Getting Back On Track

There are so many Elixr members with stories to tell about how their lives have been positively impacted through their Pilates or yoga practice. We recently caught up with one of these members and asked her to share her journey with Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel condition – and associated inflammatory arthritis with us, and how Pilates has helped her regain a more active life.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 36 years old and have been living in Sydney for six years. I qualified as an occupational therapist (OT) in 2009 and completed my master’s degree in 2016.

2. What prompted you to become an Elixr member?
When I moved to Sydney, I needed somewhere to exercise. I liked the idea of group classes even though I hadn’t done Pilates before.

3. You have Crohn’s disease and inflammatory arthritis. When were you diagnosed and how has it affected you?
It was actually a relief when I was diagnosed in 2014 because for most of my life, various Crohn’s symptoms had been brushed off as anxiety. I had a number of medical tests over the course of three months and was initially diagnosed with mild-moderate Crohn’s disease – this was upgraded to moderate-severe Crohn’s when it didn’t respond to medication. About three months after my Crohn’s diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with arthritis (non-radiographic spondylitis) by a rheumatologist.

The combination of symptoms (from both the Crohn’s and arthritis) impacted my life in terms of pain, nausea, discomfort and huge fatigue. Once I started on biologic medication, my gastrointestinal symptoms went into clinical remission, however my joints were not 100% pain free. Pain affected my mobility, and both pain and fatigue impacted every area of my life – especially work and my social life.

4. You’ve mentioned that Pilates has helped with your condition. Can you tell us more about this journey?
Although the medication put me into remission, I still had residual fatigue and pain, and I knew I had to try other things to help because I wasn’t happy feeling half functional. I started swimming at Elixr while my joints were extremely painful and slowly began adding Pilates classes. Once I had built up strength and endurance, I stopped swimming and focused solely on Pilates.

The instructors taught me how to adjust the reformer bed and exercises to suit my needs, and I found that Pilates helped to reduce my fatigue and joint pain – this helped me to be more active in my life in general. When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, I had to reduce my working hours to manage the pain and fatigue. Now, I go to Pilates four times a week and it’s been one of the factors that has helped me return to a full-time job.

5. What do you love most about Pilates?
How I feel after the class. I have more mobility, especially in my spine – this is where my worst joint pain is – and more energy. I love feeling like I’ve worked my muscles in a Pilates class, it’s a much better feeling than pain I can’t control. I also love the friendly instructors.

6. What do enjoy most about Elixr?
The friendly staff. The instructors are knowledgeable, encouraging and understanding, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I’ve also found that they know when to push me and when to encourage me to take it easy, as sometimes that’s what I need from a class.

7. What inspires you?
People who have faced adversity and challenges in their lives and, through their own will and strength, are still living, achieving and smiling. I find the children I work with inspirational too, as they work hard to achieve tiny goals which change their lives. For example, being able to feed themselves independently, dress themselves or tie their shoe laces. The joy on their faces when they achieve their goals is inspiring.

8. What is your greatest achievement so far?
My life has been the culmination of many small achievements – things like becoming an OT, completing my master’s degree by dissertation, emigrating to Sydney and marrying my husband.

9. What are some of your favourite things to do in Sydney?
Spending time with family and friends, going for walks (particularly along the cliffs overlooking the sea), and visiting new beaches.