Exercise and Well-Being

Something I’ve been grappling with lately is that I can’t really exercise. I can’t exercise like I’m used to – running about five days a week and training for big scary goals. Currently, I can’t even walk up a steep hill without feeling exhausted. I’m now one of those people who will circle the parking lot, looking for the closest spot near the entrance.  To the average bystander, I just look lazy.

I’m used to being fit and I’m used to my weight being fairly static. Now, I’m deliberately slowing down my metabolism with medication and I can’t exercise. It’s not that I’m just feeling the symptoms of Graves’ disease, being fatigue. I’m totally and utterly depleted from stress. When your body has invoked an auto-immune attack, you have to rebuild your energy reserves and change your life to prevent a relapse. It is not a matter of weeks or days to recover from something this serious. And it’s not just a matter of forging through the fatigue – I can set my recovery back if I’m not careful.

I often encounter people who work with athletes and their advice seems to be quite wrong to me: they are advising me to do a 40 minute cycle when five minutes flattens me. Because I look fine and I can hold a conversation, people just don’t understand just how depleted one gets from a stress-induced illness. This is not laziness and this is not me being over-dramatic. If I was prone to drama, I would not have become so depleted in the first place because people would have listened!

Even if I were able to stay on the bike for 40 minutes, I would feel the impact of that for days if not weeks afterwards. I recently had a spike of stress again and it set me back about a week. I felt my immune system dipping and was even advised by medical practitioners to up my Vitamin C dosage. So an intense cardio work-out is not what I need now.

I’ve tried going for a gentle walk and that works quite well. I found spots in my neighbourhood where I can rest on a bench if I get a little tired. I’ve also been doing ball exercises for various muscle groups but mainly core strength. I have been doing a cycle of ball exercises, walking and the five minute cycle once a week each. In the week where I had more stress, I had to stop all exercise again.

I have been pretty patient by my standards in not getting too uptight about gaining weight. Over the past few years and months I have given up alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks and am eating more of the things that are healthier. I was a healthy eater to start with, so there was not that much refining that could be done. I do feel very sorry for myself that I cannot control my weight, even though I’m eating well. The one weakness I do have is sugar, primarily chocolate. I feel that I have really done so much to work towards healing and recovery that I really deserve just one indulgence.

For someone who used to say ‘my biggest health problem is sinus’, this is quite a different landscape. And I do find it enormously frustrating. I’m a person of action. I like to get things done, take ownership and put plans in place. For me to reign in exercise to this degree after being idle for months, is actually very hard. Sadly, even my fat pants are now becoming tight. I don’t fancy buying a new wardrobe for my expanding physique so something must be done.

In the reading and research I have done, I have noticed how much yoga comes up as a healing form of exercise. I have previously done the 90 minute gruelling sessions of Bikram yoga in a sauna environment, as it was at my level of intensity. Now, I think it would kill me. But I have resolved to try restorative yoga this week to dip my toe in the water.


I remember getting advice from Bio-Kinetics I was attending that the yoga was not at all compatible with running. The statement she used was ‘you don’t see any people from India winning marathons’. I was quite sad to have to give up yoga as I really enjoyed the intensity, the progress I was making and how great I felt afterwards. Perhaps this is my chance to improve my flexibility and to invest in a new regime of exercise that is health-building.

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I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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