12 Tips for Running with a Chronic Illness

February 1, 2017

Running has really helped get me back on track mentally lately and over the years even when I was really struggling, both psychically and mentally; but running, or any form of exercise has really helped keep me going! Just a note, this post contains affiliate links to some products you might find useful. 

I have put a few tips together, from my own experience. Please not, I am not a doctor, personal trainer, or health professional and I’m not going to pretend to be… See number 1 before doing anything!


  1. Get Medical Advice

Sit down with your GP,  Consultant, or other health care professional – the first thing is to make sure the doctor is happy for you to exercise. Depending on your condition it might be that running is best for you, swimming or pilates might be most appropriate, or maybe jumping on your bike is best. It’s just best to check that you and your condition are currently stable enough for exercise, and if so, the type and how much! My nurses and doctors have always encouraged me to do something.


2. Get Mentally Prepared…

…for what you’re about to do. If you’ve not done any exercise for a while just be prepared for this being a bit challenging – be ready to push yourself a little. Your brain will more than likely tell you to stop but if there is no pain, no pulled muscle, for example, just push on that bit more. I always visualise finishing my run if I’m struggling  at any point just to keep my going I even talk to myself to keep pushing myself.


3. Take it Easy…

… and don’t get carried away – go steady, don’t go straight for into marathon or triathlon training. It’s ok to run for 30 seconds then walk for a minute or two. Your mind and body need time to adjust to what your asking it to do. It can take a little while to increase distance and build stamina.


4. Listen to Your Body

I will admit that in the past I have not done this and then instantly regretted it. If your body is screaming at you to stop and something is hurting, stop! This goes for during the run or other activity, or before you start. Just stop, relax, do something else that you find relaxing and re-assess another day. 


5. Get a Running Partner

 Some of my best runs have been with someone and it’s good for your safety thing too. Katherine and I used to run together and it makes it a much more enjoyable experience to do it together; it can be great motivation too – a bit of competition is always healthy! 


6. Use an App

There’s plenty of Apps out there. I personally use MapMyRun as it works for me. It performs tracking, offer challenges, groups, virtual coaching and plenty more – I can even set challenges with friends for extra motivation! Try it, it’s good fun.


7. Carry Supplies.

Don’t go out empty handed; take a bottle of water, you’ll be grateful of it in the early days. I always carry my phone with me, just in case of emergency and also to track my distance and times. It is worth popping a few pounds in your pocket just in case – maybe to fund a taxi home if needed (don’t panic that is a worst case scenario!) You are more likely to need it for a snack or another bottle of water.


8. Fuel Your Body

Don’t go out with an empty tank of fuel. You won’t perform half as well as you wanted to and you will then feel like you never want to run again. Make sure you eat well in the time before your run (generally only up to an hour before you start or you will get indigestion!) and drink plenty of water. If I’m heading out for a bigger run I normally have an Oat Cake with some Peanut Butter on, just to give me a little extra go.


9. Rest and Recover

So important!! I nearly always give myself a rest day between runs, just to allow my muscles to recover and rebuild. Everyone is different though if you need two days rest you need two days – that’s ok. Remember to listen to your body. During the rest period feed your body with what it needs to rebuild and keep itself going.  Over the last few months I’ve been using a foam roller before and after my runs, and it makes such a difference to both my performance and recovery – it’s a bit like a self sports massage. It does hurt a bit but at least I know it’s working. They are not too expensive and a good investment, in my opinion.


10. Enjoy it!

Make the most of the fact that today is a good day and you are able to exercise. If you need to make it a little bit more exciting, have a look at number 12.  If you are not enjoying it, it will probably become stressful and make you feel worse – perhaps try a different form of exercise? Swimming, yoga, pilates and cycling can be great alternatives.


11. Equipment

Don’t go and spend a fortune on the latest gear, unless you really want to. Just look up to the last point, “enjoy it”. You probably have a pair of trainers somewhere and you will likely have shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a jumper for when it’s cold, somewhere in your wardrobe, and that’s enough to get you going. Once you’re hooked then you can do your research into what’s best for you. My running gear isn’t overly flashy. I have my Vibram FiveFinger running shoes, I find running in these helps my form – there’s mixed views on barefoot running but it works for me. I have some Skins compression tights which help keep my muscles working at their peak and most efficient. These two items alone make a huge difference to my running performance.


12. Explore new places

Use it as a way to explore the area you live in, I’ve found loads of places just around the corner I didn’t even know existed. Just running and thinking on my feet allows me vary my routes, which makes each time I run different and in turn more enjoyable and engaging. If you are feeling really well, you could plan a weekend away and explore some completely new places.

I hope my tips help with your running, you can  use them for a different form of exercise if you wanted. Hopefully getting some exercise now, no matter how long for, will help you feel better both mentally and physically. Just remember to enjoy it and if something doesn’t feel right stop and seek some expert help.

Did I miss anything? Add your top tips in the comments below! Share, tweet and pin it too 🙂


By Nick

Nick is a dedicated step-parent of 2, and loving partner to Katherine. An animal lover, life long football fanatic, self confessed petrol head/car nerd and wannabe adventurer, Nick also enjoys playing with lego (not just with the children), coffee, running, reading and quiet family time. Having worked for 10 years as an expert Audi mechanic and then as an estate agent for 3... a change of pace means Nick now works with Katherine in their animal care business, whilst also developing Adapting Life into a thriving support network and social enterprise. Nick's aim is to help support and inspire those affected by chronic illness to live a fulfilled life, through sharing his story, personal coaching, alternative therapies, and lots more.

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