IBD sufferers are some of the toughest people I know. Our bodies are like iron maidens (the torture device, not the band). Outwardly we seem harmless, but on the inside…! And yet somehow we go on living, day after day. So once we begin to feel better and start thinking about returning to fitness, why shy away from “extreme” workouts such as those along the lines of P90X? I checked with my new doctor, and he said there really aren’t any exercise restrictions for an otherwise healthy person going into remission. (Of course we all know every case is different, and all docs are different, so touch base with yours before starting anything.) In doing my own reading and research, I’ve learned running is a no-no during and while you’re recovering from a flare (see my post “Staying Fit – Walking Cure-All“) and that abdominal-specific exercises should be avoided; i.e., no crunches. (Yay!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a strong core. In fact, you absolutely should strengthen your mid-section. Strong abdominals support the intestines and can reduce a lot of the discomfort associated with our symptoms. The way to do it is with stabilizing exercises, ideally total-body workouts that require good form to prevent injury. Think activities that require balance–throwing a punch, yoga, walking or the elliptical, doing squats and lunges. There are dozens of “extreme home fitness” regimens out there, but I found P90X to be really effective, easy to follow, and so far the only exercise segment I avoid entirely is the “Ab Ripper X” (for obvious reasons). Every now and then I feel a twinge or tweak in the old gut, but I incorporate a little trick I learned from another home fitness program and in several weeks I haven’t had a relapse or worsening of symptoms:
The secret? A “soft stomach.” A few months ago I purchased the DVD “Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” While the initial information wasn’t useful to me at the time (I should probably view it again) I did find the short yoga video beneficial. The key take-away was to be mindful of our stomachs while exercising. Our instinct might be to clench or suck in our abs, but yoga instructor Rodney Yee encourages a “soft stomach.” It’s one of those tricky moves so characteristic of yoga, remaining strong while also staying relaxed. But the more you focus on keeping your intestines relaxed–even while exercising with your core–the more you realize it is achievable. You can work out your midsection without straining and torquing your intestines. Once you learn that trick, extreme fitness like P90X suddenly becomes possible. And hell, if a perfectly healthy guy or gal can strut around thinking they’re all tough because they sweat, puke and burn through CrossFit and P90X and cry-momma boot camps, how much more bad-ass are we doing it while shitting blood? Gives a whole new meaning to being “shredded” doesn’t it?