I continue to wear my heart rate monitor every day, and generally listen to its alarm. When it starts to sound, I sit down (although not instantaneously I will admit). And when I hit the part of the day where it goes off every time I get up or move around, I know I’m done for the day. If I’m lucky, it’s after dinner. But I’ve found that whenever I am really active, the trigger-happy time of day comes earlier. I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that once I’ve used up whatever energy stores I have, my heart rate rises more easily and stays elevated. A constant alarm is a pretty hard signal to ignore, and if my family is around it’s impossible. One good thing about the alarm: my husband and family are insistent about my listening it. Double edged sword, that, since it’s impossible to get away with overdoing it.
Today, I started the next phase of incorporating my true anaerobic threshold into my daily life: preemptive rest. In his self-help course, Bruce Campbell says that preemptive rest is one of the most important tools for people with CFS. Preemptive rest, or rest to prevent symptoms, is scheduled rest taken regardless of how you feel. By resting before you feel tired, it is possible to reduce symptoms and improve stamina. In the context of the anaerobic threshold, resting before reaching that threshold gives your body a chance to recover from activity before you have gone into “oxygen debt.” In theory, this might increase the sustainable amount of overall activity by rebuilding energy stores before they are depleted.
I’m skeptical. I don’t doubt that the theory has merit. I’m skeptical about my ability to follow through with it. Lying down when I’m not tired seems like a waste. My capacity is so limited, it seems pointless to take a break before I get tired. Along with scheduling preemptive rest, my physical therapist believes that limits on the length of time I spend at any activity will also help. She says that I should take a break after 20 minutes of any activity, but I pushed back on that one. Take a break after 20 minutes on the computer? I can’t get through my email in 20 minutes. I also worry about losing my train of thought. It takes such concentration to write. If I have to take a break every 20 minutes, I’ll have to gear that concentration back up over and over. I would much rather work on a task to completion. I also resist such a regimented approach to getting through the day. Again, my capacity is already so limited that it’s hard to apply even more restrictions to myself.
So we negotiated a compromise. I will take two scheduled rest breaks a day: 20 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon. I will take rest breaks after 20 minutes of physical activity. This means breaking tasks like making dinner into smaller chunks and extending it over more time. And I will take a break after one hour on the computer. I’m tracking my activity, heart rate and symptoms every 30 minutes this week. It’s a laborious pain in the arse, but I don’t think I will stay on track without that kind of record keeping. Otherwise, I’ll just lose track of what I’m doing and how long I’ve been at it.
I took my scheduled rest today, but I did not experience any difference in my stamina or symptoms. It’s only been one day, so it’s impossible to draw any conclusions. I suspect that the benefits from this will only become evident over time, possibly over several weeks. I just hope I have the patience to see it through.