Living with Ichthyosis presents its challenges and when it comes to health and wellness, it's playing with fire. You try things and you either fail or succeed. What works for some, won't work with others. What I hope to write down here is a breakdown of the way I work around my fitness and its obstacles. By the way, I am no doctor, but simply describing what works for me.
When it comes to running, I'm a sprinter. I don't like short distances very much and with long distances, it's a lot easier to pace myself and work my way around. As a rugby referee who does an insane amount of quick turns to keep up with the pace of the game, it's a work in progress. Our referees fitness trainer is helping me master the turns with cleaner efficiency without the fear of damaging my knee, which lets be honest, is probably in a terrible state as I write this!
I haven't always been this fit. In school I didn't really take part in PE lessons much for a couple of reasons,
- the weather was playing mind games (remembering HK is a hot and humid wasteland)
- I was repeating my AS Level Art qualification (we don't talk of this!)
- I just didn't really get my arse in gear
I think it was only when I joined the referees fraternity at about 16/17/18 when I realized that if I wanted to get better games and move up the ranks, I was going to need to up the ante and get with the programme. I think it did slightly shock my ex PE teachers when news got out that the lazy got got her arse in gear and was caught sprint around pitches.
One big thing about Ichthyosis is the risk of brittle bones and osteoporosis. This is what kind of got in the way of things. But with the help of my wonderful family doctor, we started working toward making my bones stronger with vitamins and lots of good stuff. Because of this, I can worry less about my bones shattering and more about my real goals.
So back to what I do.
So Wednesday nights, we have fitness training where believe me, the bar is set pretty high by our trainer Wai from Pinnacle. This season, I don't think I've actually come away from training without cursing him from under my breath. But for all its worth, the drills, the circuits, the pitch laps, timed runs and more, it's all paid off as keeping up with the players and their 12 year old pace is not nearly as painful as it once was. I also honestly believe that training with like minded individuals really ups the motivation levels and it's equally important to work with someone who you have a good connection with. I've been lucky so far in having some great trainers who have yelled, cajoled, encouraged and dissed me as I train. Character building I tell ya!
If I happen to have a good week where I'm back in Sai Kung in the early-ish evenings, I like to try and get myself on a road run from our sleepy little village (some may argue that point) and up a couple of slopes and roads which ultimately leads me into Sai Kung Town. This is a roughly 4km-ish venture and is a good way to pass time while the washing machine load does its thing. Bear in mind, this isn't a full on sprint, but a steady run. I would never sprint up a steep slope where I live...I walk up those parts before gathering the pace again for the flatter parts. This, depending on my pace can be done in max 45 minutes in cool weather. But we will revisit this in the summer.
I also wear a FitBit flex. I like to wear something that counts my steps daily and makes sure that I am on my feet often. The recommended step target is 10,000 steps, but I push my buttons and aim for 13,500 steps at least! I find that it gives me satisfaction that I've not been sitting on my lazy arse at work all day when I feel that vibration on my wrist telling me I've hit my goal for the day.
Nutrition and hydration is also key to a decent level of fitness. Now I'd like to think I'm pretty disciplined when my eating habits are concerned but here we go.
The average Ichthyosis person should ideally be downing roughly 10,000 calories a day. And to think that the average person usually eats 2500 a day. That just scares me shitless. And no, I don't hit the 10k mark. My wallet would hate me so much. I think that in reality, most of my wages go on food. Yeah. I know.
As with most humans who work, the mentality is that at the beginning of the month, you eat well because your wallet has been restocked. But by the end of it, well, instant rice noodles are right up there.
I eat a fairly healthy feed which all depends on my activities for the day. But as a base, I'm not overly keen on processed foods but sometimes, needs must. But some of my favorite things to eat and drink include,
kale chips or raw veggie chips
rice (not the sticky kind you find in a rice box)
Mixed fruit and veg Juices
Anything that packs a major punch of flavour. It's dull eating something that's not colourful or full of flavour.
I'm a big fan of whole foods as I have learned, rather belatedly. that you are what you eat. And while things like quavers, pork scratchings and all that processed comfort food is not the most nutritionally packed thing to eat, I won't hesitate to eat those too, in moderation. That's the thing, if you look after yourself, I don't see why you can't treat yourself every now and then. If I want to have a bag of crisps or sweets, I will, because I know that in moderation, I'm not killing my body completely.
If I've been to training or I've done a morning of refereeing, my first thing to do afterwards is shove some food into my mouth as I refuse to eat two hours before heavy intensity workouts. And the sight of your last meal on the pitch can't be a pleasant sight! But I might throw in a protein shake or some form of liquid and down that, just to keep me going for long enough. I really have a love hate relationship with protein powder as it's hard to find an affordable one which tastes okay but doesn't have the crap that normally goes into them. I'm a fan of the Vega protein range which is plant based. If I'm refereeing, I like to mix that with a peach flavoured Isoflex protein powder. So I'm getting an absolute protein punch. It tastes vile of course, but when it packs in over 30g of protein and holds me for an entire morning, I shan't complain!
Hydrating is a massive thing for me as well. It's not uncommon for me to be carrying around a big bottle of water. When I do remember to put in, I absolutely love my 1ltre Camelbak Chute bottle which despite the abuse I put it through, somehow still looks amazing. But for me, drinking liquids for me is a big thing. I'm a sucker for coconut water after training. But as I mentioned before, if needs must, I will also drink sugary electrolyte drinks to rebuild my energy. I'm a fan of Lucozade energy and Pocari Sweat.
And no I don't run barefoot. For a road run or when I forget my boots at training (shock horror!) I own a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 16s bought for me by my lovely grandma last year. Yes they're expensive, but they have offered me great cushioning and support for my heels as I run while digging (don't ask). For boots when I'm refereeing or on turf or a grass pitch, it's not difficult to find me in purple zebra patterned X-Blades. Comfortable, but light, those are my babies.
Now, dear folks, what I've written today is what works for me. What works for one, may not work for someone else. I'm constantly learning about my own limitations and what works well. One thing in particular is the foam roller and deep tissue ball. I'm fairly high pain threshold and actually love the feeling of further abusing myself after fitness sessions. But with others, their skin could break with the spikes of the roller or deep tissue ball.
I wanted to write this because as someone with Ichthyosis and a somewhat compromised body, I wanted to throw it out there that with the right balance and structures, it's certainly possible to embark on a fit life. It's all about common sense, motivation and a desire to be the best you can be. And talking to professionals works a charm as well!
AN: I've included brand name products in this post. Not because I represent them (I don't), but because these are the products I know, love and trust. And if I get a request to be a brand rep, awesome!