Working Out with NMOSD

Over the last two years, I’ve started to go to the gym again, and weight lift under the supervision of my doctors. When I was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) in 2017, I used a wheelchair walker and cane for five years. I also went through physical therapy and occupational therapy to strengthen the muscles that were affected by my attack.

Having things like chronic fatigue, muscle spasms, and weakness could all be factors that keep you from doing physical activity.

If you’re looking to into working out with NMOSD, it’s important that you first consult with your doctor to make sure that you are at the place in your journey for that.

Nutrition

I’m a huge sweet tooth girlie, so I had to cut back on that and make sure I was getting nutrition in first. I personally want to grow muscle so I have to be mindful about finding foods for that, and getting in the needed protein for my body weight. I took the time to find out what foods to eat includes a lot of plant-based protein.

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However, I don’t completely cut all foods out. I’m just more mindful about the portions and nutrition value. However, I will never pass up a good brownie or chocolate cake!

It is important to eat something small before the gym. Nothing too heavy but something that's enough for your body to have as fuel. If you struggle with energy but want to stay away from all of the current energy drinks, there are a lot of natural caffeinated drinks out there, too. I like to drink one of those slightly before the gym and during I find that it really helps me push through my workouts. I've learned raw manuka honey has also been used by body builders as a a natural pre-workout.

Getting started and asking for help

It’s also very important to include stretching as a part of your regimen. I do a 20 to 20 minute stretch every day before my workout. Some of my muscles need a little bit more waking up than others due to my spinal cord injury from my attack.

It is helpful to look up workouts before you go to the gym have them in your notes app. This way, when you get there you aren’t looking around trying to find what to do. It can be intimidating walking into a gym for the first time, so having a plan is always a good idea. Gym staff can point you to the right areas if you don’t know where to start. I’ve created a lot of adaptive workouts for my paralysis and spinal cord injury.

If you have a physical therapist, ask them for recommendations on what exercises would be beneficial for you, and which ones to avoid to prevent further injury.

Always start low and slow, and never pushed yourself past the point of burn and straight into pain. It’s very important to listen to your body and find workouts suitable for your level of activity.

I go to a pretty big gym and I see people in wheelchairs, people with walkers, and people with canes all the time. That inspires me to keep going and shows that it’s possible for anyone - no matter the device or diagnosis.

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