By: Amy Sylvis
Yesterday, I didn’t want to go to the gym to workout. This time of year, I have bad allergies, the aspergillus in my lungs tends to cause me issues, my sinuses get angry and I just generally don’t feel like working out while my airways feel so tight.
Working out can sometimes remind me of the lung damage I have. One day I am able to run 5 minutes straight (ya, that’s a good day for me!), and some days running for 2 minutes straight is a huge struggle. That can make me feel like I’m falling short in my CF care – like I’m at fault for not being able to exercise as well as I could a few days earlier. But I’m insanely compliant and have been my whole life, so I know the truth is that some days with CF my lungs just aren’t as open as other days. Nature of the beast.
I’m also just not generally a very athletic person. I know that working out- forcing air deep in to my lungs and in to my small airways – keeps me healthier than anything else available to me on this planet. Studies back this up as well – exercise inhibits epithelial sodium channels (eNac), which leads to hydration of airways and makes it easier to cough up mucus.
Sometimes this knowledge isn’t enough to get me to the gym, though.
Yesterday was one of those days that I’m so grateful for my friends with CF. I’m a strong believer in surrounding myself with people who are better than I am – it’s a real ego destroyer, but it’s also an amazing life hack for self-improvement, no matter what the goal. While on the treadmill, I used an app called Marco Polo and spoke to two friends of mine with CF – both who are amazing runners and make sure to get in exercise daily themselves. I complained to them about how crappy I was feeling the past few days. I told them how my lungs were feeling so tight and I could hardly run at all compared to a week ago.
My goal every time I run is 30 minutes. Whether it’s running 5 minutes and walking 3, then repeat; or running 2 minutes, walking 2, then repeat – I’m on that hamster wheel for 30 minutes. I need to have a goal and structure to survive the nightmare that is running. Ha.
“Run for longer today,” one of my friends said when she messaged me back on Marco Polo.
“WHAT???” I replied with an angry face in my video.
“On days you feel worse, work out longer than you normally would,” she emphasized.
I almost threw my phone across the gym. I was so miserable I didn’t think I could even make it to 30 minutes, let alone longer.
Then I remembered – the woman I was talking to has half the lung function I do. Half. She’s a mom, takes care of 2 kids by herself, and she can run farther and longer than I can. If she can do it, so can I.
I was still only able to run for 2 minutes straight yesterday, but I ran 2 minutes walked 2 minutes for 35 minutes, instead of my usual 30. Halfway through those painful 35 minutes, my other friend sent me a message stating that he agreed with what had already been said – suck it up and exercise for longer. (He runs several miles a day, every day, like a maniac, so he further reinforced my need to push myself in the gym).
I can’t tell you how much better I feel today. My lungs are more clear, more open, and I feel so much better both mentally and physically. I’m not sure I would have pushed myself so much yesterday if it hadn’t been for my two friends offering support when I needed it, a.k.a. a swift kick in the butt.
Growing up, I didn’t have friends with CF. I didn’t go to CF camp, I didn’t come across a lot of kids with CF at clinic, so I didn’t have the benefit of these amazing interactions when I was young. At the time, I’m not sure I saw the need. Heck, I’m not sure I saw the need even a few years ago. I had no idea what I was missing out on, though.
Having friends with CF offers a dimension to life that I never thought was possible, and that I didn’t realize I needed. I’m not saying we should all be friends with every person with CF on the planet – but finding your tribe can be life-changing. Yup, I said it. Truly life changing.
Here’s to laughing, exercising, vesting, coughing, insulin-ing and CFTR-modulating together, CF community! We are so fortunate to have each other. FIGHT ON FOREVER!