For those of us with chronic conditions or mental health problems, it’s a constant slog against the daily grind. There are so many ways to improve your symptoms that it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one’s right for you. For me, it was cycling. Here’s how cycling helped me to overcome chronic illness and depression.
Fighting the pain barrier
Exercise is the one thing that seems to ease fibromyalgia, but there is a massive pain barrier to overcome, which creates a lot of problems. However, cycling brings many happy memories for me, so it seemed a great choice.
Cycling was by no means an easy choice towards fighting fibromyalgia, but it did help combat the depression that ran alongside it, making it worse. The happiness of being around bikes again was enough to get me moving.
Once I was in the saddle, it gave me a reason and the motivation to push through those fibro pains and cycle. However, building up your tolerance slowly and avoiding hills is essential. If you cause yourself too much pain and unhappiness, you’ll just associate cycling with pain and prevent it.
I can’t stress enough the importance of an active daily routine for managing both depression and fibromyalgia. Fibro responds much better to movement and exercise, even though that initial step to start is challenging.
If you can train yourself, or even bribe yourself, to get through those first few days or weeks before you give up, then you’ll soon see the benefits. Start out small; just get up regularly and go for a five-minute cycle around your neighborhood. Don’t let yourself get too complacent, though, and remember to raise the bar quicker than you want to.
Those endless days of staying in your PJs and watching Netflix might feel like all your body wants to do, but it wasn’t helping me. When I finally got myself together and started getting up and out, I felt so much better about myself. The boost in self-esteem felt tremendous and improved my depression.
It’s also an excellent hobby to take up, with plenty of amazing people. You can cycle alone or join a group. Facebook’s a wonderful place to find local cycle groups, but there’s no pressure to socialize. With cycling, you have the flexibility to make it a social hobby or cycle solo.
The best thing about rediscovering cycling was the freedom. I felt like a prisoner in my own body because of fibromyalgia, and I always felt sluggish and lethargic. Getting on my bike made me feel free, and it broke through some of the fog in my mind too.
If you have pain or mobility issues, something like cycling offers a sense of speed, movement, and ultimately freedom that can really make a difference. It gives you an escape from those painful days stuck at home and eases the mind at the same time.
Reclaiming my body
When I first started suffering with fibromyalgia, it felt like my body had been stolen. Cycling made me feel like I had my body back for a while, even though the feeling wore off quickly. It’s essential for your mental health to remember that your body belongs to you and not your condition. Disabilities and illnesses can make you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself, but cycling helped me get mine back.
Movement and speed
Bodies made slower by illness, pain, or depression sometimes make you feel like you’re wading through treacle. I know my head felt awful with depression and fibro fog, too. That sense of moving forward that cycling gives me frees me up from the heaviness I feel inside and sets me free for an hour or two.
I know it can seem impossible, but starting something like a regular cycling routine can change your life. If you’re not into cycling, or you just can’t manage anything that physically demanding right now, don’t worry. Do some research and find something else. Even if you just start a routine and try to stick to that, it can change your life. Pick something small, like getting in the shower first thing or remembering to get breakfast. Work with your condition and not against it, as everyone has different limits. Good luck and take care!
About Mel Ashford
Mel Ashford is a freelance writer from the UK. She lives with depression, fibromyalgia, and a hearing disability. Mel has a French Bulldog and a tortoiseshell cat.
Thank you Mel for sharing your truth, it has inspired me to start.