Exercise, Self-Discipline, and COPD
Last updated: September 2023
Opening my eyes, I focus on the clock. It is 7:00 in the morning. I would love to roll over and get another hour or so of sleep. I don’t. Even though I no longer work outside my home, I still try to keep my weekdays scheduled as if I do. It helps me stay focused instead of wandering throughout my day willy nilly. Sitting down at the kitchen table, my husband puts a cup of coffee in front of me. Blowing him a kiss of thanks, he jokingly gives me a curtsy. I like starting my day with humor. It sets the tone for the day, hopefully!
I always look through my calendar book with my coffee. It is a free week for me, meaning no doctor’s appointments. It is gray and cloudy outside. I wish the sun was shining because my energy is more abundant then. It is going to be a slow-moving day and I will have to dig deep to keep active today. Purposely planning for these low energy days still keeps me active.
Exercise - the evil necessity
The worst thing I heard, after my COPD diagnosis, was exercise would help me breathe better. Why couldn’t it have been ice cream or pizza? I have never liked exercise. I don’t like the gym or any workout routine. My idea of going for a walk was through a mall shopping. Now I am being told I have to do it, even though I am short of breath. I remember looking at my doctor thinking, what evil villain thought up this torture?
When my doctor sent me to pulmonary rehab, I didn’t have to worry about being disciplined. I showed up three times a week and they told me what to do. Rehab ended, leaving me on my own. For a couple of weeks, I took a break. I was feeling better. Did I really need to work out anymore? It didn’t take too long and getting more short of breath again to realize I did.
I had to find something I could do at home. Rehab had a lot of equipment that didn't fit into my budget or my home. I had a treadmill and disliked it. If I truly hate what I am doing, I will find every reason not to. The exercise peddler is my favorite discovery. It is inexpensive and takes up very little room. Playing some happy music or an audio book, and before I know it, I have peddled several miles. For some people, it is better to remain rigid in keeping an exercise schedule. I can remain disciplined only if I allow for changes and interruptions in my day. Exercise is scheduled in the morning, anytime before lunch. I made a rule for myself. No exercise, no lunch.
Keeping the routine flexible
COPD symptoms can change at a moment’s notice, so how do we maintain self-discipline to keep an active daily routine? For me, it was learning to be flexible mentally, and understanding that not every moment is going to be good. If I am having a day of being short of breath, I refocus my thoughts and plan to what I can do, rather than give up. I can do breathing exercises or I can sit in a chair and do simple pulmonary exercises learned at rehab. Simple chair yoga is another alternative
Once I realized just how much better exercising makes me feel, physically and mentally, it has become so much easier to be disciplined about a routine. I keep a structured weekday schedule, beginning around seven in the morning and start winding down between three and four o’clock in the afternoon. I stay as active as possible within that time frame, allowing for shortness of breath breaks. I do my workout, household chores, cooking, or laundry. Weekends are for resting and time to enjoy activities with my family.
What do you do?
I would love to hear what you do to stay active. How do you stay self-disciplined to exercise? Do you have a routine, or take the day as it comes?
Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.
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