My Journey To Fitness With Chronic Illness

Reviewed by Phillip Waite, Ph.D.

Everyone knows exercise is important to living long and healthy life. With the rise of social networking and TV shows like the "Biggest Loser", more and more of my friends and family are rediscovering walking, running, biking and losing weight. As they say in Australia "good on ya!" but if you have a chronic illness exercise can be more complicated than putting on a pair of running shoes and hitting your favorite trail.

I'm no expert. I'm just sharing my experience. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.

I used to be in great shape physically. I spent 6 years in the Army in the 1980's and I was no stranger to the 6 minute mile, hundreds of push ups and sit ups. After the Army I continued to stay active in college - mountain biking in the summer, swimming and weight lifting during the school year. I didn't consider myself an athlete, I just enjoyed staying fit.

Then I got sick.

Over the last 17 years since my diagnosis, exercise has been difficult even during the best of times. Exercise was not a the top of my list when it came to getting well. I focused on raising my young family and staying as well as I could. Thanks to inactivity, age and medications, I gradually gained weight and my fitness continued to decline. Early on I could tell it was happening because it would take me longer to bounce back from the inevitable flares. But it really didn't hit me how out of shape I was until last Fall I was invited with a church youth group to hike a moderate 2-3 mile trail to a beautiful waterfall canyon here in the Rocky Mountains. My disease was under control and I felt good.... or so I thought. The first mile went fine. However, by the second mile I quickly found myself out of breath, dizzy, and a very scary pounding in my chest. I didn't know what was wrong, but I knew something wasn't right!

The memory of that experience has lingered with me ever since. Meanwhile, I discovered my blood pressure was skyrocketing and out of control. My doctor soon put me on medication to help control it. That was the final straw. I knew I had to make some changes. I determined to improve my fitness as soon as the weather improved and my health was stable.

Well, summer is here. The sun is out and the birds are singing here in the Rocky Mountain West after what can only be described as one of the longest, wettest, coldest and most brutal winters in recent memory. It's been hard to shake, even with improving weather. My health has been relatively good and my body yearns for the sun's extra dose of vitamin D to help wipe away the winter doldrums.

So I've decided to become more fit, eat a more healthy diet, and hopefully lose 10-15 pounds by the end of summer. All of this takes careful planning, pacing, and motivation. It's been a long time, so I'm making changes slowly to start.

I'll update you of my status and I can use all the cheer leading I can get. That's where the motivation comes in! That oh so important critical ingredient for success.

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