Chronic Migraine, Exercise, Triggers

Pedometer Apps: Highlighting My Substandard Exercise Acheivements

Exercising outside is one of the most enticing parts of summer in Seattle. To avoid triggering a migraine attack, I wanted to keep my exertion level about the same as it has been on the treadmill at home, so I downloaded some pedometer apps for my phone.

How demoralizing! These apps are designed to encourage healthy people whose only obstacle is a lack of motivation to get moving. They aren’t intended for someone who desperately wants to exercise more, but has to be very careful not to overdo it. The app I used first has a preset goal of 10,000 steps a day with a scale indicating what my level of fitness is.* After 2,200 steps, that scale still declares me “sedentary.” Trust me, I KNOW I’m sedentary and that walking a 20 minute mile doesn’t constitute impressive exercise. I don’t need an app to remind me that the best I can do right now is substandard.

Instead of feeling good about the one mile that I walked — and the beautiful view of Lake Washington that I glimpsed — I came home nearly in tears. I want to be physically fit. I want to walk 10,000 steps a day. I want to leave a yoga class with my muscles aching. I want to run for miles. Yet, what I want and what my body can currently handle are not in alignment.

Couch-to-5k? A hardcore seven-minute high-intensity interval workout? I’m there. Well, I would be if my body didn’t react with a migraine that would lead to at least three days on the couch. Trying harder, exerting more is a perfectly fine option for a lot of people. For me, it’s counterproductive.

I’ve (mostly) let go of the belief that having chronic migraine means my body is broken. Carrying around that sense of betrayal constantly highlighted what was lacking in my life and my body. Rather than dwell on what I can’t do, I try to revel in what I can do. That works most of the time. Then I use an app that reminds me that even though I’m exerting myself at my current maximum, my effort — and perhaps my very self — is deficient.

*I know these apps are intended to count one’s total daily steps and I’m only using them for active exercise. If I carried my phone around with me constantly and saw the steps around the house add up, I’d either be pleasantly surprised or even more dismayed. I choose ignorance.