It’s almost been a week since I finished my second triathlon. In the days leading up to it, I found out I qualified for the National Championships because I had won my age group in the previous race. This encouraging news gave me a boost of confidence. Even with my spot guaranteed, I was obviously still trying to beat my time from the first race. I managed to accomplish this goal, but the improvement was not as much as I had hoped. I don’t think I raced to my potential because of stress and cold symptoms, not to mention a strong wind gusting and slowing all the competitors down.
Towards the end of my training, I didn’t get enough sleep, and I caught a cold. When I felt the sickness coming on, I tried to sleep a couple more hours each night. This mitigated the cold somewhat, but the damage was done. By race day I was feeling over my cold, but my body hadn’t yet fully recovered. As all you endurance athletes know, a compromised immune system limits optimal output.
For me, the number one contributor to my downfall is stress. My stressful schedule and physical training put extra strain on my adrenal glands, eventually leading to fatigue. How do I know this? A few years ago, I suffered from adrenal fatigue. After two episodes of mono and pneumonia, I was going from doctor to doctor desperate for a diagnosis. Thankfully, I was finally able to pinpoint the cause when I visited a naturopathic doctor. Some tests came back that revealed my low cortisol level, an indicator of adrenal fatigue. I learned depleted adrenal glands compromise the immune system, leading to a diminished ability to fight off illness.
When our body experience stress, the immune system slows as a part of the flight-or-fight response. The adrenal glands are designed to release hormones like cortisol when our body is under stress. These hormones regulate blood pressure and the heart. Long-term stress can eventually wear the adrenals down to the point where hormone production drops off, and in sets adrenal fatigue. When cortisol production falls off, the body stops feeling good.
Ideally, cortisol levels should remain steady, and our body should only sparingly rely on adrenaline during truly stressful situations. However, if you are stressed out, your body will constantly be reacting as if it were in a fight-or-flight situation. If you experience constant fatigue, are regularly sick, get headaches, or have declining performance, I highly encourage you to consult with a naturopathic as to whether you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue. You can read more about it by going here.
My doctor gave me several adrenal support supplements. She also advised me to stay away from stimulants, as they spike your cortisol. I cut back on training to avoid constant stimulation. My workouts were light jogs or a hike. Diet was crucial to my recovery. I stuck to whole foods and increased my protein intake. Over time, I restored my adrenal glands.
However, with law school, bar preparation, and training, I haven’t stayed on top of my stress. I have reverted to some of my unhealthy habits like excessive caffeine and sugar intake and a poor sleep schedule. If I want to compete at an optimal level, I need to stay disciplined. Like most people, I don’t have the leisure to work out three times a day and take a nap. On a good day, I can work out for an hour. The rest of my time is spent working, studying, and preparing for the bar exam. My less than satisfying performance in this race made it clear to me that I need to rebalance my life. I must refocus on getting proper nutrition, implement de-stress tactics like meditation, and maintain a healthy sleep routine. I can’t afford to be bogged down by sickness.
By the time I compete in my next triathlon, I plan to have corrected these problems. Getting my stress under control combined with continued training should help get my time dropping. In the future, Bryanna and I will be blogging about effective stress management tools and go even deeper on adrenal fatigue. Bry will use her expertise to explain what stress does to the body on a physiological level. Successfully managing stress is an essential component of living the abundant life. I’m excited to get better at it along with all of you.
Until next time Be Whole and Be Fit!!