Working with clients who have Fibromyalgia is extremely rewarding for me as Fitness Professional. The reason I find it so rewarding is the success of my clients. When approached properly people with Fibromyalgia can be extremely successful following a fitness program. The challenge is to make sure that you do enough but not too much. If you engage in too vigorous of activity it can trigger a flare up but if you stop moving then the effects of your fibromyalgia will worsen which also results in pain – a real catch 22.
Studies have shown that exercising helps to arrest the progress of Fibromyalgia but like I said too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. This presents a dilemma. When searching for a fitness professional to work with it is extremely important to ask what certifications and educational background they have. It is important to find out if they understand the needs of someone who has FM. The certifications to look for are American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM - land, which requires a degree in fitness), Arthritis Foundation for both land and water exercise and Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute (ATRI) for water, as well as continuing education classes in Fibromyalgia. The next step is to ask for referrals from current or former clients that they have helped that have FM. Ask them what they’re training philosophy is, it is important to only work with a fitness professional that says things like ‘work at your own pace’, ‘many reps using a light weight’ and ‘if it hurts STOP!’ It’s okay to feel your muscle working, it’s even okay to feel a mild ‘burning’ sensation but it’s never okay to feel pain. Pain is our body’s way of telling us to stop which is why it’s so important to listen!
In order to work out safely and make progress you need to do many repetitions using light weights. It is important to push yourself but not too hard – a great option is circuit training which adds both cardio and strength training all in one workout. Another fantastic option is water workouts in pools that are warmer than regular lap pools. Lap pools are kept at a low temperature which can trigger a flare up where as a warm ‘springs’ pool will help the muscles relax which will promote greater range of motion and reduce lactic acid build up which can cause muscle pain. It is important to stay away from boot camp type classes and most martial arts classes. It’s not that these forms of exercise are bad, it’s because for people with FM these types of rather extreme classes will most certainly cause flare ups which is what we want to avoid at all costs!
It’s important to remember a few key things – if you don’t move your FM will worsen, if you do too much you may trigger a flare up, if you move the right amount you will begin to enjoy a higher quality of life that is relatively pain free. When beginning a fitness program less is more. I have seen too many people start off working too hard too soon which results in pain or injury which in turn keeps them from working out and they find themselves right back to where they started. I tell all of my clients that small changes over time yield HUGE results. After all you didn’t get to where you currently are overnight, it will take time to get where you want to go but I promise you it is more than worth the effort. It’s important to remember to work at your own pace because in a group it’s easier to want to push yourself as hard as the others but by starting off slowly and building up your momentum you will amaze even yourself one day soon. It’s important to start slowly but it’s even more important to just start.
Here's to you in Health, Wellness and Fitness!
Jennifer Malocha CEO of Fun at Wuhoo Fitness
Listen to my weekly radio show Let's Talk every Thursday from 9-10 AM PST
PS Check out the new videos posted on the Wuhoo Fitness podcast/vidcast page!