My personal exercise goal is to alternate cardio and strength training days for a total of 5-6 days per week. For cardio exercise, I use a recumbent bicycle. The strength training exercises I use, which you will find under this tab, tend to be POTS friendly in that they can be done fairly parallel to the ground. They may not be hypermobility friendly though, so please go in knowing that and modify as needed. I did a lot of research to ensure I would be giving all of my muscles a workout without having to stand or go to a gym. Not to start off on a discouraging note, but exercise does not get all patients with POTS back to a normal life. In some cases it makes a major difference for patients, while in other cases it just prevents deconditioning. Even if it doesn’t cure you, exercise is important because deconditioning will make POTS symptoms worse. Remember – something is always better than nothing! Even if you can only do a few reps of one exercise, you will be better off than if you had done nothing at all.
Talk with your doctor to set goals. Keep track of what works best for you and things that definitely do not work for you. You probably will notice right away when you look at the exercises that I didn’t provide the number of reps and sets you should do for each exercise, or even which group of exercises you should do. This is because I want you to figure out what works best for your specific needs.
1) Do as many reps as you can do while still maintaining proper form. When the burn gets so bad that feel you cannot possibly go on, do one or two more. This is what will help you build muscle. For a majority of arm and leg exercises, if you can complete 15 reps without feeling a burn, you need to make the exercise more intense. The best way to do this with arm exercises is to increase the weight you are using and the best way to do this with leg exercises is to add ankle/leg/shoe weights. If you can complete 20-25 reps of the core exercises without feeling a burn, you can up the intensity by adding leg weights or increasing the time you hold the exercises.
2) I have tried to put the exercises in an order that makes sense and is easy (in my mind at least) to follow. I pick an exercise or two for each muscle group in my legs, and follow that routine for 2 weeks. At that point, I make a new routine, using some of the moves I already used, as well as some new ones. This will help prevent your muscles from getting used to doing any one exercise. The reason you want to prevent that from happening is it can slow down how quickly you see improvements and gains.
3) While I judge how many reps to do by the “burn” level, I do set a time limit. For example, I started out by picking 7 exercises. I decided I would work out for 10 minutes. If that meant I only did one set of each exercise, great. If I didn’t get all the way through each of the 7 exercises, oh well! You need to know how long your body can tolerate exercising, and only push it a little. You don’t want to push yourself too much and end up unable to exercise for a few days from overdoing it. This was hard for me at first because conventional exercise advice always tells us to push ourselves even when our bodies are tired. Well folks, our bodies are anything but “normal” so don’t overdo it!
4) Keep track of how many reps and sets you are doing as well as if you are adding weight or not. If one exercise seems really difficult to complete or causes a symptom, note it! I use a heart rate monitor, so I note my starting heart rate. When I am done, my heart rate monitor tells me my maximum and average heart rate during the workout. I record this as well. You will have a very hard time noticing changes in your ability if you don’t keep track of whatever you are able! When you are chronically ill, something as small as 2 extra reps, or 1 extra minute several days in a row can be a sign of major progress!
5) Find an incentive for yourself. I like to use a sticker chart to track whether I get in exercise as I would like to or not. Whether it was 1 minute or 15 minutes, I give myself a sticker as long as I truly did the most I possibly could. Seeing all of the stickers add up, even without a “prize” at the end, is motivating to me. Maybe you need something else such as after so many weeks of meeting your exercise goals, you can buy new clothes, have a yummy treat, buy yourself a massage… whatever works!
If you have any questions I will do my best to answer them. To ask privately, use the contact form below, otherwise just leave a comment.
These exercises are not intended to be taken as medical advice. Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. These exercises and their descriptions were taken from my personal experience, doctors, and websites listed under “websites with exercise”, which can be found under the “resources” tab.