Serious Fitness Inspo for People With Psoriatic Disease

These athletes with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are doing everything possible to stay in the game—and they're using Instagram to make sure you do, too.

by Matt McMillen Health Writer

If you have psoriasis (PsO) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA), your fitness goals can vary from day to day. Hitting the gym or participating in any kind of sport can seem impossible at times—especially if just walking a few steps some mornings feels like an insurmountable hurdle.

Need some inspiration to try? Meet the nine athletes who just might motivate you to stick to your own workout wish list, whatever it may include. Some are pros, some are just like you. What do they all have in common? They’re all living with psoriatic disease and the chronic inflammation that comes with it. But these action heroes know how exercise can reduce stress—a frequent psoriasis trigger—even as it helps keep joints healthy. Read on and maybe you, too, will move from the couch to the net, weight room, golf course, or pool.

@abymarano

Name: Abigail Maraño

Age: 29

Location: Antipolo City, Philippines

A professional volleyball player, Abigail Maraño (whose 187K followers know her as Aby) learned she had psoriasis just last year. In her sport a lot of skin is on display, so, like it or not, her flares are, too. She still plays, and plays hard, but her condition—and people’s reaction to it—can be a challenge. “I had to overcome my insecurities. I had to accept how people can be rude about me and my disease. I had to deal with people who don’t have knowledge about psoriasis. I had to stay positive even if it wasn’t easy,” she wrote in a New Year’s Eve post in her popular IG feed, which features a fun rotation of smiling selfies, celebrations at the net, and, yes, more than a few unapologetic—and super-confident!—bikini shots.

Favorite quote: “Now, I’m so proud that I am ending this year STRONG and entering 2020 with a brave heart. I may have psoriasis, but PSORIASIS DOESN’T HAVE ME! I MADE IT! To all my skinmates, hang in there.”

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Nung 2018, akala ko yun na yung pinakamahirap. Hindi pa pala. 2019 has surprised me with lots of challenges and this one was a blast. I was diagnosed to have a lifetime skin condition, Psoriasis. It is a chronic disease that often comes and goes. There is no cure for psoriasis, but we can manage the symptoms. Life changing ito kasi kinailangan kong piliin maging positibo araw-araw kahit sa pinakamahirap at nakakalungkot na sitwasyon just to avoid stress. Stress and unhealthy lifestyle may trigger my sickness. I had to overcoming my insecurities, I had to accept how people can be rude about me and my disease, I had to deal with people who doesn’t have knowledge about psoriasis, I had to stay positive even if it wasn’t easy at all, I had to deal receiving profanity and awful words from people who cannot accept me for who I am when I play ball, I had to apply ointments with steroids plus moisturizing lotion every damn day and I’ve undergone Phototherapy to cure the patches around me. I also had to go through an intense diet because I was only allowed to eat salad, fruits and gluten free food the whole 3 months of my rebuilding stage. Wala na ngang lasa pagkain ko, I went crazy pa for all the expensive food and medicines. 🤪 Now, I’m so proud that I am ending this year STRONG and entering 2020 with a brave heart. 10th photo is a proof that there’ still miracle today. I may have psoriasis but PSORIASIS DON’T HAVE ME! I MADE IT! To all, my skinmates, hang in there. Darating yung araw na mawawala rin sila, maaaring bumalik pero kailangan talaga magtiyagang dumisiplina. Stay positive kasi hindi tayo nakakahawa. Mess up then get back up. Just live your life and always choose to be happy. ♥️😆🤪😂 LAUGH MORE it’s the best medicine after all. HAPPY NEW YEAR 🥳 #Psoriasis #PsoriasisWarrior

A post shared by Abigail Palmares Maraño (@abymarano) on

@psoriasis_bodybuilder

Name: Mohammed Khan

Age: 22

Location: Toronto, Canada

Mohammed Khan learned he had plaque psoriasis in 2017. The disease has made its mark on his hands, legs, torso, back, and elsewhere on his body. Living with it at first brought anxiety and depression, and, like Aby Maraño, he often felt he was being judged when others looked at him. Instead of slipping into despair, he decided to get fit.

Weighing in at 300 pounds three years ago, he’s now a seriously cut 180. He doesn’t drink anymore. He no longer smokes. He manages stress through reading, prayer, and meditation. And Khan shares his story to lift up others all around the world. His IG feed chronicles his physical transformation, and displays evidence of his disease flares, too. “I am doing it through Instagram, YouTube videos, and TikTok,” he says. “There are many out there—including myself when I was first diagnosed—with psoriasis who stay in a dark place. Raising awareness is super important for me to help others feel part of a bigger community, a movement.” Join him and his nearly 1,300 followers—and know that when it comes to PsO, you’re not in this alone.

Favorite quote: “You can still train, you can still push your body, you can be the person you want to be.”

@miss_beach27

Name: Jessica Beach

Age: 31

Location: Tulsa, OK

Three years ago, at age 28, Jessica Beach of Tulsa, OK, got an unwanted diagnosis: She learned she had PsO and PsA—and celiac disease, too. But it explained the pain and fatigue she’d been experiencing for several years, which her doctors had previously dismissed. At first, Beach, a military veteran, gave up on living a normal life, she says. Then, “something clicked for me. I determined that I was not going to allow my disease control me any longer.” Her regular workouts helped her manage her inflammation. Last year, she joined a Ninja Warrior gym and began to compete. Beach says now, “My drive pushes me to keep going, even when it gets hard. I hope I can help others find this drive to improve their own quality of life, health, and overall well-being.” With an IG feed that features a powerful mix of Beach bench-pressing free weights, owning the Elliptical machine, and deadlifting heavy iron from a deep squat, we know you’re gonna get inspired. If you follow her lead, you might even get ripped.

Favorite quote: “Between lifting weights and Ninja Warrior, I am in the best shape of my life.”

@swimdara

Name: Dara Torres

Age: 52

Location: Boston

You know Dana Torres as the 12-time Olympic medal winner who broke three world records as a freestyle swimmer, but this badass in the pool admits she felt embarrassed when, in 1992, she first noticed the tell-tale red, itchy, scaly patches of psoriasis on her back and elbow. And when you wear nothing but a swimsuit on the world stage—she was training for the summer games in Barcelona at the time—you can’t hide from the cameras or the eyes of your fellow athletes. “My biggest worry was people seeing this and thinking they could get it because they touched me,” Torres told Parade. Instead of covering up, she opened up: Her IG feed is long on sweaty workout pics, sweet mommy moments, and pure athleticism defying her age (in 2008 she was the oldest swimmer, at 41, to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team), all of which thrill her 10K swim-fan followers.

Favorite Quote: “I haven't let my #psoriasis stop me from doing the things I love and you shouldn't either!”

@skinfighters

Name: Marisa Rudder

Age: 29

Location: Vancouver, Canada

Marisa Rudder lives a good 2,700 miles away from fellow Canuck Mohammed Khan. But they’ve shared some of the same experiences: “People with psoriasis tend to be very isolated because they can’t bear the stares, pointing, or criticism of others,” says Rudder, 29, author of the book Psoriasis Warrior. She was diagnosed with both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis at age 5. The pain caused by her PsA robbed her of her dream to be an Olympic track and field athlete, but good luck finding anyone fitter on IG. Through her feed, Skinfighters, she not only tracks her own story through videos and photos of her intense workouts—couch potatoes, you’ve been warned!—she also highlights the stories of others contending with psoriasis, sharing helpful nutrition and wellness tips to promote good health and healing to her roughly 10K followers.

Favorite Quote: “To all Psoriasis Warriors brave enough to change the narrative that we have to remain outcasts, covered in breakouts, I salute you!!!”

@Craigbedford

Name: Craig Bedford

Age: 31

Location: Gloucester, UK

For years, Craig Bedford’s doctors told him that over-training at the gym caused his joint pain. He couldn’t get them to take him seriously, and he lived with the fallout. “In the beginning, I had to call my Mum to come and put my socks on, as I couldn’t bend over, or even to put on a t-shirt, as I couldn’t raise my shoulder,” says Bedford. “Mentally, it was very hard.” He finally received a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis in 2016. It took a few more years to get settled on an effective medication. But he pushed forward. Working out was always a big part of it. Now the head coach at a CrossFit gym in his hometown, and founder/owner of the Rocket PWR athletic clothing line, Bedford wants to share his experiences with others who have PsA through an IG feed that pumps up his 2,900 followers and fellow gym rats. “I got hit head on—ankle, knee, lower back, shoulders—but I could always tailor my training to suit me,” Bedford says. “Medication controls it the majority of the time. I still have flareups, and this happens even with the meds, but I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t.”

Favorite quote: “My body allows me to do a heck of a lot of stuff. Yours will, too, if you allow it.”

@philmickelson

Name: Phil Mickelson

Age: 49

Location: Rancho Santa Fe, CA

When you swing a golf club for a living, joint pain can put you out of a job, or even take you off the pro circuit. Not so fast, says Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson—he drives to excel on and off the green. Diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2010, Mickelson refused to let this sometimes disabling condition take him out of the game. Even when, during the early days of battling the disease, he was unable to walk due to the intense pain in his joints and tendons. But early treatment helped prevent permanent damage and led to big improvements in his symptoms—not to mention his achievements: In 2011, he was ranked number 3 in the world. The next year, he earned his 40th PGA tour win. And just last year, Mickelson became the oldest golfer to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. (Attracting 753K Instagram followers who eagerly await his next post, putt, chip, punch, and layup is no small feat, either.)

Favorite quote: “Random acts of kindness have helped me greatly on my journey and I’ll never forget them.”

@britnicooke

Name: Britni Cooke

Age: 28

Location: Pensacola, FL

An event planner, Britni Cooke learned she had PsA two years ago. “The major challenges summed up would be: keeping up with my fitness and weight loss journey, and staying positive—while my body constantly told me that I couldn't,” she says before adding, “2018 was a HARD year.” Clearly, she cleared many of those hurdles. She lifts, runs competitive obstacle courses—and kicks some serious butt as she goes back for more. And she does it for more than just the muscles: “Being an athlete for me has been more about my mind than my body,” she muses. “The result of getting more fit, more cut and lean is fantastic. And I love seeing those results—but my mind has never been this right before. The gym is my sanity point.”” Why does she share so much of herself on Instagram with her 1,200 followers? “I will not shut up about my progress and my successes because it took me a lot of hard work to get there, and someone else out there needs to know that they can do it, too.”

Favorite quote: “I never want another person to feel alone in this type of journey, like the way I felt.”

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“holy shit it’s been a year.” - me like 10 minutes ago. • it has been an entire year since i have been pain free, swelling free and fully able to challenge myself/my body to do fucking amazing things. • people aren’t wrong when they say a year can make all the difference. but i made the choice to make that difference. i was/still am determined to live by: i am a product of my decisions. not my circumstances. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 “ #psoriaticarthritis had been a devil in me. TRYING to knock down any hopes and dreams i had about my fitness journey. december 2018 basically said 🖕🏻 off to that nonsense. i was able to fully embrace every fucking challenge i wanted. from my @spartanrace trifecta, competing in my first #crossfit competition and sticking to a consistent routine in the gym. i’ve learned so much more about how my body reacts to certain foods, gut health, inflammatory foods, so on and so forth. insane amount of trial/error, research and implementation, i dig it. 🤙🏻 • physically... i have changed. but let’s talk about my mental state. my determination hasn’t changed. i’ve learned over and over again: patience is a form of action. and i tested that every 👏🏻 damn 👏🏻 day 👏🏻. the uncertainty that each day rolled out made me anxious. BUT literally everything i wanted out of this beautiful life i live, stood on the other side of my fear. the only thing i could and still can control is my attitude and my effort. i stayed so fucking committed that i sat with uncomfortable growth and change. • a year later... and i can truly say, i dropped all excuses and and am continually stepping into the person who makes me the most proud. don’t underestimate me because i’m going to rise as the whole damn fire. • reminder: be fucking grateful for what is standing right in front of you. don’t back down from any challenge you are presented with. meet fear head on. don’t let the negative emotions define you. and just because you might not be where you thought you would, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. live your life, proudly and enthusiastically. • “be fearlessly authentic”

A post shared by Britni Cooke (@britnicooke) on

@erinsfittlife

Name: Erin Taylor

Age: 25

Location: Liverpool, UK

Nearly 10 years ago, Erin Taylor’s PsA left her unable to walk most days. “It used to be that bad. I couldn't bend or straighten my legs,” says Taylor. It’s hard to tell when you check out her pictures on her Instagram feed that attracts nearly 33K followers. She credits her improvement with getting strong: “Weight lifting has helped me more than anything. You need to keep moving—I think that's the key. Constantly moving, performing dynamic stretches, and weightlifting helps the synovial fluid move around the joints.” A full-time personal trainer, Erin shares toned selfies, plus photo logs her workouts with the aim of inspiring others with PsA to get off the couch and into the gym, or least to their very own workout mats. “I hope to help others by offering as much support as possible, such as dynamic stretches to help with movement, posting exercises that may help others if they aren't too sure what to do, and just by keeping positive and motivational!” From the look of her IG feed? Mission accomplished.

Favorite quote: “Soz arthritis, you ain't gunna stop me now 👏feeling so motivated and so proud of myself lately.”

Matt McMillen
Meet Our Writer
Matt McMillen

Matt McMillen has been a freelance health reporter since 2002. In that time he’s written about everything from acupuncture to the Zika virus. He covers breaking medical news and the latest medical studies, profiles celebrities, and crafts easy to digest overviews of medical conditions. His work has appeared, both online and in print, in The Washington Post, WebMD Magazine, Diabetes Forecast, AARP, and elsewhere.