Fitness Tips for People with a Chronic Illness
Instagram has become a huge platform for posting selfies in our workout clothes with a caption somewhere along the lines of ” Just finished…(insert your workout type).” I have found myself scanning through posts thinking to myself, “WOW, I wish I could look like that.” Now, I’m sure some of those pictures are edited or taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but all I can think is, “They look fabulous. I should work harder so I can look like that”.
Now, here’s where you will find this isn’t your average fitness tip— “You don’t need to work that hard.” The truth is, if you suffer with a chronic illness like I do, you can’t afford to push yourself. Let me elaborate.
You’re already more tired
Living with a chronic illness, minor or major, you will feel more tired than most people. You most likely suffer from lack of sleep, pain, or discomfort, and your body doesn’t absorb nutrients as easily as a normal functioning body does. When your body is already tired, the LAST thing it needs is to spend hours a day, 7 days a week, in the gym; you’re just setting your body up for a system overload.
Don’t look in the mirror
A lot of fitness instagrammers are working out mainly to do what? To be fit. No, there’s nothing wrong with being fit, and there’s nothing wrong with muscles and being toned ( I’m actually doing a weight-lifting program myself). The ultimate exercising goal for those with a chronic illness is simple— to better your overall health.
By working out, you are not only building endurance, but also improving strength, and improving blood flow in the body in order to kickstart your bodies organs and systems. So, instead of aiming to get that “perfect booty,” maybe set a more realistic goal when you first start out? Such as, yesterday I was able to workout 10 minutes, my next workout I will aim for 15, and so on and so forth.
Don’t over-do it
If you suffer with a chronic illness, then I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “Spoonie.” I LIVE by the spoonie theory. If not, I’ve put a link to an article here. The whole idea behind being a “Spoonie” is that you have only a certain amount of spoons that you’re able to use for the day, so what events or actions are you going to use those spoons on? Mainly, you prioritize.
Personally, for myself, I know that I can’t workout in the mornings, especially before work because it sends my body into a downward spiral with all of the other things I need to accomplish at work. Before I got married, I was able to workout 4-5 days a week; however, after the wedding with all the moving, I found it difficult to make my workouts a priority, and that’s okay. My body needed rest and rehab more than it needed a “butt lift.” I’m now aiming to get in at least 3 workouts a week!
DO skip your workouts
Listen to your body, if it’s screaming, you’re sore to the point where you can’t move, or you see some swelling, feel free to skip your workout. Yes, I went there! Just because you’re skipping a workout doesn’t mean you have to be still the entire day or be lazy; but, with the amount of chores, errands, and work we already have to handle, our bodies have quite enough to put up with. If you’re having a bad day, feel extra fatigued, or have more pain, then don’t be afraid to skip that day’s workout. It’ll be there waiting for you tomorrow.
Don’t get discouraged
Just because you’re not where you want to be now doesn’t mean you won’t ever get there, because it just gives you more to strive for. If there’s one thing that my body has taught me, it has been to be patient. All good things take time. Whether it’s a supplement, medication, or even a workout, all good things take TIME. Don’t get discouraged because the person next to you is at a higher level than you. Encourage that person; but, not only that, encourage yourself knowing that you’re doing YOUR best. Although your best isn’t their best, that’s okay, because we’re focused on you.
Forget restricted dieting
Chances are, if you’re a spoonie, then you already have plenty of food sensitivities. The last thing you need is to take more food out of your diet. Don’t look at food like it’s the enemy, but your friend. Food is fuel, so don’t forget that. You can’t live a healthy lifestyle if you’re not feeding your body the proper nutrients it needs. Skip fad dieting, eat whole foods, and just make smart choices.
The funny thing about fitness is that sometimes people approach it like everyone’s body is the same, and we all know that simply isn’t true. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. Just because Susan can bench press doesn’t mean you need to bench press. Look at your body as a whole— be different. If the workout program you chose is too intense for you, then modify it. If you feel like 3 days a week is too much for you, then cut down to 2. The most important thing to remember though, is…DO NOT QUIT.