Modifications and getting creative


So…how does one with RA successfully do a full workout, creaky joints and all, and how does one afford all of this on top of pricey medication?

That, my friend, is something I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out and am still modifying to this day!

Let’s start with the easy part!

I have problems with both wrists, my left being worse than my right, and at times I have a hard time holding on to more than a minimal amount of weight with my hands.

If I had to do a full push-up to save all of humanity, I’m pretty sure we’d all end up dead. I apologize, humankind.

But in trying to strengthen a body with RA, there is absolutely no shame whatsoever in ‘girl push-ups’. There is also no shame in modifying them in other ways.

I do girl push-ups but had a really hard time at first. Not hard as in I couldn’t do them, but hard as in it has been so long and I couldn’t understand how to do them.

With years of dance, I always had a mirror to adjust and correct myself. If everyone else looked like a graceful fairy and I looked like a jumping cow, I noticed and fixed it quickly. I don’t recall Tchaikovsky writing a piece for a jumping cow dance in The Nutcracker!

Anyway, I tried and tried to figure out why it was so difficult and awkward with my trainer. He’d tell me to bend my elbows and correct my posture but I wouldn’t understand because dangit…I thought I was bending my elbows! I thought I was…because I couldn’t SEE what I was doing.

We worked out in a room with a mirror one night and I happened to catch a glimpse of myself trying to do a push-up.

Y’all, I looked crazy! To best explain it, I had my arms positioned in a way where my arms would go up and down, but it was almost a biceps push-up (arms underneath you) vs a regular push-up where your arms should be a T.

I looked like a velociraptor.

I saw this, moved my arms out, and suddenly it was much easier.

So try checking yourself in a mirror before you decide to try a modification. What feels right in the body you have now may not actually be right.

I have no clue why I positioned myself that way except maybe that my posture has changed and that that position was my new normal.

While I can do ‘girl’ push-ups, I felt more comfortable doing push-ups with the following postures:


Using a barre or wall or even a kitchen counter


Using straps

Doing them this way allowed me to control how much of my body weight I was supporting by adjusting my feet/distance from the wall/rings.

Note: my trainer tried to get me to do this and I wound up with rug burn on my face. So… don’t try this unless you’re sure you can!


For free weight, I use wrist straps.


Instead of gripping all the weight with hands that may have a hard time holding on, it distributes the weight between your hands and wrists. Honestly, I have awful wrists and it doesn’t hurt them. You wrap it on and roll the weight into the strap. Much easier!

For legs, I don’t really have any modifications to share other than if it hurts, stop! We have been successful in finding modified exercises for every lower extremity that sometimes bothers me.

Edited to add: I learned recently that I’m afraid of stepping down backwards. I’ve been practicing stepping down backwards off of a step class bench with nothing stacked to make it higher. There is no physical reason I’m afraid; it just scares me because I can’t see it. Doing this in front of a mirror has really helped me trust that motion more.

So let’s talk price…

Personal training isn’t cheap. The only way I can afford it is that my gym allows payment plans. I may owe them my first child!

Other tips:

A good friend of mine couldn’t afford – personal trainer so she posted an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to teach her how to workout for free. Of course, she got all kinds of SKETCHY (read: hilarious!) emails but in the midst, she got an email from a Health and Exercise Science professor at a local college who said he’d be happy to. She vetted him on the college website and it worked wonderfully.

Which leads me to my second suggestion. Reach out to local sports science programs- I know where I went to school, majors had to work with people in the community on developing programs. Primarily, they worked with disabled children. But I can certainly see working with an RA patient to be very relevant to their curriculum.

Facing fear


Even though I am a slacker of a blogger in recent years, I actually did a fairly decent job of chronicling my workout and body change story roughly a year ago.

Amazing what a little incentive does
Guess who ran a 5k
The body makeover part one
The body makeover part two
The body makeover part three
The body makeover part four

Keep in mind, this was from June 2013 when I’d only started this program 3 months prior. 3 months…and I was already seeing marked results.

Suffice it to say, my feelings and thoughts on this a year later, after I have continuously stuck to the exercise program, are a bit more defined.

Honestly, I still don’t know where the heck to even begin with this whole experience. I think the easiest way may be to tell you what I’ve learned as a whole…my biggest take aways…and then take you through how I got there!


Let’s talk about my first few workouts. Yes, the first training session was hard. So was the second. And you know what…my training session coming up tomorrow is going to be just as hard. But it’s a different hard now due to changes I started making for my body a year ago. More on that different hard in another post!

Roughly a year ago, I went to the gym with the intention of completing 30 min on the elliptical. I was nervous because it was my first time doing this in years and I feared my ankle wouldn’t handle it.

Immediately, it was a strange sensation. My left ankle was cracky and poppy, but not painful. Think of the motion of your ankle on an elliptical. Point, down, flex, up. Repeat. The elliptical was forcing me to take my ankle through a full range of motion, something that hadn’t happened in years. I kept thinking about what my doctor told me: if it hurts, stop. And I had a hard time deciding if it was actually hurting or if it just felt weird. Note: I know now that you will know without question when something hurts and you need to stop. I made it about 10 minutes and stopped because it freaked me out.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The next day, I woke up and it was fine. I did this a few more times, building strength and flexibility but always stopping when I felt like it was time to stop. I never exercised until it hurt; I somehow innately knew when enough was enough.

Same thing with Zumba. I really feel like my trainer empowered me when he told me I didn’t have to do the whole class. Really! It made an immediate mental difference that I knew I was going into something that I didn’t have to finish. That I could be finished on my own time. It made it a lot less scary.

I’d simply get to class in time to introduce myself to the instructor, explain that I may not be able to finish and that I was not being rude by leaving, and I was then mentally free to do what I was comfortable with physically. I never met an instructor who wasn’t ok with that. And let me tell you- the first time I finished a whole Zumba class, I almost burst into tears when the instructor grabbed me and told me how proud of me she was as I was gathering up my things to leave.

There’s no crying in Zumba, right?!?!?!?

This mindset let me explore activities I hadn’t tried since pre RA. Spinning: you’ve had enough and feel like you can’t do the up and down with changes in resistance any longer? Get rid of all the resistance and have a leisurely seated bike ride for the rest of the class, or leave. Yoga: you just don’t think you can handle anymore up dogs or down dogs? Sit on your mat or sit on your mat in stretches that are comfortable for you or leave. Personal training or weight training: can’t do what you’re being asked to do? Ask for a lower weight or a modification. Or ask to move on to something else. Any trainer worth their salt will be able to find something you can do, even if it’s very basic and low intensity.

I realized over time that I was finding ways to make my own modifications and finding new ways to work with a body that can no longer do it all. You may not be that person who lifts tons of heavy weights…but there are ways and tools you can use so that you can at least do something.

Looking back at what I wrote last year and what I know now, the biggest theme I see is fear. Fear of getting injured. Fear of not being able to do something. Fear of trying. All of this mixed in with not trusting my body. While I certainly have some physical limitations, I had to find a way to overcome this fear to even try to see what the body I have with RA is even capable of doing.

By giving myself a mental ‘out’, I learned over time that my body with RA can do a lot more than I ever gave it credit for. But overcoming this fear is a hard thing, and something I still struggle with today.

So how does one do this? That’s a tough question and one that I imagine varies from person to person. I especially understand that we are all in different stages of disease activity and mobility, and what worked for me won’t necessarily work for others.

For me, creating a safe, judgement free, supportive environment where I was allowed to stop early or to modify or to sit out with no problem was half the battle. Seeing I was able to do even a small thing I didn’t think I’d be able to do was another piece. Seeing physical results through increased joint mobility and flexibility/strength was huge for mentally encouraging me that maybe I could try and be successful at something else.

And if a picture is worth a thousand words, this is what a year and change of very guarded yet consistent effort looks like .


Loving yourself and your body with RA


I mentioned last week that I have somehow strangely turned into someone who enjoys cooking: chopping vegetables, using fresh herbs, finding ways to make cheaper at home versions of processed foods I like so that I know the ingredients I am putting in my body.

How did I get there?

I am a Pinterest junkie. I can pin all day if I wouldn’t get fired for it. So for motivation, I started a board where I pinned pictures of skinny people and various workouts. I deleted that board and all its pins recently because…guys… I had it all wrong.

The pictures I was a fan of were all along the lines of ‘thinspiration.’ If you know what that is…or even if you don’t…I think those pictures are dangerous and misleading.

Being female, I already feel the societal pull to be a zero. Even if my body is not made and would look all Skeletor as a zero. Being autoimmunely awesome, I feel even more pressure. Look normal. Look thin. Make sure nobody can tell you’re struggling with RA.

But at what expense does this come for a healthy person? And magnify this expense for someone with rheumatoid arthritis.

Finding this quote really made me think.


Am I making these decisions to work out and change my eating habits because I love myself and my body? Am I celebrating changes I see in my body because they are structural changes I’m making that will in the long run help support joints and make living with RA easier OR am I simply celebrating the number on the scale getting smaller? Do I even really love myself and my body? Can I say anything nice about my body? Well…why the heck not?

I was really surprised at my answers and motivations, and I’ll admit it scared me. I want to be skinny. I want to be normal. But none of those things connected to cultivating a lifestyle of wellness nor did I appreciate anything about what my body CAN do. And I feel that looking at it that way and treating myself and my body accordingly is not giving my body and myself what it needs and deserves. I also think that maybe translates into some not so great situations in my emotional life. And I imagine I’m not alone here. Read the rest of this entry

Cortisone Injection: Take 2


Some of you may remember when I got a cortisone injection into my left pointer finger. If I am to play word association with “Left pointer finger cortisone injection,” the first thing that comes to mind is “PTSD, PTSD,PTSD, that was AWFUL.”

I will admit that I have had no problems with said pointer finger since that day that I try to block out.

When my doctor suggested that it was time to consider it for my left ankle, I think my stomach dropped out of my butt and I broke out in a cold sweat. I said I’d think about it…but inside, I was all HELLLLLLLL NOOOO.

You see, my ankles have never really bothered me RA wise. That is until roughly 3 years ago. I went to Target after work wearing foam bottomed flip flops, and slipped on unmarked standing water in the entry way in front of the service desk. I was lucky to be holding on to my cart; I wrenched my left ankle outward and landed on my right kneecap. Without the cart, I am pretty sure I would’ve smacked my head on the floor. My kneecap (knock on wood) gave me no problems after the bruise healed, but the left ankle just never healed completely.

Yes, I should’ve pursued it. Fail on my part.

Yes, the customer service geniuses at Target should’ve handled it better period. The handling I got? The kid looked at me and said oh so profoundly: did you fall? He actually asked me twice…I said yes and then went and hid in women’s seasonal apparel for a really quick ugly cry. It HURT.

Anyway, I digress.

Long story short: I didn’t pursue Target, I reinjured it twice after, and wound up having 3 inverse sprains in a 14 month period. True to RA, I started having some disease activity around the site of the injury. I’ve been working on rehabbing it and it has gotten much, much better. But it still wasn’t 100%.

The more I thought about the cortisone injection, the more it made sense. If I don’t get it to heal completely, surely it will cause issues with my knee and hip later on. I could tell I was walking funny to compensate for it. Are knee and hip problems at a later date really worth something that sucks for only a minute and costs a $40 copay?

When I said that out loud, I realized how dumb I would be to not do it.

So I called, made the appointment, and started the pep talk.

The day of the appointment, I decided the following things:

a) I am not allowed to just not show up and pay the no show fee. An attractive option, yes, but stupid.
b) I am not allowed to ugly cry, scream, and overall pitch a freaking fit. I am too old for such behavior.
c) I am allowed to produce a tear or two. Said tear or two must not be accompanied by any form of sound.

As I sat in the waiting room, I caught myself thinking “I’d so much rather have a pap smear today.”

They called me back and took me to the procedure room. The PA used the ultrasound machine to look at my ankle, take pictures, and put together the plan of attack. She took the time to let me watch the ultrasound and pointed out different features (even though they all looked the same to me.)

My rheumatologist joined us, and while reviewing the pictures/discussing where to go in, I apparently exhaled really loudly. They both looked at me and said “are we really stressing you out right now?”

Um yes. I just heard that a needle was going in the front of my foot all the way to the back underneath the leg bone. That is…stressful.

They had me lay down at that point.

My heart was racing as they cleaned the ultrasound goo off my foot. I made a few quick addendums to my list of things I am allowed to do:

a) scrap all things I’m not allowed to do
b) ugly crying is fine, noise if you must
c) just get through this
d) I can have Starbucks if I live

They sterilized my foot, sprayed it with the cold numbing spray, and told me they were going to do the Lidocaine injection. I tensed up, held my breath, and felt…a very small pinch. No burning, not really even any stinging. Just a pinch.


They applied sterile ultrasound goo so that they could see where they were injecting next.

With the ultrasound in place, my doctor said they were going to start with the injection. I starred at the ceiling and realized…if he hadn’t told me they were putting the needle in, I wouldn’t have known. I felt nothing. No pain, no pressure. I did feel a few tiny “puffs” as they injected the cortisone into the joint…but not the searing, unbearable pain of the pointer finger.

It was over in a matter of seconds.

They wiped my foot off, applied a Bandaid, and I was at Starbucks less than 15 minutes later.

As with my finger, it took several days for the full effect to be felt. It was a little puffy for a few days. It’s still a little stiff and sore BUT it’s sore in new places. I was worried about that at first, until I realized it was sore in the places I haven’t used in a long time because I was actually walking correctly.

I am really working on building up balance, range of motion and proprioception right now. I can balance for almost a minute on my left foot now whereas before I couldn’t even do 10 seconds. Range of motion is still a little tight but getting better. Being someone who wants everything done now, I was a little concerned at first that it wasn’t immediately better. But we all know that immediately getting full function back after a long term injury…isn’t realistic. I am slowly but surely seeing progress, and that is fine by me!

I may be changing my word association on cortisone injections…although I hope I never have one again!!



Oh my goodness. I have been busier than ever and just realized that I haven’t posted since February.


So, I will be trying to correct that in short order!

What have I been up to? Working, lots. Getting ready to move again, I’ll give more specifics in a month. Working out like a madwoman, because there is nothing else to do in this two star town.

What has been going on specific to RA? Honestly, NOT MUCH! Whoo!!! I had a cortisone injection in my ankle a few weeks ago, more on that later. Since then, I’ve started doing some new exercise routines that are easier with a non gimpy ankle. That’s also worth a blog post…or several.

Anything else? I’ve somehow turned into some sort of weird nutrition loving, cooking stranger. Seriously. Chopping vegetables is rather calming. Learning how to make gluten free/dairy free versions of things I love from scratch is a bit addictive. Again, another blog post or ten at the very least!

So yeah, I’ve got a ton of blogable material, but not nearly enough time!

Don’t give up on me just yet. I have some hurdles to cross off my to do list over the next few weeks and then I’m back!



I am mortified that I haven’t written a new post since November! I realized this a few weeks ago and immediately rushed to throw up a new post…but it dawned on me that I don’t want to just throw something up for the sake of doing it.

I could tell you about the family Thanksgiving where I had a few too many mimosas…

I could tell you about the Christmas party where I was psyched to wear a pretty dress…


I could tell you about the BEST NYE EVER where I got to see The Avett Bros from a private box with a ton of friends…


But I just told you about them and they have little to no substance with regards to my life with RA.

So I thought and thought and thought. Thought about my life right now, thought about the last year, thought about where I would like to go in the future.

What I keep coming back to is that my goal has always been to show you accurately how I live with RA and how I am still able to thrive in spite of it.

Are the aforementioned events above related to that goal? Of course! But do they really show how to overcome? Not particularly.

I want to make sure that I’m adding value without being a dry infomercial. So the first thing I came up with is that maybe I need to focus more on telling you about my health and fitness journey from the past year.

I recently posted this picture of me on Facebook.


I thought it was interesting to see what I had accomplished in spite of RA. I expected a few comments and a handful of likes. It wound up getting 6,000 views, over 100 likes, and 15 shares. What struck me though were the comments.

So in redirecting and refocusing myself, I’m starting there with a discussion of the picture, the work behind it, and the wide variety of reaction I got for posting it.

In trying to give you content to think and talk about, what would YOU like to see here?

LOL Gratitude Challenge


That’s what my friend and I call things that we start with every intention of following through on…and then we just don’t.

LOL give up red wine.

LOL clean my house.

LOL New Years Resolutions.

You get the picture. So yeah…LOL gratitude challenge. I think we can all agree that I’m grateful…so we’ll just move along now.

For me, it’s a mixed reaction when I can’t follow through on things. Things like making a decision to give up Starbucks for Lent only to wind up at Caribou…are amusing. I seriously could be a lawyer with how I allow myself out on technicalities. I find it fairly hilarious and amusing.

But what I don’t find hilarious or amusing is that sometimes I simply can’t follow through on more important things. Can’t follow through isn’t necessarily the most fair statement; more like terrified to commit out of fear of not being able to follow through.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing very well right now. Everything is very well controlled by medication and has been for some time. I feel…healthy. It’s a strange feeling and I don’t trust it yet.

Sad, right? But when you’ve had that carpet seriously yanked from under your feet once or twice, it’s a hard thing to trust.

I’m honestly not sure what I’m afraid of committing to right now either.

Is marathon running in my future? Not unless I can take a golf cart.

Will I be selling all my belongings and moving to do humanitarian work in a third world country? Doubtful. I won’t even touch door handles in public restrooms.

Skydiving? I do not understand why anyone would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

But I’m kinda itching to push myself again. To commit to doing something a little out there, a little un-me, a little ‘take this RA and shove it.’ But also safe, clean, and not completely unattainable. Something to help me trust feeling good again.

I’m not quite sure what that will be yet. I’m open to suggestions.

No more LOL Gratitude Challenges.🙂