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It takes place at a very different kind of gym. It is a pulmonary rehab gym for people who have lung conditions and who need to be monitored (oxygen levels and heart rate) while exercising. Most of my fellow gym buddies have COPD or emphysema, and a few, like me, have pulmonary fibrosis.
Realize that the term “exercise” probably is different than you are thinking. It means moving my body while using supplemental oxygen and having my oxygen levels and heart rate checked every 10 minutes. My speed on the treadmill is 0.9 miles per hour. That’s really slow, but it is what I can do.
I go to pulmonary rehab three times a week, and it took me a while to feel comfortable attending because I feel so different from the other patients:
- I’m 59 and the youngster in the group. Everyone else is in their 70s or 80s.
- I’m one of a handful with pulmonary fibrosis; most everyone else has COPD or emphysema.
- I am one of the few patients on a high level of oxygen (8 liters per minute). Most patients aren’t using oxygen at all.
Over time I got used to being there, now I am grateful to go.
It keeps me active and it feels good to know I’m doing what I can to keep my lungs in as good a shape as possible.
My doctor recommended this pulmonary rehab program, and besides exercising, I attended a 10-session class on how to take care of my lungs. We learned about our disease, nutrition, breathing strategies, nutritional counseling and finished each session with a “workout.”
Each workout consists of 20 minutes on a bike and treadmill, along with exercises to strengthen the small muscles in my chest to aid with breathing.
At the end of the 10-session class we had a graduation, including a graduation picture that was mounted on a board and titled “Geezer Graduation.”
I didn’t like being in a “Geezer Graduation” picture since I was 57 at the time, but it was nice of them to make it a celebration when the education part of the program was completed.
Sometimes I get discouraged, feeling lame for what little I can do and so different from the rest of my gym buddies. It’s hard to watch someone next to me who is 85 and not using oxygen go 3x faster than me. Yet, my task is to keep my body and lungs as healthy as I can, so I keep going.
How about you?
I’m sure there are plenty of areas in your life where you wish you were able to do more. There may be times you feel discouraged and want to give up, or compare yourself to others and feel you come up short. That’s hard, and it is perfectly normal to feel this way.
As a pulmonary fibrosis patient I encourage you to do what you can, no matter the task.
Be kind to yourself about the struggles or limitations you have. My encouragement to you is this:
~ Let yourself feel sad or regretful for what you are no longer able to do.
~ Be kind to yourself, “Yes it’s true that I wish I could _________. This shows how much I care and that I want to do my very best. Right now, for really good reasons I’m not able to. I will do what I can, and be a good friend to myself about my limitations.”
~ Do what you can do, and realize that even if your efforts are small, inconsistent, or take a long time, that every effort counts, every step matters, and so do you. How you treat yourself is more important than the result.
I hope this post gives you an idea of what it is like to do pulmonary rehab as a pulmonary fibrosis patient. No matter what, please be kind to yourself, and do what you can. I would love to hear your response to what I shared, so please leave a comment below, and share on social media if you feel this post would be helpful to others.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.