Exercising with Autoimmune Disease

Exercising with autoimmune diseases is tough. Its not just tough. It can be downright frustrating. One day you feel fabulous and feel like you can move mountains. The next day, you’re in so much pain you can barely move. How is one supposed to be fit when you have such rapid fluctuations?

It starts with reframing priorities. When I was a teenager and in college, I was doing high intensity workouts for about 45-60 minutes everyday for 6 days with 1 rest day a week. I was focusing on physical transformations, strength building, and getting 6 pack abs. What I did not realize was how much damage I was actually doing to my body. While I did not necessarily feel ill in terms of achiness or joint pain, I had horrible stomach problems. And unfortunately I did not make the connection between the exercise and my digestive problems.

It was not until I was finishing my first year of teaching that it finally clicked. While I was not exercising nearly as much as I had in the past, I was seeing the connection between the exercise and food and how I felt. When I finally decided to go back to the paleo way of eating in June 2020, I started seeing the difference in how my body felt. While it has taken a while for me to be able to really get back into exercise consistently, I am now exercising for different reasons.

Before, I was focusing on how I looked physically. Now, I focus on keeping my body strong. Instead of 45-60 minute workouts, I now do 15-30 minute workouts that focus on the mental benefits of exercise and feeling stronger than I did yesterday. This is a far cry from when I was doing the long workouts that left me drenched in sweat laying on the ground panting. Now with the level that I do I still work up a sweat, but I do not feel like I need a long recovery period before I can go about the rest of my day.

With my current plan, I am very mindful of the amount of rest I take, both during the exercise routine and taking rest days. If my body is feeling run down and achy, I will either take a complete rest day or just go on a short walk. And when I am feeling good I might do a strength workout or flexibility workout. I try to not do too much cardio as that does not agree with my stomach. When you overdo cardio (or any exercise in general), it increases the amount of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, in your body, which leads to inflammation and fatigue. Not good!

Drinking plenty of water and fluids is so essential while exercising. I used to drink G2 Gatorade when in college. But now I drink coconut water for the electrolytes and it has been such a great change! I drink it during and after my workout to help keep my hydration levels up.

What I do on a daily basis really depends on how I am feeling. I like to keep it varied so that I do not get bored. But also I closely monitor the intensity so that I do not overdo it. And if I do overdo it, then I am sure to hydrate and give myself extra rest if needed.

Overall this can be a frustrating process because I would love to be able to do all the high intensity workouts and not worry about potential damage it does to my body. But the reality is it is a constant battle. But being AIP has helped so much! Being on a healing diet has done so much for my overall health. Diet is so important when it comes to health, and honestly I have even seen great results/improvements just by changing my way of eating, even when I was not exercising consistently.

I like to program my own workouts, complete some of the group fitness class blueprints I have taught in the past, complete Beachbody or Les Mills on demand workouts, or dance in my living room. While the actual workout may vary, it is the movement that is essential for leading a healthy life. When completing any of these workouts, I modify them as necessary so that I am working at an appropriate level based on how I feel.

If you have any more questions about my fitness routine or exercise in general, please leave a comment below! I will be be creating more posts in the future that include lower intensity workouts that are a variety of styles of exercise.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *