How do I build the muscle strength I've lost

I have lost a lot of muscle over the years, I believe from Fibromyalgia. I became clumbsy and lost the strength to do some functional activities I used to be able to do. (I'm not talking fatigue, but muscle power). I've been told people with fibro become less coordinated and I have my own theory about that. (more obviously - pain leads to decreased activity which leads to loss of muscle fibers - you have to stress muscles to maintain or increase strength. Less obvious - the nerves responsible for giving you feedback about where your body parts are and what your arms and legs are doing when you are not looking at them are the same nerves that are sending a barrage of messages to your brain which get interpreted as pain (in my case I feel a deep pressure sensation for 10 minutes after being touched where as my family members no longer feel the sensation after about 5 seconds). Your brain has trouble shutting out the pain messages in order to listen to the information vital to help you keep your balance.

Anyway, I've been trying to rebuild my muscles. I've tried nutritional suppliments while working on a weight lifting routine (which I've modified many times)with the guidance of a physical therapist (who I've had to educate so he understands the uniqueness of fibro muscles). The trouble is, to build muscle you have to exercise to the point of fatiguing it. My pain level shoots up to an untolerable level long before the muscle fatigues. I scaled the program way back to a level I can tolerate but it's not significant enough to see any strength progress.

I was told by a PT friend that at 46 yrs (and a woman) you can't build muscle anyway. I don't believe that. I've built up my core muscle strengh through ball exercises and am no longer clumbsy. But I want to build functional strength now. I want to be able to open a jar of applesauce or carry my half of a canoe on the canoe trip with the kids this summer.

Anyone have any luck building muscle?

hi I believe that fibro and a number of other conditions are related to autoimmune problems. I have an overactive immune system and I think a lot if not all of my physical problems are due to it. I have Fibro, rheumatiod arthritis{which causes weakness in muscles and "clumsy" gait.} asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and I recently learned that raynauds syndrome which my ex husband and my youngest son{20} have is related to overactive immune systems and often seen with ra. I was a nurse for over 20 yrs and I was able to continue to work for four years after I was diagnosed with fibro with the help of walking and swimming and pain killers. It was after a serious accident that all the other stuff started.
based on what I have seen and experienced I think muscle building is not really the goal as much as increasing and maintaining flexiblity and weight training to increase stamina. Any one of any age can increase muscle build up I am 55 and over the last three years I have increased my muscle strength quite a bit. After my accident I was bedridden for almost two years. Now I can walk well and balance with a cane, I can go to the mall, go shopping drive, all this was impossible two yrs ago. I could barely walk 50 ft. I do not believe that it is necessary to work out to the point of pain . My husband is a serious weight lifter and he never works out to the point of pain. He trains 3 days a week and different body areas each time, with bike riding or rowing for cardio. Working out till you hurt is an old idea that has been disproved. You may have some soreness but pushing it too far too fast causes injury. You need to be careful with fibro. I overdid it two months ago and it took me five weeks before I could comeon here and type today.
Moderation is always a good idea, I believe walking and swimming are the best exercises.
good luck to you.
dr

I know what you mean about pushing too hard, I've kicked in flare ups from exercising before too. Although I agree we need to take exercise easy I believe we can achieve more than we think. I've walked for years, slowly increasing my speed (never actual speed walking). Three years ago I started carrying weights and gently moving my arms as I walked. A year after that I deceided to start running. My husband runs and my chiropractor told me cardiovascular exercise is one of the best things you can do for fibro (exercising at 60% of your target heart rate). The first time I ran, I ran for 45 seconds. I tried to follow advice from runners on how to get started by alternating running and walking during a workout. When I was done I felt miserable. After 3 months of experimenting I finally figured out I was doing too much too fast. So I started jogging in place at a very slow rate, barely moving forward. It felt much better. I would run like this 3 days per week. The first two days running the same distance and the third increasing my run by 10- 15 seconds. After I worked up to running for 20 minutes I was then able to increase by 5 minutes per week. I got to read my body well enough to know what cramps were only temporary (I could run through them) and what pain I needed to see as a sign to stop. I once pushed myself and ran for 8 extra minutes instead of 5 and flared up for 3 weeks. It took me a month more to get back to where I was before. I eventually (a year later) worked up to running a 5K and then a 10K. I never run to win, just to finish even if I'm last. After I figured out what my body could handle and slowly increased I felt a dramatic improvement in my fatigue. Nothing had ever done that for me before. At that time I also started drinking a potent antioxidant which helped reduce my pain level.

Prior to 3 years ago I had never exercised in my life except for walking with my husband for fun. I never wanted to run a race much less do so with fibro. But the biggest thing I learned is I can do more than I ever thought I could. When you find a exercise you prefer (eliptical and swimming is easier on your joints) start out extremely slow, increase extremely slow, keep moving even through a flare up just at a significantly smaller amount or slower pace, work to get back to where you were and keep going, and keep it up on a regular basis exercise does really help. I stopped running 2 months ago to do weight training. I tried to run last week and could only tolerate 10 minutes (I had worked up to an hour and 15 min). I'm bummed that I have to start all over just because I stopped for 2 months but I'm determined to do it again.

That's why I'm not ready to give up on rebuilding muscle. I'm going to keep experimenting and asking for advice until I either fail or find a way. I know flare ups are inevitable and I know I have to be careful not to make things worse, but I'm not going to let fibro stop me either.

I can emplathize with this thread. I think I stated in one of my other [um rants?] posts here that when afflicted I was swimming 2 miles a week [yes miles] on Tue/Thur, and Mon/Wed/Fri was lifting light weights and doing yoga. My body fat ranged from low to high teens on a 6' 190 lb. frame. Though I am still 6' 190 due to no appetite, my almost complete inactivity has changed my body fat to about 22-23 now and needless to say all that muscle tone is gone. This after 2 years. Sadly, I have not grown a lazy muscle. My 2 miles a week in the pool went to a mile a week, to a 1/2 mile, to a 1/4 mile, to 200 meters. Doing more would mean absolute agony for a couple days. And though I could still probably swim a couple laps, getting ready, driving 20 minutes one way, just to spend less than 5 minutes in the pool is hard to justify not to mention the membership fees. Likewise, weight lifting went from 30 lb. bells to 20 to 10. I just tried to do a set with 10 lb bells a couple weeks ago and again could hardly function the next day. Sure, muscle soreness, but that's not my problem. With me the unbearable part is deep in the joints. So, I am down to just Yoga stretching poses only, not strengthening as they bother me, general stretches, and I can still tolerate ab-crunches and leg lifts in moderation along with walks of 1/2 mile or less. Sadly, this really does very little aerobically as my heart rate doesn't even get above 100 and still losing muscle mass and tone. So, I am at a loss to know how to get that muscle tone back. Perhaps at 51 I need to just accept certain facts but I know some 75 year old men that still work out vigorously and look it. Me? My once firm pecks are now . . . well boobs, if you know what I mean and the wife gets to open the jars and pill bottles for me now. Though this probably just sounds like self-serving whining, it's really not. I am thoroughly disgusted with how I look and feel and really want to fix it. Just can't.

Garth, you've exercised all your life at an athlete's intensity. When you swim now, do you try to do it at the same intensity? What would happen if you swam at a slow (just keeping yourself above the water) rhythmical pace. More of a relaxing type stroke than a competition stroke. No you wouldn't hit your target heart rate but at that level you may be able to slowly build your tolerance again. I don't swim and I never exercised until I started running, but I am an Occupational Therapist and the patients I work with in the hospital have had illnessed/acidents which has caused muscle atrophy. We start them at 1 pound weights, work up to 20 repetitions, then add only one pound more, dropping the repetitions to 5 or 10 and work up to 20 before adding another pound. It's not fast by any means but I've seen strength improve. Currently I dropped my weights way back and only increase by 2 repetitions per week. It's still really hard but I figure slow progress is still progress.

Well, I used to actually race the clock in the water and I gave that up when the disease forced me to go from 2 miles down to 1, to 1/2 to 1/4 etc. But it is true that I don’t just get in the water and merely avoid drowning, so to speak, to the other end and back. Perhaps I can try going at a different time where I won’t become an obstacle to the other lap swimmers by doing so. Thanks.

As FM patients know, the daily hurdle of dealing with pain, fatigue and life's stresses can be difficult at best. With symptoms like these, it's no wonder why just thinking about exercise can be frightening and exhausting!

Well, here's a consolation: even the most in-shape, fitness and athletic enthusiasts battle the same psychological reaction at just the thought of exercise. Studies have proven that even at the suggestion of performing physical and mental exercises, over two-thirds of the study participants complained that they were tired and would prefer to go take a nap. Sound familiar?

But what you may not realize is that you don't have to spend hours in a gym to see positive results. In fact, you don't have to spend hours at all. It only takes 30 minutes per day to achieve optimum fitness. What's even more interesting is that for those with sub-standard energy and stamina levels, such as people with Fibromyalgia, a gradual but consistent program is all that's necessary to create a healthier body, promote restful sleep and achieve a more balanced lifestyle.

It is also interesting to note that fitness experts have already proven that exercising for over 30-40 minutes a day, whether it's cardio-fitness exercise or muscle strength training, is anaerobic and degenerative. This means that after working out for a certain amount of time, the body switches from burning fat to burning muscle; and of course that's not good. Why? Because lean muscle mass burns fat 24 hours a day and our muscles are our only natural defense against fat.

Additionally, the stimulation required to trigger muscle growth happens fast or not at all. Because of the exertion point, it's also important to know that much of the progress made from exercising happens in recovery or during the downtime, so shorter intervals are key. I think most of us will agree that in addition to better health, we want to make the most of the limited time and energy we have. The important thing to remember is that fitness doesn't happen overnight. The best regimen for improved health is to maintain short daily workouts targeted toward a variety of muscle groups.

What's Involved?

Fitness training consists of many techniques, but what we are going to focus on are low- impact, contracting, isometric-type movements to develop proper muscle density. This means our goal is lean, healthy muscle mass. Regardless of whether you are a soccer mom with FM or Hercules, the rule applies to all: you must improve the muscle density before It can truly work for you and burn fat. Isometric exercise is excellent for balanced toning of the muscles without additional stress on the joints. There is also less risk of injury since the technique requires minimal movement.

Since most of these exercises can be performed in a sitting or lying down position, we recommend that you treat yourself to some nice comfy pillows and your favorite music while doing your reps. Making it fun and doing something consistently that is going to improve your health, is sure to boost your morale.

Where to Target

If you are like many others with FM, you are probably concerned about how your pain is going to hinder the success of your fitness program. The idea of exercising when it hurts is not thrilling. Fear not! The specific areas of your body that you are going to focus on will be the opposite of the areas of your body that are currently in pain. If your level of exertion needs to be adjusted for the amount of pain you are in, that is okay. Think of it as outsmarting your pain. In terms of avoiding the areas that are in pain, it's going to be important to train your mind while you are training your body. What this implies is that you must evaluate your body and recognize where it doesn't hurt, so that you target your exercise on the pain-free areas.

For example, divide your body into two main parts, upper and lower. Then think of it in terms of exercise. Your upper body consists of five main targeted groups:

Chest
Shoulders
Back
Triceps
Biceps
The lower body also consists of five areas:

Quadriceps
Hamstrings
Calves
Gluteus
Abs
Knowing that you have ten primary areas to work on gives you options and the freedom to make choices when it comes to exercising. The trick is to pick one or two of the areas that are opposite to the places you are experiencing pain, and zoom in on that place (or places) for the day. By concentrating on areas that are pain-free, you are also changing your mental focus away from the pain. This practice can be beneficial from both a physical and mental standpoint.

Getting Started

Once you've decided which muscle group you're going to work on for the day, the first step is to make sure that you are comfortable and ready to begin. Be sure to wear clothes that "breathe" and allow for proper movement.

Stretching: One of the most important, but often forgotten, factors in exercise and muscle toning is to always stretch out, at least for a few minutes before and after working out. This will ensure proper functioning of the muscles and avoid injury. Slowly and gently stretch and then hold the position, avoiding bouncy, aggressive movements. Stretching will also promote flexibility and good circulation.

Breathing: The key to burning fat is increased circulation and oxygenation. Your muscles need oxygen, so remember to regulate your breathing and relax. Don't hold your breath during exertion. Make sure you are exercising in an environment that has the proper room temperature and adequate airflow.

Water: Burning fat does little good unless your body has a way to rinse the toxins out of your system. Be religious about drinking water before, during and after exercising. Detoxification is essential for eliminating the aches and pains of post-exercise, so drink up!

The Workout

The term "sets and reps" is common jargon on the fitness scene, when referring to using weights in repetition. We're going to use it to refer to "exertion time." When training a muscle group, it is helpful to concentrate and focus on the specific area you are working. Also implement a counting technique to ensure equivalency in effort. If you have a stopwatch, great! Time yourself during both exertion and rest periods.

Isometric Holds: Your workout should include four main sets of effort, and one final set of "real effort," with rest time in between. The actual exertion will be a "contract and hold" exercise. Focus on the muscle, slowly contracting it into a tight position, holding tight for approximately 2 1/2 minutes, and then slowly releasing. (Do not hold the position for longer than you feel is appropriate.) Then rest for one full minute and start again. Sounds pretty easy, right? The trick is to repeat the last set and hold the position as long as you possibly can. By the end of these "contract and hold" sets, you'll feel the difference. Remember to be cautious, but you want to tire the muscle during each workout to be effective. This is the first step to building muscle endurance and increasing your pain threshold.

Resistance: Over time, mastery of basic contractive exercise, or any exercise is inevitable. The muscle tissue will become firmer and stronger, which means that you'll need to step up your routine a bit to continue progress. Your muscles will become adjusted to the "same old" routine, but new forms of resistance can be added (such as light weights) to increase muscle stamina, providing more energy for you. A small weight adjustment is all that is needed to upgrade your routine. Use the same principle of four interval sets with rests and one final set. The important thing is that you increase your reps a little at a time.

Sample Exercises

Here are a few simple daily exercises that you can do while listening to music or even watching TV.

Quads: Sitting upright in a firm chair, extend both legs straight out, pointing the toes, contracting the thigh muscles and holding the position for one set. Repeat. Also remember to flex the feet and hold for a good stretch.

Calves: Stand in a doorway with your feet about shoulder width apart. Rise up on your toes as high as you can, holding for one set. Slowly lower yourself down. Repeat. Add hand weights for resistance to increase exercise benefit.

Shoulders/Arms: Sit holding your arms out to the side at shoulder height, contract the arm completely and then hold for one set. Repeat. Really straighten the arm hard to contract the triceps.

Gluteus: Lie cushioned on the floor with knees bent, feet shoulder width apart, soles of your feet flat on the floor. Gently lift buttocks up (keeping back to the floor) and contract tightly. Hold for one set. Repeat. (Hint: fold a pillow between your knees and squeeze tight to work your inner thighs as well.)

Hamstrings: Lie in the same position as for the Gluteus exercise, but put your feet out further from the buttocks, with your knees still bent. Flex your feet, lift your buttocks up, contract and hold. This works the back of the upper thighs. If using movement with these contractions, make sure you use slow control in both the positive and negative direction. Proper biomechanics will help you get in better shape faster.

The best thing you can do for your body and pain is to develop a program that works just for you. Do what you can and do not overdo it, especially if you're working with resistance. Remember not to stress yourself with a feeling of obligation where fitness is concerned. This should be considered recreational, a time for "me" to enjoy. Let yourself use the exercise as therapy for whatever ails you that day. Remember to cushion yourself with pillows to protect the tender spots and stay consistent within your pursuit for better health. You'll find that a daily fitness routine can do wonders for curing the blues.

The Wellness Formula

Just like the dozens of alleged "cure-alls" for Fibromyalgia that are floating around out there, there are even more half-baked fitness and health regimens that claim to work for everyone. Remember that each individual is unique in their capabilities and limitations, so you should look carefully at yourself and find out what works best for you.

By listening to your body, you might hear the sweet song of well-being inside, even if you don't always feel that way. Here are some tips for building a good wellness formula:

Take leave of anyone who tells you that it does not require some hard work to achieve a health body.Take leave of anyone who tells you that it does not require some hard work to achieve a health body.
StStick to the basics: a balanced diet, exercise and supplemental support (multivitamins) have always been three good ingredients for improved health.ick to the basics: a balanced diet, exercise and supplemental support (multivitamins) have always been three good ingredients for improved health.
Don't give up or give in. FM is tough, but things could always be worse. Your adversities can make you strong!on't give up or give in. FM is tough, but things could always be worse. Your adversities can make you strong!
Ask your physician about current research in Fibromyalgia and new treatment options. Ask your physician about current research in Fibromyalgia and new treatment options.
KnKnowing your limits is the best prevention to health downswings, especially when dealing with FM. Try to avoid stress and negative environments. Surround yourself with the positive.owing your limits is the best prevention to health downswings, especially when dealing with FM. Try to avoid stress and negative environments. Surround yourself with the positive.
Take care of what's important, and that's you. This is your life, right now. Take charge and do things that make you feel good. After all, your body is the only one you you've got!

I know people with fibro have similar symptoms but are unique too. I cant do isometric exercise (tensing without moving). My pain level shoots up really fast. I tried one of those exercises you suggested tigger101 and a muscle that didn't hurt now hurts. I can still feel the pain sensation, now about 10 minutes later and totally distracted by reading blogs.

I find when I tense muscles and hold the tension they don't want to relax when I'm done and just like carrying groceries, I can only tense a muscle for a very short time before the pain mounts to an unbearable level. I'm far better to exercise using isotonic exercise (constant, consistent movement) like walking, swimming, low weight -easy reps. I can't tolerate Yoga either for the same reason. I like Tae Kwon Do modified to my tolerance level because we are constantly in motion without too much repetition on one muscle group.

Tigger101, you seem to have written a book or something so I figure you might be able to use this info as you work to help other people.

You have made a good point and I lnow were you are coming from. There are people that have severe pain during their first stages of excercise.

Coping with the Pain & Fatigue Even healthy people who have not exercised in a long time experience muscle soreness when beginning an exercise program. Initially, you are likely to hurt a lot more than the average healthy person and that pain may last longer. In one article about exercising with a chronic pain condition, it said "No matter what you do, you're going to be in pain." But the article went on to say that while the pain may increase at first, in the long term it's worth it if it allows us to participate more fully in our lives and/or experience an ultimate decrease in symptoms.

Since increased muscle soreness can be excruciating to FM sufferers with already high levels of pain, it's essential to avail yourself of any available strategies to make yourself feel more comfortable and make it possible to keep going. Make sure you stretch your muscles before and after exercise, which can decrease the likelihood of muscle soreness. Applying heat, using muscle relaxants and analgesics, warm baths or jacuzzis, and relaxation exercises may be helpful tools in relieving pain.
Barrett points out that you should "keep in mind that although our muscles may hurt like hell, using them will not injure them. Post-exercise soreness will decrease over time, especially if you respond to your body's signals and pace yourself."

Getting extra rest can also help make exercise possible. I find that it is impossible for me to exercise if my general activity level is too high. But if I'm resting during the day, I find that some exercise is tolerable.
Most of all, remember that each of us is different. Our experience with exercise will vary according to age and severity of symptoms. Listen to your body, and keep adjusting until you find something that works for you. As Deborah Barrett writes, "In the worst case, you will be stronger, in better shape, and look better...and still hurt. Most likely, however, physical fitness will decrease your pain and increase your abilities.

Dawn
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