Spring came roaring in like a lion, burned a hole right through winter and quickly fizzled out in the heat of the summer solstice. May and June are usually known for rainfall and dewy blossoms, but this year our province saw record-breaking heat temperatures that unfortunately fueled an early forest fire season – and while that raises alarm bells for climate change, I am not complaining just yet. The summer heat is my salve for RA and as the temperatures rise, I emerge from my sedentary hibernation leaving the winter thaw well behind me.
The transition to warmer weather has brought me back to life. Every morning I wake to the songs of robins, chickadees, finches, northern flickers, and sparrows. The morning light revives me and I feel my body itching to move. It’s as if the earth has been in a deep sleep and every bit of life suddenly woke up to remind me there is still so much living to do.
Summer days invite me to be more active and enjoy the outdoors again. My husband and I go for walks around the seawall and explore beaches and parks. We sometimes take our bikes out for a spin around the neighbourhood. In the summer, I begin most days with an early morning swim. There’s nothing like swimming to get the body moving and the blood flowing, and in the morning there’s a certain kind of peace that is not present at any other time of the day.
On those days when I don’t get up early enough to enjoy the pool on my own, I turn to yoga, which I do all year, switching between power, restorative or gentle, depending on what my body needs – and because keeping bones strong is important, I’ve introduced a daily 10-minute weight program into the mix. I can’t always do 30 minutes a day, but I can always do ten minutes.
I’ve always been active but after being diagnosed with RA I lost a bit of that energy and drive. It’s important to keep moving with RA. Any movement or exercise helps reduce morning stiffness and maintain strength and flexibility. As important as it is exercise, it’s just as important to let go of the guilt when you can’t. No one knows better than those of us with inflammatory arthritis how challenging it is to exercise when you have pain and fatigue, so give yourself a break. It’s okay to rest, put your feet up, read a book. There’s always tomorrow to try again.
I jumpstarted my summer exercise routine with a 30-day yoga challenge and got back in the water. I live in a temperate part of the world where outdoor exercise is feasible most of the year, but when I can’t get outside, there’s always exercise apps and videos to keep me moving at home. There’s nothing like putting on your favorite song and dancing in your living room or kitchen.
The sun peeks over the rooftops of the townhomes as I float on my back under a clear blue sky. There’s almost no traffic on the road beyond the trees. My only company is the warble of the sparrows and the haunted cry of the seagulls. Summer doesn’t last long on the west coast, but as long as it’s here, you’ll find me floating between water and land, giving my body the love and attention it deserves to keep RA at bay.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.