Nearly a million people around the globe have Crohn’s disease, myself included. Although having a chronic illness can be difficult, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t be active.
Running is one of my favorite forms of therapy — both physical and mental. I’ve been a runner for three years. I’ve completed five half-marathons and the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. Training for a race can be challenging when you’re living with Crohn’s disease, but a few tips and tricks can make it easier.
Here are some things to help get you started.
You are just as capable as any person living without Crohn’s disease. However, it’s important to create a routine for training that works for your body and how you’re feeling. For example, if you’re training for a half-marathon, you’ll typically need to build up to 25 to 30 miles per week. If that feels like too much, you can incorporate cross-training into your routine to help develop the endurance you’ll need for running longer distances.
Now let’s talk food. Running all those miles requires taking in extra calories. But if you’re living with Crohn’s disease, adding meals or snacks to your diet could cause digestive distress. You also might not have the appetite to match the amount of running you’re doing. My advice is to pack as many nutrients as you can into the meals you’re already eating. Or, if you’re more of a snacker, add in snacking options that are both healthy and familiar to your body. Do what works for you, no matter what you choose.
To make training work for you, you have to listen to your body. One of the best ways to do that is to pay attention to how your body reacts.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of reaching your weekly goals. But on days that you’re experiencing fatigue or symptoms of Crohn’s, it’s best to let your body rest. Your body will always let you know what it needs, and it pays off to listen. It may be frustrating to skip a training run, but you’ll be stronger for it.
Most runners have heard this a thousand times, but it’s particularly true for those of us living with Crohn’s disease (especially with respect to refueling). Finding a snack or energy gel that was easy enough to digest while on a training run took some trial and error for me. I found that individual packets of almond butter work best because they are easy to carry and don’t cause indigestion. Find something that will be easy to eat and digest, regardless of whether it’s “trendy.” But most importantly, figure out what works for you in advance. Don’t risk trying something new on the day of your big race in case it upsets your stomach.
Also, map out your running route beforehand. This will come in handy in case you need to access a bathroom while on the move. Always have your cell phone on you while running in case you start to feel sick and need to contact a loved one for help.
One piece of advice I would like to leave with you is to enjoy every moment of training and racing. Crossing the finish line is one of the best feelings in the world. Living with Crohn’s disease doesn’t change that.
Completing a race is hard work, and it’s not something that most people (with or without Crohn’s) get to do. Be present for each mile of the race, take it all in, and be extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished. You earned it!
Kristin DeClara is a writer from Brooklyn, New York. She has been living with Crohn’s disease for 17 years. She considers herself a true foodie, avid runner, and fitness enthusiast. She hopes to share a positive and humorous outlook on life with readers.