Woman standing next to a silhouette of a body that is screaming. The woman is crouched down shushing the body

Shut Up Body! 

Rheumatoid arthritis requires a lot of stamina. Day after day, pain comes along for the ride. So does the fatigue and weakness, which make life just that much more challenging even on really good RA days. So, when I’m saying to myself, “I’m growing weary of this,” I know I need to find some inspiration somewhere.

Words from Jens Voigt

Today my inspiration comes from Jens Voigt, a professional road bike racer who won multiple races and stages in the Tour De France after growing up in East Germany. He is famous for saying, “Shut up, legs!” He says that at some point during every bike race his body rebels and says to him, “I can’t do this anymore! It’s too hard!” and then he says his mind will say, “Shut up body, shut up legs, you are coming with me and we are doing this!” I can definitely relate.

Chronic pain and my stamina

I often struggle with how much of a taskmaster I want to be toward my body, how much to push myself and how much to relax. I err on the side of pushing myself which means that I’m often playing catch up rest-wise. But when I achieve some physical feat, I feel so good. My victories are most often unrecognized by anyone but myself because most people won’t understand what an achievement it is to stand for two hours, something I did this morning at an event I was volunteering for.

But the internal victories can be the most meaningful. This morning, standing on an assembly line pouring rice and soy into bags for kids in Africa who need school lunches, I silently told my body, “Shut up!” when it started screaming at me to sit down, and then I silently celebrated after I successfully did the task before me. I really wanted to be a part of this day without calling attention to my body’s complex needs.

I don't ignore chronic pain daily

Much of coping well with rheumatoid arthritis comes from the perspective you carry with you because your perspective shapes your emotions, which shapes your behavior. I like to have the perspective that even though I’ve lived with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for forty-eight years, I can still tell my body to shut up.

But every once in awhile, I need to show myself that I can

I know that Jens isn’t doing this every day, he is doing this when it counts, on race day. So, I’m not ignoring my body’s signals on a daily basis; I know this is a recipe for creating a flare-up and extreme physical burn-out. Most of my days are paced and include rest and movement. But every once in awhile, I need to show myself that I can.

“Shut up, body!” Those three words tell me that despite my pain, my fatigue, my joint damage, my weakness, I am as strong on the inside as Jens, riding his bike over a mountain pass. Just like Jens, I can push myself physically, and for me, that is a win every time.

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