A Fix for Chronic Runner Fatigue

The body is like an luxury car with all the extras.

You love to drive that big old Caddy, Lexus, or Mercedes. The ride is smooth, it handles wonderfully, the stereo is awesome, and you can barely hear the world outside.

But there are sooo many things that can go wrong.

A power window fails. The rear-view videocam goes black. The electronic juberator just under the whamizel in the engine goes out of whack and the luxury car dealer wants $500 to replace it.

The running body is a lot like that luxury car. Let’s face it, we’re operating a very complex machine when we run.

And when it breaks down, the solution is never as simple as calling AAA.

There are endless things that can send us tumbling when we run.

It’s fairly easy to avoid rocks, roots, and curbs that can trip us.

But the worst obstacles are the ones we can’t see.

When something goes wrong inside, the big issue is figuring out what’s wrong so we can fix it.

When my body fails, the last thing I want is to go to the doctor.

If the problem is clear – a sprained ankle, sore Achilles, broken leg – sure, I’ll go see the doc.

But if it’s unclear, I hate to rely on modern medicine to find the answer. I fear I’ll spend hundreds of dollars without finding a clear-cut cure – and I’ll be prescribed expensive drugs that just soothe the symptoms.

What’s a runner to do?

I’ve spoken endlessly, in my book and in these pages, about intuition. In my 45-year career, I’ve found it marvelously for diagnosing the endless ailments that beset a runner.

What I want to talk about today is a serious problem that laid my running low for a whole year. I’m hoping the solutions I discovered will help other runners.

My energy sagged until I could seldom run with my former enthusiasm. Was this what it was like to be over 70? I’d known many runners my age who were still running like youngsters. From 5K to 100 miles, they were running remarkable times. They were folks like Canadian Ed Whitlock, who ran a 2:59:10 marathon at 70, and 2:58:40 at 74. Why couldn’t I run – at my own level – with with similar energy and elan?

Running had become a chore.

I applied my intuition and soon found the answer – I had a thyroid and adrenal insufficiency.

A symptom of a thyroid that’s limping along on one cylinder is poor athletic recovery and failure to improve fitness. That’s exactly what was happening to me.

The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency are equally frightening for a runner: chronic fatigue, muscle weakness…all right, those are scary enough.

If you suspect that your adrenals may be impeding your running, a good book is Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, by James Wilson and Jonathan V. Wright. Here’s a short overview of adrenal insufficiency; you can find a longer discussion here.

Here’s a decent article on thyroid health.

Because I’m semi-retired and on a budget, I declined to go see the dreaded doctor. Instead, by careful research, I found supplements that helped greatly.

Fully aware of the dangers of self-treatment, particularly when it comes to something as complex and intricately linked with other bodily systems as the endocrine glands, I took a cautious approach.

I take the supplements only on running days (2-3 days a week), and I take a reduced dose if I feel unusually draggy on other  days.

The supplements are NatraBio Thyroid Support and Maca Extract.

A word of explanation. The thyroid supplement is a homeopathic formula. For those who sneer at homeopathy, you can all…well, never mind. Sufficient to say that I’ve had outstanding success with various homeopathic remedies over the years, Snopes to the contrary notwithstanding – including a formula for depression that helped me recover my usual cheerful disposition in the wake of a long lawsuit, which we won spectacularly, but that took a heavy stress toll.

Maca is touted for “increases in stamina, energy and libido-enhancing qualities.” As an old person and monk, I’m indifferent to the latter benefit, but very interested in the former. In fact, maca is a fine adrenal support herb.

On running days, I take 16 drops of the thyroid formula sublingually, and on non-running days if I’m poopy I’ll take 11 drops. I take just one capsule of maca with breakfast on running days, and on poopy days. I try to include several supplement-free days in the week.

Another valuable supplement for adrenal health and recovery is licorice root powder. You can make a decent-tasting, alkalinizing smoothie with a teaspoon of licorice powder, a tablespoon of alfalfa leaf powder, a banana, almond milk, and stevia.

You can do your adrenals and thyroid a favor by avoiding certain foods. Caffeine (including the small amount in chocolate) is a no-no if your adrenals are weak – the temporary lift isn’t worth the long-term cost. And reduced salt intake will help restore thyroid function.

My running has come full circle. I’m back to normal and able to enjoy my running again. My recovery is much shorter, and I’m able to go fast more frequently.

Disclaimer: every body is unique! There are many possible causes of chronic low energy. If in doubt, see a physician. Tinkering with your body and brain chemistry can have adverse consequences – be careful.

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