I have gotten this question so many times in the recent past, so I thought I would address it in a post 🙂 Yes, I have Ulcerative Colitis and, yes, I do Crossfit. And I love it! I have always played sports and enjoyed pushing my body to its limits. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 9 years ago (and then later re-diagnosed as UC), I had been training for my first 5k and thought my life was over. If I wasn’t so stubborn and hardheaded, I could’ve just stayed at home on the couch. Instead, I worked really hard to get my body back into exercising shape and continued on to run a handful of 5k races, multiple half marathons, and finally a marathon. But my history of running deserves an entirely separate post 🙂
After my marathon, I decided running was just too much for my body and no longer worked well with my UC. That’s when I discovered the joy of resistance training and HIIT workouts. At the time, I was going to a regular gym so I looked for workouts on my phone that I could do on my own. The workouts that were the best for me and that I enjoyed most were actually Crossfit! I skipped the strength portion and did the WOD with dumbbells instead of the barbell. Up until this point, Crossfit to me seemed scary and intimidating. Who me? Lift THAT bar?! It always seemed like it was meant for weightlifters, not little ol’ me.
When I moved to California for work and met my now fiance, he had the suggestion that we join a Crossfit gym (box, whatever you want to call it) together. I had only really done Crossfit once or twice at a real gym when there was a Groupon deal, so actually committing to it was a huge step for me. I started out at the Sprinterval class that was purely just a HIIT workout that kicked my butt every single time. Within a month or so, I was attending the regular Crossfit class and loving it! I started from nothing, so learning new skills and seeing my gradual improvement was a really fun challenge for me.
Since starting Crossfit, my strength and endurance has increased significantly, and I feel healthier than ever. For me, combining this style of workout with nutrition is the ultimate road to wellness.
How exactly does it work for me? See below:
Why and how does Crossfit work for me?
1. Social Interaction
Socializing is a huge part of recovery for me, so the community atmosphere is the #1 reason why I love Crossfit. Having IBD can be isolating, especially when I am in a flare-up and have trouble leaving the house or functioning normally. When I am in a flare up, going to the gym is sometimes the only thing I have energy for that day. That being said, the Lifeworx community is truly like a family. Seeing smiling, friendly faces every time I go in to workout really makes the difference for me.
2. Pace Myself
9 years into my diagnosis, I have learned when I can push myself and when I can’t. Regardless of whether I am in remission or not, I have lower energy than the average 20-something and must pace myself. It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to get stronger faster, but staying true to what I know my body can handle has been the key to Crossfit for me. I have to remind myself that I am continuing to get stronger and increase my aerobic capacity, even if I can’t see it in the moment.
3. Listen to my body
Some days I wake up and just know that today is not a Crossfit day- and that is okay. Even though I schedule my workout days for the week, my body may tell me otherwise and it is important that I listen. I still go into the gym about 3 times a week, but other days I may need to rest, stretch, or practice yoga. Listening has kept me going consistently without a flare up or burn out.
5. Resistance training is essential
Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease patients have a high risk of osteoporosis due to malabsorption. On top of that, I have severe scoliosis, so resistance training is a non-negotiable for me. Plus, I found that I have more energy and more endurance when I am faithfully participating in resistance training.
The workouts are only between 5 and 15 minutes long and are posted online everyday. On the days when I can’t bring myself to leave the house due to fatigue or upset stomach, I can do a workout in my living room and modify it to my ability. Movement, regardless of where or how it is done, is important during an Ulcerative Colitis flare up. Speaking of modifying…
The coaches are excellent at scaling to my ability and don’t force me to go further than I am comfortable. That’s not to say that I am not pushed past my comfort zone-- every workout kicks my butt and often times leaves me lying on the ground in a pool of sweat (in a good way!). However, each day is different when it comes to UC, so I love that I can modify it as I need to.
Do you do Crossfit with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis? What has been your experience?