When I had my second last flare I quit the gym. This whole website was built on me staying fit and lifting weights while suffering with UC but I had a quantum leap in my mindset around health and my life so that idea got kicked to the side a bit. As a result, I didn’t post here for a very long time. Here’s an explanation.
When I first got UC I was deep into the gym – bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman. I loved all of it, and I was committed to lifting through my UC despite being at a bit of a disadvantage. This worked great for the first year ish that I was in remission but when I got my second flare I quit abruptly. I’d reached a lot of goals I’d set for myself and was at the point of deciding where to push it from there, however the biggest goal I had was to get healthy again and unfortunately the gym was likely contributing to that. I often found myself comparing my body to other men, motivating myself through ego and the feeling of being bigger and stronger than others. That toxic mentally waned when I flared again as I lost 10kg and looked like a shell of myself, I also realised that it really didn’t matter at all.
Lifting weights and pushing yourself at the gym is a massive stress on the body that a lot of people don’t realise, it’s also why a lot of us with IBD seem to be athletes in some respect. While I’ve always thought I lived a reasonably stress free lifestyle I neglected the stress put on my body through my athletic ventures and other less noticeable issues like sleep and diet. With all that considered I decided my best option was to have a break. I went to my gym that week and got my contract torn up, after a 30 minute argument as is expected through 24hr chain gyms, and went on my way. Truth is until now I haven’t even thought about lifting weights, haven’t missed it a bit, haven’t worried about my strength. And if I’m honest I’ll say that yeh I do look at myself in the mirror constantly, and I don’t look as “good” as I did before this flare, but I’ve accepted it. I feel comfortable in my body that is 15kg lighter than my peak, I feel comfortable buying 31″ waist pants and I feel comfortable around friends that never stopped lifting and are powering ahead of where I was when I left. I’ve taken the time to focus on other hobbies, I got back into riding my bike, painting, architecture and hiking to prepare for Nepal. I’ve been back doing photography and reading books.
I decided to write this because you can feel guilty for not sticking with something like going to the gym as it feels as though your personality is tied to it or you owe it to yourself to keep going. What people need to think is that you owe it to yourself to be healthy, if the gym is helping and you love it then go! But if you think it’s a detriment, or you’re using it in an unhealthy way, there’s no shame in quitting. Now as I see the end of my current flare (hopefully, all fingers crossed) I’m starting to get the urge to return, just because I did enjoy seeing my friends at the gym – talking shit and lifting weights. And hopefully I will return soon, but this time I’ll take it easier, I’ll be less hard on myself, and I won’t put so much stock in how I look or feel compared to others. The goal is to be healthy, do what makes me happy, and to be me – not an impression of what I think the ideal me really is.
As always if anyone is reading this and wants to chat about anything IBD, stress, medication, mental health or life in general feel free. I’m always open.