my mirrors and have those auto blind spot detectors on my car).

I used to have inflammation in my feet, but thank God that has since gone as that was by far the worse area I have ever had effected. For three months I couldn't walk properly and it felt like the soles of my feet were on fire all day. If anyone reading this has this currently, than I know what you are going through and I really hope it subsides for you soon.

My drugs of 'choice' at the moment are methotrexate, sulfasalazine and hydroxyquine. I hate taking them because I hate the thought of putting crap in my body. I don't really have a choice though, as I tried to wean myself off them lots of times, but the pain eventually gets to be too much. I am sure they will be doing some kind of other damage to my body somewhere, but at the moment, I guess its the lesser of two evils.

Its been a while since I've had a really good day. The days you wake up and it's like you never had RA at all. If you didn't know any better, you might think that you were cured. I try and make the absolute most of those days and do all things I can't usually do without pain. It may sound weird, but I would go to the gym for a good workout - a pain free workout would be awesome and I could probably get some good gains from it. Like I say, its been a while since I have had one those, so I would probably take the day off work; don't want to waste a pain free day sitting behind a desk - no way!

So yeah, that's a quick summary of where I am at RA wise at the moment. I have never kept any sort of journal or diary before, but this was quite therapeutic to type this all out. I don't plan to write about this all the time, but rather I want to write about the different ways I am trying to keep fit and see if anyone else has some good ideas.