Women With Chronic Illness Reveal Their Fitness Motivators

Women Fitness

While some people take exercise for granted, there are plenty of people with chronic illness who make significant efforts to get to the gym or go on a run.

Alison Feller, who has the inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn’s disease, has to get up an hour before her run to use the bathroom multiple times. While on the run, she may need to make at least one bathroom break and plans her route around it. Despite this, she insists on making exercise a part of her life.

“I keep lacing up my shoes and getting out the door—no matter how long it takes—because I refuse to let a chronic illness define my life,” she wrote in Women’s Health. “I want to be the one who defines my life, and I choose to define myself as a runner. Over the past 25 years, Crohn’s disease has taken plenty from me—but I won’t let it take away my precious miles.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Robin Mayer, who also has Crohn’s, said it was important for her to keep running because “being a runner is one of my primary self-identifiers. It gives me confidence and gives me goals to work toward. It helps shape who I am outside of having Crohn’s disease. It’s easy to get entrenched in ‘being’ your disease, since it’s such a prominent part of life, but by establishing myself as a runner, I’ve been able to define who I am on my own terms, in my own terms. Even during a flare, I still call myself a runner.”

Meg Navatto, who lives with fibromyalgia, has even worked through her condition enough to complete a 50K race. But despite wanting to push herself, she’s also learned to listen to her body and respect its limits.

“If I have to say no to something, it’s not me giving up. It’s me respecting my body. I still have bad days where getting up and out isn’t an option, and that’s okay,” she said. “Mentally, I’m stronger because of it. At 42, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life, and having fibromyalgia may limit me, but it doesn’t stop me.”