My client is 34 years old and he has a genetic disorder called cystic fibrosis. He is quite fit. He has done a couple of marathons, and he’s preparing for a triathlon in three months. What program recommendations should I adhere to when designing his training program?
The following should be used as a guideline and is not intended to replace medical advice.
Cystic fibrosis has many possible symptoms such as mucus in the lungs (perhaps the most common one), repeated infections, pneumonia, coughing, wheezing and asthma. Weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain and enlarged fingertips are also common. Since mucus can lead to an upset of the mineral balance in the blood, abnormal heart rhythms can occur. Yet with a few considerations, cystic fibrosis can be overcome during high intensity training.
“I have cystic fibrosis, it doesn’t have me,” states Scott Johnson, a competitive triathlete. He says that exercise and a positive attitude are the two biggest factors in his success.
Exercise has many positive effects for people with cystic fibrosis. The vibrations from running or biking naturally loosen mucus so it can be coughed up and removed easier. The heart is also strengthened from improved cardiovascular health and improved blood pressure. Increasing muscle and fitness level can help the body fight off illness easier. An improved mental attitude usually results from exercise as well.
Here are a few considerations to take into account when training an athlete with cystic fibrosis:
- A longer warm up and cool down as well as extra stretching should be performed to protect ligaments and joints.
- Proper hydration is critical since increased amounts of salt are often present in sweat. Use salt tablets if necessary.
- Since an increased amount of calories are lost in cystic fibrosis patients, proper nutrition is a big key and the extra calories should be made up for.
- Snacking should be done every hour throughout the day.
- Ease into exercise and progress slowly.
- Watch closely for signs of fatigue and stop exercising if needed.
- Stop if there is an abdominal blockage or an arthritis flare up.
- Always consult a doctor before starting exercise and consider getting advice from a physical therapist.
A normal exercise program can be performed as long as these considerations are taken into account.