Simplify: a word that generally makes me happy, but can sometimes cause extremely overwhelming feelings as well. Simplifying areas of your life can sometimes take a lot of work, that’s where I get the overwhelming feelings and thoughts. BUT if you make the effort to simplify different aspects of your life, you can experience some unbelievable benefits. For me, that was healing!
There have been many, many things I have simplified in my life to encourage my IBD to go into deep, deep remission. From changing up the food I eat, the amount of sleep I get, and the supplements I put into my body (just to name a few), I have seen amazing benefits. The one thing that was the hardest for me to simplify though, was my fitness routine. And this, my friends, was where I saw probably the most benefit in encouraging my IBD to heal itself.
We all know that living a healthy and active lifestyle is great! There are numerous resources, scientific articles, and books that tell you about all the benefits exercise has on your body! But with autoimmune disease, too much exercise can actually add additional stressors to your body which doesn’t exactly help you out. You need to be smart, and simplify how you exercise to ensure you are getting those same benefits as any normal, “healthy” individual.
Taking the time to sit and figure out how to simplify my exercise routine stressed me out. I was a 3-sport athlete throughout high school and in college until I was diagnosed. I knew no other way than to go hard 6-7 days a week which was not helping my IBD. My doctors kept having to sit me down and have serious conversations with me about how lifting too heavy, or running too hard was not giving my deteriorating intestines the time they needed to recover. I could still workout, they said every time, but it needed to be less frequently, and much easier on my body. My athlete brain thought my life was over. The extreme guilt I would feel if I wasn’t burning tons of calories (the woes of fitbits and apple watches am I right!?) was getting overbearing, and to be honest, I FELT LIKE CRAP. So for those of you like me, it takes some effort, and may sting your ego a bit, but taking a chill with your workouts can be a great thing! Here’s some steps I took to still live a healthy and active lifestyle while also keeping it basic and beneficial to my autoimmune disease.
Accept that the simplest of workouts have great benefits.
To me, if I wasn’t dead to the world, burning hundreds of calories, and dripping at the end of a workout it wasn’t a good one. This couldn’t be further from the truth and what could have been causing unnecessary, and frankly, avoidable discomfort and inflammation on my flaring diseased insides. The constant impact of running, and the strain lifting has on your abdomen was not helping me out. In reality, a simple walk or low impact workout can do wonders for autoimmune disease. You are not causing strain on your body and you are encouraging the feel good chemicals that promote healing! So go for that walk around the neighborhood and count it as your workout! A great one at that!
Limit your workouts in time and frequency.
Working out everyday for hours on end is not necessary to see great benefits. And if you want to simplify your life, this is an area where you can add more time into your week if you limit your workouts to 30 minutes a day for a max of 5 days (there is no magic number here to be honest!). Shorter workouts enable you to work hard during a shorter amount of time, give you more time during the day, and less frequent workouts allow your body time to rest and heal. This is a super important part of a fitness routine that is so simple, but so hard to understand its importance.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Like I said earlier, I suffer from major workout guilt. I know some of you ladies probably do too but do not beat yourself up if you feel like what you are doing is too easy. This is an area I am still working on, but rest and simplicity is just as important in our journeys with autoimmune disease as being active. Listen to your bodies, not your mind!
Let your body rest.
This ties in to what I just said, but is important to repeat. Resting encourages healing. If you do a more intense workout, take the next day to do some active stretching and yoga or take the day off. You need to let your body recover because your movement adds stress and stress induces inflammation and then we have a vicious cycle we cannot break.
If you are like me, this month’s theme can be a little intimidating and overwhelming. But simplifying aspects of our lives is a great thing to do. Don’t feel like you need to do everything at once! Pick certain areas that you can easily simplify and let yourself feel that accomplishment. It’s harder than we think to make changes and essentially do less to see more. But it works, I promise! Simplifying my fitness routine was one of the harder things I did while switching up many other things in my life to help my IBD, but it honestly has been one of the more beneficial things I have done.