Have you ever been asked, “Don’t you think that might be a little too much physical activity for someone with IBD?” If you were an active person before you were diagnosed or your disease has led you to wanting a more active life, there is a chance you will always have friends and family who are nervous about how hard you’re pushing your body.
What they don’t understand is that movement and exercise are extremely healthy for us in many ways — not only physically but mentally. Whether we are getting out of a hospital bed to walk for the first time after surgery or getting out of bed at home to train for a half marathon, there is a sense of accomplishment. Being active gives us purpose and allows us to feel normal.
So how do we balance an active lifestyle with our loved ones’ concern? This isn’t always easy but here are a few suggestions that might help.
Get used to telling others “I know my body,” and make sure they believe it. After living with a chronic disease for a period of time, we learn what we can and can’t do. We learn that there will be good days and there will be bad days. It’s on us to make sure that our family and friends know that we are not pushing beyond our limits and will always listen to our bodies. Once they understand that we’ll always make the smart decision, they’ll give us more freedom.
Show them what we can do. “Are you really going to run a half marathon for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation? Are you sure that’s a smart decision?” If our loved ones question one of our goals, make sure they are able to see us accomplish it, either in person or via social media. Witnessing the amazing things we are able to do will allow them to feel more confident in our physical ability.
Plan and prepare for everything. Our loved ones want us to live a full life but they are just a little nervous because they have seen us go through so much. Put their minds at ease by making sure they all know we’re not only planning everything out, but are prepared for anything. A good example is when I am training for my triathlons. All of my loved ones know that when I am out on a long bike ride or run I have plenty of hydration and nutrition with me and am prepared for any situation.
Take your time. Our family and friends might hear we’ve signed up for a race or are planning a long hike and think we’re jumping in head first. Make sure they know that we’re taking it slow and building our strength up. Yes, we might have registered for a half marathon but we’re not just going out and running 13.1 miles on our first day of training. If they know we’re building up to our goal over the correct amount of time, they’ll be more inclined to support us.
Be open and honest. Lastly, we need to be able to communicate with our family and friends who support us. They will always be there for us but if we do push ourselves too far, they won’t be thrilled either. Communicate how we’re feeling and what is going on with our bodies at all times. It will make it easier for our loved ones to help us through the down days, and push us to go after our goals on the good days. I update my family and friends constantly during my 70.3-mile half-Ironman triathlon training. If I didn’t it would drive them crazy. Share everything with them and see yourself succeed with them cheering the entire time.
In the end, it’s our life: We can do whatever we like with it. But if we want to keep our bodies moving and enjoy the activities we love, we need to include our family and friends in the journey. They love us and want to see us as happy and healthy as possible. The important thing is taking the proper steps to communicate with them, bring them onto our team, and letting them know that not only is everything going to be okay, it’s going to be better than it would be if we sat on the couch and rested all day.
Brian Greenberg was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 11. His freshman year of college, he began a roller coaster ride of flares, hospitals stays, major surgeries, and more, with brief breaks of good health. After having an ostomy surgery 6 years ago, making it permanent 3 years ago, he is happy with his quality of life and enjoys helping others with their health journeys. When his health cooperates, he enjoys triathlons, hiking, climbing, skiing, and more.