Putting my best foot forward

It’s sticky-hot, 70s and high humidity, and my feet have a mind of their own - they’re taking me past my parked car and toward the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan’s West Grand Traverse Bay. Water. Cold, refreshing water. 

I come to the end of the street, sweet bakery smells greeting me as I run past a local shop and turn the corner taking me closer to the beach. I stop at the crosswalk, then sprint across the busy road, keeping up a steady pace until I reach the quiet, sandy shore.

After six sweltering miles on hilly trails and steaming city streets, I’ve earned this dip in the Bay.

I tear off my socks and shoes, toss my watch and sunglasses on the pile, and jump in. The chilly early-morning water is a jolt to my sweat-drenched skin, but my muscles nearly sigh in relief. I dive under once, then turn to float on my back, staring at the cloudless sky, the swoosh of cars and trucks driving past fading as my head falls below the surface.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of swimming - well, more like soaking - after a hard run on a mid-summer day. It’s one of my most favorite pleasures in life. It’s also a time when I can marvel at my body’s strength despite its psoriatic disease.

If you love running, consider joining Team NPF Run. We're logging miles to find a cure for psoratic disease. Are you a rookie runner? Don't be nervous. Durocher shared some great tips for getting started in a previous blog post.  This is her crossing the finish line at the 2015 Boston Marathon. 

I received my plaque psoriasis diagnosis at age 14 after itchy, strawberry-colored oval patches multiplied seemingly overnight across my torso. I’d gotten a terrible sunburn the week prior, while spending several days with my best friend at her family’s lake cottage. It was this trauma that triggered the flare, though I realized this only over time as I learned more about this chronic disease and how it affects my body.

In the years since, I’ve come to (mostly) accept that psoriasis, for me, means fairly constant scaly, pink patches dotting my legs.

During flares, these patches grow angrier and turn more red in hue. They itch and flake and generally cause me angst as I worry what others think when they catch a glimpse of my exposed skin, like when I toe the start line at a warm-weather running race or during a long trail run with friends.

Sometimes I feel brave and wear shorts - I've definitely gotten more comfortable in my skin as I get older - but other times, I wear yoga pants or fitted work-out tights and capris, like during Pilates classes, even if it means I'll warm up more than I'd like. It's easier this way, to not have to answer questions from well-intentioned friends (and sometimes just plain no-tact kind of people) who ask, "Is that a rash?"

Sometimes other parts of my body are covered in patches. My torso remains a hot spot during flares, and my scalp and ears are ridiculously, frustratingly flaky at times. But it’s my legs that bear the brunt of it.

But my passion for running, along with regular Pilates sessions and road biking, help tremendously. I’m convinced these activities not only keep me strong physically but also mentally. And when I’m in the right head space, even a flare can’t keep me down. I may long for clear skin, but what I crave even more is long-lasting health that allows me to do what I love: keep moving.

The opinions expressed by National Psoriasis Foundation Blog contributors are their own and do not reflect the opinions or positions of the National Psoriasis Foundation. The information posted on the NPF Blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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