While social media can be good for connecting with others who have similar health issues and discussing training and racing, it can also have the downside of people seeing all our achievements but not seeing the effort, pain, and fatigue that goes into reaching these achievements.
We tend not to publish the blood, sweat, and tears that go into training with health issues. I am definitely guilty of this; I don't post photos of me getting out of bed in the morning trying to take my first steps of the day. I don't post the photo of me trying to walk to the train and up and down the steps. Why? I suppose these are not the photos or videos that people want to see, they just want the motivation and the curated 'perfect life'.
I was recently looking at someone's Instagram post and she made the comment that she did suffer pain and discomfort relating to her arthritis but you would never know as her posts are all of her lifting weights and being in the gym daily and she is energetic and always smiling.
Is this the image we want to portray to followers and people who we try to inspire?
I am acutely aware that arthritis is highly personal and I might be able to do things that other arthritis sufferers can only dream of doing. I totally understand that people will look at my photos and think, well he only has rheumatoid arthritis in his little finger or something like that, because if he had "real" arthritis he would not be able to move most of the time, he certainly would not be smiling as he would be exhausted with the fatigue that also goes with this disease.
I wanted to just call this out a little and try to explain to people that I do have my own level of arthritis and coupled with my hemochromatosis I suffer quite a bit.
A normal day for an arthritis sufferer
I am in a degree of pain 24 hours a day, some days are worse than others. What I call a 'good day' would be a 4 to 5 on a normal person's pain scale, my bad days would be from 8 to 10. I take medication for my blood clots and gout (it's a trial for my hands actually).
I try not to take painkillers but if I have to I will, I have arcoxia or Ixiprim (tramadol) but only on really bad days will I take them as I don't want to wreck my stomach too.
The first few steps into the bathroom each morning are very painful, my ankles are stiff from my night’s sleep and they don't like me putting my weight on them. A lot of times I don't get a good night's sleep, I tend to toss and turn or my ankles hurt so most times I wake up tired which is not the best way to start the day, also as the week goes on it gets harder to get up.
I then get dressed; most of the time my lower back is sore too so things like putting my socks and shoes on is painful too. I manage to get down the stairs with but my ankles are still very sore. I then start walking about, the walk to my car is sometimes sore, I tend to limp more than walk.
I then walk from the car park to the train, again limping, especially coming down the steps, and limp to the train. Most mornings I have my training kit either on me or in my bag. Anyone looking would absolutely not believe me if I was to tell them I was getting off the train to go to the gym or the pool.
I sometimes loosen up a little before I get off the train but mostly I am limping into the pool, a lot of times I am trying to gauge my energy levels for the session I am about to do. Can I manage this? Am I actually awake? I don't know most times. I get changed and hop into the pool or head up to the gym.
I can't do a pool session without knowing in my head what I am going to do. I start and I just get on with it and I think this is where we (and I mean, the people with these diseases not just me) differ to others. We just get on with it, we generally have a goal that we want to achieve and understand that to achieve it we need to do this. It’s not an option; we need to train to achieve our goals.
I also think that we know that shortly after starting whatever exercise or session we are doing, we will start to feel better with less pain and more "normal". By the end of the sessions we feel good, tired but good.
This is what exercise brings to people who suffer with these diseases but unless you go through that pain yourself you won't know. Generally, this feeling remains most of the day, this is one reason I like training in the morning. I have done sessions in the evening after a day in the office and can really note the difference in my energy levels; it is so hard to train in the evenings as I am naturally tired after the day.
Some mornings, I know I just don't have the energy and if I were to do my planned training session, I would be risking further issues such as triggering a flare up of my arthritis and actually pushing back my progress. So I make the decision to skip training or I will go to the steam room and sauna to relax.
I have to be careful to avoid the constant draining of my energy but balance this with doing the right training for whatever I have to train for. I find this really hard and to be honest I am yet to crack this one. It's a constant that I need to stay on top of.
I don't have a coach or a trainer for this specific reason, I would really like to find one who can help me improve my swimming, cycling and running but don't want to keep telling them I can't do the session.
So, while social media provides the platform to publish all these great and inspiring images of people with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, the actual real effort it takes to even post these pictures goes unnoticed. In reality, it's even harder for people like me to get fit, train and to then try competing with able-bodied athletes, hold down a job, have a family etc.
So to those people out there doing amazing things, I salute you and keep doing what you do and know there are people out there for whom you inspire every day.
I have goals for next year, but I will share them at a later date when I fully commit and sign up to.
About the author: Ken Byrne is a Sundried athlete ambassador who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis as well as an autoimmune condition meaning he has too much iron in his blood. Against all odds, Ken has managed to complete several impressive sporting events.
Mark competes in the unusual sport of tower running which consists of running up stairwells in skyscrapers in London. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.
Have you always been into sport?
I grew up swimming and that has been my true sporting passion since childhood. I find that keeping active is essential to my mental as well as physical health, so after I hung up my competitive speedos, I needed to find a new challenge and ended up getting into running as well as dabbling in some triathlon while I was living in the USA. Recently, I have started tower running (also known as climbing) which allows me to stay fit and healthy while competing at a high level. A big draw for me is that it’s affordable to train and aerobically challenging whilst being low impact, and it’s a great group of people. Competitions are a little more expensive so I need to budget, but to me that’s worth it.
What made you decide to enter the world of tower running?
I found an event at the Broadgate Tower in London and decided to give it a go. I managed to come third over two climbs and was invited to join an expanding group of tower runners based in London called Total Motion Tower Runners. I have been getting more and more into the sport ever since.
The physical challenge of running up towers is something I’ve grown to really enjoy as a sport in itself, but I would recommend it to anyone wanting to supplement their discipline with some excellent strength and aerobic training. The only downsides are that the stairwells can get really, really hot, and you can get some very funny looks in the lift going down!
Where's been your favourite place to climb?
Broadgate Tower in the City of London is where Total Motion Tower Runners train and it's always an excellent team environment in which to push yourself to your limits while having fun.
I also have a soft spot for The Leadenhall Building (known to locals as 'the cheese grater') where I won my first race and hold the course record.
Have you ever had any climbing disasters?
Unfortunately, I cracked my hand on the banister recently and broke it.
How do you overcome setbacks?
After a good week or so of moping, I like to get all the information I can, from as many sources as I can, about what went wrong. Then I like to formulate a plan and go after it.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
Go out slow! The nature of tower running is such that if you start too fast, you find yourself breaking physically while still facing a 45 degree slope! I’ve never known a sport where if your endurance and form go, they really just vanish into thin air. I spend a lot of my time training and working on race pace efforts to ensure I don’t blow up before the top of the tower.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
There are only a few races left this year but I hope to break my record at The Leadenhall Building and put in a winter of training that will set me up to get a higher ranking on the vertical world circuit.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
As a swimmer, I looked up to Michael Phelps for his unrelenting work ethic in the lead up to Beijing as well as a butterfly stroke nothing short of artistic.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I have been trying to make more ethical and environmentally sustainable choices regarding my purchases for the last couple of years and thanks to Sundried I can now apply this ethos to my sports gear. I also like that the kit wicks sweat while I'm working out in a stuffy tower stairwell and that the blue Eco Tech fitness top really sets off my eyes.
Resistance bands are a great way to get a workout in wherever you are. You don't need expensive equipment or even a gym membership, just a resistance band and your body weight. Follow this resistance band workout with exercises for arms and legs for a full body workout that will get results.
What are the benefits of resistance bands?
There are many benefits to using a resistance band to workout. They are very convenient and portable so you can take them with you wherever you go for an outdoor or home workout. You could even take your resistance band on holiday to keep your fitness and strength ticking over while you're away.
Body weight exercises are great, but adding resistance will really ramp up your workout and give you better results. By using a resistance band you can increase the return on your workout and get better results in a shorter time. They are not only great for strength workouts, but also for lower intensity training like stretching and physio.
Resistance band exercises for legs
Using a resistance band when you train your legs can not only strengthen the muscles but also the joints and supporting muscles which will lead to better balance and reduced risk of injury. Try some of these resistance band exercises for the legs and feel the burn!
Place the resistance band around your ankles and stand square with your hands on your hips. Find your balance on your left leg and lift your right leg out to the side as far as you can. Make sure you keep your foot facing forwards and squeeze from the hip. Repeat 10 reps on each leg.
With the resistance band still round your ankles, this time squeeze your bum and lift your leg out behind you, keeping the leg straight. This will really challenge your glutes and hamstrings as well as working your core. Do 10 reps on one leg then swap and do 10 on the other.
Lie on the floor and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. With the resistance band just above your knees, lift your back off the floor and squeeze your bum into the air. Keep your arms and hands flat on the floor and use them to help push you up. Keep your knees out and push them against the resistance from the band. Do 10 repetitions.
This is a great exercise if you've got flat feet or if you struggle with your squat form. Place the band just above your knees and make sure you use a fairly light weight. Drop into a squat, but keep your knees pushed outwards against the resistance of the band the entire time. You'll notice that they want to cave in, so stay strong. You'll realise how much you need to use your glutes to fire you back up, and this will highlight any muscle weaknesses. Try 3 sets of 10 reps.
Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. How can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a home workout for you to try.
How can I find time to workout with kids?
Finding time to exercise as a parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be. Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.
1. Get a training buddy
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!
2. Utilise playtime
When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories too. If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.
3. Try dancing
Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun. If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience.
4. Swap your car for walking or cycling
By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking to the local park or playground. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car.
5. Exercise before you start your day
By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.
How can a stay at home mum lose weight?
There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.
1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids
There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.
2. Don't snack mindlessly
If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.
3. Do make mealtime an occasion
If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately.
4. Don't eat through stress
Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.
5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved
Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process.
Home workout routine for parents
If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this home workout routine by Sundried ambassador and personal trainer Carly Newson.
Looking to get a great workout done at home? Make sure you have all the kit you need!
Winter training doesn't have to be a chore and it'll really pay off in the spring. Follow these top tips to make sure you get the most out of your turbo trainer sessions and above all else, are comfortable.
Follow a plan.
Make sure the miles you're putting in are going to count; mindlessly pedalling for hours on end won't get you results. Cycling indoors on a turbo trainer is vastly different to cycling outdoors as you won't have the ever-changing terrain and demanding climbs. Follow a varied and challenging plan that suits you and your goals.
Set up some music or TV if you can to relieve the boredom. You could even watch an old road race or competitive cycling online to feel extra inspired. Some sites will even allow you to follow an outdoor simulation so that you feel like you're cycling outdoors and up mountains.
Use a fan.
Get the biggest fan you can afford because you'll sweat even in the coldest of rooms. Get a sweat catcher or towel to protect your frame and bars from the drips.
Chances are you'll drink more when on a turbo trainer than when you're cycling outdoors, especially if you're sweating a lot. Plan ahead and make sure you have access to plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated.
If using your turbo trainer indoors, get a yoga mat or something similar to reduce the noise. Your family and neighbours will thank you!