Getting Motivated to Move with Myeloma

Why Should You Move – or even try?

You don’t want to move. Moving looks hard. Running? Walking? Swimming? Lifting Pulling?  WHY? You’re perfectly comfortable sitting on the couch.

But are you?

For those of us mired in a chronic or terminal disease, our happiness is often associated directly with how we’re feeling, right now, at this very moment. This feeling is completely valid, you have every reason to feel pain, fatigue, sadness, fear, anger and loss.  A lot of you don’t realize that you do have some control over all this. And you have to try.

One of my best friends explained the value of trying, even though you may never achieve your goal by pointing at a tree out the window. To be fair, he was referring to trying to achieve spiritual enlightenment, but I think the metaphor applies here.

This elm tree really exists in downtown Asheville, North Carolina and it has one serious, yet unattainable life goal — it wants to reach the sun. Since it’s days as a sapling to it’s 40 foot towering height today, Elm (I’ll call her/him Elm) has tried to nothing more, but nothing less than to achieve the impossible. Does that make the effort pointless? Has the tree benefited by the attempt, or has it wasted its life on a hopeless task?

Silly, I know. The tree wouldn’t be alive if it didn’t try. The tree couldn’t live without opening its leaves to the sun and rain. And, before I get emails, I KNOW YOU ARE NOT A TREE. Stop rolling your eyes at me.

You have to try, because the success comes in the attempt.

Let me repeat that, THE SUCCESS COMES IN THE ATTEMPT.

Now let’s get moving.

You Want to Move, But You Can’t

I can sense all you doubters and naysayers out there.

“You don’t understand, Kenny,” you say in— your vibrating Piglet voice. “I’m in pain. I have compression fractures in my back and I broke my hip last year just climbing the steps to my house. How will I ever be able to control how I feel? I have cancer!”

So, you have some physical challenges. I get it. This stuff hurts. If you want me to put on my drill sergeant uniform and yell, “Don’t be soft, you wuss! Suck it up!”, you’re going to be disappointed. But I will tell you, you can do it.

“But Kenny,” you moan in your gloomiest impersonation of Eeyore, “I have no energy. I can’t get out of bed most mornings. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore.” Then you nod off and take a nap until somebody nudges you awake.

The answer to this concern is pretty abrupt, but it’s valid, and you’ll have to trust me a little here — you can.

Where Do You Start?

First, let’s take a minute to assess where you are. Lacing up your bedroom slippers, and cinching up your pajama tops before heading out for a 5 mile jog, might not be the best idea, when you haven’t done anything particularly athletic in awhile, and you have a few health conditions.

In order to grow, feel better, move often, you have to start slow, and I mean super slow. Ridiculously slow. So slow, that you don’t even want your pets to see how slow you’re going. But it’s a start. I am confident, however, that success is the gateway drug to more success. I want to give you a taste. The first one’s free.

Let’s try a workout example, and it’s possible that there are some of you who will struggle with it, but I think the majority of you will nail it first time with breaking a sweat.

Look around you. Can you find a light switch on a wall that is at least 10 feet away?

Find one.

Get 10 feet or more away from it.

  1. From a sitting position, stand up,
  2. walk to the light switch,
  3. touch the light switch (don’t cheat on that part, it’s important),
  4. turn around,
  5. Walk back to where you were sitting
  6. Sit down.

*Alternative version if you are infirm, but mobile:

  1. Sit up in your hospital bed
  2. From a sitting position, stand up using your mobile IV tree as a walker
  3. walk to the light switch with your IV tree
  4. touch the light switch (don’t cheat on that part, it’s important),
  5. turn around, but don’t get tangled up in your IV tree
  6. Walk back to where you were sitting
  7. Sit down.
  8. Lie down in bed.

Did you do it?

It doesn’t count if you thought about how silly it sounded, and said to yourself “of course I can do that! What a complete waste of time!” You have to move with purpose, and this is the beginning. If you did that silly exercise above, you did it. Seriously, you really did it.

This, my friends, is an accomplishment even though you don’t feel particularly accomplished. You did something when the only underlying reason to do it was to move. That is it. You did it because you wanted to (or because I guilted you into it, but that counts, too).

Achievement comes from balance. That means rest and recovery is  critical to being able to move more tomorrow than you can today. How much rest and how much recovery you need varies, but it’s still crucial. So, stretch. Do some light yoga. Foam roll those sore muscles. Drink water. Restore yourself with some healthy foods (more on that later). Take a nap.

Tomorrow, you’ll be back to your light switch with gusto. How do you get better? How do you improve? Feel up to a challenge? Increase your distance or time on your feet by 10% of what it was the day before. Find a light switch farther away.  After you increase your activity level, make sure that the next time you purposefully move, take it a little easier the next day.

Intrinsic Motivation versus Extrinsic Motivation

Now you know why you move. You even have some tools to start moving, but there’s one major fly in the ointment — motivation. How can you get started, when you don’t want to get started? You have spent a good bit of time convincing yourself that moving is hard. Moving is tiring. Moving hurts. Moving just sucks.

Turn that frown upside down and meet your latest challenge. Before you get to that sweet space in your universe where you move because you just like moving, you have to create reasons to move until your brain decides that this is fun! This phenomenon is well known as fake it ’til you make it.

In an overstated, under-scienced way of understanding our core motivators, we humans have two different ways feeling obligated to do things. Our motivations are either extrinsic (external) or intrinsic (internal).

Extrinsic motivators come from outside of us. A thing, a person, or a reason that motivates us to do anything at all. For example, when I’m in my car, I would really rather listen to The Grateful Dead singing about Casey Jones driving a train, but if my 6 year-old daughter is in the backseat, I would rather she not yell or throw things at me so I am motivated to play songs about princesses and unicorns. She externally motivates me play music that she likes. Safety first.

Intrinsic motivation is something that is inherent in us. With regard to exercise, or purposeful movement, that means that we do it for the sake of the movement, not because our spouse told us it would be a healthy thing to do, not because our clothes have all shrunk in the dryer, and not because that friend you haven’t seen since high school looks “much older” than you do. You’re doing it because the action is the reward itself.

Do not worry if you feel that you don’t think you have a single good habit. We all use extrinsic motivators to move sometimes and every one of us use them to get started.

We all start with “Why should I move?”, so how do we get there?

You know why you should move. You have to feel better in order to be better — both inside and out. Want to give your doctors the maximum return on their investment? Be the best you you can be. After you did our first exercise, you know that you can be successful. Now we have to touch our metaphorical light switches regularly for 66 days.

That’s it! Success is just around the corner!

The First 66 days

Based on a fairly recent 12-week study published in 2010 by University of London researchers, on average, it takes 66 days to create a new habit. In the study, this number varied from 18 days to 254 days due to how challenging the habit was, or the amount of personal change was required.

The beauty of this study is that it was revealed that “Missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” That means that if you miss a day or two here and there, it doesn’t negate all the effort you put into habit-forming up to this point.

If you ran to mark up your wall calendar or put a reminder into your smartphone, you might be putting a little too much faith in that 66 day goal. It is a rough estimate, but studies have shown that if you can maintain regular and consistent action for about 66 days (get away from that alarm), then you can create the habit of exercise. You can do this, and likely before your next birthday or school reunion.

What Next?

The toughest next step is also the easiest next step, but it all depends on you. You have to move. You have to put one foot, claw or paw in front of the other and move. If you are currently doing nothing, then something counts.

Today, I am your extrinsic motivator. Move.

Tomorrow, find another one. Your extrinsic motivator might still be me tomorrow, but what about next week or the week after that?

Ask a friend to send you reminder texts, until you accomplish a task.

Call your local gym or YMCA and ask them for a personal trainer.

Talk to your hospital. Do they have a recommendation?

Don’t be intimidated. Make today your goal. Failure is just an alternative pathway to success. You’ll get there.

Hit the showers, champ. You earned it.