Training an athlete with an Illness


Every day I wake up in pain. The pain spreads throughout my body and at times I feel like a voodoo doll. I have a medical team of over 20 doctors/ specialists who I see regularly. I suffer extreme exhaustion, sometimes only 30 minutes of being awake. Most days I am numb which makes my feelings unreliable and has me learning things in ways people don’t understand. I get moody, not because I want too but because the stress builds up and starts causing major flares. At times I have delayed reactions to events…and other times I suffer from fibro fog (like short term memory). I have a sensitivity to light, which in the day time it hurts to be outside, and at dawn or dusk I cannot drive because I have vision problems with lighting. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, AS and Osteoarthritis. Some days these illnesses slow me down but I will never let them interfere with my dreams. I want to be an inspiration to those suffering from chronic illnesses and have them know that they are not their illness but that it’s only a small part of them.

How to find a trainer/coach

Finding a coach/trainer who understands medical issues can…no…is very tough. But I have had to do it, and many others who continue in the sport have done it. Now finding a coach is the same thing as finding a trainer.

Step 1: Determine what your goals are. Do you want to compete at competitions? Lose ten pounds? Get healthy? Have more flexibility?

My goal for the 2016 season is: I want to lose ten pounds. I want to start doubles on the ice (I had to take 4 years off of jumping), I want to compete in minimum 2 competitions and for tests, I want to pass my Gold Interpretive and Final Senior Bronze Dance.

In 2015 I went back to competition. And probably was the best experience of my life. There were a lot of highs and lows and flares but overall it helped me learn about my body and limits. (Even at times if I was stubborn not to listen to my body). With the enjoyment…I realized I want to do this again next year.


Step 2: Do not settle on the first coach/trainer you speak too.

–Sometimes the first coach or trainer will be the right one. But how would you know? What I do…is I observe many before I start making decisions. I see how they act with the student they are working with. I see how people react around them in public. If they are on time.

After that I write them all down on a list and start interviews. Find out the schedules. Their goals, where they expect to be in a few years and how much they are willing to help. Usually at that point you can cut a couple off the list.

For Figure Skaters…which works in any sport, you do tryouts. I try out the remainder of the coaches in lets say….3 lessons and then make the decision.

Sometimes it takes less time in knowing, sometimes a little more. I am one who hates changes and when I have to make them I get uncomfortable. It takes a lot of learning but if you are motivated and want to reach your goals you have to do it. As they say, “Do what you have to do, to get where you have to go.”

Step 3: Be very open about all the issues you are going through.

-For me this was the hardest one. I was embarrassed talking about being in so much pain. I was embarrassed with the stomach pain that kept me in bed for days. It was not something I felt comfortable with. Especially with a male coach, I thought with a female coach I would be more comfortable, but it’s not. I work with 2 female coaches (very minimal) 1 male coach (about 5x per week), and another male coach at least 1x a week…and they all know I have problems. My main coach is very supportive and understanding and works with me to help my health first and goals second.

Even if you want to achieve goals. If you do it not healthy, you will not get very far. You may succeed in the goals and then be worse or you might not get your goals because you physically cant.

I have only worked with him for a little over a year. I am still learning but having someone beside me like this makes the learning more fun and you feel like you have some support.

When I had my old coach. I was not honest what I was going through. The coach probably thought I was lazy but in reality I was in a lot of pain and it was progressing at a rapid speed. The coach left me…which made me have to search for a new one but as I said I think I found the right one.

4) Finally Be Honest.

It is your health. Be honest. If you can only work out ten minutes one day don’t kick yourself in the butt. Ten minutes is more then some people have done. The next day try 11 minutes. Later on I will post some training schedules that can help. I have tested a lot of them and for me they worked. Coaches/Trainers will and should be very understanding. They should know we try and we are not lazy. Some days we have good days and other days we have bad days.

Now don’t over push yourself when you are in pain. It will cause further issues. Say “it is too much for me.” “Can we try again tomorrow?” I have hid it but a good trainer can always tell when the athlete is in pain. Whether they slow down. Facial reactions. Body Language. Whatever it is the trainer should be aware for whatever the reason will be the athlete does not say anything!!

Finally Go Have Fun!! Try your best and After try and beat your best. It is up to you.

Coaches/Trainers: What to ask your athlete

So I have been focusing a lot about the athlete but nothing about the trainers. Here I will post what you should ask/do before getting into a professional working relationship.

Question 1: Find out what the objectives are. Do they want to have fun? Do they want to lose weight? Do they want to train? Do they want to compete (whatever sport they are doing). So goals and objectives ARE the main thing to find out. (Remember:) if you don’t think you can do it, or don’t have time. Say it straight out. Don’t keep them waiting for the incase. As well if you find you are struggling to understand something don’t be shy to ask the athlete, or the parents (if minor) about it. They will be happy to answer. 

Question 2: Time and Strengths. Knowing the athletes time and strengths before starting is essential. What one can do might not be the case of any of your other athletes, whether or not they are both healthy or suffer the chronic illnesses. Nobody is the same. But what you have to know is especially one with these illnesses…is there will always be good and bad days. Some days an athlete can do 20 mins and be in excruciating pain…while other days the athlete can be in top shape and do 3 hours and you wouldn’t even know anything is wrong. 

But as I am saying: you should be okay with the scheduling and be understanding. It is not their fault. And yes for team sports it could be even tougher. But communication is key in this case. Ask how they feel after every shift. Listen to them and trust their instinct.

The number one thing to remember is: Never make an athlete feel like they have to prove their illness. Sometimes a simple thing said or done can make them feel that way. Let them enjoy their good moments and support them through the bad. And be aware, their mentality isn’t always as strong as someone who does not suffer in pain. So go easy on them.

Finally remember to have fun. Athletes learn better when fun is involved (keep discipline too). Don’t constantly yell or push it’ll just make things worse especially with a disease/illness. All we want is to feel normal even when our bodies do not allow us too. 

Medical Dream Team

Okay, before bitching me out because “Medical Dream Team” is not a category that should be under here…well I can veto that opinion. Want to know how? As an athlete…In order to train and workout successfully…a few things have to be done. This includes having a medical dream team. Yes, in some minds…being healthy means you have less appointments? I would call that straight out bullshit, all this means is someone with chronic illnesses/diseases will have to do is give more description of what they have, what they are going through, as well as being open to try out new things.

Every doctor has their own opinion. A lot of them think the others are wrong, and only they are right…well that could be another opinion? But as one who suffers a lot and sees a lot of doctors while training, I can say yes I might be at appointments a lot more (but I also waited until everything got bad), and yes, everything becomes repetitive BUT my goal is if the medical professional does not trust you or what you are going through or how you feel, find someone who does.

Here is my list that I have and why:

Family Doctor: Doctor who gets all the results and prescribes all the tests as well as can refer you to other specialist.

Rheumatologist: I have one for the Fibro. However, the fibro was diagnosed before seeing one (I still have not made this appointment yet) but when I do, it will be to further examine the Fibro.

Gynecologist: This one is for the endometriosis. He is also my surgeon. Must need especially with the pain.

Clinic Emergency: Any emergency? Make sure to have your available clinic so you can fix things right away. Longer you wait the more issues it can cause. (I have 2 that I alternate between).

Nutritionist/Dietician: In my case I have a nutritionist. One of the first to believe me when I said something was wrong and she helped right away. This is needed especially for an athlete to find a proper plan in keeping the athlete healthy while training and competing. Even more so if the athlete needs a refined diet like Lactose Free, Gluten Free, Sugar free etc.

Physiotherapy: My favorite! With all my injuries I have been in and out of physiotherapy for over 5 years now. Stomach injury, back injury, neck injury, knee injuries, shoulder injury. It’s insane but always a must.

——Physiotherapy sense you can also add a masseuse and acupuncture. I tried acupuncture and it helps (when not injured).

Chiropractor: For any sports (especially contact and falling) (and many illnesses) this is also a must!! I put it off for tooooooooo long. I cannot even emphasize on that enough. And it was almost at the time of it feeling like I was paralyzed. Chiro helped me a lot!!!!

Urologist: I had this doctor to diagnose my Over Active Bladder. This may not be a specialist for everyone, but there are other specialists that people will have to see that I do not or no longer see (this should be added to your list when you make your own).

Cardiologist: I had open heart surgery for two holes in my heart when I was 4 years old. I follow a specialized cardiologist every 2-3 years to make sure everything is still under control.

Psychologist: With everything a body goes through. Psychologists are needed. Does not mean there are problems. But does mean you might need someone to talk to about everything you have been through. Especially if you’ve become a lab rat.

Dermatologist: I have a bit of a hormone imbalance. It caused acne when I was younger and also some rashes while working out. I no longer see one but I have used this doctor.

Gastro-Intestinal Doctor: Also used in the past when the pains started coming. No longer use one now but I needed one to go through all the testing.

Anyways, different issues will cause MANY different doctors. Before training, make sure the important ones are notified and that you have at  least had your checkups. Having a medical team is important (even if it feels like a pain in the ass). But once you’ve seen them all you only need to keep going back for updates so it does not stay this crazy.

Health = Priority especially if you want to be strong, stay active and train. This goes for any sport and any motivation level whether it is to lose 10 pounds or be a competitive athlete. As well it will help to tell the coach/trainer that way if you feel off, have to miss a practice they will understand.

And finally: Make sure you know where your nearest Lab Clinic is (blood and urine tests) ALONG with your nearest Radiology place. With all the tests doctors will put you through, you will be on first name basis in no time!