They say that March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This year, spring tiptoed in gently like a ballerina on a string of pearls. Climate change granted us a mild February, complete with sunshine and cherry blossoms. Our mountains stood majestically above the coastline barren of the bleached snow-caps that usually swathed their peaks. Skiers and snowboarders were abandoned to find other means to challenge their athleticism on their green hills.
But despite our lack of winter sports, (and impending water shortage for the upcoming summer), this spring has been a blessing. The mild agreeable weather has made it easier for me and my better half to take regular walks. It’s always difficult to find time to exercise during a busy day and even more challenging when you have to dodge sore swollen joints and fatigue. My better half and I have taken advantage of our mild weather and we go out walking every evening (or as many evenings as we can). I do it to keep my joints mobile – he does it to keep his blood pressure in check and we both do it to maintain a level of fitness. Walking is a great way to exercise, especially for those with arthritis – it is low impact, keeps heart and lungs healthy, can help control blood pressure and cholesterol, maintains muscle, and can contribute to weight loss. It’s an enjoyable pastime – we walk, we talk, we appreciate the world around us and we get to escape from the beck and call of a technological world. It takes us back to simple moments – it reminds me of my childhood when the wonder of the outdoors attracted my attention more than the insipid light of a computer screen.
I’ve fallen off the exercise wagon frequently since the arrival of RA. I’ve watched my dance and yoga classes go the way of the Dodo Bird – mainly because my joints can no longer bear the impact. My physiotherapist has taught me several strengthening exercises – so many in fact, I can’t keep track of all the pages she has given me, and so far, I have been unsuccessful in trying to incorporate them into my day. My range of motion exercises, which I do first thing in the morning, has its set pattern, but as for the rest, it’s been challenging trying to fit them in between holidays, family, vacations, work and renovations – basically the dizzying blender we call life. I get lost in time, wondering when I can ferret out a spell to do ten repeats of ten different exercises. Oh sure, there’s the odd time I’m stuck in front of the television and I will mindlessly perform a few stretching movements, but I’m thankful to say, I don’t often find myself in that position.
I’m working my way back to yoga. I’m sure once I can find a design for my unstructured life, I will find the time to locate a yoga instructor that will teach me alternative positions and keep the pressure off my joints; and perhaps, there will come a day when I will return to dance. But for now, I take my daily walks. Walking is simple and flexible. It can be done at any time. You don’t need special equipment, you don’t need to be at a particular place at a particular time, and you don’t need an instructor – all you need is a pair of good quality shoes, maybe a companion, and a camera to remind yourself of life’s beauty and ease you away from the shadow of arthritis for a little while.
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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.