Tag Archives: Fatigue

Why from Bedridden to Bodybuilding?

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Welcome to summer. A week into the warm weather and everyone seems to be complaining it’s too hot. You’ve gotta love London 😉

For me, the hot weather is fantastic. The aim of my cardio workouts is to sweat as much as possible and so I wrap up in several layers, starting with thermal underwear and ending with a hoodie and extra warm fleece. In this weather I am just dripping with sweat. And yes, that’s a good thing – burning more fat to get me ready for the stage in just over 8 weeks.

Last week I gave you a broad overview of my journey ahead. Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about who I am and how it came to this. For that, I will have to take you a little bit back in time:
It was in 2010 that I found my energy levels dwindling. Initially it was cause to annoyance rather than concern and I did what I always do – push through. Hard.
In 2013, at the tender age of 31, I suffered a complete burnout and was bedridden for a year. Not much use while unable to get out of bed, I lost my job, ending my corporate career. What got me there was a culmination of life changing episodes including severe stresses at work, working hours in excess of 80 hours per week on an ongoing basis, multiple trauma, physical attacks (all of which were sexually motivated), divorce, rape, burglary, sexual harassment and bullying, cancer in the family.  I could go on, but I will leave it there.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing cluster migraines and I was signed off work, 2 weeks at a time, for the whole year. I suffered severe pain all over my body and was chronically exhausted. Every morning I woke up feeling like I had not slept in days, even after sleeping for 16 hours straight. I’d then have to decide whether I would brush my teeth or my hair. I did not have the strength to do both. Simple day to day tasks had become insurmountable.

Previously I had felt unbreakable. Super-human. Slowing down was for other people.
And now here I was. Broken.  

As I mentioned in my last email though, I was not willing to accept living like this for any length of time. For me, this was not living at all. So I started to do research. Initially I could not read for more than 5 minutes at a time, it was too exhausting and the letters on the pages turned into indecipherable dark blobs. I had to learn the hardest of all lessons and the one that would help me the most: accepting where I was right now. That meant accepting that, right now, I could only do as much as I could do. Accepting that rest was ok. Not only that, but it was helpful. Constructive. Productive! I had to learn to stop pushing myself harder and harder, something I’d been very good at. In its place I had to learn to slow down and be kind to myself. Something I had never previously done. And I had to learn to forgive myself. For everything that had happened to me.

I slowly improved and was able to start swimming and later yoga in 2014. Roll on 2016: I am now running my own businesses to empower women and to advise other people who are experiencing signs of burnout. I am in the final weeks of preparation for my first ever bodybuilding competition. I will enter the bikini category which sports a lean but not overly muscular look yet still requires a lot of training and discipline. But more about that at a later stage.

I hope that my journey will inspire someone out there to not give up in the face of adversity. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel may be.


He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!”  ~ John Randall Dunn


Thank you so much for reading, your encouraging emails and support. It means the world to me!

Lots of love
Sarah

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Bare Feet Against Fatigue

So much has happened since my last post. It was obviously a very bad mood that encouraged my last post, although I am glad I was able to end the post on a slightly more positive note. And it was that night, after writing the last post, that I lay awake thinking about it. How do you know when you really are too tired to do something and when the memory of being tired stops you from trying to push a little further than you have done previously? Pushing, after all, is not what we should be doing when suffering from fatigue.

So that night I made a decision. I decided that I am better. After all, I have plenty of evidence. I am getting more done, I am exercising a little bit again and I actually really wanted to go for a run. So I promised myself next time I feel like it, I will do it.

A little while later, while in Germany, I had a chat with my mum about my lost fitness. I can’t lie, I am not happy about it and at times even upset. I have gained a fair bit of weight and most of my clothes don’t fit me comfortably any more. This, however, encouraged further new thinking. I longed for a run, but was worried to go running. And that worry was valid too. If I have learned one thing, it is that I need to trust that little voice inside. And that little voice told me to best pass on the run. So why is that? Well, running used to be my best friend. It is what I did to clear my mind. It was my meditation. No matter what I had going on in my life, as soon as my running shoes hit the road, all I could hear in my head was “thump thump thump thump”. Nothing else. Bliss.

What I hear when running today is more like “for God’s sake, Sarah, why did you have to let yourself go so much? Jeez, this is so hard. Ugh, I can feel my back fat jiggle… This is aweful. Fat bitch huffing and puffing…” You get the picture. But what do you do when you miss what you used to get from running and cannot get it any more? I have tried to concentrate on other things while running but it always comes back to this.

While talking to my mum, I explained how I first started exercising again very gently by going for 15 minutes swims and when I felt I could take it up a notch, I started with yoga. You know, the whole having no comparison because I have never done it before. And that is when it hit me. I had to re-learn running completely. And so I discovered barefoot running!

I wanted to be prepared and read up on it on the internet. I thought I had to go to a course first and learn the right posture, until I came across a wonderful website: http://www.barefootbeginner.com/. Chris, the source of the website, provides a free beginners guide to barefoot running on his website and it has changed my world. I am loving running again and with all the new sensations in my feet, my mind has no time for the negative self talk. The distances I am running now are barely worth mentioning, but that is all part of the process. It is completely different to running in shoes and you use different muscles, so I can accept that the results are different to what I used to do. I almost see it as a different sport entirely. And it is such a relieve. Not just that I can run again, but kicking off your shoes and going for it is such an amazing sensation. It truly is freeing – we are born with bare feet, after all.

Conclusion

If what you are doing is not working, change what you are doing. Or maybe, just change how you are doing it.

 

If you are interested in giving it a go, I can only highly recommend Chris’ website and beginner’s guide. In his guide, he promised running barefoot would put a smile on my face and it certainly did. I have only been for my 4th run today, but I cannot wait to hit the road again. This is an exciting breakthrough!

Exercises For Adrenal Fatigue

I have been able to increase the amount of exercise that I do and as I do it, have noticed more and more beneficial effects to how I feel. This has lead me to a new theory that I need to prioritise exercise above other things. So far, I would plan my day and look at what I absolutely had to get done that day. Then, if I still had energy left, I may have spent that on a little exercise. But I now think I need to reverse those priorities. Exercise first and then see what else I still have energy for.

The few exercises I am doing have started to make me feel better. Initially they drained me, so I had to take the intensity and duration right down. Exercise should not drain you while you are nurturing your adrenal glands back to health. I mentioned how I started to swim 3 times a week for only 15 minutes at a time. That enabled me to still go about my day without “passing out on the sofa” afterwards. The good thing about reducing how much exercise you do is that it enables you to

a) make exercise a regular habit again, because you have enough energy left to do something regularly

b) make it a positive experience, because you still have a little left in you.

So far, I have used the weights in the gym, gone for a run outdoors, been swimming regularly and I recently started yoga. My verdict on all of those:

Weights At The Gym:

While I used to love bodyweight and freeweight exercises (I am not a big fan of the isolating machines in the gym), I have found that a little too intense and noticed that I am the most likely to get carried away on that one. My previous mindset of “push harder to get stronger” takes over and I shoot over my now very low limits. I will chuck in the odd session, but am very aware that this will not form my main exercise regime again any time soon. But it will again eventually.

Running Outdoors

I used to love running. It was my form of meditation before I knew about mediation. Getting out in the fresh air is fantastic. Although with Adrenal Fatigue, the colder season really is not the time to do it. When I feel like I need to clear my mind, I might go for a short run, no longer than 15 or 20 minutes. It is a high impact sport, especially if done incorrectly or you do not have the muscles in your legs to support your joints. So when it comes to running, I will not deny myself the fresh air when I really feel the urge (which has only happened once in the past month), but I will also not push this any time soon. It will form a regular part of my life again at some point though and I have just become very interested in barefoot running. Since I am pretty out of it right now, it is the best time to start this new running style before I re-enforce my previous running habits of high impact heal strikes.

Swimming

Swimming has been wonderful. And I am not even a big fan of swimming. My local gym has a nice pool and as I am not a good swimmer with no skills other than a basic breast stroke, I have found this was the easiest to start with. I had no precedence of what I am able to achieve as a swimmer, so it was easier to relax in the water, do my lengths and get out of the water after 15 minutes. I have been able to increase my time to 30 minutes now and when I am in the water, I swim continuously without break. I do find myself competing with other swimmers sometimes, but I am quickly able to focus on relaxing my mind again. I use exercise to do this, as I find it easier than sitting down for meditation. Swimming will remain a regular part of my exercise regime right now, although eventually it will be replaced by running.

Yoga

Now this has been a game changer. After my first yoga session 3 weeks ago, I have to admit I was a little exhausted. But it was not as bad as it used to be. The second time seemed to have been “energy neutral”. By that I mean that I did not have any more or less energy afterwards than I did before. And after today, for the first time in years, I feel actually energised AFTER having exercised!!! This is amazing news, which I am really excited about. In fact, I am positively ecstatic!

While I find yoga physically challenging, the focus on breathing and relaxation means that not only am I able to last the entire hour, but still have energy afterwards. After today’s yoga class I caught up on 3 weeks worth of laundry, did the grocery shopping and got a fancy dinner on as well as pre-cooking lunch for tomorrow. This may not sound like much, but it is more than I have been able to do in a day for months and that was without exercise. Just doing the shopping would be enough to send me back to bed for the rest of that day and the next.

Conclusion

If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue, I would highly recommend that you start or continue to exercise. BUT

  • form a habit by doing it regularly (this is more important than how much you do or how long you do it for. Just do a little bit as often as possible until you can do something every day. If your fatigue is very severe, you could start by just getting dressed and walk to your local gym and back home several times a week, just to get you started.)
  • keep it light
  • keep it short
  • increase duration and intensity very slowly
  • consider things you have not done before, to avoid the “I used to be able to do this” thinking trap
  • give yoga a go.

I have really fallen in love with yoga in my very first session. With Christmas coming up and me going back home to spend it with my family, I want to ensure that I don’t get out of it and stay true to my new commitment of prioritising exercise. With the internet, I am hoping that I will be able to do 20-30 minutes every morning of yoga.

If anyone has any suggestions of a good youtube channel or similar for a newbie to yoga, please comment below. Your responses would be much appreciated.

Tomorrow morning I am booked to try out Pilates. I missed that class last week and if I go, I will let you know how it went.

What T. F. Is Adrenal Fatigue?

When I first heard about Adrenal Fatigue, I thought WTF is that? Some new fad? Some new scam to sell us whatever supplements or rubbish? Until I started reading and it sounded as if someone had taken notes when I was complaining about how I was feeling.

Below I have summarised some of the information taken from Dr Wilson’s website http://www.adrenalfatigue.org, which you can check out for further details.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. However, it is not as easy to identify it as other illnesses because of its array of perceivingly unrelated symptoms.

As the name suggests, the paramount symptom is fatigue that does not seem to be alleviated by sleep. While you may look healthy and may not even be able to quite pinpoint what may be wrong, there may be a sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray feelings”, similar to depression. Although I was not so lucky. I don’t just feel like shit, I look it too. Friends and family have repeatedly been pointing that out to me, as I have become increasingly paler and the rings under my eyes increasingly darker.

Adrenal fatigue has been known and researched by the medical profession for over 100 years and has been known under several names, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue.

The more severely fatigued the adrenals are, the bigger the impact it has on every organ and system in your body. The changes can affect the metabolism, thereby contributing to weight gain as well. Our bodies are amazing pieces of engineering (Mother Nature must be German…!) and so they try to make up for the under-functioning adrenal glands, but hat comes at a price.

Ugh, just a quick nap. About 8 hours or so…
What causes adrenal fatigue?

The adrenals are called into action each time stress is being put on the body, whether that be negative stress from grief or work or positive stress from exercise, for example. They are responsible to regulate the body’s response through hormones to stabilize the body’s health and functioning and to enable you to respond to those.

You may have noticed that your heart starts racing or your muscles tense up when your favourite boss screams at you from across the open plan office about that report that was due on his desk 2 minutes ago while you are still typing the last paragraph. Those feelings, that’s your adrenals at work.

During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain your body’s equilibrium because their hormonal output has been weakened. In extreme cases such as Addison’s disease, the adrenals cease to work completely, usually because of over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.

Who is susceptible to adrenal fatigue?

Anyone can experience it and there are many different levels to it. Whenever you have experienced trauma or prolonged stress, chances are you have worn your adrenals out. Interestingly, feelings of being trapped or helpless are a big drain on your adrenals. So if you tend to see yourself as a victim, you may be more susceptible. Lifestyle choices will also influence your adrenals’ performance, such as diet, substance abuse, sleep patterns, lack of rest and the way you deal with stresses in your mind (more on that bit in a future post).

How can I tell if my adrenals are fatigued?

Some common symptoms, which I experience myself:

  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Having trouble getting up in the morning, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Feeling rundown and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness (already had 3 colds earlier this year, each took ages to shift!)
  • Craving salty and sweet snacks
  • Feeling more awake towards the evenings (I barely got that. I was always tired)

When I saw this, I started thinking back to my “stress history”

  • Working long hours in a high pressure performance driven environment
  • Experienced a whole series of traumatic events while working abroad and after return, which resulted in post traumatic stress disorder
  • Taking on my employer through a grievance process and getting ready to possibly take them to court, talking to solicitors and worrying about upsetting old friends I worked with
  • Trying to force my way back into fitness and beating myself up for feeling tired

If you think you have some of those symptoms and may not have had a chance to recover from accumulated stress, you may want to take Dr Wilson’s adrenal fatigue test. Check out the questionnaire at http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-quiz

Continue to follow my blog to learn more about adrenal fatigue and how I am overcoming it by supporting my body to heal itself naturally.