Ankylosing Spondylitis Chronic Illness

Exercise is a Celebration of What Your Body Can Do

I used to DREAD working out. When I was younger I played sports, and got my exercise without having to consciously go for a run or lift some weights. After college I joined a gym, but it was a constant struggle to get myself there. My only motivation was to look good in a bathing suit *eye roll*

When I was diagnosed with A.S, I totally lost trust in my body. I was no longer confident in it’s abilities, and was constantly afraid that it would fail me. As time went on, I regained trust, but also gained a new appreciation. My body is fighting for me EVERY SINGLE DAY! How many people in your life can you say do that for you? It’s honestly a really incredible realization. Recognizing what it is really doing to allow me to continue moving is amazing, and is something I can’t ignore.

The ways my body supports me through my A.S. has totally changed my mentality towards working out. To me, exercise isn’t about #bootygains, having flat abs, or a “thigh gap.” I don’t care about looking like the super models on the magazine covers. I don’t constantly worry about how I look in a bathing suit anymore. Exercise has turned into a way that I can feel strong and in control of my body.

I workout to continue building trust and confidence. My body is my biggest supporter though my chronic illness journey, so why wouldn’t I want to do everything I can to support it in return? My wish is that others could have this same mentality shift, but without having to first lose faith in their body like I did.

Whenever I go in to see my doctors they give me a prescription for exercise. They give me a lot of prescriptions, but this is one of my favorites because I can control it, and I know the side effects. Even on days where I have to rest because my body is telling me no- I am still in control of that decision.

Experts in the field say that exercise is critical to the management of A.S, which has only added to my desire to incorporate workouts into my self-care practice. The reality is that I am not physically capable of a high intensity workout every day. Sometimes I’m in pain, or sometimes I just feel too fatigued. Whether I go for a run, strength train at the gym, do a yoga session, or just take a day to rest and refresh, I can do it knowing that I am doing what is the best for my body.

From the Spondylitis Association of America brochure “The Role of Exercise”

Working out has both mental and physical benefits. Truly realizing how important these are to me has been, as cheesy as it sounds, literally life changing. Having a bikini body was barely enough motivation to get me to the gym before I was facing a chronic illness. Now, when you add fatigue days and random pain onto my plate, getting a toned beach body DEFINITELY isn’t enough motivation.

On the flip side, knowing that, in a life plagued with unexpected and random medical issues, this is something I can do to help myself, is EXACTLY the motivation I need.

I wish that, as a society, we could change the way exercise is viewed. I wish magazine articles would focus on the mental health benefits of hitting the gym. Or focus on the physical benefits of core exercise to support your spine. Instead we see covers plastered with promises for flat abs, or tricks to get a tiny waist.

Exercise should be a celebration of your body, not a means to make it conform to social expectations. Let’s all try to focus more on the health benefits of getting in a good workout instead of the physical aesthetics, and I promise your relationship with the gym will completely change.

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