Fitness Challenges and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Today I triumphed in a battle between my mind and arthritis.  But first, the history behind the triumph.

For years now, I’ve been luxuriously upholstered (yeah, let’s go with that rather than overweight.) I still am. When we lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, I took up walking which turned to jogging. At my peak of fitness, I was training for a marathon and managed to run over 13 miles. Not a marathon, but a damn good run. Then, we moved back to Calgary and fitness gradually fell by the wayside.

This was due, in part, to two factors. One: my feet knees and ankles killed me when I worked out and two: I’m freaking fat-assed lazy. In terms of the discomfort, I always just assumed that I’d exceeded the weight limit for my knees and ankles and that if I continued to work out it would get better, but the pain was difficult to overcome. I partially severed/tore my Achilles tendons. I had plantar fasciitis and my feet hurt all the time. Eventually, I got back into fitness, icing my feet after every workout. By winter 2011, I was working out like a mad woman. 20 minutes on the treadmill, 20 on the elliptical, 20 on the rowing machine and 20 on the bike. Plus, a whack load of core. I was dropping weight and toning up nicely.

Then, it hit me. Boom. Almost overnight I went from a workout machine to a cripple. I couldn’t get out of a chair without help and couldn’t walk without a cane. (I’m not telling you this for sympathy or pity; I’m telling you because I want you to know my story and how I’m working to overcome my fears.) Finally, in the spring of 2012, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and put on a battery of drugs. It took month for me to be relatively pain free and realistically, I’ll never be fully pain and stiffness free, but I can live with that. Thank heaven for modern pharmaceuticals.

What happened next is sad and pathetic and I freely admit it. I became scared of the gym. Totally, completely and irrationally terrified that if I worked out, I would relapse and the pain would be back. The logical part of my brain knew this was bullshit, but that’s the beauty (?) of irrational fears…they’re irrational. They aren’t easy to overcome, so I sat and got bigger and bigger and my fear of the gym blossomed into an unshiftable burden.

Sadly, I’m an emotional eater too. I eat when I’m happy, sad, disappointed, afraid, scared, celebrating…you name it, and I’ll use it as a reason to stuff food, usually garbage, down my throat. Which, brings us to the present.

Recently, both my adult daughters, one in particular starting a fitness kick. They nagged and cajoled and got me walking outside again. Now, I’ve found the courage to hit the gym again. I haven’t failed. The pain hasn’t overcome me. I’m not relapsing. How fabulous is that? I’ve been working out 3 or 4 times a week and I’m enjoying it. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m not exactly enjoying it, but I’m not dreading it. Today, I did 15 minutes on the rowing machine, it’s a competition rower and gives a full body workout. I followed that up with 45 minutes on the treadmill, three of which I jogged. There was even some hill climbing in there. I finished my routine with a battery of stretches and a Matcha smoothie for brekky.

I am damned proud of me!

Am I back to where I was so many years ago? Hell no. But I’m back on the road to health and fitness and that’s a fabulous think.

Now, the point of this post…accountability. I believe that if I invite the world into my gym it will inspire me to persist and stick with it. I’ll likely never be thin, but I’m striving for better, fitter and more cognisant of what goes into my body.

Are you facing a fitness challenge? Come on, join me, together we can triumph.



Did you enjoy this post? Check out some of my novels, they’re much more romantic!

3 Responses

  1. Win Day says:

    So proud of you! I’m now on the surgical referral list for a double knee replacement, have osteoarthritis that is worsening quickly, and am also luxuriously appointed. I’m doing the 5-2 partial fasting diet (max 500 calories on 2 non-consecutive days per week) as my intro to dropping some weight so I *can* exercise enough to strengthen my knees before surgery.

    Being post-menopausal doesn’t help either.

    • Katie O'Connor says:


      I’m glad you’re finally on the knee-list. Hopefully that’ll help you get around better. I know how much chronic pain sucks!

      Keep up with the modified eating. You can do this. WE can do this.

      Cheering you on!


  2. Mary Pat Gibson says:

    Good for you! I have osteoarthritis, esp in my knees and sometimes my hip. I do what is called “functional fitness” training with a trainer. Functional fitness is all about maintaining natural everyday movements, increasing strength, stamina and energy. My trainer and his wife are in their sixties, and totally awesome: As for diet, I have Type II diabetes, so I am going low-carb and high-fat, with moderate protein. Works for me so far! Keep up the good work Katie! Love the new website!

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