A diverse group of people are independently doing different exercises.

My Fitness Journey With Sickle Cell

Fitness is one thing that I have found interest in recently. I decided to invest more time and effort into keeping fit. So, I started by setting a fitness goal which was to gain muscle and add up more flesh. To achieve this goal, I must work out often and eat more calories.

The struggles of fitness with sickle cell

Working out with sickle cell is a nightmare, to be honest. Fatigue, a complication of anemia, is one of my many enemies that stops me from working out. I strictly believe that working out in the morning is the best and only way to work out effectively (I don't know who planted that idea in my head).

Unfortunately, some mornings come with fatigue. Getting up from bed is almost impossible. My bones will be so weak and my body will plead for more rest even after 8 hours of sleep. On days like this, the workout is a no-no, which means no workout for that day.

It took me many days of missed workouts before realizing that I needed to have a more flexible workout routine; one that I can do anytime I feel strong enough. I'm gradually working on being okay with night workouts.

Another enemy is feeling demotivated. After missing workouts for many days, I sometimes begin to feel like quitting. Fortunately, I follow some sickle warriors that are into fitness on my Instagram so some of their videos come in handy on such days.

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Incorporating nutrition

Now to nutrition. I also struggle with nutrition. There is a saying that muscles are built in the kitchen, not in the gym. This means that the majority of the weight gain or muscle gain comes from food.

In Nigeria, where poverty and overpopulation settle across the country, the cost of living is pretty high. The prices of food rise almost daily. To maintain a healthy lifestyle is expensive. Very few people can afford to eat healthily. The majority just want to eat so that they can get on with their day. Thankfully, I have someone to share the burden of the high cost with. We split the bill and buy things in bulk.

There is also the fear of eating what would harm me. I hear fitness and nutrition coaches talk about the type of foods to eat but unfortunately, some of these foods are chemically modified, they are made in the laboratory instead of on farms. I once heard that chickens no longer need to mate before reproducing eggs. Scary, right?

So while I am trying to eat to build weight, I am also conscious of the food I eat because of my health.

Lessons for getting fit with sickle cell

So far, my journey to building muscle and staying fit has been a rollercoaster. Some days are good and some days are not so good, but it's a journey so I keep going.

It is impossible to wrap up without sharing with you some of the lessons I've learned so far:

1. Set your own fitness goal

Only you know what you want. Just be real with yourself. What do you really want?

I asked myself that question and I realized that what I wanted was to be bigger than I am now. It is okay if you like your body now and you just want to stay fit or you want to lose some fat. That's fine. Just make sure that the fitness goal you're setting is one that you want for yourself.

2. Be realistic with yourself

It is important to be realistic with yourself even after setting a goal that is meant for you.

Ask yourself where you are in your fitness journey. I have been doing some home exercises for a while so I know what I can do or what I am willing to try. Don't just assume that you can do it. You should think about it too. Can you really achieve this fitness goal where you are currently? Can you do it by yourself or do you need a fitness instructor? There are just so many questions to answer.

3. Listen to your body

Sometimes when my body doesn't feel like it, I don't force it. This is really important especially when you are exercising.

Exercise can be a double-edged sword for sickle cell warriors, so whenever you feel pain or any discomfort, take a rest or stop. I also advise that you discuss with your healthcare provider how to exercise safely.

4. Start small and progress daily

I think one of the biggest pieces of advice that I have received regarding every aspect of my life is to start small and progress daily. Rome wasn't built in a day and the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So, whether you just want to stay fit or you want to become a bodybuilder, always start small.

The next step after starting small is to improve every day. Find ways to increase the tempo slightly. Remember, no pressure.

5. Surround yourself with inspiration

Yes, it is important to surround yourself with inspiration, but make it healthy inspiration. Today, inspiration is everywhere. Anyone can just put on a camera and talk. You need to be selective and that is why I follow sickle cell warriors that are into fitness on Instagram. These are people that can relate to me and I can see myself in their shoes.

6. Take nutrition seriously

Whether you're going to go on a fitness journey or not, as someone living with sickle cell, you need to take your nutrition seriously. The role of nutrition in managing sickle cell disorder can never be overemphasized.

7. Being skinny doesn't mean unhealthy

Lastly, because you're skinny doesn't mean that you are unhealthy, and that's also true for being chubby. Some of us are just meant to be skinny, perhaps because of our genes. So, do not let anyone body-shame you. Let your state of health be determined by your healthcare provider.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Sickle-Cell.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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