CF Wellness Boot Camp – Introduction

by on April 18, 2011

What is a “boot camp” and how can it help me?

A traditional “boot camp” is an intense training program for military recruits.  Fitness professionals everywhere have stolen this idea.  Now you can easily find an early morning community “boot camp” style exercise class at your local community college or gym.  They are basic, nothing fancy, no frills sessions complete with old-fashioned calisthenics, running, jumping, climbing, grunting and sweating. New friendships are forged each session as groups of people meet at ridiculous o’clock in the morning in ungodly weather with the mutual goal of becoming fit.

It occurred to me during a recent exacerbation of my cystic fibrosis that the concept of a “boot camp” could be extremely beneficial to people dealing with the ups and downs of living with chronic disease.  In this series of posts, I discuss how a focused period of intense attention to health and lifestyle improvements can assist in “coming back” from a CF setback, but the idea can really be applied to any ongoing health problem characterized by exacerbations and remissions.

In the first rendition of this chapter, I had come up with a three week plan following a course of home intravenous antibiotics which I needed for a basic “tune up” following a series of upper respiratory infections.  I felt less than energetic, and was coughing more than usual, but certainly was not so ill that I couldn’t set exercise and nutrition goals with full confidence that I could achieve them.

Then, as fate would have it, the program AND the book got put on indefinite hold as I became extremely sick, hospitalized with acute pneumonia and needed another full four week course of treatment.  I lost seven percent of my bodyweight, probably all from muscle mass since I didn’t have much body fat to start with.  Suddenly, it was “exercise” to get up from the chair and walk down the hall to the bathroom.

My confidence was shaken, but the end result was a slightly different perspective, one that is more in line with the majority of adults with CF.   The “boot camp” plan that follows is one based on the very real fact that when you are coming back from getting knocked down, there are two important principles to follow.  First, you must have compassion for yourself and for what your body is dealing with.  Second, you must be patient and persistent.  And never give up.

As a wellness coach, I have helped many people come up with “wellness visions” and design strategies to achieve them.  I work mostly with people with serious health problems, and it is essential for me to remind people to have big goals, but to go slowly and carefully toward them.   This is what I have tried to do with the CF Wellness Boot Camp.

The intention is that you will do this after treatment for an exacerbation.  This is because I know you feel better and stronger than you did a few weeks ago.  I know your lungs are as clear as they can be, and your energy level is optimal.  Now is the time to act.  If there is ever a time to get healthy in ALL areas of your life, it is now.  USE the benefits that modern medicine has provided through that IV tubing, and SUFFUSE the rest of your life with wellness.  Now, if you aren’t coming off of IV’s, that is no reason not to do this boot camp.  This program is designed for anyone who wants to achieve optimal wellness, regardless of where he or she is starting.

So dust off your Vest, find your flutter, and recommit to hypertonic saline. You are about to learn a new response to this thing called Cystic Fibrosis.  It may knock you down again, but you’ll get up again, and again, and again as you refine your own personal “boot camp” to meet your needs.

Overview of Program

This program is designed for people with cystic fibrosis.  It is especially useful if you are recovering from an exacerbation. This is intentional.  I know from personal experience that following a “tune up,” people feel the best, and are most interested and motivated to do what it takes to KEEP feeling good.  With memories of the hospital fresh in their minds, they are also more likely to take on new practices that may help keep them out of the hospital for a longer period of time.

It is said that three weeks is the minimum time it takes to establish a new habit.  From Day 1, you will be asked to make small step improvements in the areas of exercise, nutrition, rest, and stress management.  Hopefully, by the end of the 21 days, these practices will be on “autopilot” just as brushing your teeth twice a day is something you simply do.  You don’t need to get psyched or motivated to brush…it just happens.

In addition, during the 21 days you will explore other practices that you will hopefully find enjoyable.  Not only are many of them fun, but they are also good for your health.   You may also want to incorporate some of these into your daily regimen.

Think of this three week period as an intense “time-out,” with the goal to focus completely on your well-being, and how you can learn to extend the “post-antibiotic” high as long as possible.

There will be specific activities to do each day (created by you), as well as daily introspection exercises, either by journaling or with online activities designed to teach you something about yourself.

One of your first journaling activities will be to create a “well-being” tracking sheet.  Here, you will list 5-10 things YOU KNOW would be beneficial to you health to do on a daily basis. After a careful consideration of what your body needs and what your goals are, you will consider seriously what areas of your life could use some tweaking.  It may be adding more (or, some) exercise to your days.  It may be getting more rest.  It may be reconnecting with friends.

I will ask you to envision exactly what you want your life to look and feel like one year from Day One of the program.  This will be an exercise in imagery.  You will imagine you as your best self, and paint that picture in words in your journal.  Then, you will set some long-term goals that will enable that vision to manifest.  These goals will be behavioral…they will describe what you are doing, regularly, 1 year from Day 1, in the areas of exercise, nutrition, stress management, sleep, disease management, and social connection.

Let’s say that in your vision you are climbing Half Dome with ease.  Behavioral goals to support that vision might include building up to this level of fitness and stamina by doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times a week at an intensity of 75% of your maximum.

Or maybe your vision is that you are 10 lbs of pure muscle heavier than you are now.  A behavioral goal in line with that vision may be that you are lifting weights 3 times a week for 30 minutes and eating protein with meals six times a day.

You will create S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Bound) goals that are relatively long term (12 months), and then create your list of five to ten things that put you on the direct path to those goals.  By the end of 3 weeks of doing these things, you will be well on your way to achieving your vision.  You will also know in your bones that you are capable of making a difference regarding your health, because as you begin to achieve your behavioral goals, you will begin to see real results in the way you feel and look.

The beauty of the Boot Camp program is that it can be used over and over again.  The reality of Cystic Fibrosis is that this is exactly what we need. We get sick, over and over again.  When we do, instead of thinking, “Arrrg, I have to start all over again!” we can think, “Oh boy, I get to do Boot Camp again!” Each time can be tailored even more specifically to you and your body as you learn what works best.

Tomorrow’s post will focus on preparation for the following three week program.  For now, try thinking about what areas of your life could use some mild tweaking.  Your body knows, and so do you.


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2 Responses to “CF Wellness Boot Camp – Introduction”
  1. Ronnie says:

    Sounds like fun! Wonder if we could work this into CysticLife somehow?

  2. Julie Desch says:

    That could be cool. Right now I’m just editing a ton (since I wrote it two years ago for a book). Trying to get all 21 days up on the site…

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