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Monday, June 1, 2015

Transverse Myelitis and the Indoor Exercise Bike

As many of you will know from reading my book, or chapters from the book on this blog, I have tried many many ways to manage my Transverse Myelitis, fighting my way back to partial recovery, and trying to maintain it.
In the early days, I had fantasies of getting back to doing some Karate. Clearly that dream is now gone. I will also never get back to long distance running, or catamaran sailing. I can swim a bit during summer, but what passes for winter in Australia is now upon us and the pool is just too cold for this body that has lost so much weight (blubber).
About 2years ago, I used to get on the indoor exercise bike, and had built up to 30 minutes of exercise about 3 times a week. But I got bored, even listening to a wide range of music from my iPhone.
So, I have deteriorated quite a lot in the last 2 years, with loss of muscle mass and of function. My walking is not as good as it was, I have had a few trips and wobbles, and those of you who have read this series of blogs will know that I have recently tried to increase the distance I can walk to try to counteract this. But it is hard to keep up. In the last couple of weeks, I noted that I was retreating into myself, and very flat. OK I was a bit depressed, and felt unable to be bothered.
So I began to think about going back on the bike. Could I get on the damned thing? Could I keep my balance? Would I be able to sustain any kind of time? Would my muscles manage? Would I be dangerously unstable afterwards? Would I ache?
After three weeks of building up to it, I made a decision on Friday, renewed the batteries for the electronics, climbed carefully onto the sheepskin padded seat and took a couple of minutes to ensure my balance was OK. I managed a slowish 20 minutes, which apparently translates to 2.9Kms. The nice thing about the bike is that my weight was on the seat, and so my legs were freed up to do the movements.
I got down carefully, tested my legs, and went in search of a couple of glasses of water, and a nut bar (craving sugar and protein). For the rest of the day, I had this warm feeling in my cheeks, felt as bright as a button, and got a lot of writing tasks done. My legs felt OK, even though I was careful not to try to do too much, go too fast, or make any sudden turns. That night I slept like a log, and felt rested. The next day I felt like doing a lot of writing, but we also looked through a heap of old videos to see what we could chuck out. A good result... even though we did not go for a walk that afternoon.
So on Sunday, having had a day’s rest, I though I might try again. Again I was careful, and did not push too hard. Again I managed the 20 minutes and the pretend 2.9Kms. Again I was careful to drink lots of water afterwards, and take it easy for the rest of the day. The warm face, and the energised brain was worth it all. We also did some serious tidying up in the garden, much to Jan’s delight. I slept really well.
Today, I woke refreshed if a bit tired, my legs know they have done some exercise, but I am walking fairly well so far. So we are off for a short walk.
On reflection, I think I was inspired by the talk by Norman Doige mentioned in a couple of previous blogs. If the brain can make changes in itself, and in the nerves of the spinal cord, then I need to be doing more, gently pushing the limits to extend the range and power of my movements. OK. Lets do it.


  1. You are an amazing and inspirational person. I hope things keep going better for you.

    Zoe Farris

    1. Thanks Zoe. You are a pretty good survivor yourself... :-)

  2. I began to use a recumbent bike after a knee replacement. I also added a series of weights, stretching exercises, and walking. This has made a difference in my muscle mass. I do notice that my muscles are very sore the day after exercise, but I take it easier the next day and my muscles will rebound.i'm beginning to feel more confident and my TM is not the focus of my attention.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It's all about confidence, and the balance between what you think you can do, and taking it carefully.

  3. Since my surgery I haven't been able to work out, this gives me an idea of how to get back in shape for hiking and still be able to recover.