Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gym, swim and nap

Exercise after a stroke is a funny thing. Initially it's unbelievably tiring, quite literally: I found it very hard to believe how much a short walk would exhaust me, and often needed a nap shortly afterwards. Even in rehab (in Hackney), it turned out to be easy to do more than I was ready for or indeed capable of doing. This resulted in a period of exhaustion that provoked depression, which made it hard to do anything. Less than ideal.

Since then I've been more cautious, but I'm getting less and less so. At the moment I'm finding that the more I do, the more capable I become. Which is why it's even feasible that I've been to the gym four times and had a half hour exercise in the pool after each. This week, I'll comfortably meet the recommended minimum for getting fit (at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week, a little warm, a little sweaty throughout), and I'm no longer so concerned that I'll be a total wreck a day later.

Apart from the general goal of improving my cardiovascular fitness (and substantially reducing the chance of death), one of the challenges is making sure that my right side is doing at least its share of the work. This sometimes means using less weight than I can manage, because too much makes it too hard to get my left side to let the right do the work. It sometimes means painstaking adherence to form, as well: When walking on a treadmill, avoiding a limp; when in the pool rigorous symmetry in my breast stroke. 

For now, it always means that my right side has worked harder than my left, and aches because of it. And because the whole of my right side below the neck is weaker, it often aches in unusual and uncomfortable places. At some point, I'll be able to exercise hard enough that I ache evenly, but I expect it to be quite a while.

One of the oddest things I've found, though, is that my memory of myself in hospital three months ago doesn't include anything like the experience I now have of my hand's relative weakness; nor does my memory of being in rehab. I must have been compensating so thoroughly with my left hand and so far in denial about it, that I couldn't even see it. Just another weird experience from the land of brain events.