Well, why not? I want to and I can.
Many people question my rationale as to why I do so much exercise, particularly whilst being on TPN. Honestly? There are so many reasons, some personal, others less so.
Number 1 is probably the most crucial sport/ exercise makes me feel good. It helps keep me strong physically, provides great escapism, and is fantastic for my mental well-being.
I think that being fit and as healthy as possible is what helps me avoid so many complications and is great for symptom management. On paper, I shouldn’t be as able as I am, but I work hard to keep strong and it seems to pay dividends.
It gives me purpose and drive, things that are so often lost with chronic health problems.
I have a reason to get out of bed every day, something to work towards. The goal constantly evolves – doing the same exercise faster, or with a heavier weight etc… it’s never completed.
I can definitely tell the difference when I’ve not been training. I am fatigued whether I train or not, but the fatigue I experience from exercise ensures I sleep well and as a result helps me manage my underlying fatigue.
It is of course a balancing act. It is imperative I listen to my body, if it’s screaming for more sleep then that’s what it gets. If I have horrific DOMs then I adjust that day’s session to manage it. If my gastro symptoms are flaring, I focus on managing them. It’s the same for any athlete, you learn to adapt and respond to what you’re feeling. For me with unstable health, it’s an invaluable skill, it means I’m aware of when things are straying from my ‘normal’, and I can be proactive about my health.
It’s also a lesson in time management, trying to fit my degree, my training, medical treatments, appointments etc.… into the day or week, without overloading it and skipping important things like rest periods as well as everything that goes into being an adult aka paperwork!!
It’s also a learning experience, there’s more to any sport than just being able to do it. You need to master the skills, practice the smallest movements until you don’t have to think about them, learn how to manage pre-competition nerves, performance anxiety, and how to remain focussed during an event and training sessions. A major competition could be years away, but you have to give your all every training session as that can be the difference between Gold and Silver come match day.
You also learn how to manage setbacks, bad sessions, poor results, and injuries, working out how to continue contributing to your goals even if you can’t train like usual.
These are very handy tools for life, whether you have a disability to manage or not.
Away from personal development and enjoyment, there is the challenging of assumptions.
I once sat at a Gala Dinner celebration post International race and during a conversation with a newly qualified dietitian, she said to me, but you can’t row if you’re on TPN. I replied that she’d seen me compete therefore it must be possible. She reconsidered her stance and said it shouldn’t be possible. When I asked her why, she said that we are meant to be too sick. I explained that the point of TPN was to facilitate me living, and that there were many people doing extraordinary things on TPN. We spoke some more and she said she was going to talk to her colleagues about me, to make sure everyone was helping their TPN patients live their dreams, and if she worked in that field in the future she’d tell her patients about me.
This isn’t about boasting or showing off, this is much more important; this is about raising awareness in the purest way, by being in the community, by taking these chance meetings to show what is possible. If my actions encourage someone else to follow their dreams, I will be ecstatic.
“Something is only impossible, until somebody makes it happen”.
It’s not just about encouraging people on TPN to be more active, it’s about the positive impact exercise, and movement can have on everyone, particularly those with chronic illnesses.
I believe so deeply in the power of movement for recovery. It can be difficult knowing how to start becoming more active again, and this is something I would really like to help people with. I would like to enable those who want to become more active learn a safe and effective way of facilitating their goals.
Many people have been exposed to bad advice, either from physiotherapists, Doctors, the Internet, other people with their condition(s), and ‘well meaning’ family and friends. This can destroy their confidence and make people unsure how to take the first steps into a more active lifestyle.
The key thing is that it needs to be person specific and targeted appropriately.
The benefits of physical activity are numerous and I want to show and help people realise that it is possible and important to become more active despite your health problems. There are so many myths to dispel and barriers to break down as part of this. Many people want quick fixes to control their symptoms, whereas physical activity has been shown to help manage so many conditions. I’m not for one minute suggesting throwing away medications, but that we need to be as proactive in helping ourselves as possible.
It is not a cure, but like many things, it’s a management tool.
That’s why I do sport.