Isolation Throughout The Nation!

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ll know that Coronavirus, or COVID19 as it is officially known, has hit the UK, not quite as hard as Italy and Spain… Yet. I have friends and family all over the world and having spoken to them and kept up to date with the news, it seems that the UK are probably taking the softest approach towards it all, or at least they were until they eventually announced lock-down earlier this week.

I am hoping you are reading this whilst you are limiting face to face contact with people. If you aren’t then you need to heed the advice or you may be putting lives at risk. Let’s slow the spread of this disease so the NHS can keep up and keep the death rate down.

If like me you are stuck at home, but you actually can’t do too much/any work at home for varying reasons, you may be susceptible to all this having a detrimental effect on your mental health. I am rubbish at being by myself and to make it more intense, my partner is away Monday to Friday and my son lives in a different country. I have some top tips for those who are isolating by themselves who are relatively fit and well. If you are in ill health, be it MS, COVID19 or a plethora of other things, please do read on as you’ll be able to partake in the non-physical elements of my boredom busting tips.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Most gyms are shut. Most gyms, or at least the PTs that worked in them, are posting workouts online that you can do in the comfort of your own home/garden. Even if you are not au fait with many of the movements, a lot are posting easy to follow videos on websites such as YouTube. Don’t want a full blown work out? Do 5 push ups, or squats (or any other exercise) everytime you walk through a door, walk up and down the stairs, go for a walk outside; just ensure you go by yourself, or in as small a group as possible from your own home, and stay 2 metres away from anyone else. Any groups outside of more than 2 people (not from the same household) may end up with a Police fine. Not just that, but you’re a dickhead and the majority of the nation will agree with me that you’re all dickheads.

Housework. Still not sold on the exercise thing, but scared that you will not burn off the calories you are consuming? Kill two birds with one stone and get some housework done. Not only does hoovering and dusting get your heart rate up, but as well as feeling better about yourself, you will be in a lovely, presentable, clean home. I know I feel a lot more at peace with myself when our house is tidy, and it stresses me out when it is messy (like now with DIY stuff ongoing!).

DIY. For most, it means Do-It-Yourself, in my case ‘Destroy-It-Yourself.’ I am rubbish at DIY, but I am good at destroying things. I’ve ripped the carpet and underlay off the stairs, pulled out the nails and staples and am now in the process of sanding the stairs. I think I am entrusted to prime the stairs, but the OH can paint them. Yes, the dust is stressing me out (and aggravating my asthma), but once I’ve done them, I’ll feel a sense of achievement. This is the easy part, the hard part will be painting and sticking some vinyl tiles on which is the OH’s domain, so she will be more than happy that I have done the groundwork. Happy (future) wife = happy life.

Catch up with Family & Friends. Not in person, because that at best means a fine and at worst means spreading COVID19 amongst your loved ones. WhatsApp and Skype (as well as other websites and apps) support group video calls so natter away. A couple of friends and I have set a group video call at the same time each day.

Learn something new. How to do a French Plait. A new language. Yoga. Make something that has been in the back of your mind your new goal. I have just enrolled on a Mental Health First Aid Course and after that, when the OH is back, she can help me to learn her mother tongue; Polish. I might also give yoga or pilates a go in the coming weeks as it’s something I keep putting off, and one of the classes at the gym that fills up super quick and everytime I think to book myself on there are no slots left. If you don’t want to keep your body active, at least keep your mind active. You don’t have to spend money on learning new things; scour YouTube or do a simple Google search and you’ll be able to find step by step videos on how to do things. All of the things.

Make a new playlist. Music motivates me. I absolutely have to have music for any kind of workout and certain songs make me work harder. When I create a new gym playlist I wait until I have a workout that I have been dreading (a half marathon perhaps) and listen to it then to entice me. It can also make housework go quicker (and a boring drive, but you shouldn’t be doing that really at the moment unless absolutely necessary). I discovered this 30 Day Song Challenge image doing the rounds on social media and sent it to a friend this morning; we each pick a song a day that either reminds us of each other, or that we like, that falls under the daily category then add it to a Spotify Playlist we created.

Day 1 gotta be Red Red Wine by UB40.

Make a timetable. Or set daily goals. Or make a to do list (my personal favourite, it’s so satisfying ticking off what you have done). Whatever you need to do to get up and do something everyday, instead of staying in your PJ’s and having a duvet day (of course, if you are unwell then please rest!) do something that at the end of the day you can say that you have achieved. Mine this week consists of indoor rowing at some point, study in the morning and house stuff in the afternoon. I am rather enjoying watching Piers Morgan with my morning coffee. Man has no filter, and whilst I don’t always agree with what he is saying, I totally agree with everything he says about idiots in this country ignoring the government’s advice/guidance on COVID19.

Read a book. This is something I rarely do and probably should do more of. I much prefer non-fiction to fiction, as I am a people person and like to learn about people. Any recommendations of biographies etc are welcomed! This is something I won’t do until I have finished the online learning.

Volunteer. The NHS have announced they need 250,000 volunteers to help in various different ways. If you and everyone else in your household is in good health then please consider becoming an NHS Volunteer Responder. You can help by collecting shopping, meds or other essentials for someone who is self-isolating, transport patients home who are fit for discharge, transport supplies between NHS estates, or (safest option and one that I would do during an MS relapse) check-in and chat – a befriending service over the phone for individuals at risk of loneliness. Find out more and sign up at www.goodsamapp.org

Anyway, that’s my top tips for this first week in isolation. Stay sane dear reader and don’t hesitate to get in touch with further ideas. I am usually an outdoor person and hate hate HATE being stuck indoors, but I am trying to approach this with a glass half full ideology in that I can have some me time and still be productive.

Peace out!

I’ll have a Corona, hold the virus!

What the actual fuck is going on with the world at the moment? This Coronavirus, or COVID19 (which I can’t say without hearing “Come on Eileen”) seems to have properly screwed up the world. Everywhere appears to be on lockdown and invoking strict travel rules… Except for the British Government. For the first time in my 15+year career, I’m seeing heads of department flap about decisions to send us to work from home and go to skeleton manning and cancel events/interaction with the general public.

It’s a bizarre and unsettling feeling. On the plus side, not only am I easily getting a seat on the train on the 2 times I’ve used it the past week, my bag is also getting a seat. They’re bloody deserted! And this is at peak times. It’s something akin to a zombie apocalypse.

I’m working from home as all of our face to face interaction with the public and non essential travel is to cease. I can see me going stir crazy but I’m also looking forward to not setting a 0545 alarm. My body will still naturally wake before 0700 but that’s an hour extra a day to recharge.

As I said in my previous post, I think the MS has remitted (thank fuck) but I am concerned about this pandemic. If I catch it, will I relapse again? Will it kick my asthma off again? I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine, just maybe grumpier and more lethargic… But I’m worried about when I can next see family members as a lot are in the ‘at risk’ bracket due to various illnesses or age.

Due to technically being in limbo land still with only one single lesion and the wishy washy ‘if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck 99.9% of the time it’s a duck’ analogy, I am not allowed to be prescribed any disease modifying therapies (DMTs). For any readers that are on DMTs, certain ones may increase your chances of contracting a viral infection so please take advice from your neurologist/MS team and don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk; in addition, don’t just stop taking any meds without speaking to the specialists first.

It’s a dog eat dog world at the moment. Please remember to be nice to people and reach out to those that may be self isolating and getting bored or needing supplies. A little WhatsApp message or phone call can go a long way. Hope you all manage to get enough toilet roll, hand wash, pasta and whatever else seems to be flying off the shelves right now.

Please look into social distancing if you haven’t don’t so already. You may feel OK but may be spreading your virus to others. Lives will be lost, and the NHS will be stretched even more so let’s think about lessening the burden on those overworked and underpaid healthcare heroes.

Rest and Recuperation

I seem to be doing a lot better, especially given the fact that we have just been away on holiday for the past week. I’m fortunate that the heat does not seem to antagonise my MS and I feel less lethargic, minus the fact that I have visited 4 airports in the last 24 hours (yep, I try to be in UK as little as possible and am currently writing this in Poland). Whilst away, we went on a few walks into town, which made me average 19,000 steps on those days, and a bike trip. In addition, due to the jetlag I was awake before sunrise every morning so took full advantage and went to the gym most days. Of course come the afternoon I needed a little siesta whilst lounging in the sun… But this was probably due to the fresh sea air and unlimited alcohol as opposed to MS fatigue.

A couple of ‘new’ or ‘different’ sensations I have noticed: after being active I feel the pins and needles in my legs differently to how I feel them in my feet, like popping or someone flicking me intermittently. I can’t recall feeling this before the last fortnight or so. Today my arms feel quite weak too, like I have overtrained them at the gym, but I haven’t touched weights since last weekend and that was for back and chest.

At least the fatigue and lethargy seems to have gone, meaning I can be active, which results in a happy mind. Will be great to get back on the iron horse (my Concept2 rowing machine) next week and see how well I really am feeling.

Plant-based Diets for MS? Or something else?

Veganism. It seems you either love it or loathe it. I’m somewhere in the middle with my viewpoint. Each to their own on what you want to eat, but I hate the preachiness either way, be it vegans, paleo dieters or anything else. I can’t see a lot of research surrounding MS and diet so if anyone can point me in the right direction that would be great. In an effort to reduce meat consumption for both health and environmental factors, we now only tend to eat meat 3 times a week, which is fine. I grew up with a vegetarian mum and vegetarian/vegan-before-it-was-cool friends so I’m not one of these people that has to have meat at every meal. I am one of these people that would find it hard to give up chocolate and cake though, but vegan versions of these are more freely available these days. I hate milk, butter, cheese and cream and I’m not a fan of lamb or fish, so I’d probably find it easier than a lot of people.

Is there a particular diet out there that is recommended for either MS or reducing fatigue? I’d trade cake in for energy 80% of the time!

Obviously the healthier the better, which most of my meals are, it’s just the snacks inbetween and occasional tipple. I also take Vitamin D and multi vitamin supplements and am frequently active.

Has any diet worked for you or someone you know to reduce fatigue?

Weight off my shoulders

Today I attempted my RAF fitness test and PASSED! Not a big deal usually, but this just proves that I can still do my job, despite this shitty disease. OK, 10 hours later and I’m fatigued and my legs hurt but it’s no different to usual and it’s definitely not DOMS because I feel it in my bones not my muscles. That’s the first time I have run since October when I did a 2.5k fun run with my boy… Who kicked off because I was going too slow (he’s 5). Anyway that was due to bladder issues and not fitness.

I’m all about these small victories. Want to get back on the iron horse (my Concept2 rowing machine) tomorrow and not be super slow and super disheartened but I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning.

Is there actually light at the end of this tunnel or just a few uncovered manholes?

In 2013 I used to be frustrated with my myself. I’d go for runs or bike rides but would be held back because my lungs felt like the size of walnuts. I was later diagnosed with asthma and prescribed inhalers and tablets to control it. It was frustrating because I had so much energy in my body, I just couldn’t expel it, so I got into weights.

Fast forward and it’s a similar story, though my asthma has pretty much gone apart from the occasional wheeze usually due to cold air or pollen these days. This time my cardio fitness feels the best it has been in years but my body is the problem.

The last two days had been a write off for anything physical. Yesterday I had the laziest day ever not even racking up 1000 steps (my average is 11000). Today I really didn’t feel like rowing but knew I had to for my sanity if nothing else, and knew that it would be far from a best effort.

I jumped on and set the monitor to 30 mins, nothing too hard or so I thought. I wasn’t fussed on a pace, only that I’d do 5 power strokes at a sub 2 min split (15km/h) every minute on the minute then row slowly for the remainder of the minute. This became increasingly harder and my body felt like it wasn’t mine. I felt like “Mr Soft” from the 90s Trebor Soft Mints advert all floppy and powerless. After 20 or so minutes I could see my split pace creeping up higher and higher and it was getting harder to maintain form on the power strokes so I stopped rowing.

After coming off the rower today I just felt overwhelmed, frustrated and absolutely useless. My usual medication of thrashing myself when I feel like this was obviously not an option, nor was punching anything (an alternative that in my older age I try to avoid for fear of broken bones) so I cried. I sat and sobbed for a good minute or 2 before thinking fuck this and fuck you (to the MS).

The OH is used to my little rages and reasoned with me that 20 minutes was better than nothing and that I had to just focus on feeling better. I feel bad because my shitty mood and lack of energy is beginning to effect her (sorry babe).

I’m not sure if this relapse has lasted a few weeks or if I have had a series of mini relapses as some days I’m doing good… Sure I am shattered come 1900 every day but I can usually muster the energy to do a semi decently paced row or lift relatively heavy things at some point on 3 or 4 days.

I guess I’m just scared of the unknown. I had in my head at British Rowing Indoor Champs in December when I broke a sub 8 minute 2k, that by BRIC 2020 I’d be aiming to do it on 7:30. It’s frustrating/disheartening/shitty that as soon as I’ve found a spark in something (indoor rowing) the MS decides to spark up. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever compete again. I get lazy when I don’t have a training aim.

Little favour for me dear reader; if you are able bodied, go out for a walk, run, swim, bike ride, hit the indoor rower or throw some weights around. Dance. Do parkour. Anything active. Please.

I wish someone told me this when I was an unfit chunkster in Cyprus 13 years ago!

Fighting Fit?

I looked into the Spoon Theory after someone pointed it out on my post where I compare myself to a dodgy old phone that loses battery quickly or doesn’t always recharge. This definitely resonates with me. The last couple of weekends I’ve been really active on the Saturday and then paid for it on the Sunday and had a lazy day due to tapping into Sunday’s spoons the day before.

I’ve also noticed that my pins and needles are more intense, so much so that it wakes me up and stops me from falling back to sleep. Lack of sleep is not really something I need right now so I think I’ll resort to buying some sleeping pills later. I also twisted my ankle last week just walking to work. Not sure if that was MS clumsiness or general me clumsiness. It’s still a bit swollen and aches but I can bare weight on it at least.

Anyway the aim of this post is to air my frustrations and apprehensions about the RAF Fitness Test. I always strive to keep relatively fit. MS aside I’m not in bad shape reference my cardio and strength. My Vo2 Max sits around the 43 mark which is good for my age/gender etc (according to FitBit and HeadUp). The RAF Fitness Test comprises a Multi Stage Fitness Test, a minute of press ups and a minute of sit ups. A ‘pass’ for a female my age is level 6.08 on the MSFT, 9 press ups and 29 sit ups. On an energetic day I find this easy; press ups and sit ups anyway. Even on a lethargic day I would still pass, or even surpass the press up and sit up minimum standard.

The MSFT has never been something I was great at, my best effort was level 11 when I was 16 in my Army Basic Training, but in the last 10 years I generally achieve between level 7 and 9 depending on my cardio fitness at the time. My last one I had to stop at level 7 due to my bladder, damn MS. Level 7 is indicative of a Vo2 Max of 36… Why has it dropped by 7? I’m just shit at running. And I’m bricking it that I may fail my RAF Fitness Test for the first time ever. I could go to the Dr and be excused for partaking in it… But I don’t want to. I know I’m capable of passing it, I’m just scared that I’ll do it on a lethargic day and fail. I’m just too stubborn and too proud to show that the MS affects my day job and strive to set the example of “well if I can do it and I’m old and knackered with RRMS, you can do it” to any potential RAF applicants.

There is no dispensation of “but I can row 2k in sub 8 minutes” and I can still deadlift triple figures, which is arguably harder than the standard pass for an RAF female my age. This is why I think these tests should be reviewed for functional fitness. Press ups are great and are synonymous with military life; during training they are (or were back in my day) used to ‘reinforce’ learning. We had to even jump up and thank the Corporals for making us stronger after doing 10 of them, something which I later used when I was on instructor for RAF Police recruits. Sit ups though… What is the point? I’m not saying this because I struggle (I genuinely don’t, my hips weigh me down where I need them to and I am not top heavy so I can do 45-50 sit-ups in a minute on a good day even with my beer belly getting in the way). Surely there are other things that show core strength or functional endurance that could be adapted instead of this really old school way of measuring strength, endurance and cardio fitness?

What is the point of the MSFT? When am I ever going to need to run for 20 metres turn 180 degrees, run for another 20 metres and turn 180 degrees (repeat) whilst gradually getting faster? Surely being Military fit should consist of being able to carry weight at a relatively quick speed, drag a 70 or 90kg dummy to replicate casualty evacuations and just be all round robust. Not sit ups and a run. It’s time the RAF got with the 21st century.

Rant over. Looks like I’ll arm up with Red Bull and have a go at my fitness test next week and if I fail, pray the Physical Training Instructor doesn’t log it as I’m actually in date until the middle of March (for any civilians reading this post, failure of a fitness test results in disciplinary action). My ankle should hold up, I’m always injuring it, it’s the heavy legs and lethargy that I’m worried about. There’s just such a lack of awareness on MS altogether, moreso in the military. I don’t want to be labelled as “malingering” because as I said before, my fitness is fine on a good day. Let’s just hope that next Thursday is a good day for me!