Lifting a Heavy Weight: Going to the Gym with Psoriasis
Going to the gym with psoriasis can be difficult physically and emotionally, but for one Skin To Live In community member, the post-workout euphoria makes it all worth it
Going to the gym is tough enough, and when you are living with psoriasis, it may be even tougher. In this article, one of our community members shares her own gym experience: from the unfortunate stares to the elation after completing a workout. Can you relate?
The front doors to the gym I’m about to enter are heavy, intimidating obstructions; the first of a few standing between me and my workout euphoria. I pry the doors open, moving quickly to the reception desk where I check in.
I rush to the women’s locker room. I hear the usual sounds – chatter from friends discussing evening plans, rushing showerheads, lockers opening and closing. I move through the scene, heading to the back corner where there’s dim lighting and shadows cast about. This is my least favorite part. Moving quickly, I remove my exercise clothes from my gym bag and skillfully pull them on as I strip off my work clothes. I’m careful to cover the majority of my body during this process. Everyone knows the gym is already a ripe environment for catching a cold or even athlete’s foot, and I don’t want anyone to mistake the red, scaly psoriasis patches on my skin as something contagious that will leap from my body to theirs. If I do catch a fellow gym goer noticing my spots, I never know what to say, how to act, or what to do.
Once dressed, I shove my belongings into the locker and make my way to the studio for the cardio/strength training class. I sometimes arrive a few minutes early and am forced to “stretch” (i.e. sit on the ground and look occupied) outside the studio while I wait for the previous class to end.
Another gym goer approaches the studio, also waiting. Our eyes meet and a polite smile passes between us. I watch as she scans me quickly, almost subconsciously, and I see her eyes pause on my shins right where my psoriasis spots are located. My ankle-length leggings were in the wash, and I was forced to go with the calf-length ones instead - I was also in the middle of a particularly rough flare-up. Physically, I was itchy all over my legs, back, torso and chest, and some spots on my shins were even sore to the touch. Mentally, I was tired and stressed from thinking about how my psoriasis spots affected me, what I could wear at the moment, and everything else that you have to worry about when you live with psoriasis. You could say I was lifting another kind of weight at the gym, but it was one you could not see.
As the previous class files out of the studio, the other gym goer and I enter, and I start to block out the stares at my legs. Our instructor lays out what we can expect for the next 45 minutes, and we start to move through intervals designed to build endurance and tone muscles. The music turns way up and the studio could be mistaken for a nightclub or rowdy bar if one closes their eyes. “Jump, high knees now, higher, lunge right, lunge left, jump faster!” The instructor makes the calls, and we follow, moving with purpose and an unintentional synchronization. My heart rate is up, and I’m working hard to keep pace.
I’m reminded why I come here week after week. I show up for myself, to tell myself: I am strong, I only have one body so I better make it the best one, and I can do anything I set my mind to. When I work out, my psoriasis moves to the way, way back of my head. I’m free from thinking about the flare-ups, the stares, and the emotional pain. Exercising releases a euphoric feeling for me, in turn boosting my mood and my spirits. I understand some days will be more challenging, but just as I am doing right now, in this class, I have the power to kick butt. Mind over matter.