Crohn’s and the Endurance Athlete

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend. Today I have a little something different for you… and I hope you can learn a little something from it!

Last week was Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (sorry a little late…oops). Someone very close to me has been affected by Crohn’s disease. They also just so happen to be the very same person who introduced me to the world of running, cycling, and duathlons. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the GI tract.

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This would be my boyfriend, Drew who has been living with the disease for the past 5 years. He was kind enough to let me interview him and share his experience through diagnosis and living with the disease currently for this post. Drew started getting into cycling and duathlons a few years ago, and has been able to keep training and competing despite this annoying disease. Our hope in this little interview is to maybe enlighten others on the fact that you can certainly tackle the endurance world if you have Crohn’s.

When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s?

I was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s in August of 2007, which was my freshman year of college. I had been dealing with extreme fatigue symptoms and bowel issues for a few months before blood work finally showed that I was extremely anemic for a guy my age even lower than a girl. After that they ordered a colonoscopy and once they put both of those together they realized I had Crohn’s. Mine happens to mostly effect my lower GI tract.

Did  these symptoms occur out of no where or had you always had stomach issues?

I feel like they really came out of nowhere. I never had stomach issues growing up and they hit me all of a sudden.

How was the first year of dealing with Crohn’s?

Actually after the diagnosis, my whole freshman year the symptoms were under control. I was on a type of anti inflammatory. However, for whatever reason, right as the summer began I ended up with my worst flare up. I landed in the hospital for 6 days, no solid food had a colonoscopy and upper GI. Sometimes I go for a long time with no issues and then sometimes I feel like it wont stop. A couple months ago, I needed to go to the ER because the pain, cramping, and nausea in my stomach was unbearable. Once you start having a flare up and your stomach starts cramping you hope that its just something small and will go away. When they start getting extremely intense and you start vomiting and you can’t control it, you know you’re in trouble.

So, basically Crohn’s is very unpredictable. How does this affect your daily life?

It is very unpredictable. I know the foods that set me off but there are times where you could go from feeling great to absolute crap in about 30 seconds. It affects my daily life being constantly worried on how your going to feel especially with important days and work. It sucks to always be tired and not know how your going to feel. Also, with the bowl problems that are associated with it…They can be unpredictable and embarrassing at times. When your in the bathroom for 15 minutes everyone knows what your doing… not fun.
Being that you are an endurance athlete, how does Crohn’s affect you during your training or race performance?
Well obviously low iron (anemia) means less oxygen to muscles which is counter productive to anything endurance related. Days when your just so tired makes training extremely difficult or impossible. Also, crohns is trigered by stress so when race day comes around your nervous that stress might set off a reaction or symptoms which is the last thing any one wants.  Long training rides where you go for 3 hours can be really tough because you hope you don’t have to go to the bathroom and your out in the middle of no where. Really just trying to keep up with people who are equally trained and in equal shape makes it difficult when your anemic and tired your just at a disadvantage at any endurance sport when you have low iron. I take iron supplements but they are very rough on the stomach and really don’t seem to make a dramatic difference so it gets frustrating.

Well, that doesn’t sound fun… What is it that gets your through the tough training and what keeps you doing it?
I like to do it. I enjoy riding bikes. I’m part of a group in PA and I’ve met so many great people who share the same interest. Riding a bike is a great stress relief and gives you a different perspective of things around you that you dont get while in a car. It something i can do with my father and we both love spending time together.
DrewDuBike
So basically you giving a big screw you to Crohn’s and doing what you like right?
Exactly! You can’t live everyday afraid to get out of bed becasue your scared about how your going to feel. If you let it control you your just going to go insane.The first time I was in the hospital my parents and friends where very scared and nervous for me. But my rationale is that it could always be worse and i could have some worse disease or illness. Thats what i say to myself every time (or almost every time. Sometimes you cant but help feel a little sorry for yourself) it could always be worse. Im lucky i have parents that help me and have taken me to doctor appointments, found me doctors, driven me to the ER at 3:30 in the morning and ruined a camping trip. Oh, and an amazing girlfriend who helps me and understands that I just have bad days. (I didn’t pay him to say that- I swear 😉 )
Any tips for people with Crohn’s or GI issues who want to try endurance sports?
You can’t let it control you. Your going to have bad days and those are the days where the bike stays leaning against the wall and the running shoes stay in the closet. And you just have to say to yourself that tomorrow will be better and I’ll go after it tomorrow. Im not a sponsored athlete and no one is paying me to do this. I do it because  I enjoy it and you can’t let Crohn’s ruin it for you! You just have to listen to your body. If your feeling good, go for it. If your feeling crappy (haha- sorry), cut it back.
DrewDuRun
  • Any questions? I hope you all learned something and for anyone dealing with the disease know that you can also do endurance sports. Drew has gladly agreed to answer any questions you might have 🙂
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Guest Post from Run Like a Grl: Path to Fitness

Hi, as you may know- I’m at THE BEACH for the week. I have a lovely post from Megan, who has been my fellow blog friend and Sweat Pink Sister 🙂 I enjoy chatting with Megan about all things fitness, running, cycling..whatever- you name it! Enjoy-it’s a great post about her own fitness journey!

Hi! My name is Megan and I blog over at Run Like a Grl. When Katie asked me to write a guest post, I was thrilled since this will be my first guest blogging experience! She and I have been blog buddies for a while now and both enjoy fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle. Similar to Katie, I like to try all types of fitness, from group classes to cycling… but my main passion is running. It has become a huge part of my life and helped me become the person I am today. In the past I was unhealthy and unmotivated, but am thankful to have since put that part of my life behind me. How did I do that, you ask?Well first let me tell you a little bit about myself and my path to fitness.

I was always an athlete growing up so I was always on the move. When I went to college I stopped playing sports and fell out of my normal exercise routine, and at the same time stopped taking care of myself. I gained a bit of weight, ate poorly, and didn’t care to improve my lifestyle even though I knew it was unsustainable.

Another piece of information you should know is that I have always had back pain, ever since I was in high school. Eventually during college I had tests done and found out that I have degenerative disc disease. This is a condition where the discs between the vertebrae degenerate faster than normal and can eventually lead to severe back pain, nerve impingement, and even can require a spinal fusion in severe cases. I asked the doctor what I could do to slow down the progression of this condition. The main preventative strategy he shared was simple: maintain a healthy weight and stay active.

Biking around NYC

When I got home from the doctor’s office that day, I realized that I was putting my future at risk with my current lifestyle. I also saw friends of mine eating well, exercising, and being confident in who they were. I wanted to be like them and also wanted to be able to do the things I love as long as possible. This was all the motivation I needed. Right then and there I decided to make a change, so I started eating healthy and making the right choices. I turned down fried food and picked up veggies and fruits instead.

I also began running… and haven’t stopped since. And that has made all the difference. Running became one of the greatest loves of my life and helped me feel strong, healthy and capable of achieving anything. Since I started eating right and exercising, I have been able to lose and maintain an almost 40 pound weight loss. I don’t even recognize the unhealthy girl I was before.

Since 2011 when I began to transition to a healthy lifestyle, I have run three half marathons and countless smaller races, signed up for a 200 mile relay race, started hiking, bought a bike, and began taking group fitness classes. For me, it has been important to keep things exciting in my routine by including variety into workouts. Plus for an injury prone person like me (hello, old lady bones!), crosstraining helps to work many different muscle groups to prevent injury. I have also learned a lot about food and know that just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good!

Although it unfortunately took a medical issue to scare me into becoming fit, I did have to become motivated internally to change my life. This can be difficult for anyone, but especially for someone like me who was minimally active for so long. What made the difference for me was finding something I loved, setting goals, and working until I achieved them. Here’s some other tips for anyone else looking to make some positive changes and lead a healthier lifestyle!

me with my sisters! yay for fitness!

Tips for transitioning to a healthy lifestyle:

-Read blogs and social media! Seriously, this was a major factor in helping me get and stay motivated. Becoming a part of an online fitness blogging community has helped keep me motivated, introduced me to new types of food, fitness, and running tips, and allowed for the realization that I no longer have to go through things alone.

-Try new foods. There are so many cool health food companies and healthy recipes, mix up your routine so you don’t get bored. For example, try making green smoothies!

Explore multiple areas of fitness. I used to be an elliptical queen but I would get bored and stop going to the gym. Now I run, cycle, hike, lift weights, and attend group classes and I’ve never been bored. There’s so much to try!

Encourage others around you to be healthier too.

It’s easier when you have help from people you spend a lot of time with, like family and friends. If they eat poorly or don’t exercise, you are more likely to do the same. Try to get your friends to workout with you once in a while as a start and support one another in your goals. Its also more fun to exercise with other people 🙂

Don’t snack at night and get lots of sleep.

These are two main culprits of weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle. Sleep is extra important because it is your body’s way of recovering.

Everything in moderation.

This is important! Fad diets work for a short time but aren’t good for long-term. You CAN eat that cookie, just in moderation. Make sure to eat a balanced diet but also treat yourself once in a while to something you love. Also, if you exercise, never cut out carbs completely. You need them for energy.

Most importantly, you have to be self-motivated.

Nobody can tell you when you are ready to make a change, only you know!

Aspire to be HEALTHY**

Exercising and eating right to look good will help you get started but its not sustainable in the long run… it has to come from within. Aspire to be healthy and you will be more likely to change your habits in a long-lasting way.

I’m so glad to have gotten the opportunity to share this with all of you. Hope you are inspired to implement some of these strategies and make a change. Tell me some of your own tips and things you have learned along the way.

Go check out my Guest Post!

HI everyone! It’s Sunday! How does the weekend fly by so quickly!? But per usual, my weekend has been entirely uneventful…just full of me working!! Can’t complain about my job much…

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I sell beer. On a golf cart. What could be better??

I just wanted to check in today and tell you that I got the incredible opportunity to write a guest post for a Sweat Pink Sista and a blog I read everyday:

Maren’s Morsels!

So,please go on over and check it out! Also, with that Maren is hosting an AWESOME give away so go and enter! Who wouldn’t want to win a cute little fish bowl for your morning oatmeal!? You won’t want to miss it! 🙂 And with that, I’ll be back tomorrow! Enjoy your day. I don’t know about you, but it’s beautiful weather here! 🙂

Guest Post!

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying your weakend so far, its a beautiful day here! I plan on getting my sweat on later..maybe a run..or bike? Possibly some yoga cause I am extremely sore from all that squatting in body pump!

Today I had the opportunity to write a guest post for Michelle at Blogitness! She is a fellow Sweat Pink Ambassador and I’m so excited for the opportunity! So anyways, please go check it out. I wrote about how I got into the multi-sport world! Check it out, and let me know how you like it!

Enjoy your weekend 🙂

Guest Post: Balancing Act

Today I’m very excited to bring your a guest post! Alex wrote up a great post on the importance of trying (key point) to keep balance in your life.

I am so excited to be guest posting for Katie, I immediately emailed her once she put the option out there. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Alex over at The Run Within. I am a new blogger yet have been reading blogs for quite some time. I decided to blog because of this amazing community I saw in the blogger world, one that gave advice and support on such a large scale. As my blog tagline says, I am a laughing, running, eating with celiac filled girl just about to graduate from college to entering the work force.

This transition is one that is going to shake up my life in big ways so what better guest post to do than one about BALANCE.

Does balance exist?

I used to ask myself this a lot. I lived a jam packed, stress heavy, goal focused life. Yes, there was a lot that came out of that. I got good grades, was in leadership positions… but I kept coming back to that question does balance exist?

Let’s be real, I am not the queen of moderation but I learned that this ‘happy place’ can exist. Balance to me means I am living a life that is fulfilling and enjoyable… Yes ENJOYABLE. For so long I told myself that success meant achieving something and being perfect. I have learned that success comes from self appreciation and patience. Balance has been found in many parts of my life and this I am so grateful for. This took breaking down my black and white thinking and beginning to understand the gray area. Heck, you can learn a lot about yourself in that gray area.

1. Balance in FRIENDSHIPS. I am not the biggest ‘open book’. I tend to hide and suppress my emotions.  I like to be alone. This made making those close friendships quite difficult.
I had this idea that I had to stand alone, I had to do everything for myself and that there was no one there to help me. Boy, was I wrong. Once I started breaking down that wall and allowing people to enter my world I found this dependence comforting. I realized the more I opened up, the more they would open up. It is important to take time for yourself, very important, but friends are what make life fun. With a friend, you will always have a shoulder to cry and a back to lean on. Where I would be without my friends today is hard to fathom.

2. Balance in RUNNING. When I wasn’t taking care of my body and not listening to its very smart cues, I got injured. I remember going to the doctor and him telling me that my pelvic bone stress fracture was usually seen in hardcore military personnel. Oh great. I am not going to sugar coat it, for someone who was used to running countless miles, this was devastating. HOWEVER, I needed this. I needed this rock bottom to realize the damage I was doing to my body. What I learned from six months of no running or exercise was that movement can come in many forms. I can finally say that I have a great balance in my daily activity, including one or two rest days, strength training and running. I do still prefer running but I am smart about my miles and training. I also listen to my body and if it isn’t feeling it, I obey. It is hard to admit but I am actually a much better runner now and have performed with faster times in my half marathons. Wait, my body is that smart? (Slaps the old Alex on the wrist!)

3. Balance in NOURISHMENT. It is hard to not compare what I eat now to what I ate when I was very sick with anorexia. What I see now are foods I once labeled ‘bad’ or ‘gross’ as daily staples in my diet. What I also see though is a stronger body, a more energized state, and a thriving personality. I let my eating disorder for so long dictate what I could and could not eat, I was miserable. It has been a process (and still a work in process) to find that balance with eating what I want, need and crave. Especially with being diagnosed with celiacs, I no longer use that as an excuse to feel unsatisfied. With this one, it is sometimes hard to not compare yourself to others. I get sucked into that trap sometimes but ground myself by understanding that my body needs something completely different than the female next to me.

4. Balance in ACHIEVEMENT. For so long, I thought I needed to succeed and be the best at everything I did. Not only that but I had to do A LOT. The idea of relaxing was not part of my vocabulary. However, I felt a burn out. A burn out of not enjoying even things I used to love and a burn out of a constant feeling of exhaustion. As hard as it was, I slowly began to commit myself to less. Guess what, I was actually happier! I felt like I had more of myself to give to the things I really wanted to do and even performed better in them. Coming out of inpatient treatment this summer and entering my last year in college, I knew I had to find a balance. Giving up my leadership position at a local non-profit was actually the best thing I did for myself. This semester I have returned to doing a few shifts there and I feel this renewed vigor I was lacking before.

5. Balance in BODY ACCEPTANCE. It would be a lie for me to say that I wakeup everyday loving my body. Far from it. But I don’t have to love my body to feel at peace with it. In the days that I truly am struggling to find that balance of body acceptance, I focus on the function it does like giving me arms that can extend around the shoulders of a best friend. It was difficult to go from such a distorted sense of what my body looked like to for once maintaining this healthy weight. I know comparing is my downfall so I consciously work on seeing my unique beauty for what it is rather than the stereotypical ideal that very few females naturally have.

Balance is a tough one. Not every day is full of balance but that is the beauty of it. Balance means that the good and bad equal out. Striving for balance is something I have worked on greatly the past year and something that has made me infinitely happier than I have ever been.

Thanks again Katie for letting me share this!

Thank you Alex for writing this for my blog! Now go check her out! This is a blog I read daily! I especially love the quote at the end, because it’s entirely true 🙂