Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dancing & Biking My Way To Healthy Lungs

Guest Post by Emma D'Agostino

I’ve always been pretty active. My parents have always wanted my siblings and I to participate in some form of exercise and the doctors encouraged it too. So we tried tee ball (a failure), dancing (still dancing today) and soccer (I danced on the field. I consider it to be another failure). Dancing was and is fantastic because of its fast nature-I’m an Irish dancer (think Riverdance). But dancing has one flaw that we really only recently discovered, which is why I’m writing about exercise. It’s stop and go. While you’re going, it’s great, but you’re only going for about a minute and a half, tops. Still, it helped keep me healthy for about 10 years with no other form of exercise.

About a year ago, we started thinking that maybe some type of other exercise would help as well. I believe that in the beginning we wanted to help out my stamina for dancing-it is hard to build stamina without CF getting in the way, let alone when your lungs fail long before your legs. I get shin splints really easily, so running and jump roping were out. So we bought a stationary bike.

At first, I really didn’t do much with it. I did bike some over Christmas break, right after we got the bike, when I get about a three week break from dancing. Generally, I do absolutely nothing because I’m exhausted from going four days a week to dance class in October and November. I let my body recover. This, however, presents a problem CF wise because my lungs don’t appreciate my sedentary-ness. I did see that biking helped a lot-my stamina was actually ok when I went back to class in January. But I really didn’t enjoy biking all that much and so over the next few months I mostly just let the bike sit.

Then, May came around. Because of the way my high school is set up, I don’t have a free period to take PE and health. So they offer PE online as an alternative. My parents and I figured ok, it’ll help prepare me for (dancing) nationals in July and I’ll get it out of the way. I also made a deal with my dance teacher. She was determined that all the dancers would build stamina and was going to make everybody jump rope every day, but she knew how badly I get shin splints and we agreed that biking was a suitable alternative.

Every day for the entire month of June, between the PE class and my teacher nagging, I biked for around 30 minutes. I was completely shocked at how effective it was. In no time-a week, maybe-I saw a gigantic difference in my dancing. My legs and lungs could go further than they had ever gone before. And I finally realized that biking was great and that it would be an extremely bad idea to stop.

So, of course, my knees got mad at me what with all the demand being placed on them. Three hours of strenuous work a day, I will admit, is a little much. I would start, and I wouldn’t get up the street on my regular bike. I couldn’t even do a quarter mile on the stationary bike. And I’m not stupid, so I stopped biking and since it was summer, I swam every day until I thought my knees had been given a reasonable amount of time off. By then it was August and I knew my lungs were missing biking, so I started back slowly. Sometime in August, I noticed something. Maybe it snuck up on me slowly or maybe it was as sudden a change as I thought. But I could suddenly breathe better than I can remember breathing in…well , a really, really long time. Years, maybe? And my cough, which we can never get rid of no matter what, all but disappeared. I completely attribute this to biking.

I had my CF appointment and my PFTs were 97, which aren’t really super duper high for me since my numbers are usually good, but recently I had been going to clinic and seeing my numbers drop. So it was nice to see them go up for a change!!

The very next day after that wonderful clinic appointment, my lungs of course went on a breathing hiatus and stopped being so wonderful. But, after a two week long temper tantrum, they stopped, and now I’m breathing better than ever. It is amazing not to have to struggle to breathe. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy the act of breathing now. And I completely attribute this to biking. So go out and find some kind of exercise that you enjoy. Or maybe you don’t enjoy it, but you can at least stand it. I feel better than I have in such a long time and I want everybody to have that feeling, so go! Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Note from Ronnie: I just wanted to give a big thank you to Emma for writing an outstanding guest post for RSR. Although she knows that dancing is good for her lungs, she also knew that she needed to do more for optimal lung health. It just goes to show you how in tune us CFers are with our bodies. We always need to be working towards putting ourselves in the best position for clear lungs; No matter what it takes! I encourage you to leave Emma your comments as well as any questions you may have! Emma can also be found on Facebook by clicking here.

If you are interested in writing a guest post for RSR simply send me an email with a little bit about yourself and what you'd like to write about.