August is Psoriasis Action Month, a time for patient advocates and their allies to focus on building awareness about this condition. This is very much needed, as I still run into people who haven’t heard of psoriasis, don’t really understand that it’s an immune-mediated disease, or think it is contagious.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, the emphasis on action has inspired me to tackle a few issues in my personal life. The activity app on my electronic watch tells the story: I am not exercising as much as I did before the coronavirus sent us into lockdown. My step counts, exercise sessions, and daily distance traveled are all down since shelter-in-place orders were enacted in March. I see Psoriasis Action Month as an opportunity to get back to my exercise routines.
I’m most excited about the National Psoriasis Foundation’s PsO Virtual Active Day, on August 22. The foundation calls it “the chance to get active, in any way you choose, and to join in with the community virtually. You can walk, run, swim, jump rope, pogo, tango, summersault … .” I haven’t chosen which activity to do yet, although I am not especially good at tangoing or summersaulting.
Whatever I end up doing, I’m looking forward to jumpstarting my exercise routine.
The Pandemic Stopped Me in My Tracks
When COVID-19 began to spread in my community in March I told myself I needed to stay active in case it would help me fight illness. Daily walks and the occasional run helped me manage my weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure. All these health indicators climbed too high in the past, so I felt motivated to keep moving as much as my schedule allowed.
Staying active, though, became unexpectedly difficult. Wanting to avoid people on the walking paths or park for fear I might be exposed to the coronavirus kept me indoors. Then seasonal allergies caused my asthma to flare. My anxiety over triggering an asthma attack also kept my running shoes on the shoe rack in the garage.
My wife encouraged me to use the rowing machine in the house. I don’t like exercise machines in general, but I wanted to engage in some kind of physical activity. After trying the machine a couple of times, I strained my knee and lower back. Exercising inside my house didn’t stop me from worrying about my asthma either, as I have dust and pet dander to contend with.
Motivation to Get Moving Again
A month ago, I learned I’m not alone in facing these challenges. I posed a question to members of an online psoriasis community about whether people were continuing to stay physically active during the pandemic. A couple of respondents mentioned not wanting to exercise without a mask but noted the discomfort of wearing one while working out in hot weather. Another cited gym closures and lack of motivation. Most wanted to get back to a regular exercise schedule like I do.
As the pandemic continues into summer, I accept that COVID-19 will most likely be around for awhile. I can no longer wait to begin exercising until the virus miraculously disappears on its own or there’s an approved vaccine. Besides, I miss exercise, which has been a big part of my life since my youth playing baseball and distance running.
Long walks and jogs also help me mentally and emotionally. I take that time to think about life, process decisions, and meditate. I feel a sense of accomplishment and newfound energy after a good workout. I sleep better and manage stress more effectively. When I am doing well emotionally, I have greater capacity to manage my psoriasis and make good decisions for my health.
My Exercise Action Steps
A big hindrance to following through with a new exercise routine is unrealistic expectations. I would like to pick up where I left off, but that probably isn’t going to happen. I’m not in the same shape I was at the end of last year; I’ve lost conditioning. If my workouts are too strenuous, I could injure myself or set myself back.
So, before I start a new fitness regimen, I want to have a discussion about it with my healthcare providers this coming month. I need to make an appointment for my annual check-up with my primary care physician soon. I also have telehealth appointments scheduled with my dermatologist and allergist in the coming weeks. Thankfully, my new asthma controller is working well and seasonal allergies are less of an issue for me in the summer. I look forward to discussing my plan to start running again with my allergist and check-in with my dermatologist about my recent blood lab results.
In the meantime, I’ll start with shorter walks in the cool of the evening. The park across the street from my house has a half-mile loop, which couldn’t be more convenient. The later I go, the fewer people I encounter.
I do like exercising alone, but I enjoy exercising with a partner even better. Sometimes my wife, Lori, and I will walk in silence as we think and meditate to ourselves. Other times we catch up on the day or discuss an important topic related to family or work. Time passes quickly.
I’m looking forward to PsO Virtual Active day. It’s only one day, but it will mark my return to regular physical activity.
Now if I could only find that pogo stick in the back of my garage.