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Lessons from ME/CFS: Finding Meaning in the Suffering
If you're aware of my previous articles here at Phoenix Rising then it's pretty clear that I don't generally spend my time musing upon the philosophy of the disease. I find it better to spend my time reading research and trying my best to break it down to its core elements and write...
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Weight Training

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by Scavo86, Mar 22, 2010.

  1. Scavo86

    Scavo86 Senior Member

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    Hi All

    Just looking for some advice really and know that this is always the place to come for it. I am in a position where I want to try and do some physical conditioning but know that doing something aerobic eg running, squash, swimming will just leave me in a heap. I have heard however that weight training is something that we can do on occasion, I have a multigym, dumbells etc at home and just wondered from anyone who has given weight training a shot whilst recovering from CFS/ME how they got on with it and what they felt to be most beneficial. Many thanks for your time and in antipication of the answers :Retro smile: xx
  2. talkingfox

    talkingfox Senior Member

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    I've done hardcore weight training off and on through the course of my illness. I really think the key is to keep it as anaerobic as possible, which means shorter sets with heavier weights which is easier on the system than light weights with lots of reps. Dr. Klimas was saying in one of her vids that anaerobic is the ticket too.

    When I'm in remission I work my sets to muscle failure...but when ill that tactic leads to system failure. Were it me I'd not push initial sets to much past just 'feeling them'. We tend to too much lactic acid anyways, so pushing to the 'burn' may be overdoing as well. I think the biggest thing is to really listen to your body and to NOT play the no pain no gain game. And form form form as far as the lifts.

    I've had varying results with weights over the years depending on how flared (or not) I was at the time, ranging from very good to turning me into an incoherent heap.

    If you do decide to lift nutrition is very important as well, even for the healthy, and can help muscle recovery in a big way. As far as the word recovery, let me make it clear I mean standard everyday muscle recovery that everybody does after any sort of exertion, not clinical recovery from ME.
  3. Scavo86

    Scavo86 Senior Member

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    Thanks talkingfox, that's just the kind of info I was looking for - how many reps in a set would you recommend?
  4. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    Hi,

    this is my first post after lurking for a few months but I know a little about this topic so have decided to de-lurk

    wieght training is perfectly possible with M.E. depending on your current status - if you have the resources to manage unassisted most of the time then provided you are sensible there is no reason you shouldnt be able to lift to some degree.

    however if you have had any period of innactivity for more than a few monthsin the last couple of years (which seems likely) then it might be an idea to do some basic core strengthening exercises (such as pilattes) for a month or so before starting anything using weights as your core muclature may be a bit on the underpowered side - this may not be easy (it wasnt for me) but it's a good idea if you dont like back pain.

    once you've done this then I'd advise a general all body routine - isolation exercises are not going to improve your QOL - improving your general strength will - however there are several things to be aware of - only be aware - I'm not trying to put you off

    first and most importantly - if your CNS is as screwed up as mine then dont trust your body to tell you when it's had enough - I had problems for months because i couldnt recognise that my body had had enough - little things like losing awareness of a limb during a lift are signs your CNS is struggling to adapt/cope - dont ignore it or train through it or you'll probably regret it - dont rely on the fact that people say when you've had enough you musles will hurt/burn/etc. - it aint neccessarily so - mine dont - I fell nothign from them - they either do what i tell them or they dont - until my form collapses

    learn what too heavy feels like to you - and dont lift that heavy - or you'll crash - gradually increase weights and that point will stay in the distance - if you ever hit it then put the wieghts down and take some weights off the bar

    always try and maintain a full freezer/fridge and cupboards - as if you get it wrong you wont be going anywhere for a while

    you will need to relearn your energy levels as whilst you will have more strength and be able to move faster you will also deplete faster - it's no fun miscalulating and ending up stuck and then taking 2 hours to get the last 200 yards home

    it's a learning curve - and it's probably different for everyone - I can now stand from a chair without havign to use my arms to assist - I can do in a mornign what used to take a week or 3 - I look better and most of the time feel better - it doesnt however fix any of the primary problems M.E. causes me - in fact cog/fog issues are probably slightly worse (still workign on that one) - and whilst general mobility is loads better I still cant do significantly more - I can do it faster and not look like a drunk cripple but I cant do more.

    rest and diet as mentioned above are critical - but if you have M.E. you should already know that lol

    I do stronglifts 5*5 which starts with an empty bar and gradually increases the weight to allow you to get the correct form down pat before lifting any serious weight - however I do it a little more gradually than they suggest - I still lift pathetic wieghts after 6 months but I'm gettign there and not crashing every few weeks any more.

    so weights - I recommend them within limits - but you will get it wrong every now and then so plan ahead and allow for it - again something anyone with M.E. should be used to.

    edit - a power cage is a GOOD investment if you are lifting alone and at home - much safer that way
  5. shrewsbury

    shrewsbury member

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    Hi Wonko - welcome to the forums and thanks for de-lurking.

    I found your info, concrete examples and realistic outcomes very helpful.

    While I don't to weights, I try to use my daily activities to stretch and weight lift when possible. I resonated when you said that you can now lift yourself out of a chair without using your arms. I am happy to say that I am in the same position right now. Also, I've found that when I get a bit stronger and feel a bit better, I don 't, as I had thought I would, manage to get much more done. I just experience a better quality of poor-functioning. And while not all I had hoped for, it's still hugely appreciated to feel not quite as knocked out.
  6. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    many thanks for the welcome islandfinn

    I've been lurking mainly because most of the threads on here are well above my level - interesting - informative - but way above anything I felt i could contribute to - until this one

    hopefully some of the general points I made will be helpful to the OP or any passers by - unfortunately unless the OP has a fairly high end multigym I'm not sure how appropriate it will be to a total body style workout as it's difficult to do the major compound exercises with them - but you work with what you have in most cases

    I've tried a lot of cardio based exercises in the past and always regretted it - I find lifting easier and it takes less of a toll on me than walking - which is why I am happy to recommend it if done sensibly - it will also make you crash a lot easier than walking if you arent paying attention - which is why i wouldnt recommend it in a GET environment - the individual must be aware of their own tolerances and progress/back off accordingly - fortunately with weights this is fairly easy to get the hang of if your not already operating beyond your safe limits - which is unfortunately the case for a lot of people with M.E. a lot of the time

    weighlifting/strength trainign will not solve any issues associated with M.E. - I suspect my increased cog/fog issues are down to my resource management not being upto scratch in that I havent got the balance between exercise and rest/recovery right yet - it's still somethign I am working on - atm it's a price worth paying IMO due to the drastically increased QOL - at least until I need my brain to function and make tricky decisions such as what to eat lol
  7. heapsreal

    heapsreal iherb 10% discount code OPA989,

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    i have to agree with what most people are saying, cardio seems to worsen cfs, but weight training is easier on the system, unless going through a 'crash' then best to leave most activities alone. When i train i find it best not to get out of breath, low reps and lots of time between sets. Some of my workouts consisted of just a couple of sets of squats for 3-5 reps. The best single exercise i found was doing overhead squats, sometimes with no weight just the bar, it helps with lower back strength and core strength and if its the only exercise you can do, it helps you keep in some sort of condition for when you have the energy for an expanded workout. Pre cfs i was an oly lifter, so i got over head squats from there, i also might do just power cleans, i pick exercises that work everything, that way i can make my work outs short and cover most muscles.

    I use to tell people i train a 2 on 2 off schedule, which was 2 workouts one week , then 2 weeks off, lol!!
    You have to train within your ability and how your feeling and if you feel yuk within the first few minutes, go home, just make your self worse, you need to have that good feeling/runners high type feel when training.
  8. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    what heapsreal said about the not getting out of breath bit is good advice - if you are getting out of breath then it's too heavy - best to put it down and rest for a couple of days - I'd also like to add a word of caution regarding overhead lifts - they are probably the most demanding of all the lifts and tbh not something I would advise until you have built up a little strength - my first crash caused by lifting was a result of an overhead press that was too heavy for me - 3 weeks to get back to being able to potter around the flat - tho of course due to inexperience I ignored the warning of my right arm just failing mid lift (losing control of a weight thats above your head is soooo much fun - fortunately an iron bar is a relatively soft thing compared with my head) - and just kept lifting until I hit the end of the workout - not clever but then I probably had concussion so cant be expected to think straight lol

    IMO overhead squats are probably too demanding balance wise for most with M.E. - squats are initially enough of a balance challenge to do correctly for a lot of people without M.E. let alone those with - that said if you can only manage one compound exercise then squats would be it (just simple squats, not overhead or front squats) - but start really light and read up on form, watch utube vids on form etc - it takes a while to learn how to do it correctly - on the face of it it's a simple exercise but it really isnt if your going to do it properly (and safely) - but it's worth it - squats will work practically all your major muscle groups in one hit and give you maximium returns (conditioning) for mininium energy expenditure - give them a try - even bodyweight or dumbbell squats will give you an idea - as it's recommended by someone so cog impared tat even dropping a loaded bar on their head doesnt give them a clue it's time to stop how can you go wrong lol
  9. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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  10. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    thanks - I'll do some reading
  11. Knackered

    Knackered Guest

    You guys who are well enough to weight lift, what else do you do? What does a typical day comprise of? Monday to Friday.
  12. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    lol - basically nothing - survive - I make it out to shop once a week or so - but thats all I could manage before - as I said the weight lifting doesnt significantly affect my M.E. at all - t it does make lfe more comfortable - as I am stronger I can stand to cook, wash up most days, put out the rubbish - all of which I had to do before but now it doesnt knock the stuffing out of me - because I am stronger I'm not having to run at max just to get the basics done - but i stll get flattened after a few hours outside - it's just that now those few hours can be done at once rather than over a week

    but I dont have a social life - in the last few years I have only managed to keep 1 friendship going - I cant work - I have no hobbies - I can just about manage to keep 1 cat alive - I live in a 1 bedroom flat on my own and almost all the time only venture out when it's essential

    if you were under the impression I was high functioning simply because i can lift weights for an hour a week (split into 3 sessions) without significant cost (apart from having to regement my life - lots of rest & sleep, a good diet eaten at set times - and accept a certain amount of 'good' pain (as opposed to the other sort everyones used to) then you'd be wrong - I'm basically housebound - but now more comfortably housebound than I was 6-7 months ago

    edit - really should answer your question lol

    8am cat gets me up
    put on kettle, feed cat, clean litter tray, change her water, make green tea
    9am cook breakfast (porridge , 2 eggs, spinach, orange)
    teeth
    sofa
    11.30 second breakfast (homemade soup)
    1.30 lunch (chciken breast, brown rice, brocolli)
    2pm shutdown time - darkened room quiet time
    3-4pm if it's a lifting day (mon, wed, fri) lift and porridge & tuna - otherwise tuna with baked pot or salad
    6pm tea (fish,chicken or chop with veg)
    9-10pm teeth, bed (if I'm good)

    all meals with at least 2 glassses of water, once a week I hoover, put out rubbish and shop (bus) - soups are made once every 3 days (bung stuff in pan, cook for an hour, liquidise, eat)

    the rest of the time is heavily sofa oriented

    lifting is done for 4 weeks then a 1-2 week break, then a test lift is done with a test set (50% deloaded) before deciding if I can continue that wek or if i need another weeks rest
  13. Michael Dessin

    Michael Dessin Senior Member

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    This is a great and much needed thread! Some of the responses really nail it on the head with my experiences.

    Weight lifiting is much easier than cardio exercises while having this shit disease. For many years after the start of my illness I lifted weights only, as any type of aerobic exercises would really mess me up with malaise and irregular heartbeat.

    At the same time, there have been more than several occasions that I would walk in the gym and do one weightlifting exercise and get sick from just doing that...just the sick malaise feeling thats hard to describe but we all know it.

    I think we should not get married to the beleif that wieght lifting cant harm us as aerobic can. Rather, if your feeling lousy just from doing some minor weight lifting, JUST STOP as our bodies perform different daily with this disease, at least for that day and try again the next time. Just to dangerous with this disease to push in any fashion.

    Those of us who can workout are fortunate, but at the same time we must monitor our physical activity very carefully!

    Kindly
    Mike
  14. Knackered

    Knackered Guest

    I'm wondering how our symptoms differ from person to person, if XMRV is the cause of my illness It'd be interesting to see how some of us can function more than others, How much weight can you manage at a time? And how much did you start on?
  15. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    my main problem symptom was always cog/fog issues - lots of other symptoms of course but that was the one that limited me the most initially - pain i could deal with, PEM I coudl deal with, feeling like cr*p I could deal with - but not being able to think - that was the show stopper - over the years various symptoms have waxed and waned - I've even had 6 months (in the last 25 years) when I thought I was better - I've tried pretty much all the wack job theories and essentially got nowhere - I've been on antidepressants (which gave me several other problems and a nice case of neuralgia - fun times) and every suppliment i could afford - the only things which seem to work consisitently are fish oil, the occasional antihistamine and a lowered carb diet - I've tried on lots of occasions to use a blind force approach to exercise to get past my limitations and ended up bed bound for months with no food, no money (social stop paying you if you dont answer their letters within a few months - theres a crash diet plan that sucks - came damn close to being homeless that time as housing benefit automatically stops if your IB stops and landlords take a dim view of not being paid rent)

    so most of the time i take a more moderate approach to life now - I know lots of things that dont work - I have a pretty good feel for my limits and when and how far i can push break them if needed - and what teh likely consequences will be - so I plan ahead - it doesnt stop me taking risks - I'm perfectly prepared to do things that hurt (tbh compared with the neuralgia nothign hurts much anymore - at least not enough to bother me much) as I know what types of pain I can ignore and what will set off a crash - and the pain from making a mistake with your grip on a squat although briefly intollerable is both transient and it makes the background cr*p go away for a while - it's a relief not a problem - for a while i even looked forward to it - but I'm not insane (really I'm not lol) - I use a cage so that if things go too badly wrong I'm not going to kill myself

    as to how much I lift - I can squat 90kg, I can deadlift 120kg, I can press 40kg and bench 70kg - I actually lift atm squat 50kg, deadlift 70kg, press 35kg and bench 40kg - the first figures are 1 lift max's (figures obtained at the expense of a crash but a fairly moderate one) the second are what i actually train with atm - mondays I do squats and OHP, wedensdays I do squats and deadlift and friday I do squats and bench - with a few horrible bodywieght exercises thrown in if there is time and I'm still ok - I hate bodyweight exercises as I'm not strong enough yet

    I started with an empty standard bar (10kg) and a 50kg set of wieghts - gradually over a few weeks worked up from 20kg (on everything) to 35kg and then crashed (after I got hit by the bar a few times lol) - 3-4 weeks later i started again on 2 sessions a week from an empty bar and added weight slowly and apart from the odd wild horses tryign to rip my arms from my shoulders incident and scheduled breaks I havent had an significant issues - I dont have a lot of energy for everythin else in lift weeks but then I didnt before so it's no loss - on rest weeks i can go out and actually walk for a couple of miles a couple fo times a week and not be a cripple staggering all over the place in a vain attempt to walk in a straight line with a body that doesnt work - in 6 months or so I'll drop down to 1 workout a week for maintance and hopefully reap the benefits - maybe even work very part time (okay I know it's not goign to happen but it's past my bedtime so I'm allowed to dream lol)

    hopefully that lot isnt too off topic and doesnt put the OP off - sorry but it's been one of those days - if your sensible and understand your limits then lifting is safe as anythign else is (off the sofa) for PWM's
  16. heapsreal

    heapsreal iherb 10% discount code OPA989,

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    in reguards to overhead squats, you can use a broom handle if you wish, it is a tough exercise to master as it requires flexibilty and core strength as well, that why i chose it, more bang for my buck, but also i was oly lifting before cfs so prior training is an advantage. I agree with wonko, you have to build up to things slowly. You explained it well mike, that sick malaise feeling when you start a training session or first few minutes, that was my signal to get out of there, in the past tried pushing past this, just doesnt work and i crashed badly. I think with exercise you really have to listen to your body and how you handle it a few days afterwards as the post malaise stiff can also hit you a couple of days later. Definately a trial and error. I have a good home gym so it was easy to walk out if i needed to and not feel worried about wasting money, plus i could just walk down stairs and use when ever i want, 5 min here and there.

    Glad this topic came up, its interesting how people adapt exercise to cfs. traditional exercise just worsens cfs.

    cheers
  17. kolowesi

    kolowesi Senior Member

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    I tried physical therapy last summer. I wore a pulse monitor on my finger and never went into aeorbic territory.

    I started at 10 reps with a 2 lb weight. assorted conditioning exercises for legs, arms, abdomen. I went to 2 sessions a week, and most were 45 minutes. I relapsed at the 3rd week, rested, and went back the 4th week. By the end of the 5th week, I was thoroughly sick. I have not recovered the level of wellness I had when I started, and it's been 6 months.

    So I would say, like Mike D., it can be a little complicated. It's not just a matter of staying away from aerobic for me. Also, exercise feels good, and I tend to do it too long at a stretch. I thought I could learn to exercise without hurting myself, and I failed miserably.

    The PT's did increase my weights and reps every week. It was harder to keep my heart rate below 100 as I got further up. I rested between every single set (at most 30 reps).

    This was the 5th time I relapsed when trying to exercise (walking for over a year, adding slowly till 1.5 miles, weights, elliptical + Pace, water aerobics, and PT). Every time I have developed a new infection, one that I assume that my body was keeping it in check before. Once I had these infections, I couldn't get rid of them again.

    So please be careful. I'm not giving up, I spent money for an ijoy wiggle board. But I'm afraid to start it till I get better. BTW, I was dx'ed with the smoldering viral infection of the heart that Dr. Lerner in Michigan looks for. I do have some heart symptoms, but do not take meds (they made me feel worse).

    Heart dysfunction may be part of the problem, as Dr. Cheney postulates when the heart cannot fill properly and constricts really hard to make up for it, pressure is put on the mesenteric nerve . The mesenteric nerve goes to the bowel, and perhaps this pressure reduces immune function in the bowel. That sounds reasonable to me, because exercise affects my ability to fight infections.

    Best of luck, take it slow, and tell us how it goes, please!
  18. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member

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    I'm sorry to hear that kolowesi

    it sounds like you were on a GET program from what you've posted which isnt ideal - even 10 reps a set is too much let alone 30!! The volume of exercise done is far too high - in 45 minutes with a 2lb weight thats probably hundreds of reps - I do 50 reps a session apart from deadlift days where I do 30 - 5 sets of 5 squats and 1 set of 5 deadlifts - even hard core lifters dont do more than 200 lifts a workout and thats over a few hours - after years of aclimatising their bodies to such high volumes of work

    1 week after a relapse is nowhere near enough time to recover IMO - even for me and I push things harder than is sensible a lot fo the time and have studied my own bodies failures more time than I care to remember

    I'd also question 45 minutes a session as being far too long - I was only doing 7-10 minutes a session for the first few weeks and am still only doing 20-30 minutes a session after 6 months and my actual time lifting hasnt changed much - just longer rests as the weight is heavier

    it is more complicated than simply keeping your HR below a certain level - 30 reps a set is an endurance workout - not strength - strength workouts rarely use more than 8 reps a set and in most cases less - endurance workouts are designed to increase aerobic fitness - which is an obscession of most people in the exercise business

    if you do decide to resume your attempts in the future I'd advise you stay away from any overhead lifts (even with 1kg) until several weeks into a program to allow your body a chance to adapt if you have a potential heart issue as these can put more of a strain on it

    edit - from your description why you were forced to stop each time you are pushing far too hard - immune system collapse is normal if you push through the PEM's, the further motivational issues that follow, then the extreme weakness and and almost total physical collapse - only then (at least for me) if you keep pushing does the immune system collapse - got the same T shirt several times lol

    this whole process can happen rapidly - a couple of days in my case most of the time though I have gone from feeling ok to being virtually unable to stand unassisted in a few steps followed by immune system collapse a few hours later - what your actually getting at that point is an overtraining reaction - adrenal fatigue possibly even collapse - and these can take several months to recover from - even in normals

    it's not a race - slowly does it

    I hope your wellness level improves soon - I feel for you and hope next time you get someone who understands M.E. as a trainer

    wishing you well
  19. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    A very basic question I've got, which is relevant to this, is: Does it matter how close in time your reps are, in terms of strengthening your muscles or increasing your anaerobic fitness? E.g. is there any difference between doing one rep per hour throughout a 16 hour day on the one hand and four sets of four reps in a half-hour session on the other, say?
  20. heapsreal

    heapsreal iherb 10% discount code OPA989,

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    sasha, i think whatever u can do thats convenient and doesnt make u sick. Sometimes i would to just 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps, i would rest enough between sets so that i was breathing normally before i did another set. I would have atleast 1 full day off before training again and found 2 days a week was enough. But my workouts expanded and contracted on how i was feeling.

    I think u could try something like squats for 2 reps everytime u go to the kitchen or something like that, as a very basic idea and can help u keep some sort of condition until u feel well enough to expand on it or do a traditional type work out.

    good luck with training

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