It so often seems that the key to Fibromyalgia is balance: balance in eating, in finding the right amount of quality sleep, and perhaps most importantly finding a balance in movement. This has been documented in numerous studies and several blog posts I’ve written.

We know exercise is good for us. The media likes to remind us all the time, and people as influential as First Lady Michelle Obama are putting healthy movement (and healthy eating) at the forefront.

I find that one of the trickiest parts for me is finding the right amount and intensity of exercise. Under-doing exercise leads to weakened muscles, increased pain, and even poor mood. Over-doing exercise often leads to pain flares.

One has to gradually work up to doing greater and greater amounts of exercise. This is true of anyone trying a new exercise routine. If an able-bodied person tries lifting 50 lb weights with no previous experience, they’re going to hurt themselves. When I’ve done very mild weight lifting, my physical therapist has started me off with no weights or even soup cans (a handy 1 lb. h ousehold weight).

The problem is that I want to do things. I was so excited and proud last week because I was wearing my pedometer and I walked almost 10,000 steps – the golden number that everyone says one should aim for. My steps generally vary from 2,000 (on very sedentary days) to 7,500 (on very active days). So this was a Big Deal. (Tip for anyone trying to increase their steps while using a pedometer: lose something. You will walk around a lot trying to find it. Also, go shopping. There’s a lot of walking involved and you hardly notice it.)

Anyway, midway through the day I decided I’d do a little work in the garden. I have some table-top container gardening that I can do that doesn’t over-stretch my back. Did I work on those? Noooo, I decided to re-pot some (terribly potbound) things on the ground. I wasn’t super-careful about how I was lifting things.

The following day was pain. Lots and lots of pain.

It would be easy to let experiences like these scare me off from exercising. Exercise is pain, right? Well, no – too much exercise is pain. Somewhere out there is a magic amount of exercise that is “just right,” a la Goldilocks and the Three Bears. To make it more interesting, the number moves based on how I’m feeling on a particular day and how much exercise I’ve been doing lately.

I know I’m going to make mistakes and overdo it sometimes. There are just days when I seize the moment, and the moment happens to be a little too much. I know there are going to be days when I can’t seem to motivate myself to move out of bed, much less exercise. I can have compassion for myself on these days instead of beating myself up over what I “should” have done.

In between the paradox of too much and too little, I walk.

Hopefully for 10,000 steps.