Training for an athletic event such as Get Your Guts In Gear takes preparation, and can be complicated by the fact that many riders are patients of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. It is especially important to prioritize your health during training, but you can do it! Here are some tips on successful training and management:
1. Know your body.
You’ve probably learned a lot about your body through your journey with your disease, such as which foods and medications help, and which ones cause reactions. As your training progresses, be attentive to similar things. Do you get hungry or need to use the bathroom at a certain time? Does an intense or long workout trigger symptoms? Do you feel drained the day after a workout?
Use a calendar or diary to record your workouts, along with your diet and symptoms, to help you determine how all of these affect each other. Training smart can help you get the most out of your efforts with the least stress on your body and disease.
2. Build a support system.
There are a lot of experts out there that can help you. If you are experiencing symptoms and you’re concerned they may affect your training, talk to your doctor. He/she will likely have some suggestions to managing your fitness, or be able to refer you to a specialist that can help you further. Going from none or little athletic activity, to training for a multi-day ride like GYGIG will affect aspects such as your weight, appetite, and metabolism, so it’s important to let your doctor know that you’re doing this (Bonus- ask him for a donation!)
If it’s within your budget, consider finding a coach, nutritionist, or both, that can advise you during this process. Digestion is vital in absorbing the nutrients and water that a body needs to undergo this type of training. Finding a professional that can help you determine the best way to do this, and help manage your training throughout the process can be an invaluable resource.
3. Learn how to eat.
Many nutrients, as well as water, are absorbed through the colon. If your digestive system is not normal, you’ll need to be extremely careful to make sure you’re getting enough to keep you going. Learn to eat and drink consistently, that is, a little bit at a time, but often during long rides. You’ll need to eat before you are hungry, and drink before you are thirsty. Don’t overwhelm your gut with unfamiliar energy foods, but keep the caloric intake steady. The more you ride, the more you will learn to eat and drink effectively.
Find nutritional products that work for you. Having water in one bottle, and Gatorade or an electrolyte drink in the other is a great balance for fluids. This gives you hydration, calories, electrolytes, and variety in taste. Carefully try gels, chews, and bars, to find what works with your digestion. Many of the products out there are highly processed, and while they have a calculated formula for energy, are tough on the gut. Try some before the ride to figure out what’s best for your body.
Clif Bar makes some great products such as Shot Bloks, and a variety of healthier energy bars. Another favorite is Honey Stinger energy gels, which are organic, and get the natural energy found in honey. These are some of the easiest to digest.
Don’t forget about recovery foods, which will help your legs feel better faster. Many recovery drinks and bars you can purchase are high in protein. If this is too hard to digest, try a large serving of yogurt, which has lots of dairy protein, and is often easier on the gut.
4. Be prepared- bad days will probably happen.
We all know that Crohns and Colitis can decide to flare when it is most inconvenient. Be mentally prepared, this is probably going to happen, but you can’t let it get you down. Be smart about your symptoms, and don’t feel guilty about taking days off if your disease can’t handle it. Don’t let yourself get too frustrated about the situation, because it’s inevitable, and take advantage of the days that you feel good.
Participating in GYGIG is all about overcoming your disease, and doing something great despite what you have been handed! Your attitude goes a long way in keeping you going through these small challenges. IBD might affect you some days, but don’t let it stop you!
If you do have a bad day and can’t ride, find an alternative exercise. Yoga is a great low-impact exercise that builds strength and balance, clears your mind, and can allow you to stay near the bathroom. Find a studio or class that you can attend. I bet the other participants are willing to donate also!
Get Your Guts In Gear is known for building an extremely supportive community. If you’re having a downer day or need some advice, post it on our Facebook wall, and we’re pretty sure you’ll find some positive responses!
5. Be prepared on the road.
Some days, you might not expect the urge to hit when you’re on your bike, 20 miles from home. Be prepared for this by carrying a small roll of toilet paper or a travel pack of flushable wipes in your bike’s seat pack. Keep your cell phone with you, in case you need to call someone for clean undies, or more likely a ride back. Ride with friends if you can, that understand your situation. Let them know that you might have to find a bathroom suddenly, and they may need to hold your bike while you go. If you have a really good friend, have them drive out and meet you at certain check points with extra water, and even clean bike shorts, if needed! Thank them graciously.
Many riders also carry items like Tums or Imodium in their seat packs, just in case. These should be used as something to get you through a situation, not to depend on every time you ride.
6. Remember why you’re doing this.
Sometimes, the most motivating thing to remember is how much pain you felt during your worst flares, or post-surgery, or during an extended hospital stay. You’re doing this for a reason, whether it be to prove to yourself that you’re not letting your disease win, to show others that you’re being active in making a difference, or in honor of those still unable to do something like this.
Keep that in mind when you train and when you ride. Remember how your disease forced you to find strength, and taught you to deal with pain. Use those seemingly negative tools and turn them into a positive. By training for, and participating in Get Your Guts In Gear, you’re making a difference in your life, and the lives of all IBD patients, and that is something great! We’re all here to accomplish our goals, whatever they may be, and build a community, not to be the fastest rider in the group.
The Get Your Guts In Gear community is almost a decade old, and every year we see the return of old riders, and the addition of new riders, who instantly feel part of the GYGIG family. If you ever have a question, need advice, or just seek a tidbit of motivation, please post it on our Facebook wall, and someone will be eager to share their experience with you!
Support On The Ride
During the 2 days of riding of Get Your Guts In Gear, lots of steps are taken to customize the ride experience towards IBD participants. Rest stops every 12-15 miles will have a variety of gut-friendly snacks, water, Gatorade, and people to check up on you and encourage you. Registered Nurses are usually stationed at the lunch stop, and at camp. Bathrooms are at every single rest stop, including lunch and camp, with lots of soft toilet paper!
Sweep vans will be monitoring the riders along the course, and riders will be able to reach any of these via cell phone during the ride, whether it be for a flat tire, a quick trip to the nearest bathroom, or for a break in riding. All crew members are prepared with directories of nearby hospitals and pharmacies.
The participants on the ride are some of the most supportive and encouraging of any charity ride. You will be able to depend on them for any (reasonable!) request, and they likely understand what it’s like to deal with IBD! We’re all so excited for you to participate, and to see you out there doing what you can for IBD, no matter how short or far you ride!