As I approached the age of 50 my children pointed out I was not getting any younger and should think about my health and fitness. Having been a nurse all my working life I knew they were right. Long hours at work, bringing up a family and general pressures of life I had neglected myself when it came to exercise. I had never been a gym bunny but did enjoy swimming and walking, however the challenge I chose was to run a charity 10K in aid of The British Heart Foundation at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire UK. This was to become the venue for future challenges.
I followed an 8-week training programme I completed my first 10k run, that was the start of my journey to fitness. My next challenge was the 32K Connemara Adventure challenge in Ireland where I would be running, cycling, and kayaking, still the toughest challenge I’ve done to date! Each year I would challenge myself to a new adventure. In 2015 I walked my first marathon, The Moonwalk, around the streets of London at night in aid of Breast Cancer Research. In 2016 I took up open water swimming and completed the swim leg as part of a team at Blenheim Triathlon – My claim to fame was Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon world champion) was in the same race albeit a little ahead of me LOL. I loved the experience so much that the following year I completed all 3 disciplines continuously, swimming, cycling and running. This was turned out to be a warmup for Dublin Marathon in October.
I was due to retire from nursing in October 2017 so my lovely husband, Tony, thought it would be a great retirement present to enter me into Dublin Marathon! I knew running the full distance would be challenging so I adopted the Jeff Galloway run / walk method. This proved to be the perfect choice leading me to complete the marathon in under 5.5 hours feeling I could have carried on for another few miles. Not bad for someone who only 4 years before thought a 1-mile walk was a long way!
Continuing with regular training including lots of parkruns and Nordic Walking which I had taken up a couple of years before, I decided to train as a fitness and Nordic walking instructor. My children could not believe that their mother had gone from couch potato to fitness instructor, saying we only meant you to get a bit fitter!
2019 was the 40th Anniversary of Dublin marathon so it was inevitable that I would give it another go and started my training programme with the aim to complete it in under 5 hours. Training started well and I was feeling strong but as the miles increased, I was getting increasing pain in my right hip. When I had got up to 10 miles with the pain too much to bear, I decided to pull out of the marathon. I was disappointed not to be taking part but knew I would be causing myself more harm than good.
Nordic Walking was great for keeping me active during this time, but I was generally feeling tired and run down. A whole battery of blood tests, scans and x-rays followed and was finally diagnosed with moderately severe arthritis in both hips and lower spine, along with IBS.
My GP suggested trying a low FODMAP diet for the IBS, this I did religiously under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian, who also happened to be my daughter. After less than a week on the elimination part of the diet I felt 100% improved including no joint pain. It was the week of the 2019 Dublin Marathon.
Friends from the UK and Ireland were all taking part in the marathon and I went to the pre-race expo with them to collect their race numbers. I felt so well I collected my number too and found myself on the start line the next morning. My training had consisted of some Nordic walking and swimming. I set off putting one foot in front of the other and walked the 26.2 miles before the cut of time of 7 hours. That is one medal I am immensely proud of. My training had consisted of Nordic walking, swimming, and yoga.
After the success of the marathon, I continued to Nordic walk regularly as well as cycling and yoga. I had no joint pain until I started reintroducing dairy products back into my diet. It seemed I would wake up with swollen joints and pain every time I had a cheese feast or drank milk. I eliminated all dairy again my joints improved. This was a positive side effect of my low FODMAP diet but is not the case for everyone, so please seek advise from a Registered Dietitian before taking this approach to your own joint pain.
I am happy to say that my arthritis pain is negligible now. I exercise everyday and include, strength and conditioning exercises, balance and flexibility, aerobic exercises in the form of H.I.T, as well as yoga and Pilates under the direction of a physio. Of course I continue to walk and Nordic walk on a daily basis. I follow a wholefood plant-based diet 80% of the time, but I still eat fish and eggs and have cheese occasionally.
Exercise can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints. Nordic walking is a great option to provide a whole body workout while being low impact and reducing load on lower limbs by up to 25%. Maintaining a healthy body weight is another important part of arthritis management. Nordic walking uses 90% of muscles leading to burning more calories, thus helping with weight loss. By increasing physical activity, you can make a difference to your joints and overall health. Along with your current treatment programme, regular, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits including:
Our classes and walks for people with Arthritis are lead by our instructor, Joanne, who is a retired nurse, with a passion for helping people like you get the best from your exercise programme.
To find out more about what we can offer you call or email Joanne:
TEL: +353 (0) 87 693 6903
2022 – Burren 10K,
2019 – Dublin Marathon, Tongariro Alpine Crossing NZ, Pieta House 60K Cycle
2018 – Purbeck 16 mile Nordic Walking Event
2017 – Dublin Marathon, Blenheim Triathlon, Great South Run, Oxford Half Marathon, Cardiff Half Marathon, Broadway Trail Half Maraton, Macmillan Mighty Hike Marathon, Equinox 24, Cotswold Classic 10 miles, 3 Spires Half Marathon, Dark Peak Trail, St Alban’s Half Marathon, The Grizzly Cub
2016 – Blenheim Triathlon (Swim Leg)
2015 – The Moonwalk Marathon,Dementia Walk, Moonlight Stroll, Otmoor Challenge Half Marathon, Toronto Half Marathon.
2014 – Oxford Half Marathon, Otmoor Challenge Half Marathon, Connemara Adventure Challenge
2013 – First 10K Blenheim
Numerous 5k events including over 80 parkruns
Numerous 10k event