In 2011, tennis player Venus Williams exited the US Open because of her autoimmune disease, Sjögren’s Syndrome. One of her primary symptoms and largely to blame for her exit was her insufferable fatigue. She mentions the tennis racket felt like a “concrete block” over her head. Upon her exit, Venus decided to switch to a raw, vegan diet. She explains that her symptoms had lasted for several years before she received a diagnosis. While terrified initially, with the support of her sister, she has flipped the negatives to positives. Situations are always, always about perspective. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her to set aside her tennis ambitions. It’s difficult enough for me to come to grips with my Sjögren’s diagnosis. While it’s a relief to know what has been ailing me for a year and a half, it’s always scary to get a disease and adjust life accordingly. It has been too tempting to throw in the towel and abandon a healthy lifestyle, but the truth is, a healthy lifestyle is more important than ever. Many of you have suffered similar setbacks: shin splints, surgeries, yo-yo weight fluctuations, and other health limitations. No matter what it is, a healthy lifestyle is too important to forgo. It’s common knowledge that exercise hosts a plethora of benefits for your body. For those suffering autoimmune diseases, it helps with inflammation. Regardless of the issue, there are a few points to bear in mind:
- No Comparisons: It’s easy to compare yourself to your role models. As the saying goes, “Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.” Sure, they can do 150 burpees in 5 minutes. So, who cares? Focus on you. It’s your journey.
- Reexamine Your Approach to Fitness: Before your diagnosis or injury, perhaps you were the one who could run a marathon. Now you can barely walk. Start slow and do what you gotta do. Something is better than nothing. I used to be able to workout like nobody’s business and beat my fiancé at Insanity and Bodyrock. Now I try to get five pushups in each day. Maybe it was nothing compared to before, but I have to start somewhere. If you can walk five minutes, walk the hell outta those five minutes!
- Dive into Diet: Food is fuel. The right foods will help your body heal and run more efficiently. If you can’t move much, burgers and fries aren’t the best option. Buy new vegetables and be inventive. Never let a healthy diet get boring because it’s great to fall back on – though it should be a priority anyway. John Tesh said even if you work out really hard, it doesn’t show if you’re not eating the right foods.
- Stay Positive: Life is all about challenges. If we didn’t have hurdles to jump, we wouldn’t be living. It’s all about bouncing back. Think of it this way, J.K. Rowling said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation from which I rebuilt my life.” A new, rewarding path is on your horizon. You must simply run toward it.