Although I’m currently fairly fit, active and healthy, this certainly hasn’t always been the case. As kid I was overweight, unfit, and suffered from asthma and psoriasis. In my mid teens I also had some flare ups of psoriatic arthritis. It’s a type of autoimmune arthritis causing pain and swelling in the joints.
Apart from playing rugby my main interest was playing strategy computer games and watching movies. In particular I grew up loving martial arts movies. The ones with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung (the chubby guy that could still do all the cool stuff!). When a friend said he was going to a kung fu class I thought I’d give it a go too…and I got my butt kicked!
I didn’t get beaten up from the people in class, but from my own lack of fitness. Push ups, squats, different types of kicks and punches to the pads – it was awful, I was awful! Despite that, it did give me the push to make some changes. I enjoyed the martial arts part but had to suffer through the conditioning. I didn’t want that to happen every time I went to class.
So, I went running. There was a small loop in the countryside; near where I lived, that was about 3 miles. I put my shoes on, did a few hip circles and off I went…but then after about 4 or 5 minutes I had to stop. I was gasping for air, feeling like an asthma attack was coming along. Embarrassingly I had barely even made to to what I aimed to be the real starting point of the run and I had to turn back.
Over a period of many months I persevered and the training got easier. The runs went from 5 minutes, to 7, to 10, 20…before I knew it I was running 9 miles a few times a week, weight training 3-4 times a week and doing my martial arts classes on top.
I managed to keep this up for some time. However; I realised that although I was fitter, I wasn’t necessarily healthy. I basically was still eating junk and drinking too much. I probably would have got away with it if I didn’t have the signs from the psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. When there’s increased inflammation in the body my skin condition and joint pain worsens. I keep it as simple as that. As frustrating as living with this is, one good thing is that it gives me a little barometer as to my internal environmental health.
Over the years I’ve experimented with different diets, treatments and exercise methods to see what makes me feel the best. I’ve gone from heavy weight lifting, to endurance running, from paleo to vegan and now somewhere in the middle. Now I use yoga and acroyoga to improve my flexibility, coordination and communication skills. Acroyoga is also a lot of fun, and fun is a big part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle that’s often missed.
I try to use best practice and personal experience to help patients find ways of reducing pain, improving strength, flexibility and general wellness. Patients are encouraged to find ways of moving that they enjoy. For me it’s acroyoga, for you it may be dancing, swimming or hiking. We’ve all been dealt different cards in terms of genetics, our bodies have different experiences, injuries and abilities. But, I think we all have the ability to improve and it’s just a case of finding a way that works for you.