A woman sweats while walking her dog outside

Overexercise-Induced RLS

Last updated: March 2022

“I’m taking lunch. Can we take the dog on a walk?” he said, and my dog, Lucy, lifted her head and her ears perked up.

“Great! How long do you have?” I asked.

“An hour,” he said. “Let’s go to the top!”

I didn't want to seem weak, so I agreed

The top that he was referring to was a small park at a summit in my neighborhood that is apparently an inactive volcano. There’s several ways to access the park. There are three ways I’ve found that involve walking on the road, each with various grades and none of which is the most direct way. The most direct way is on the staircases, very narrow paths with wooden stairs jammed into the dirt.

“Okay, but if we go to the top, it’ll take your whole break. Don’t you want to eat?” I say.

He pulls out his phone. “It’ll take 17 minutes to get to the top and less to get down.”

“It takes me an hour round-trip.”

“Because you don’t take the stairs.”

“Because I don’t like taking the stairs. Lucy tries to get all the squirrels and pulls me and it’s not fun and my shins hurt.”

“I’ll take Lucy. Come on!”

His smile was so pleasant, and I didn’t want to be a stick in the mud and didn’t want to seem weak or unattractive or unathletic, so I agreed.

Not everyone is on the 'gentle movement' bandwagon

He took the dog and walked up the hill on my street at a fast clip. He’s a runner. He’s athletic. I was out of breath almost immediately.

“Hey,” I said, “either we can go at your pace and I’m not going to be very good company, or if you can stand it, we can go at my pace and I’ll have a better time.”

“I’ve already slowed my pace,” he said and kept walking.

I panted. He also got out of breath as we plateaued briefly, but he likes being out of breath. He likes the feeling of pushing his body. He is not on the “gentle movement” bandwagon. He likes to feel the weakness leaving his body.

My shins were killing me, despite my medications

As we approached the final ascent, I knew this was the part with the steepest grade. My shins were killing me. They’re nearly impossible to stretch so the only thing for them is not making them too mad. They’d been doing better lately since I’d been focusing on gentle movement and had switched medications to one that’s better for RLS.

We made it to the top. It wasn’t a particularly clear day so you couldn’t see the mountains. At sunset in the summer, this place is a hopping picnic spot. On foggy mornings, it looks like a misty mystery. Today it was just gray. I was very sweaty. I didn’t really appreciate the view.

Overexercise worsened my RLS symptoms

Anyway, he wasn’t here for the view. He took us home via another staircase, a very steep and direct route down. My dog nearly pulled him down the stairs in pursuit of a creature, but we made it home in 40 minutes.

That night, I slept terribly. My legs were going crazy, something they hadn’t done since I was on my old medication. I felt the need to kick and throw off the blankets.

The next day, my muscles were tight; but it was a nice day, so I walked the dog, trying the “fast way” again, but slower. It was painful, but I took a picture of the mountain and showed it to him, feeling the need to prove myself.

The increase in my symptoms took a week to reset

That night was another bad RLS night. My walk the next day, a short one, hurt.

It was several days before I could walk up a hill without my legs hurting. I was sleep-deprived, creating a loop of RLS that took me a full week to reset with good sleep and gentle exercise.

Advocating for myself against social pressure

I’d overdone it. The social pressure had done me in.

I need to be a better advocate for myself, even if it means admitting I’m not as good at climbing mountains as other people. I need to stand up for myself so I can stand on top of the mountain and enjoy the view and the journey.

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