In the winter months, I began to do a short mobility aid walk with anticipation and excitement. However I only got in a couple of walks along the sidewalk by my house. There was too much coming and going by people mostly unmasked to one home in particular, who don’t seem to have a care in the world during a pandemic of worldwide proportions. Then we were hit by snow stopping any means of walking at all, not conducive to navigating mobility aids. I decided to have my husband and caregiver Brandon shovel the backyard with paths and I happily did a couple of walks that way. Then it turned icy and muddy causing unstable pathways for walking, so I stopped. Living immune-compromised in a pandemic with strict quarantine is a challenge especially when you are trying to get fresh air, absorb some natural vitamin d and take in some light movement with a change of scenery.
By April the snow had melted, along with the melt came a looming 6th wave of Covid. I decided to accept that I continued to be trapped on my property for walking. I have a gorgeous spacious property thus I am unable to complain instead I feel grateful. I have much property to walk and stretch my legs without coming into contact with a single person meaning I can walk free of a mask for easier breathing. Like I said I only can feel gratitude for my fortune of living on such a property in Canada’s largest most heavily populated city.
With regards to my body and movement the truth being as I set out for a walk I never know what my body is capable of. Thus I have two strategies to follow depending on my heart rate reaction once I begin to move. This is very important for people living with ME like myself, I had to learn my bodily reactions and become extremely bodily aware. If I don’t adhere this I could send myself into PEM or a flare worsening my condition. That is not an option if I want to heal slow and steady staying out of my bed for days at a time or possibly months.
Here is how it works for me using my tested and tried strategies. If I max out my heart rate in my first set of a slow steady 1-2 minutes timed walking lap I stop, sit and rest for a 4 minute recovery on one of my benches. When my heart rate has returned to a normal resting range, then I can do another set followed by another four minute rest for recovery. Totalling 5 laps altogether this makes 10 minutes plus an added 20 minute sitting recovery rest while walking and a 20 minute sitting as recovery sit post walking. The walk becomes an interval with equal to double the resting time followed by an equal post recovery sit. A 10 minute walk becomes a 50 minute walk and recovery.
Subsequently if my heart rate does not max out on the first lap I may be able to walk for 5-10 minutes slow and steady. Then after the timed walk is completed I require a 10-20 minute siting rest to recover upon completion. It should be noted that a max heart rate for person diagnosed with M.E. like myself is not the same as a normal functioning person. My heart rate has completely changed and it took much time to study the target maximum heart rate and acceptable activity within this range as well as my normal heart rate on a good day and a bad day.
The key to a successful walk is benches strategically placed for rest and recovery. I have 10 sitting stations throughout my property for resting. This allows me not to need to use my mobility aids and still have resting spots in appropriate locations when I need to take rest. In 2021, I wrote a blog on my 10 spots for sitting, if interested take a moment to follow this link. https://janelouiseholden.ca/2021/04/30/ten-spots-for-sitting/
A thought floated into my head today regarding other people like myself who are trying to move more but they are immune- compromised. I thought this would be a good strategy to share with others for awareness’s as too many people with ME are told to get out and exercise worsening our conditions. I have only been able to begin this garden walking program within my forth year of recovery, although I attempted and tried movement too many times to count over the past four years.
The truth is you will know when you are of the ability to begin a movement program. All you need is a garden with a perimeter to walk, if it is safe you can walk around the house. I open my locked gates to walk creating more land to cover. You too can begin a walking program in an environment which is safe, modified and manageable. If you don’t have a garden perhaps a kind friend or family member who is safe and respectful could share their space with you. It is a terrific way to show kindness and compassion towards you with little effort.
Now it is July and my gardening has become my movement and gardening my walks. The good news is the reason I didn’t feel safe on the sidewalk by my house has a Sold sign on the lawn. My other neighbours understand and respect my chronic illnesses and disability thus I should be able to walk the circle once again safely. I have no words to express the relief this provides me with. All signs bodily and environmentally are suggesting a good walking route via sidewalk come fall.