Problems getting back in shape


New member
Hey all, new here.

So I'm a 21 yr old woman who used to be very active in high school; I played varsity soccer and varsity lacrosse, and could run for miles without stopping (my PFTs were always around 90% predicted and higher, and I didn't need IVs to fight off infections until I was 19). But for the last three years of college, I've gotten very out of shape. (And I'm not talking about getting fatter, my BMI is a healthy 21.5). The problem is my lung function has declined seriously in the last few years, which I know is so obviously connected with my lack of exercise. I know that if I want to be healthy I need to get back in shape... but even walking up a set of stairs makes me have a coughing fit. Every time I try to get in shape slowly (walking for 30 mins a day, doing pilates) I always follow it for about a week before giving up because I don't feel any improvements and its a major time drain (as a full-time college student doing 2 internships this semester, I really don't have time to commit, since I already spend over an hour with my vest and nebs every day). Today I decided to jog on the treadmill at the gym. Bad idea. After 13 minutes I was coughing so much and my heart rate was racing over 200 bpm and I had to stop, and when I got back to my apartment I collapsed onto my bed and instantly fell asleep for three hours (and missed class because of it).

I'm so discouraged. Even as I type this I can't stop crying because I'm so frustrated with my health... it seems like no matter how much I try to get healthy again, I can't. And I'm so sick of feeling like my CF is controlling my life. I feel like I'm trapped in the body of a 87 year old. Has anyone else been here? What did you do to get back into shape? I could really use some tips/advice/encouragement.


Hi Cali,

I know you are tremendously frustrated and from what you have going on in your everyday life, it also sounds like your stressed. Exercise is going to be of utmost importance to you and your health, not only because of the CF but also because you need a stress reliever. You're not only fighting the CF but you're also fighting the battle of age that we all fight whether we have CF or not :) Your body is not going to react to exercise the same as it did when you were a teen and it will continue to change as you age, but you can adapt your exercise regimin to this! To start off with, you need to start focusing on some breathing exercises and techniques before you just go hop back on that treadmill. Some of the ones out there may sound a little silly or too simple to do any good, but trust me - they can make all the difference in the world. If you do them consistently throughout the day you will start noticing a small difference within a week. Here are a few youtube links to some of the simplest ones out there., Breathing execises are things that you will be able to do throughout the day while you're at work, in school, or laying in bed before sleep. Do some searching around and find the ones that suit you and suit getting your lung function back in order and keep in mind that there is a proven connection between mind and body through breathing. You also need to be patient with these and your body. Unfortunately, you are no longer in the wonderful world of pure youth. You need to gain a balance and be kind to your body or it will continue to fully shut down on you. My other suggestion is to find a cardio that is not so immediately harsh on your lungs and body as jogging. Cycling is my absolute favorite cardio because I can take off for 2 miles, 5 miles, etc. and build up while getting my movement and breathing time in without killing myself. I can control and maintain my speed and breathing much better than I can jogging and build up my stamina without the high impact and absolute assault to the lungs. You might also look into supplements and herbs that encourage lung function such as Tumeric.

Don't give up on yourself. Start off slow and most importantly be patient and kind with yourself. It will take a different mindset from here on out as you start thinking outside the box of your old norms :) Hope this helps!
Cali23, I know exactly how you feel. I'm in the same boat, only I'm 34 instead of 21! Getting back in shape is so hard to do, especially with all the other "duties" of everyday life that everyone deals with, CF or no CF. Thanks to pmae for the encouraging post, I needed it, too!


Don't give up!. What you are going through is terribly discouraging, I know how you feel. There are a few tips I can share with you.First, when you are in a situation like this, you need supervision. This means, you are a student and you don't have too much time to waste....but you do need to exercise! You need someone that makes you do it. It's your life what we are talking about. Secondly, you can buy this:

to monitor your O2 saturation and your pulse rate. It's cheap and all you have to do is to put your finger in it while exercising. Perhaps your oxygen level is a little low. Finally, jogging is perhaps too demanding for you now, you have to take it easy. Did you try yoga? Slow movements and breathing exercises might do better than overdemanding routines. Good luck and hope these tips help!!


I know a lot of people benefit from running/treadmills/elliptical. But I personally get discouraged by the feeling that my progress is so quantifiable and only on two parameters--speed and duration.

In contrast, if I am coming off being sick--and clearly, I know I've lost ground cardiowise--I love how I can go to a dance class and still have a feeling of progress. Maybe I really nail memorizing the choreography of a new song. Or while the bounce in my step is gone for a while, I can focus on making my arms precise and as beautiful as possible.

My point is that the bad feeling of backslide or stagnation from an energy standpoint can be counteracted by gains in craft/technique. This encourages me to come back for more.


New member
Hi Cali, along the lines of what Melissa75 said doing something that gives you lots of smaller goals can be really encouraging until you're running again. Personally I started with weight training (I was actually at your exact same BMI and feeling very much the same physically) and it's been great not just for PFT numbers but my overall health. When I started I couldn't run more than a minute and now (almost a year later) I'm training for a 5K (which isn't all that far, but given where I started I consider it a huge accomplishment). Looking back I realized I wasn't physically strong enough to run before, so building muscle was really the necessary first step. Plus weight training is great because it can be aerobic but doesn't have to be, so you can get in a good workout without having to hack your way thru the whole thing. Indoor rock climbing is awesome for that too, if your school has a rock climbing wall. Good luck!
Hi, Cali, I'm a 39-year-old with good numbers and an up and down experience of exercise. Does your school offer yoga? That has helped me keep my hand in to strength training. Also, CF is a marathon not a sprint, so don't worry that this is the end of everything. Maybe you try some yoga and light walking for a few weeks and see what happens. Good luck. Living with CF is often a matter of self-forgiveness, I find. Thinking of you!


New member
Hi Cali,
Watch what you eat as you are already stick with your physical activities. Break your meals in small frequent meals, increase water intake and avoid beverages. Do not eat late, manage stress and have proper sleep.


Hi Cali,

First, don't fret, you'll get back in shape :) I can tell how much it means for you and how hard you are on yourself (which you really shouldn't be) it's just going to take some time and zero retrograde thinking! which I personally know is so hard to do and so hard to overcome. I'm 21 as well, played soccer all of my life, was recruited by Universities to play (though I ultimately decided not to play). I feel like I can relate to you in so many areas; is it alright if I send you message later? Or somehow get in contact with you later? I have to head off to class in a few minutes. I have experienced almost the same exact events (my first I.V. infusions happened when I was 19-sophomore year of college which I would eventually lead me to withdrawing from the University for a year) it sounds like as you have. Either way, I know how hard it is to get back in shape and to get back into a routine and finding the right balance in general (which I still struggle a tremendous amount with to this day) especially when one once had such an active past. Maybe try to take up the couch-to-5k program? It really is a good place to start and doesn't take up that much time. Maybe 30 minutes a day for 3 days a week? Sounds like you are pretty crunched for time. Anyway, I really want to help, let me know if there is anything I can do. Please message me! And don't sweat it! :)