Fitness · Uncategorized

The Other Stigma of Exercise and Illness

This is one of the things that I see and hear about a lot and one that even internally I have struggled with personally over the last year or so as my symptoms have worsened (and multiplied).

“Ya know, if you had spent more time exercising and concentrating on healthy living, you wouldn’t be sick right now”

“Oh you have “_______? You should exercise, lose weight, gain strength/flexibility/endurance etc. Trust me you’ll get better. TA-DAH!”

This kind of talk gets thrown around a lot and while yes being fit, a healthy weight and maintaining good physical and cardiovascular stamina and strength can be a huge benefit for overall health it is not a be all end all fix/ prevent everything. It definitely doesn’t help that it’s usually uneducated perfectly healthy people spouting it off, having no idea what the people they are talking through are actually going through or the damage they can cause with that attitude.

But that’s not the stigma I’m referring to…. it seems there is another….

The thing is, over the last while, especially over the last few months or so that I’ve been dealing with a lot more consecutive flare ups I’ve come across people turning the tables the other way.

“Oh, you’re fit and look healthy you can’t be that sick.”

“If you were really that sick you wouldn’t be able to work out like that.”

It really grinds my gears!

Maybe it’s a little my fault for talking publicly in my social circles much more about my success with gains and PRs than about how shitty I feel day to day, how I haven’t had more than 2 hours of sleep a night for a week, or how I just got a pint of blood sucked out of me AGAIN.

The point is I am proud of myself for being able to stay motivated through it all to use my physical ability to fight some of my symptoms off and yea possibly prevent some from getting worse. To be able to, on good days, make advances that on bad days I think will never ever happen.

Somehow that must mean I can’t actually be in pain, nauseous, dizzy, constipated (or the other one UGH), twitching, fatigued, depressed or in the middle of an anxiety attack.

IF, like it’s mentioned over and over again, exercise IS a cure or at least a helpful tool for people suffering from many chronic health conditions, why is it that when we actually manage to work through our symptoms and find a way we can do it safely do we then get accused of not actually being chronically ill after all!!!

The worst part for me personally is that if this wasn’t such an issue I would have been able to pin point a lot more of my symptoms and accept that I was ill and not able to ‘push through the pain’ like healthy people can.

I fell for it. I believed people when they said things like “Oh it’s ok, you’ll get used to it, just don’t lift heavy things” when I brought up at a regular doctors check up that my hip was hurting but had mentioned I was strength training. Or when doing a workout program from one of those ‘popular companies’ I believed their mantras that stated if I really wanted to, I could get it done.

I was so far in denial that I was making my situation so much worse trying to ignore what was going on in my body. I believed that since I was able to push to get it done through tears, constant bathroom trips, crippling pain my body would just adjust to the rigors of it all and I would walk away eventually because I wasn’t actually sick, I was just weak.

After going through ‘recovery’ last spring for my SI problems (not the first and not the last time this past year dealing with misdiagnosis)  I learned to get smart, be educated about what I could and couldn’t do safely while still making personal progress and it’s only been up from there. At least where the actual physical activity is concerned.

I have learnt the difference between what is pushing my body to break and pushing my body to achieve greatness. I know my limits (and slowly am learning to accept them as they become more and more narrow). I can tell what soreness is from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a hard workout and what is a flare up in a muscle or joint without having to shame talk that I did it to myself.

While I’ve accepted that I am ill and may not be able to do everything (or anything some days). Things are looking up in that department. Unfortunately this stigma around exercise and chronic illness is still raging rampant around me now worse than ever.

I am aware that being an avid fitness buff gives me an advantage on certain health fronts and I know I’m lucky that I’ve been able to come as far as I have before needing to set more restrictions on my activity. I am sympathetically aware that there are many people suffering and unable to use exercise as a wellness tool and consider myself lucky that I still can (knock on wood).

In no way however do I feel that means it invalidates my illness, my pain or my need for answers, treatment and understanding.

Plain and simple, I believe society has placed a really messed up opinion on the relationship between chronic illness and physical fitness and no matter which way the negativity points its unfair to the people suffering.

Sorry all, this seems to have turned into a rant of sorts…. I guess it’s just something I had to get off my chest.

Anyone else notice it’s kind of a lose lose situation on either side?


Now that I’ve been up for hours already, my back heated, my shoulder iced and my supplements downed with an endless supply of java I can hear the Little Dude ready to get up. Time to get myself together and officially start the day.

The plan is ice fishing later on….. as long as I don’t have to hold a rod I think I’ll be able to manage…. we will see. Goodness knows I need to get out of this house and have a breath of fresh air!


2 thoughts on “The Other Stigma of Exercise and Illness

  1. I find your summation perfectly true. It’s because we are invisible in our pain. A big blotchy, icky scar would make others feel better because they can ‘see’ that. Those without similar experiences can thankfully, in no way, get it. Yet, they love their own opinions…I hope today is a good day for you.

    Liked by 2 people

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