Migraine patients can start healthy walks with baby steps
Morning walk

Taking a walk in the fresh air, particularly when it’s cool and crisp outside, rejuvenates and recharges me. I love finding new parks, getting or taking my lunch, and hanging out with Max, my beagle. It’s my favorite way to spend “me” time.

Walks first thing in the morning are my favorite. There are very few distractions. I haven’t checked my work email yet and I’ve thrown on clothes and grabbed a hot beverage to walk for 30 minutes around the neighborhood. We enjoy taking deep breaths and soaking up the tranquility of the morning before diving into the day. I try to give my all to my endeavors throughout the day. Once I’m back at the house, I’m dialed in and working away. 

About 15 years ago I learned healthier ways to eat. Growing up, I was always on the go. I was playing competitive volleyball, entering science fair competitions, and volunteering for charitable organizations. I’d say my go-to source of energy was fast food. My body was burning insane amounts of calories and I needed food and sports drinks. Surprisingly enough, I don’t feel that I suffered many consequences from it.

When I worked with my first physical trainer, while still playing competitive volleyball, I learned how to construct simple, healthy, balanced meals. With that core of information, I have continued to evolve my practices with advice from other subsequent trainers, friends, my own research, and well – trial and error! What works for me may not work for my best friend.  Our bodies react differently to foods, spices, and beverages. 

Close to the inception of my migraine journey, I really tuned in on being more “mindful.”  This is when organic produce, roasting meats, and baking veggies became my thing. What a blessing it has been.

Since that time, my family has followed suit and we are all eating higher quality, organic foods. We’ve learned from Dr. Klimas’ notable expertise that it is important to stay hydrated and aid our body by supplying it with antioxidants. Your body is detoxifying as you read this! Not only should we be feeding our brain, but also our organs.

Fitness. Gosh, fitness has been part of my life since as far back as I can remember. I was swinging a softball bat, playing t-ball when I was 5. I transitioned to becoming a 1st baseman and relief pitcher. I would practice pitching at night against our wooden garage door.

Soon thereafter, I was playing volleyball year-round, competing at a high level in the Junior Nationals’ “Sweet 16.”   

I remember high pressure, fatigue, endurance, friendships, sweat, travel, and exhaustion. I remember playing back-to-back volleyball matches in Los Angeles with a 102-degree fever. Not good physically, but my coach said it was “in the best interest of the team” for me to keep playing. I was still performing, barely functioning, at a level needed to assist the team in defeating the opponent.

During one of the Junior Nationals’ playoffs in Sacramento, I was knocked unconscious. It was at UC Davis in a final round and sent back on the court. I have zero recollection of the minutes surrounding when an errant volleyball slammed into my face.

Physical movement is engrained in me. Durability. Determination. Stamina. It works the same with migraine. It comes full circle. The will and determination I have to keep moving forward. It’s good to look back and acknowledge progress, but don’t let what’s happened halt your continued progress and future successes. I feel that when we get knocked down, we need to get back up.

I will always be transparent. For a significant period of time after coming down with meningitis and subsequent migraines, I was at a standstill.

I was unsure, lost, and didn’t have someone who lived with this condition to provide guidance and support to me. Migraine Research Foundation says that attacks usually last between 4 and 72 hours. I can attest to that. The first handful of years, I was having migraine attacks that latest dozens of hours, followed by the “hangover.” Then another attack. It was cyclic.

I took baby steps and those baby steps have carried me to my good health today. I even started my walking exercises by taking baby steps and building up gradually to longer journeys. If I had given up on my migraine treatment and finding the best match of medical professionals to help me, guide me, I would not be where I am today. Who you let treat you, in my opinion, is one of the biggest factors of success and progress. 

What about focusing on mental fitness as well? There is significant evidence of a positive link between exercise and mental wellness. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America in their article entitled “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety” states that “Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout.” The article goes on to state: “Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress.”   

The American Migraine Foundation in an article entitled “Effects of Exercise on Headache and Migraines” published November 1, 2015 states: “Exercise reduces stress and helps individuals to sleep at night. Stress and inadequate sleep are two migraine triggers.” Later in the article they state the patient should have a plan for preventing migraine when exercising – ensure adequate hydration, eat sufficient foods (blood sugar), and warm up properly (perhaps walking prior to running, warming up the body through stretching / flexibility movements). 

I want to emphasize that you are not alone and do not have to face migraine alone. Your body will thank you for reaching out for support from our mighty community. Our mind is incredibly powerful. Ironically enough, one of the magnets on my refrigerator is, “Rule your mind or it will rule you” – Horace. This is a staple reminder in my life. It encourages me.  It awakens me. It reminds me that I hold the key to each door that opens and closes in my life and how I pass through those doors.

Coming next: Don’t gift your Valentine a migraine