February 5, 2014 4 Comments
About three months ago, I went for a walk with one of my dear friends. It was a beautiful day here in San Francisco. There was a calmness in the city — maybe because it was Thanksgiving or maybe because Carl The Fog had decided to sleep in. What ever the reason, it was a great day for a hike . So, I called my friend up and off we went.
My friend is a business coach. He’s been telling his clients for years to make the most out of their work and life, especially their health. However, he wasn’t eating his own dog food. He was out of shape and the heaviest he has ever been. So, he finally decided to take his own advice and get in shape. This particular hiking day he was struggling to walk due to a newly twisted ankle. But did that stop him? No, not at all.
I have been struggling with fibro for over a decade now. Too many times, I have started and stopped a new exercise routine because of a pain flare up. And as I walked with my friend, I wondered how he managed everyday to exercise through the pain of his ankle and well let’s face it, life in general. He had one simple answer for me “Don’t Break The Chain”.
The “Don’t Break The Chain” Process
Sometimes the simplest solutions yield the largest and longest-lasting results. “Don’t Break the Chain” is indeed simple, and if you follow the process, it will change your habits forever. Originally made famous by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the process is simple. Take a big, huge calendar and display it where you will see it everyday. (For me, I placed mine on my bedroom mirror.) If you don’t have a paper calendar, no need to worry — just make one by drawing a grid. For each day you do your task, mark out that day out with a big red marker. Then, it’s easy. Don’t break the chain.
It sounds easy. But, it can be difficult. Say you are about to go to bed, and you see a big gapping hole on the day where a big red X should be. Now, you don’t want to break the chain and start all over again. Do you?
My Chain Experience
I had one simple goal for my chain – movement. It’s all too easy with fibro to sit around and do nothing. Sometimes, that’s all you can do due to the pain. However, I have found that the more I move around and keep my blood pumping the better I feel. Like duh! Right?
So, I started my chain on Thanksgiving day after that walk with my dear friend. I went home and drew out a calendar for 8 weeks, and crossed off my first day. Now, if only I could keep the chain for 8 weeks, I’d be a golden.
Week one was easy. It was gratifying to go for a walk and come back and mark off the day with a big fat ol’ red X. Week two was the same. Easy going. I tried not to push it. My only goal was to move — to walk. Sometimes I walked around the block. Other times I walked two miles, depending on how I felt.
By week three, my chain was long. And, low and behold I hit a flare up. However, this flare up was the level of pain, a 6-7, that I used to experience at the end of my work week. I was extremely tired. My stomach would not behave, and all my joints hurt. But, all I had to do was look at that chain. Don’t break that chain. So, off I went for a walk around the block. Don’t break the chain.
My chain is now over 10 weeks long. And, you know what…it’s working! My daily pain levels have decreased from a level 4 (0 being zero pain and 10 being kill me now) to a level 2. My weekly pain attacks have almost disappeared. Yes, I have had a flare up with the occasional stress and travel. However, they are at a level 5-6, and never reach a level 10.
For the first 6 weeks, I was walking daily, some days longer than others. After about 6 weeks, I plateaued. So, I decided to join the fitness studio around the corner from my house. When I first started the 55 minute routine of cardio, weights and pilates, I thought I was going to die 10 minutes into the routine. But, I stuck with it. Don’t break the chain.
Now, I go to the gym 3- 4 times a week and walk 2-4 times a week. Even when I had the flu for 6 days, I never broke that damn chain. Since Thanksgiving, I have decreased the amount of meds I take and I haven’t even touched the heavy pain meds.
Am I a fitness guru now? Far from it. However, I feel normal. Even though the sensitivities that come with fibro are still with me, the pain has taken a backseat to my unbreakable chain.
So, don’t break that chain!