If there is one thing that running has taught me it’s to listen to my body. For a long time I “listened” for obvious injuries, completely oblivious to other quiet signals it was sending me. In hindsight I realize that my body has been telling me to slow down for the past two to three years.
- There were the many months of insomnia that got so bad that it led me to therapy. - There were the injuries that came about because of insufficient recovery time. - There were the days of anxiety and brain fog, not to mention the inability to focus and feeling completely overwhelmed. I distinctly remember telling a friend on multiple occasions that I just “didn’t feel like myself.” - I felt overly emotional and out-of-control.
And then there was the maddening weight gain in spite of all the running and cross-training, and the meticulous food tracking.
After ignoring those signals for years, my body is now screaming at me to slow down.
Years of overtraining had caught up with me. My body was saying “enough is enough”, and I finally get it.
When I first started seeing my functional medicine doctor back in September, she told me that I needed to cut back. So I stopped training for a full marathon, and trained for a half-marathon instead. I mean, wasn’t that cutting back by 50%?
After I ran Big Sur I emailed my doctor and told her how I crashed so early on in the race and how it scared me.
I wondered if I hadn’t trained hard enough, if I was that much out of shape - what was it that I was doing wrong? She called me and we had a long discussion in which she made me realize that the more I continued to push and train and workout, the more damage I was doing to my body.
I needed to cut back more - as in completely.
It was with great emotion that I realized that I needed to stop running so I can let my body heal and recover. I rarely get emotional but I wept when I came to the realization.
To put a dagger in it, during my last doctors visit I was also told that I have hypothyroidism and reactive hyperglycemia, both associated with Adrenal Fatigue.
So not only am I cutting back on running, I am also overhauling my diet, as if eliminating gluten, dairy, corn and soy wasn’t enough. I was told to eliminate grains, so basically I’m eating a Paleo diet - not by choice, but by necessity.
As for workouts, I was strongly encouraged to practice yoga, Pilates and swim. Spinning and strength training (with no weights) are also approved workouts, with a very short run mixed in from time-to-time (mostly for sanity's sake).
All this change has been overwhelming. I’ve gone through the four stages of grief, and am feeling like I’m slowly moving into the acceptance and hope stage.
So why am I sharing all of this?
Because I’ve done countless Google searches looking for athletes who’ve had similar experiences and the only running-related one that came up in my search came from Jen’s Fit Playground. Jen is a marathoner who also experienced Adrenal Fatigue. As I read what she experienced, I felt like I was reading my own story.
She wrote about this over a year ago so I emailed her to ask how she managed to get through it. She quickly responded with these words of advice:
More than anything right now your body needs rest and lots of it.
If you can take a nap, take one. If you can sleep in for an hour, do it. If you can get to bed an hour earlier, do it.
Cut back on stimulants - whether it be coffee, soda, chocolate, caffeine pills, preworkouts, fat burners, or other stimulants.
Relax more. Do anything that will help you de-stress.
This is a time my doctor told me to practice new Zen like activities. He told me to take a vacation. ha ha. Your body needs to heal and catch up.
The best advice my doctor told me when I kept comparing my body now to how it used to work when it was in top condition was this, "That was your body then. This is your body now." Work with what you have and be patient.
It might only take a couple of months, or it could take a year. There's no hard fast rule. Just listen to your body, and if it's tired or aches, let it rest. :)
“That was your body then. This is your body now.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been going back to old photos from 2006-2009, when I felt like I was in the best physical shape I’d ever been in. I had been kicking myself for not blogging more about my fitness habits from those years that I could refer back to. I was wracking my brain trying to recall what habits I had so I could get myself back to that shape again. I was beating myself up for letting myself “get so out of shape” not realizing that the harder I worked, the more I was hurting myself.
Comparing me now to me then was killing my joy.
Somehow reading those words from Jen suddenly made me have peace with where I am now.
As I read more of Jen’s blog I saw that she was able to run the Boston Marathon this past April. It gives me hope that I can recover and run again someday, hopefully soon, but I’m not putting a deadline on it. (Note: my doctor has told me I can fully recover from this, but you never know…)
So what am I doing to rest?
- I'm getting more sleep - at least 8-9 hours a night. - I’m going to yoga more often, especially restorative yoga classes. - I’m trying not to push very hard in the workouts that I do. - I’m taking baths infused with essential oils. - I’m trying to let go of the things I can’t control.
It’s a constant battle and work in progress.
I suspect there are many other runners and athletes who are on a path similar to mine so I will write and share, not only to document my journey for myself, but to also share my experiences in hopes of raising awareness, and/or to give hope to someone who is already experiencing this.
Adrenal Fatigue is a real thing. It’s not something that you are imagining.
If you think you may be on the path towards it, pay closer attention to your symptoms and log them to notice patterns and triggers. Don’t ignore them like I did. Do what you need to do to rest and fully recover from your workouts. It’s so easy to get caught up in signing up for races because of social media hype and fear of missing out.
But be true to yourself, your health and your current capabilities.
Most importantly, be well.