A couple years after my LAM diagnosis, I decided to take an outdoors fitness bootcamp class. I had lung surgery a year prior and was still nervous about upper body conditioning, not to mention struggling with shortness of breath. So I talked briefly about LAM with the instructor who assured me that she would be firm but flexible in case I needed a modified exercise routine or a break to recover.
The instructor stayed true to her word, and yet I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider. Like most bootcamps, part of the appeal is the camaraderie and social aspect of exercising. But you can’t socialize when you’re struggling to catch your breath or when you’re the only one having to do modified routines because high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T) feels like breathing air through a straw. I even had an instructor tell me to save my words when she heard me gasping during a pacer test. Meanwhile, everyone else chimed in on their lives, which left me feeling a tinge sad.
Bootcamp may not have been the ideal fit, but I finished out the 6-week program and realized just how much being active outdoors filled my soul. More importantly, I also discovered that while speed and high intensity posed challenges, modified exercise at a slow and steady pace did not. My reality is that I may never run a 10-minute mile or set a personal record with push-ups, but I can finish the mile at my own slow and comfortable pace, much like the tortoise in the fable. And there’s always wall and knee push-ups.
I took those discoveries to heart and not long after that bootcamp, I started finding new ways to stay fit outdoors, like kayaking, biking, and hiking. And to really feel the burn, I now know to add more time to the slow and steady effort instead of going faster or harder. After all, it worked for tortoise.
Nisha is a Hong Kong born and raised, Indian-American who currently lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two young children, aged ten and eight. After multiple lung collapses and surgeries, she was finally diagnosed with LAM nine years later in 2012 at the age of 37. Currently a stay-at-home mom, Nisha takes on digital copywriting projects for work every once in a while, and spends most of her time enjoying the gift (and challenges, depending on the hour) of motherhood. With a keen love of travel and the outdoors, the now 43-year old is always on the lookout for new adventures. She’s currently training for one such adventure that entails kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking in sunny Santa Barbara – and she’s thankful it’s not a race.