Running is a great exercise and I’ve been amazingly fortunate to live so close to a park. I loop around Devonport, sometimes quietly following my partner (who’s much better at running than I am), and enjoy the high it gives me for the rest of the day. On a personal level, I know how difficult it is to watch someone scream past you when you’re running. We’re social creatures and it inherently carries the idea that we’re being left behind. But it’s also worth remembering that every runner is on their own journey with their own training, and if you’re running with a chronic health condition then it’s all the more important that you stick to your own pace and focus entirely on your own ability.
I have a chronic pain condition known as Tietze’s syndrome, which makes living an active life challenging at times. The pain is due to permanent inflammation in my ribcage and is exacerbated by heavy breathing. Not great for someone who wants to get fit through running. But I’ve been moving forwards with my personal goal to exercise and I want to offer some tips and advice that have been particularly helpful to me.
Speak to Your Doctor
Visiting your GP as regularly as I do can get very boring very fast but it’s always worth speaking to a professional about how my condition might affect my attempts at exercise. It’s likely that your doctor will be able to offer additional support that may help you, or at least point you in the direction of sources that can offer advice. The NHS Choices website is a fantastic resource, with customised advice for several chronic conditions.
Customise Your Approach to Your Condition
Whatever health issues you’re facing, there are ways of ensuring that you’re protecting yourself from unnecessary pain and stress. My condition responds well to direct application of heat so I always carry a condition kit that features fast acting hand warmers as well as my painkillers. If you can, take what you need to alleviate your symptoms. If you suffer from joint pains then having proper supports or fitted insoles can make a huge difference to your comfort.
Learn Signs Of Trouble
When you first pick up the habit, don’t attempt to run at full pace. Spend the first few excursions carefully noticing how your body is reacting. As you slowly build the pace then keep your focus on early warning signs. I’m lucky enough to often feel “warning shots” from my chest before a full attack, so I know when I can curtail a run for my own health.
Running with a health condition means that you will inherently run with more care than the average participant but this can also be of great use to you. If we’re afraid of pain or discomfort then it can be tempting to avoid physical exercise altogether, which also isn’t good for our health. If you take up jogging or running then you can learn where your limits really are, rather than what you’re afraid they might be.
You’re Not Racing Anyone
Always remember that jogging doesn’t need to be competitive. Sure, you meet people who may want to be challenged but running with my chest condition on my mind is challenge enough for me. Whenever I see my partner run past me it’s very tempting to think of myself as weak but nothing could be further from the truth. If you’re living with an injury or health condition then your desire to be active is a far less causal decision than one made in full-health. I often argue with myself that I’m actually working harder than other people out jogging in the part, which can give me the confidence boost I need to trundle out again.
Maybe I can’t run today, maybe I can’t jog the next. You have to take each day as it comes and be forgiving to yourself. Putting the pressure on is more likely to lead to burning out, and no one wants that!
If You Need to Stop Running, Stop
Perhaps not the most popular opinion to have on a running website but there’s frankly no reason to continue running if it makes your condition worse or difficult to manage. It doesn’t mean that you failed and you should use the initial enthusiasm you had when you began running to find a more suitable form of exercise. Perhaps swimming, or another low-impact sport such as golf? I’ve been through many different fitness kicks, some of which have proven laughably incompatible with my condition (like kickboxing) but the only answer is to keep trying until you find the right fit.
With my condition, it’s easy to think of reducing the chances that I’ll get hurt but - as I mentioned before - this can create psychological barriers to living an active life. Since taking up jogging I feel more confident and happy in myself. Not only because I’m in better shape but also because I know the extent of my condition better than ever.