My understanding of fitness is informed by both my former work and formal training as an aerobics instructor and also by my fitness training for running races and triathlons. I used to be what some called “super fit”. That kind of came to and end when I got a severe autoimmune illness over 6 years ago and suddenly found it difficult to walk even two blocks. Prior to that, I had maintained a high level of fitness, mainly because I enjoyed it, and also because I thought it would protect me from health conditions that ran in my family, such as heart disease. That is probably true, but getting a health condition that was entirely unrelated was a blow and forced me to stop working and studying law(which I was doing at the time). I then had to take prednisone, a wonder drug which heals and restores energy, but at a terrible cost – it has awful side effects including muscle wastage and weight gain, so my fitness was further undermined by the drug which was at the same time healing me. I felt as though all my previous attempts to maintain a high level of fitness had been a waste of time and energy.
My understanding of how fitness worked (from the course I did to become a fitness trainer) was that if you completely stopped training, you eventually went back to the level of fitness you had before (ie. a very low level of fitness), but that if you started training again, you would regain your fitness quicker than if you had never trained and that that was the only lasting benefit from your previous training. However, recently I read a blog post (I don’t remember on which site), which stated that if you stopped training you would still retain more fitness than if you had never trained, and that if you were to race against someone who, all else being equal, had never trained, you would be considerably fitter than them and would beat them, the site even gave some numbers to substantiate and quantify this, I think it said that you would retain 50% of the fitness you had when you were fit.
The relevance of this information to me is that it belies what I had previously believed concerning fitness on longer term health and possibly explains why I am a reasonably strong cyclist now, even though I will never be as fit as I previously was. I am also sure that now I am fitter than I would have been if I had never previously trained for fitness so I feel as if my former fitness training is not all wasted, as I believed for a few years when I first fell ill. Also, my ability to train for fitness is affected by my illness which has a fatigue factor, and by the drugs which I have to take to control it, which are also quite fatiguing. I also believe that I have better withstood some of the side effects of those drugs due to my former training.
So now, I can go out for a ride and ride Fernleigh Track and back, though this does tire me out for a few days and I can’t do it that often. I also ride around town for transport, and while this is fairly leisurely most of the time, it can mean an hour or more of riding a day. What I cannot do is ride (or train in any way) at a highly intense level, eg I cannot run anymore.
I am taking prednisone and methotrexate at low doses in addition to fortnightly infusions of intragam, for the information of those who may be in a similar situation and who may be interested in these details. I hope this s of some use to anyone who is in similar situation to me as it is difficult to find out about illness and its affect on sports performance.