I have been asked a few times how exercise can affect IC. Before I even knew I had IC I used to push so hard with exercise, I would find myself running to the toilet half way through a workout, I would sweat so much and often feel dizzy but as I was so stubborn I didn’t give up, all this was my body telling me to slow down. I had a personal trainer which actually turned out to be a complete waste of money as most of the time I sat on the floor trying to keep myself up, my trainer suggested I stopped for a while as I wasn’t getting anywhere, I had no energy and a lot of bladder pain. Running was very uncomfortable the pain around my bladder was sometimes unbearable.
After my treatment it took me a while to figure out what worked for me, I did at times feel like giving up as I didn’t feel I was getting anywhere. I was struggling with the diet and I didn’t realise, as I do now, how much help and information there is out there. At that time I wanted everything to go back to normal I just didn’t have any patience, so I felt very frustrated with the entire situation. All I wanted to do is keep fit and doing so was becoming a real struggle.
I decided that I had to take things slowly and focus on gentle exercising, weights seemed to be ok and didn’t cause too many problems but my favorite exercise, running had to be slowed right down. I started with a new personal trainer and she really understood, she filled me with confidence and step-by-step I started to regain some consistency in my training and in turn started feeling so much better.
Now 4 years down the line I feel I have found my balance, I do find keeping regular exercise in my lifestyle actually increases my energy levels physically and mentally. I am very happy not to be in the pain I was with my bladder and at times I do get flares but I understand my body now and slow things down until I feel back in control. If I eat the correct foods and stay away from fad diets, eat clean and stick to IC friendly foods I have enough energy for exercise.
My suggestions for IC and exercise
- In the early stages of recovery slow it right down, yoga and Pilates are great. Inform the instructor of the condition. This way if you feel in pain or miss a week they understand and you don’t feel under too much pressure.
- Eat well. Get to grips with the IC diet and learn what you can and can’t eat. In the early stages cut all un-friendly IC foods out and as you recover start to re-introduce and see how you get on.
- Ditch any thought of fad diets. These are no good for an ICer. You need to keep energy levels up so starving yourself certainly will not help. Exercise requires energy so eat healthy but eat enough so when exercising you don’t feel drained. You will only run yourself down, and what happens when you are run down……infections ….we don’t need them in our lives.
- Drink water. I know I know you don’t want to keep running to the toilet but you really need to keep your body ‘flushed’ and keep fully hydrated for exercise.
- Use exercise for the mind. Any form of exercise light or hard is great; it gives you something to focus on and makes you feel in control. Something us ICers struggle with. Having control makes you feel strong not just mentally but physically too. IC lives with you remember, you don’t live with IC.
- Swim. I found for a long time swimming really helped. It puts everything at ease, there’s not a great deal of pressure on the body and it is a great form of exercise.
- Re introduce other exercises bit by bit. Listen to your body; if you are in pain or feel lack less in energy slow it back down. If you keep positive and focused you will get there I promise.
- Exercise at home. This is great especially for in the early stages when you feel low in confidence as I did. You can run to the toilet as many times as you may need, and you can stop when you feel you need without feeling the pressure of others around you. Gyms can be intimidating when fighting fit, never mind when in the early stages of recovery.
- Believe in yourself. You will get there; fitness is great for the mind, body and soul. Start slowly and work it back up to where you want to be. I was a huge fan of running, but when suffering I really struggled with the pain and felt worn out so fast. Now running doesn’t phase me at all and I would say I am probably better than I ever was.
I hope this can give you some comfort. These are all things that have worked for me, I’m certainly not saying we are all the same but I know there are many similarities with other ICers.
Please leave comments of any other suggestions and lets together raise the awareness for this condition,