Fitness Series: Training with an Invisible Illness

My journey back to fitness was never going to be easy, I’m one of those people plagued by invisible illness discrimination because from the outside I ‘look fine.’  Internally my Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and fibromyalgia beg to disagree and they make exercising a little more tricky than it might be for a person who actually is fine.

The one thing I have on my side is that for the most part, I refuse to be beaten.  I have days where I can barely get out of bed but I will not let this define me – this attitude is both a blessing and a curse, for years I’ve dragged my sorry ass to the gym, to boxing sessions, to fitness classes and to The Barre and in those environments I’m met with a “Hell yeah gurl!” but when I’m knocking down my GP’s door begging for a prescription for pain relief, I’m met with a resounding “you look ok to me”.  In a nutshell, if you think you’re bossing it, you might be sealing your own fate in terms of medical care because in my humble opinion, the people who are the worst discriminators of invisible illnesses are medical professionals within the NHS and I can say that with inside knowledge having spent most of my working career working in senior management positions within the Health Service.  Anyway, that’s a whole other post that I promise I’ll write….

So, you know my starting point as outlined in this post and by now I’m sure you know the principles and fundamentals of a Barre class.  Based on that, I’d made the decision that any fitness activity I was going to throw myself into had to be low to zero impact, light weight and consistent.  Heading back to The Barre was a no brainer so I signed myself up for a month on month training schedule which would give me 24 classes every four weeks to use around my schedule.  At a cost of £125 per month it’s definitely not cheap and it requires a degree of both financial and time commitment as there’s a minimum sign up term, but then it’s not your average class either.

“The Barre is about feeling good and strong, being healthy and happy and spreading that around as far as you can.”  The Barre Workout

The beauty of The Barre for me is this: there are no surprises.  If you’ve taken a class, then every time you take that class it will be identical (save for the occasional tweak).  You learn to know your position within the Barre hierarchy of classes, whether you’re a 1st Barre beginner or an intermediate 2nd Barre and beyond, your class is steady, consistent and executed with military precision every single time.

Pixie Tenenbaum at The Barre Workout, Newcastle

For someone like me that’s a safety I never knew I needed.  The thought of working out with a trainer and not knowing what’s coming next is hell for someone with a chronic pain condition and a stress that, well, you just don’t need.  Working out in a structured format is an absolute no brainer and once you’ve been training at The Barre for a while (or in my case a million years) your Instructor gets to know your niggles, your restrictions, injury limitations and yes, invisible illnesses.  Even better, they actually believe you.

“Winning isn’t about beating someone else, it’s about never quitting until you are better than you were.”  The Barre Workout

I’ve had a chronic trapped femoral nerve in my left leg for eight years now, meaning that it’s remained in that position causing constant pain for what now feels like forever.  Yes sure, there are things that I can’t do as a result of that and that’s frustrating.  Very frustrating in fact, especially given that they’re very simple things, but with modifications specifically for me, I’m able to participate fully in my favourite classes at The Barre and that’s because there’s nothing so fast that my joints lose that element of control required to keep them stable.  Even a Barrdio class – think regular Barre, on speed – takes up two slots per week in my calendar which I supplement with The Barre’s core regime of Barre classes to strengthen, condition and tighten those accessory muscle groups that enhance joint control – perfect for a hypermobile client who might suffer from a ‘gym hangover’ post training.

Training was a bit of a bust in January due to the studio’s extended Christmas closure and lots of travel on my part but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of classes and came back to discover some improvements to the studio including some fancy new Studio 54 style disco lighting and a shiny new Beauty Bar(re) jam packed with styling tools and products perfect for post class beautifying.

Despite not being able to cram in as much training as I would have liked, one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is in my mindset.  Having something like Fibromyalgia means that whilst your body isn’t always switched on or ready for exercise, your mind can be and that’s half the battle right?

Pixie xo

Fancy trying out a Barre class for yourself?  Visit the website to book online.

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