Leading an active life has helped teenager Jago Hartland manage his CF and minimize its symptoms. He’s had his struggles along the way, including collapsed lungs, but it’s not stopped him from living the life he wants to live. In this article Jago talks, amongst other things, about his exercise regime, the positive effect an active family had on him, diet, lessons he’s learned from pushing himself too far and having siblings with CF.
Photo by Barry Cornelius
Martin) Keeping fit is a big part of your life. What sports/exercises do you do to keep fit?
Jago) Personally, I believe sport and fitness are the biggest building blocks for keeping my CF under control so sport is so important! I exercise at least 6 of the 7 days in the week, mainly for over an hour a day. My main sport is running although I train in many others ways. This allows me to do sport each day so that I can give my body time to repair and recover. I compete as a runner and run with a club religiously on monday evenings. On other days, my sport and exercise may just be cycling to work or college.
I also have a home gym which helps me keep fit and keep a good weight, allowing me to concentrate on maintaining more muscle than fat. I have always been told that swimming is great for CF as it helps clearing mucus and I have noticed how well it works for myself. I find that when I am most unwell, swimming is the best form of exercise to do to help clear my chest.
M) Has fitness been something you had instilled in you from a young age by your parents, or was it something you started later in life?
J) Exercise has always been a large part of my life and my father got me signed up to the local football team when I was younger. When I was younger though I had less interest in sport compared to now as I was always a very tall kid for my age and my muscles took a long time to grow into my body.
Other than football, I also went sailing with my dad, kayaking, a lot of cycling and any other random sports we were able to do. I remember my dad making a badminton court in our garden and we’d play late into summer nights watching the bats try and catch the shuttle!
Growing up with two older brothers also helped as they were football crazy! My dad has been a huge inspiration to me and he has helped shape many of my passions for the outdoors – he always used to win the fathers’ day races at school which made us laugh! Once, the two of us went on a road trip when I was 15. We drove through the Lake District and Scotland to go mountain biking and climb Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. We spent six nights sleeping in the car, washing in lakes and cooking on a small bbq. He’s always lived an outdoor lifestyle!
In recent years in which I’ve joined a running club and started running more competitively. I’m also planning on joining a boxing club very soon as I do boxing to keep fit. I believe that for anyone with Cystic Fibrosis, getting into a regular routine and building a foundation of sports you enjoy is very important, as is involving yourself with people who are going to encourage you and make you want to better yourself. I had a great group of friends when I was 15, but none of them shared my passion for the outdoors or fitness – sadly I left that group due to their poor behavior and smoking habits and made many new friends in Sixth form. I have looked at that decision as a turning point in my life that’s allowed me to keep my routine and keep working on myself. Be strict on yourself, be proud of yourself and work on yourself. People have praised me for these habits and the impact it has on others is so strong that I couldn’t imagine breaking the routine.
M) You’ve mentioned in the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard article that you do a lot of stretching – how does this help you?
J) I enjoy doing yoga to keep a balanced mind and stretch the body – it helps me concentrate on my breathing and I would certainly consider taking up yoga for anyone with Cystic Fibrosis! It helps you regulate your breathing and work on your airway clearance, which many other cystas and fibros would understand the importance of! Airway clearance can be a rather tedious thing to do and interpreting it into yoga has helped me enjoy it more, whilst also noticing progression in my yoga.
Yoga is something that is great to do with a group also, whilst on DofE Gold I taught many of my team different yoga positions and they enjoyed it as much as me! I hope that for an 18 year old lad, I showed to the group and others that yoga isn’t just a specialist female activity and that anyone can start, but just remember, no one starts at the top – I still can’t touch my toes!
M) You’ve suffered from collapsed lungs in the past, including one time at 14 during a running challenge. What symptoms did you feel in the build up to this and, with the benefit of hindsight, could you have done anything differently to avoid this?
J) I have suffered a collapsed lung as a baby, and two partially collapsed lungs since growing older which lead to staying in hospital. The partially collapsed lung I encountered at 14 was in a hot, sweaty, endurance test in a sports hall and I was determined to beat the group of my friends running against me. I won, beat the whole group and won a £10 bet… but at the cost of collapsing and being taken to hospital. I remember it as being horribly painful and not worth the £10!
The worse part was that there was no build up, it happened very quickly as soon as I stopped the test and went to walk away. I was later told that my body (specifically my lungs) couldn’t cool down and pump oxygen around my body fast enough to recover after the test. After this encounter, and a very similar one a while later, I learnt my limits and that controlling your CF is more important than trying to beat it. I now understand that I have to nurture my body and train regularly so that I am able to compete or run at a high standard without having to push myself to the point of causing damage.
Looking back, I now understand I could have certainly prevented my partially collapsed lung even though one of my lungs isn’t as strong as the other. It’s important for everyone with Cystic Fibrosis to remember that they are in battle with no one other than themselves, so understand your body, listen to it when it needs help and learn about how to look after yourself properly. Be prepared!
M) Does diet play an important role in keeping you healthy? And how do you balance the need for calories with eating healthy?
J) Other than fitness and sport, diet is a massive factor in the battle to keep yourself healthy. I try to eat as natural as possible and as fresh as possible! I was told that I am deficient in vitamins D and K and I have now been able to control these vitamin levels more successfully. Vitamin D has always been a difficult one although I have used supplements to help me. I increased the amount of fish in my diet as the protein helps muscle recovery, increases my levels of vitamin D and the natural fats and oils are especially good for cystic fibrosis.
I would recommend to anyone to eat plenty of natural fats such as avocado and nuts. Nuts have also helped increase my level of vitamin K (which is important for blood clotting in your body) and are full of natural fats and calories.
You can get healthy, high calorie drink supplements and foods that will also increase your calorie intake – I consume up to 6000 calories a day when I am doing high levels of intense training and fitness. It is important for anyone to keep a healthy diet based on understanding what their bodies need. I keep to a particular routine which has been easy to remember over the years: meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. I have uploaded videos of dietary needs onto youtube and I shall be making plenty more.
I take my training and diet quite serious and I often have raw eggs before training or working out. I also only have brown bread as it is a slow releasing carbohydrate so gives me energy throughout the day. I wake up each morning and religiously have a pint of water as it helps aid digestion and wakes me up – it isn’t always pleasant but it helps massively.
A lot of my diet needs planning in advance which has meant eating out of tupperware tubs and lunch boxes everywhere I go which lets me keep up my calorie intake and still eat naturally. I have often been caught eating a lunch box of tuna and spinach in my car in the parking lot of college or at work!
Diet is the foundation block for keeping healthy and being able to keep doing sports – I would say to anyone with CF that asking your doctors about dietary needs and how to increase calories is a very good idea!
M) Your brother and sister also have CF – how much of an issue is cross infection for you? How do you try to minimize the risks?
J) If I’m honest we don’t tend to even think about cross contamination unless we are very ill. When one of us has a chest infection, we often spend more time away from each other in our rooms. Now that we’re older though we all live separately so this problem has become much easier to control. We don’t see cross-infection as a big issue anymore.
M) It’s very tempting to indulge in ‘unhealthy’ activities (e.g. drinking, missing physio, etc) – do you ever allow yourself to do this? If so, does having a ‘break’ from CF help you mentally, and how do you recover from the hit to your health? If not, how do you motivate yourself to not give in to temptation?
J) I have indulged in my fair share of unhealthy activities such as drinking and eating unhealthily but everyone does and it is natural to class this as sin, so it is important to remember for those people with cystic fibrosis that you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Yes it does affect us more but everyone does it and it is human nature, so there is no point in worrying about it.
Personally, I don’t allow myself to do this too often as I follow a tight routine – as running is a strong hobby of mine I don’t want a single unhealthy pleasure to disrupt my exercise or training. To keep away from unhealthy activities it’s good to have a group of friends that want to do sport with you. Go for a cycle ride or to the some gym instead of doing something unhealthy – this isn’t always easy but if you develop a passion for exercise then others will certainly follow.
I motivate myself by reading a lot of my role models’ books, such as Bear Grylls. I would strongly recommend reading Bear Grylls’ book ‘A Survival Guide for Life’. It’s a brilliant read and you can interpret it into everyday life.
I also use goals as a sense of motivation; I set goals, train towards them, watch the progress and, when I reach that goal, I remember that amazing feeling of proving to yourself that if you put your mind to it, you are unstoppable and can accomplish whatever you wish.
Whenever I do indulge in an unhealthy activity, I usually try to jump back into my routine quickly as it keeps my mind busy and mental health is as important as physical health. Set yourself simple goals to start with such as doing 15 press ups by the end of the month and then progress on it. The problem that many people have is that they want to be body confident and spend too much time working out and looking in the mirror without noticing any results. I promise to anyone that you will notice your results much faster if you set goals instead of looking at your own physique waiting for change.
M) Do you have any other tips or advice for people with CF?
J) Be confident in yourself always! You aren’t always going to be the best looking, or the strongest, or the smartest, but that isn’t important. You are only in competition with yourself so you don’t have to prove anything to anyone else. Don’t cause any extra stress on yourself, live peacefully and be thankful each day. I have realized after being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis that many of us think alike and we are all a part of a big family of strong and compassionate people.
A huge thank you to Jago for sharing his knowledge and experience with us. You can find out more about Jago on his blog, his Facebook page and his YouTube channel.
*ALWAYS ENSURE YOU SPEAK WITH YOUR MEDICAL TEAM BEFORE MAKING ANY HEALTH RELATED CHANGES TO YOUR LIFESTYLE*