Go ahead, call me crazy. You wouldn’t be the first (or the last). But if to be “crazy” is to want a better life, to believe in a better life, and to work for a better life, then I proudly claim “crazy.” Let me back up a bit. I have a chronic illness. I have lived with Crohn’s Disease, an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, since 2001, when I was diagnosed at 13. This was long before I ran for pleasure, or even as part of a fitness routine. In fact, when I was first diagnosed (and even for some time after, until I was stable), I had a doctor’s note to excuse me from certain running requirements in P.E. because of the stress it would place on my body.
So why do I continue to run? And why do I think that you might benefit from pursuing your own running and fitness program? Here are three ways that running has majorly benefited my life with a chronic illness.
Note: Please consult with your personal doctor and specialists before commencing any exercise or fitness programs. This is why running has worked for myself, but my body is my own. Therefore, you must take care to treat your body’s particular circumstances!
There are a great number of studies that support the health benefits of responsible running. The key is responsible running. That means adding in cross-training, doing yoga, not over-exercising, and fueling properly, among others. Many of us with chronic illnesses have also frequently been put on steroids, which make us increasingly susceptible for osteoporosis. Strength training and weight-bearing exercise is excellent for slowing that process down. Furthermore, cardiovascular fitness, maintaining a healthy weight, and the numerous other results of a proper and responsible program helps your body work more efficiently and in a more balanced manner (hormones and circulatory systems included!). Though many people might fear you will lose weight, training actually helps me with putting on weight through proper nutrition, muscle building, and hunger!
As a Crohn’s patient, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring my body’s cries for help, from the smallest whimper to the largest wail. As a marathoner, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring my body’s cries for help, either! Marathon training and fitness has taught me to be an incredible listener to my body, from hunger cues to when it is crying wolf. That doesn’t mean that I always interpret those signals perfectly. However I am pretty darn good at it!
Living with a chronic illness is as much a mental game as it is physical, just like the marathon. Few experiences demonstrate just how interconnected the mind and body are like chronic illnesses and marathon training. In both cases, the two must be working in sync for optimal results. When one is off, the other likely follows suit. And yes, if you were wondering, you will reach “walls” in both treatment and races. But the mental toughness that you have developed during your training will help you push through to a winning result. On another note, marathoning in many ways helped me to push past some major fears of my body.
Now, a marathon might not be the answer for everyone. But any physical pursuit that involves that kind of dedication, structure, and just enough boundary-pushing will yield some similar results. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, surprise yourself, and live beyond expectation.
RELATED: Get Tough With These 5 Mental Race Strategies
About the Author
Susie Lemmer is the blogger behind Suzlyfe, a health, fitness, food, and life blog that focuses on living beyond expectation with a sense of humor and a pause for reflection. A NASM Certified Personal Trainer, 3-time marathoner, yogi, and former competitive horseback rider, she lives with her doctor husband and crazy cat in Chicago.