Utah and RachelLiving and breathing an active and healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you won’t develop a chronic disease!

We are told if we exercise regularly, eat a balanced and wholesome diet, get plenty of sleep and learn ways to reduce stress then we will live much healthier lives. So you would expect a Personal Trainer to be healthier than most right?While this might be true for some it is not always the case and certainly not for me.But, I strongly believe that it is vital for everyone to do everything they can to keep fit and healthy and improve their well-being.

This is an incredibly personal and challenging Blog to write and I have delayed it for a long time because I guess I was worried about what people would think. I have just endured one of the toughest periods of my life due to a chronic health problem that has been affecting me since the end of 2015.It started with pain and swelling in my feet and over the last 8 months has spread to my hands and other areas of my body including one of my major organs. It has majorly impacted on my fitness levels, strength, mood and energy and the battle is still continuing. It was a shock to feel so unwell considering I have one of the healthiest diets of anyone I know and that I always exercised and got plenty of sleep.

After enduring a long wait and navigating the health system and a number of different specialists I was finally given the diagnosis of Spondyloarthritis (an inflammatory arthritis caused by auto immune disorder) two weeks ago. The news was tough but to some extent also a relief to finally get some answers. Unfortunately, a diagnosis also meant aggressive treatment in the form of Prednisolone, a powerful steroid that shuts down your immune system and causes a plethora of side effects.

Regardless of all this, I could be a lot worse and I put it down to the the fact that I haven’t stopped moving. Despite extreme pain in my feet at times and my lower back and hips I have continued to walk my dog Utah, every single day without fail. I walk when it’s pouring with rain, it’s freezing or I am exhausted because every time I feel better mentally and physically by the time I get home, and that makes it worth it.I have also continued the habit of eating an excellent diet of home cooked meals,seven to eight portions of fruit and vegetables every day, plenty of fermented foods and omega 3 fatty acids. I believe my anti-inflammatory diet has prevented me from being a lot sicker and having to give up work.

Getting plenty of sleep (bed before 9:30) has also been crucial as I understand the importance of getting quality sleep before midnight which heals the Adrenals. Keeping up my regular meditation has also been extremely helpful in being more mindful of my thoughts and my body. I don’t have a partner or any family in New Zealand, and there were moments that I was ready to pack up and return to England to my family. What kept me here was the beautiful surroundings I live in and having kind and supportive friends that have made an amazing difference.

I haven’t cancelled any client sessions since all this started. I had cut down the number of clients I see because of my reduced energy but until very recently I kept the secret of my illness to myself. I have a highly professional approach to working with my clients so I rarely talk about me unless asked. I felt that it was inappropriate to share stories of my ill-health with them as this was almost a reflection of who I was. I always wanted to be an amazing role model and felt that maybe I was deceiving them in some way as I wasn’t as healthy as they perceived me to be. Then, as demonstrating some exercises became difficult I told one client and he said: ” You are NOT a good example of a Personal Trainer. ” I was really offended, even though he said it as more of a joke. I told him I would be a lot worse if I wasn’t active and living a healthy lifestyle. But, his statement made me decide not to tell any other clients as I felt slightly ashamed. I am a leading personal trainer in new Zealand and I cannot appear to not walk the talk!

If you looked at me, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong but that might start to change. The high dose of steroids I am on may cause my face to swell (moon face) and that will be difficult to hide from clients so I decided to tell a few more clients. The next client I shared this with was working with me after suffering from a stroke. She said she thought I was an amazing role model because she said I look so good and the fact that I am continuing to do what I do is indicative of my overall health. That certainly made me feel better about myself.

So, I have now decided to tell the world because I hope my story compels more people to get moving and care for their well-being. I want people to know so that I don’t injure myself trying to match their pace on a walk, like I did yesterday. I feel that people that know I am a personal trainer but don’t know about my medical condition will judge me for my low levels of fitness and what kind of role model would I be then? and I know it doesn’t matter what people think but there are enough people living a sedentary lifestyle coupled with high stress. I feel strongly about sharing the message that if they are fit and healthy they will deal with illness much better than someone who is sedentary and eating a diet high in processed foods. Just getting by each day should not be enough for us, too many of us are doing this and not really living life.

Life is a game of Russian roulette, but to make sure the odds are in your favour it’s important to practice the following:

Move every day. Sitting is as bad as smoking
Prepare your own food. Avoid processed or takeaways. Variety is the key
Drink plenty of water
Practice meditation
Be in bed before 10
Surround yourself with good friends. Friendships are so valuable.
Make time to do the things you enjoy
Make your health your priority
Make the most of your family, if you have them around

Thanks for reading this very personal blog. Please feel free to comment or ask a question. I would love to hear from you.

Rachel Marks

Posted 29th August 2016


3 Thoughts on “Being a Personal Trainer and living with an Auto Immune disease”

  • Hi Rachel,

    Not sure if you’ll remember me….it’s Lou Barwell ( Mack now, got married nearly 9 years ago?) from Monarch.
    Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I remember you talking about becoming a PT all those years ago and knew you’d be a success as you were all in, even back then. Give it rocks girl!,

  • Hi Louise, thank you so much and I do remember you. hope you are well too. I am doing better at the moment health wise.

Comments are closed.