Sometimes it’s more about what you don’t know. Yet.
10 years ago, before I knew better about exercising with chronic conditions (this was before any kind of diagnosis, I just knew something was very wrong), I worked out hard. Like, Real hard.. I was a new trainer and got pretty deep into Crossfit culture where I used “Murph” as a benchmark workout and pushed myself past my limits to the point of nausea or worse regularly.
Murph is a 1 mile run to start, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, and 300 squats followed by another 1 mile run. I was obsessed with getting my time to under an hour and designed my workout regime to get to that goal. Not knowing how much a traumatic brain injury, interstitial cystitis, IBS, pelvic floor dysfunction, a 13 mm kidney stone lodged in my bladder, and exercise induced anxiety was impacting me (after all exercise is a form of stress that can raise cortisol levels substantially, especially if you’re already in a lot of pain).
I just didn’t have space for anything while I was recovering from maximum output. I couldn’t know what I didn’t know, yet. My temper was shorter for a couple days after those intense workouts and I wasn’t that much fun to be around.
My mentality at the time was that all exercise, no matter how intense, was good for me because I judged my output by how exhausted, sweaty, sore, and depleted from my amazing workout that “it must be the right thing to do”. It wasn’t, and the harder I worked, the less great I felt, but I pushed and I pushed, until I would find myself in another flare and forced to stop, again.
Had I been a person who was otherwise healthy, it probably would have been fine, but I wasn’t otherwise healthy and working out that hard was impacting me in unpleasant ways, no matter how perfect I had my food and macros on my strict Paleo (keto) diet.
I often get similar feedback when I’m talking to people about how their workouts are going with their chronic condition. I hear things like, “I just can’t do as much as I used to and it doesn’t make me happy anymore so I stopped”. But here’s the thing, exercise is an asset in most cases and brings a host of mental and physical health benefits, but our perception of exercise can be skewed. Stopping isn’t the answer, changing what works for us is.
Which begs the question, why are we exercising? In my case 10 years ago, it was more ego than health related. I just wanted to hit that 60 minute mark and would do whatever it took to get there. I’d lost sight of my long term vision of being healthier and replaced it with short term ego driven goals of pushing past all the pain because if I had 6-pack abs and a sculpted body, I’d have to be healthy.