“I look like I’m 21 and I look like I’m just fine. But that’s really not the case. On the inside it’s creaky and squeaky and things are not working.”
Allie lives with an invisible illness. You wouldn’t know it, but some days struggles to get out of bed. Chronic pain and fatigue follow her wherever she goes. For a 21-year-old, this is not normal.
“I used to dance, play volleyball, soccer, run track – and all of that fell apart slowly.”
This past fall, Allie, a third-year university student, finally received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia presents with widespread pain and fatigue. It’s often accompanied by anxiety and depression, often attributed to the inability to carry out daily activities and due to its ‘invisible’ nature.
“You get judged,” says Allie, “I look like I’m 21 and I look like I’m just fine. But that’s really not the case. On the inside it’s creaky and squeaky and things are not working.”
Exercise is Medicine
After a particularly tough flare up, Allie reached out to the Reh-Fit Centre to see if there might be a program to help her manage pain. Soon after, she was enrolled in Reh-Fit’s Exercise is Medicine program, an eight-week program supervised by a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and designed to help participants get started with exercise.
“I had never been to a fitness centre before. There was some anxiety.”
After feeling judged in the outside world but once she found Reh-Fit she says, “The people around me, helping me, were very non-judgmental and proud of me – that was really helpful.”
For the first two weeks, Allie’s focus was to “just show up”. For many, showing up and getting started is half the battle.
“It was my goal to walk every day. Just going, even if that means walking around the track once and then leaving. That’s a win, because I showed up.”
Week by week, Allie gained strength and confidence to try new things. It started with a stretching machine that led her to try new exercises recommended by staff and her physiotherapist. Each time she came back to the Centre, she unlocked new level of confidence.
Through Exercise is Medicine, Allie learned more and more about which exercises felt right in her body and which exercises got the results she was after. With guidance from Reh-Fit staff, she worked diligently on treating her symptoms by training different muscles.
“I’m definitely not on my own. I want to thank the team here for allowing me the opportunity to really make myself better.”
Fast forward to today, Allie is enjoying her Reh-Fit designed workouts nearly seven days a week. She is well on her way to reclaiming her previous life as a student, dancer, and overall dynamic young woman.
“The next goal I’m working on is running!”
There is a lot we don’t know about fibromyalgia, but Allie is a true testament to the saying ‘exercise is medicine’. She saw firsthand the impact, both mentally and physically, of how exercise can both lessen symptoms and improve quality of life for those living with chronic conditions.
We know physical activity is a powerful tool for individuals seeking to reclaim their well-being. Physical activity, when paired with support and guidance from knowledgeable medical fitness professionals, can make all the difference in getting started, staying motivated, and enjoying the benefits of lasting lifestyle changes in the long term.
You can get started today, too. To start the conversation, visit reh-fit.com or call our Reception Desk at 204-488-8023.