Fit to Drop

As a working Mum, it is hard to find time to exercise as it seems as though I am either working or taking care of Joshua, yet I need to find time to do more exercise as I am getting bigger and bigger. My husband and I are using our next respite weekend, to go away on the ferry with our bikes again and I have hardly used my bicycle this summer, so I thought I ought to get some practice in! For the last fortnight I have had to take the dogs to work with me to leave the house clear for our window installers, but now they have finished, they can go back to staying at home. the sun was shining, even though there was an autumnal chill in the air, so I dug my bicycle out, dusted it down and set off with 20 minutes to spare to get the 2 miles to my office. I was confident so I took the longer route round to get there, via the seafront. But it soon became clear how unfit I was as I struggled and I was only just at work on time and even then, I was red faced and out of breath. My legs complained as I climbed the stairs to my desk.

As I recovered, I started to feel more pleased with myself : yes it had been tough but I had made it and it had to be better for me than driving to work. I took the more direct route home at lunchtime and it never feels as difficult going that way and I was pleased with my 4.7 miles by the time I got home then took the dogs a walk. I drove back to work for the afternoon as I had shopping to do after work, but if I just did that every day this week, it would be an easy way of getting some exercise combined with commuting. The problem is that i am a fair weather cyclist – I do not envisage keeping that up on cold, wet or windy days, so I need to find an alternative. Once again I cursed the year -long closure of our local leisure centre as our next nearest is 25 minute drive away, which being less convenient, is less tempting, so I do miss my early morning swims.

I used to joke that pushing Joshua’s wheelchair was my main form of exercise and certainly, caring for him has certainly made me stronger than I would be otherwise. I no longer attempt to pick him up like I did when he was younger, but I do help him out of the bath and I often have to chase him in Tesco, when he makes a bolt for the door as I am packing my shopping away, which amuses the staff as I suddenly sprint after him. Getting Joshua dressed and undressed requires a lot of bending  – really caring is a physical role, just not physical enough; it puts repeated strain on the same areas, in my case my back,neck and achilles. I can remember an OT telling me, before Joshua had his brain surgery ,so he was not yet a teenager, that if he fell to the floor with a seizure and I was home alone, that I should not be lifting his body weight as he weighed more than the recommended maximum. So I asked her what he was supposed to do, to simply wait on the floor until my husband got home?! She had no idea of the practical reality of being a carer. It was only last year that I found some super-human strength to lift Joshua out of the bath, while he was fitting, and to manage to drag and then lift him into his bed, as I had no alternative and his need was urgent.

I do know that if I am going to be fit enough to care for Joshua as we both get older, I need to find an exercise routine that fits into my busy lifestyle, as if it is too hard to do, it will fall by the wayside.

Caring is bad for you?

My sister told me that now that I was over 50 years old, my body would start to let me down and ‘bits would drop off!’ . While nothing has dropped off exactly, this year I have had two warnings that I am indeed getting older: back in May, my calf muscle was giving me a lot of pain and after I had to crawl up the stairs and could barely walk, I reluctantly saw a Doctor and immediately he told me that I had torn my achilles and that it would be 6-8 weeks to recover. He showed me some exercises to stretch it and told me to ‘listen to my body’ and rest when I needed to.

I discovered that two things eased the pain : a hot bath, so I was having two of those a day, and raising it up when I sat down. It would get more painful if I had not rested it enough, until I was forced to sit down. Since having a torn achilles, I realise in caring for Joshua, how little I sit down before he is in bed at 9pm and at how often I need to run up and down stairs too. So I have become more organised and saved up trips upstairs, rather than going each time I needed something, or I have asked my husband to fetch and carry things for me more. But being in a caring role, really is not conducive to sitting around with my leg in the air.

At the  same Doctor visit, I had blood tests done and they showed that I am pre-diabetic – meaning that if I do not change my lifestyle, I will becoame diabetic in the future. This news struck me hard and I immediately began taking more exercise. I had got into a routine if coming in from work and spending the evening caring for Joshua, eating my evening meal, bath then bed and there was no room for exercise in that weekday pattern.

At the moment ,I am awake and up early in the mornings, full of energy. So I decided to harness that energy and now, on three days a week, I cycle 1.5 miles to our local leisure centre ready for them opening up at 7am. Then I swim for 35-40 minutes and then I cycle home again, getting home for around 8am, where my husband has got Joshua fed and dressed. I have now been doing that since early June, so this is my sixth week of this new routine and it suits me very well. Unfortunately swimming makes me very hungry afterwards, so I have seen no real weight loss, but I am certainly fitter than I was.

The Doctor will monitor my blood sugar levels in 6 months time and the nurse thought that if I could exercise more and reduce my carbs – that is a tougher ask! –  that I would be out of the pre-diabetic zone. I have found time in my busy week to slot in some exercise that I enjoy – I am a fair weather cyclist so I will not be cycling there in the winter or when it is raining – which has to be a good thing. Even to be released from dressing Joshua everyday is a bonus.

I am not blaming Joshua for either my torn achilles or my pre-diabetes, but as his primary carer, I know that I need to keep fit and well for him as long as possible, as he needs me.