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Inactivity is a pain in the arse

This blog was also posted on Sweat Pledge

About three years ago I developed sciatica – a condition where the sciatic nerve, which runs from your hips to your feet, is irritated. You can experience it as a pain, numbness or weakness in your hip, leg, foot or bum (it’s certainly a huge pain in the arse). It can last for a couple of weeks or persist longer term, and can be incredibly painful, even debilitating. In my case it got rapidly worse over a period of a few weeks, to the point where I was in agony and could barely move. Thanks to a course of very strong painkillers and a week of sleeping on my bedroom floor (much to my boyfriend’s amusement), the problem largely went away, even more quickly than it developed.

Still, to this day it persists on a much milder level – usually as a pain in one of my feet or hips, most frequently in the colder months. Prevention is of course better than cure, and as reassuring as it is to know that painkillers can work if I desperately need them, I’m determined to work on developing my physical fitness and strength to try and fight the issue in the longer term.

The cruel irony of having sciatica is that it makes movement painful, but not moving makes it worse. It’s a great incentive to get off your bum. I am an incurable fidget who can barely sit still for more than ten minutes, which I’ve been told is a blessing in disguise. I try and stay active, even if it’s only a quick walk to the shops.

I’ve also started a programme of exercise at the gym to strengthen my back, core and shoulders. I discussed this, along with my other fitness and weight loss goals, with a fitness instructor and he developed a plan of action. It’s an ongoing journey towards becoming stronger, and it isn’t always straightforward. ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’, as the saying goes, but it can be hard to know which exercises are healthy and which could be doing more harm than good. I was advised to do straight-leg deadlifts, but the first time I attempted them they made the backs of my legs ache for over a week. I have since switched to a lower-back weight machine, which works the same back muscles but doesn’t feel as strenuous.

Later this month (February 2018), I will be starting to work with Sweat Pledge, an organisation which inspires people to get fit and achieve physicals goals they never thought were possible.

My first Sweat Pledge is to learn to do a three-minute plank. I have absolutely no idea how long it will take me to develop this particular skill – I can barely do a 30 second plank some days. Regardless, it’s good to have something to aim for.

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