In the race for better health

By: Kristen Doornsbos

Hey there! I’m Kristen, a self-proclaimed running nerd, and tubie since 2018 due to a severe malabsorption condition and some level of gastroparesis.

My health hit a point of crisis in 2017 when I experienced dangerous weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, insane GI symptoms, bone density loss, and quality of life that I knew wasn’t sustainable. In 2018 I had a G/J feeding tube placed, and it has been a total game-changer for my health!

Running was in my life long before the feeding tube was even part of the picture. So, when I had my G/J tube placed, I knew I had to figure out a way to make it work WITH my training, instead of working against it. There was never a thought of quitting the sport of running. My feeding tube has always been about enhancing my health and allowing me to live life more fully, so I see my running as a part of that goal.

It’s been a learning process with lots of trial and error, but I finally feel like I have a grasp on some of the day-to-day challenges of being an athlete while relying on my tube to keep me fed and functioning. In fact, 2019 was a heck of a year for me. I was able to run two half marathons, an Olympic distance triathlon, and more than double my total running mileage from the previous year, all while doing more consistent strength training than ever.

Looking forward to 2020, I’m chasing even bigger goals. And maybe you’re coming up with some of your own goals related to fitness, sport, or movement. I want to encourage you — Your feeding tube doesn’t have to be the thing that holds you back!

Since I get a lot of questions about being active with my feeding tube, I thought I would share with you a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. You’re probably going to sweat, which means moisture and bacteria will be involved. It can cause all sorts of stoma issues like irritation, granulation tissue, or even infection if you’re not taking care of your skin. Wear a gauze or pad over your tube site and change it as often as you need to keep the sweat away. Don’t stay in your dirty/sweaty clothes for super long, either. Showering sooner after I’m done with my run or workout has helped me get granulation tissue under control.
  2. Be over-prepared. For most runs or when I’m at the gym, I carry a little pack with a few necessities and supplies. A small water bottle, extension tube, syringe, tubie pads, hand sanitizer, formula, and a few gentle cleansing wipes. Most times I don’t need it, but in a few instances, it has been super useful in a pinch. Figure out what you need for your own emergency pack and keep it on hand.
  3. Invest in an ID bracelet with an emergency contact number and any relevant medical information. I ordered mine from RoadID, and they have so many cute styles and options. Thankfully, I’ve never had an emergency come up, but you really never know what could happen.
  4. Wear what feels comfortable and practical, even if that means you look a little weird. Find clothing that won’t rub or pull on your tube. Try different fits, fabrics, etc... and if you’re more comfortable running in a sports bra in hot weather, go on with your bad self and do it. I did the bike and run portions of my triathlon in a crop top, and I have no regrets!
  5. It’s ok to tune out the “hype” and do what’s best for YOU. There are so many trendy things in the fitness industry these days — products, recovery methods, supplements, training strategies, and on and on. It can be overwhelming to sift through it all, or downright discouraging to feel pressured into attaining a certain standard. While most runners are using Super Starches and specialty long-lasting Magic Gels, I’m over here fueling my long runs with Peptamen and the occasional handful of gummy bears. And you know what? That’s ok. It’s far from trendy, but it’s what works with my condition. I’ve learned to approach most aspects of my running and training with this laid back attitude that it’s alright if I have to do things differently or find my own unique solution to a problem.

Seriously, forget the haters. Sign up for that race. Join that intramural league. Face your fears. Wear the crop top. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, set a goal and just start (or continue) doing an activity you love. Keep at it through the ups and downs and see how the journey shapes you and changes you for the better.

Happy New Year, everyone!