Too Fat to HIIT

I admit it.

When the subject of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was first brought up to me my instant reaction was exactly the blog title above … basically that I was too fat to be able to participate in HIIT programs. I would not be able to do most of what was being expected and therefore would neither finish the workouts nor continue with it after getting through one or two.

And I see this feeling echoed all of the time on social media. As soon as someone states that they are having a hard time losing weight and a suggestion comes across about HIIT intervals, the immediate reaction is “I am too fat (old, slow, etc.) to do that”.

I am here to tell you that you are being misled, or are trying to convince yourself of this because you don’t really want to do it.

The problem is that this belief is often echoed in the media. Look up HIIT on Wikipedia and you get the following definition:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning. Compared with other regimens, HIIT may not be as effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity, or improving muscle and bone mass. Researchers also note that HIIT requires “an extremely high level of subject motivation,” and question whether the general population could safely or practically tolerate the extreme nature of the exercise regimen.

So, what this means to a person trying to find an answer is that (1) you need to be highly motivated and (2) if you’re obese it probably won’t work. I am not sure how this result is arrived at since the consistent way I have been able to lose weight was when I was participating in HIIT on a regular basis. There are all kinds of research studies out there that show long course training (i.e. Zone 2) does not help you lose weight either, and in fact, can make you gain weight.

So basically, if you train long and slow you’re screwed, and if you train short and fast you’re screwed.

No wonder people give up right?

The bottom line is this … there is no medical reason that an overweight person cannot or should not do HIIT (OnFitness, September/October 2015).

There is a disconnect in understanding what HIIT actually is and how it is performed. This disconnect, unfortunately, is far too often parroted by the very coaches teaching it in the programs. HIIT is often linked to speed work, sprinting, but this belief is not true for everyone, and especially not true for the overweight population.

HIIT is about effort … not speed.

Someone who is overweight can get the same benefit by simply walking as fast as they can up a hill, then walking back down to recover, then walking as fast as they can back up the hill. Have a hard time walking? Then get on a bike, pedal as hard as you can for 30 seconds to a minute, then go easy for a minute or two, then repeat.

The trick is that the all-out effort needs to be to the point you are breathless, and that is different for everyone.

I can go out and try this workout and be breathless running in 15 seconds, while a more fit person might be able to run a good 5 minutes before reaching that state. The result is going to be the same for each person because the effort is the same regardless of the speed or the distance.

I feel like at times people don’t want to have heavy people get thinner or healthier (not the same thing). It seems at times they design programs that make you give up (P90X anyone?) or defeat you in their explanations before you even try it. As a coach, I try not to do that. Even when I sign up for races I know I am not ready for I have never been told me to not do it, and I usually would not tell a client not to do it (unless I really felt they were going to get hurt). I don’t understand a coach or mentor, be it in fitness or in business, that seems to thrive on holding people down rather than raise them up.

And you have seen it.

I know you have.

I see it a lot with age too. People not telling me outright that I am too old to do something but acting surprised when they hear I have entered a race “at my age”.

I have races and events I want to do that I know I am not able to do right now. A Spartan Race maybe, An ultra run eventually. Maybe even an Ironman distance event at some point (the goal is in my 60th year).

Has no bearing on “why” I want to, or “if” I can do it. I want to.

And telling me I’m too fat is not going to stop me.

Realism & Goals

I had such lofty goals when I started this journey in 2010.

I was going to be an Ironman. Everything I did was focused on that goal. Being an Ironman, and being one as quickly as possible.

I raced through 2011, and though I had my issues I pushed ever forward to sign up for my first 70.3 race in 2012. Florida Ironman 70.3 in Haines City. Huge issue in the swim, a slow bike, and a brutal run … but I finished.

So I signed up for another one. Ironman Augusta 70.3. Slow swim, awful bike, brutal run. But I finished.

See a pattern emerging?

So in 2013, I signed up for two more; a HITS in Ocala and Augusta again.

Slow swims, awful bikes, brutal runs.

But I finished.

2014 became the “Year of the Ironman”. I waited by my computer, constantly tapping the refresh key for the entry opening, and got into Ironman Chattanooga.

Then reality set in. Jennifer moved to Ocala, so I lost my daily training partner, and to top it off my body started rebelling. In April 2014 I found out that I had psoriatic arthritis, which was causing my body to inflame at the slightest provocation, in addition to degeneration of joints in both wrists, both feet and ankles, and the L5-S1.

But I did not drop out of the race.

I kept pushing through the summer, feeling hurt all the time, taking days to recover even from medium length workouts, and test races getting slower and slower. Instead of improving I was getting worse.

I finally called the race in July. My first intention was to downgrade to Ironman Austin 70.3, but even that was not going to happen with the way my training was going, and the way the weight I had lost was now creeping back up.

So, as I approached 2015 the plan was to reboot the process. Return to sprints until I could get a handle on the health and body issues. I told myself that maybe long distances was not for me. Maybe I was more suited to sprints, with an occasional Olympic thrown in to test every once in a while.

But there is still a nagging feeling in my brain, and in my soul.

I am now into 2019 and even though I have pulled back from 70.3 racing and the 140.6 distance, the dream of doing these is still present in me. Is setting a goal “age” a bad thing? I had stated in a post once that my target to move up to 70.3 distances again was a sprint in under 90 minutes (my fastest now is just over 2 hours) and my goal for the move to a 140.6 was a 70.3 in under 7 hours. I think that is still a reasonable goal, but my body is still hanging on to weight and my times are not improving (though my overall recovery seems to be getting better).

Is a 140.6 in my 60th year a reasonable goal? I will turn 56 in September, so that is a 14-year journey from start to finish. Is that too far away to be realistic?

Some reading this will question why I still feel the need to get this race done. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t especially enjoy road running (though running on trails is a whole different matter), or even biking, long drawn out distances, and the motivation to train alone is still not there, so why am I still clinging to these lofty dreams of finishing races that seem so far out of reach?

Maybe the thought of stopping is just too scary?

There is a part of me that is drawn to goals that seem out of reach, even if the motivation, and the wherewithal, to do these things are not there.

I see someone running an ultra race of 100 miles and I want to do that.

I read about Scott Jurek running the Appalachian Trail and I want to do that.

I watch as someone runs the Sahara desert and I want to do that.

Is it a bad thing to set a goal that is not a realistic one, or is it better to set goals that one can reasonable obtain?

Watching the debates back in 2016 (not a political statement … I watch ALL debates so I can make an informed decision not based on party) and one question put to a candidate started along the lines of “you promised to create 250,000 jobs but you only created 125,000 …. ” and the answer was that he believes in setting the bar high instead of setting them to be easy. I think I agree with that, but the problem arises when others see this goal as a failure. The person posing the question obviously framed it as a failure to create 125,000 jobs, and not focused on the 125,000 he did create. The same happened to another candidate when it was posed to them that the state they are from is so many millions in deficit, blah blah blah, and their answer was “you should have seen it when I got there. Yes, we are 12 million in the red now but we were 600 million in the red when I took office”.

It is framed as a failure when in fact it is a success.

I have wavered lately on being a bit down on myself. It is frustrating to only be able to muster a 14 mph pace on the bike when two-three years ago my normal pace was 18 mph. But the thing is that a year ago I could only get to 12 mph. In fact, I have improved. I can frame it as a success instead of framing it as a failure.

Swimming is another issue recently. I have started swimming with a Masters Group after much pushing from a few people and got over my … not fear but hesitance to look foolish. I have been swimming a while now but have never really gotten over the anxiety and the discomfort in my head. Swimming three days a week has alleviated some of that but I was still talking the other day about how I still was “the slowest person there”. I was doing it again. In January I was doing a full workout of 1,700 yards at a 100 pace of 2:36. Those recent Saturday my workout was 4,000 yards at a pace of 1:48. But again, not seeing the improvement, I still focused on my ability in relation to all of the others there.

Bad John!

The fact is that you get better after each event, after each session, in some way. My pace may be slower, but my recovery has gotten better. I may be doing shorter distances but two years ago, even though my average pace was 18 mph I could not have climbed Sugarloaf Mountain on a bike or swam 4,000 yards.

Today I can.

I have gotten better.

So, I will keep my goal of Ironman, and set it for when I am 60.

Seems a good year.

A pivotal year.

See you in 2023.

The New Version

Halfway through 2019 and looking ahead to 2020 I am still trying to get a handle on the changes I have been experiencing in health and wellness. I have learned over the last 9+ years that this might well entail exploring training and nutrition that continues to challenge conventional wisdom.

What??? John wants to challenge Conventional Wisdom??? How unlike him!!!

Challenging CW, the tried and true methods clung to by most athletes and then TALKING ABOUT IT on social media can lead to a lot of heated discussions. Challenging someone’s perspectives or beliefs, like “you do not require sugar to complete a marathon”, is taken as a personal attack.

I believe that all runners and triathletes secretly own stock in either GU, Hammer Gel, or both.

Bottom line is that it IS possible to remove sugar from your diet and training and perform perfectly fine.

Does sugar help? Yep, it does. Is it required? Nope, it’s not.

Throwing sugar into your system is like stoking a fire using pine needles. It will burn, and it will burn hot, but it will also burn quickly, requiring more pine needles, almost a constant supply, to keep it lit.

Personally, I do not like how sugar makes me feel, even in small quantities, but especially in large amounts over 5 to 7 hours. I have known other athletes who have GI issues who take in sugar and then complain about their GI issues, but for some reason, they continue to do it. I just don’t understand that. I would rather learn how to go long distances without requiring enough sugar intake to become the lead character in Alice Cooper’s “Unfinished Sweet”.

Google it … you know you want to …

And … let’s be honest here for a moment. Most people are not doing sugar because they NEED sugar. They are doing it because they WANT sugar. There are plenty of studies showing fat adaption works and you can reduce if not eliminate your sugar intake, yet people still stuff ten GU packs into their bike jerseys before 30-mile rides. Why? Because they like sugar, and they are NOT giving it up.

So many methods have been shown to not work, and in some cases actually, hinder training and races. Carb loading doesn’t work but races still offer pasta dinners the night before. Ice Baths has been shown to hinder muscle growth and adaption but people are still sitting in 40-degree water. I really don’t care either way, but let’s stop bullshitting each other about the real reason you do these things.

My focus in 2019 is to “be different”. And different for the better.

As with most things in my training, it will depend greatly on my body and how it handles the stress of training. I have no idea what havoc lays ahead, but I know the foot issue that has been plaguing me for years has subsided and the weight is on a downward trend again, especially in the past week. I have also started to understand that GOALS are really not the point. I need to focus on the SYSTEM. By getting the system locked down, the goals will happen on their own.

This is yet another reinvention. John 2.0 circa 2019.

The Wisdom of A Clockwork Orange

“Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. To what do I owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit?”

As I am working through motivation issues, remembrances of lines from my favorite movie keep popping up in my head (some of you know I have done this before with “Fight Club” and “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy“). The mere fact that “A Clockwork Orange” is my all time favorite movie tells you more about my psyche than you really want to know and should probably warn you against posts like this, but you’re triathletes (for the most part), and I know you will power through this, and hopefully not emerge on the other side questioning whether or not you ought to be associating with me. 🙂

“Come with Uncle,” I said, “and hear all proper. Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You. Are. invited.”

All of the issues you have during training; the injuries, the self-doubt, the lack of motivation, all seems to vanish on the morning of the race. Are you anxious? Oh yeah. Butterflies? Definitely. But when the horn sounds, the racer in you kicks in and by two or three strokes into the swim you are in race mode. Pain is not there anymore. Will you have issues during the race? Of course. But unless it’s a serious injury, like a broken limb, or a mechanical issue that can’t be fixed, you’re going to soldier on. Because you’re a triathlete. A different breed of person. You’re not a runner. You’re not a cyclist. You’re not a swimmer. You’re all three. I have seen people carrying their bikes to finish the leg. You will finish if you have to crawl or they pull you from the course.

“Let’s get things nice and sparkling clear. This sarcasm – if I may call it such, is very unbecoming of you, oh my brothers”

Detractors and naysayers abound. There will be people telling you that you’re crazy to be doing this stuff. “Why?” the will ask you, “Are you subjecting yourself to this daily regimen”. You’d answer, but you really don’t know the answer.

“Because,” you squeak out, “I have to.” It’s really the best answer you can offer.

The saddest part of this is the loudest naysayers are the ones closest to you. Your family. Your longtime friends. They have become accustomed to you being fat, being slovenly, being lazy. They like you in this way. Anything outside of THIER comfort zone unnerves them. “You’re neglecting your family” they will say. “How are you spending any quality time with your kids?” others will chime in. My answer to them is simple. When I woke up on May 17, 2010, and stepped on the scale and saw it pass 300 pounds, the first thing in my head, the FIRST thing, was my family.

“I am going to drop dead by the time I am 50,” was my first thought. “What are they going to do if I am gone?” was my second. “What kind of example am I setting for my (then) 15-year-old son??”.

It may seem to outsiders that I am being selfish and only doing it for me, and while it is true I do a lot of it for me, the motivation at the beginning was to take care of myself so that I could be here 30 years from now to see my grandchildren.

If that is “being selfish”, well, then I am I guess. But seriously, I think being a fat, lazy slob that dies at 50 because they couldn’t do without the piece of cheesecake is the selfish one. He is now gone.

“Have you some new torture for me, you bratchny?” “Well, well, well, well. If it isn’t fat, stinking billygoat Billy-Boy in poison. How art thou, thy globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou.”

Don’t you just love coaches?

The good ones have a way of both building up your confidence and tear you to pieces at the very same time. It’s kind of fun to witness (though a lot more fun to watch than to have it happen to you). It’s always fun to get that Sunday evening email with the weekly schedule. The first reaction is always “OH MY GOD DOES SHE THINK I AM SUPERMAN???” which usually leads to an email from me.

Her answer?

“Just give it a try. If you can’t do it all, do what you can. Adjust it accordingly. You’ll be fine.”

And, of course, I always am fine. I can always do what she wrote down for me. She knows more about my ability than I do and has shown a unique ability to see through my bullshit from time to time and call me on it.

Having a good training partner is paramount to this, and in this area I am lucky. My past partner, Jennifer, was always ready to go, always will try the new thing (unless it is about weight training or eliminating Splenda from the diet). She pushed me when I couldn’t push myself, and I hope I did the same for her. I have also had others motivate and influence me, some in ways they are not even aware, some by pissing me off because they keep beating me, some because they run so effortlessly, at least to me, some because the bike or swim like demons, some because I know their struggles and they are still out there, and some because they are just friendly people and fun to be around. They all contribute in some way, and I am happy to have met them all over the past 9 years.

“What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolence.”

Along with the coaching are the online forums that we all dutifully enter every aspect of our training. Garmin Connect, Daily Mile, Twitter, FaceBook, MyFitnessPal, Training Peaks, Strava, Swim.com, Apple Health. The people in these forums will keep you on your toes. Miss logging a few days? Oh, you can expect a note from SOMEONE calling you on it. I got a response from a blog post once stating “…I have noticed your bike totals have gone down since the 70.3…”

What?? Someone is paying attention????

They called me on it, and they were right, and it motivates you to get off your ass and get back on the damn bike!!

I appreciate this kind of “kick in the yarbles”. Being held accountable is what works. It’s why being part of a team works. You’re just not out there for you, you’re a part of a group, a team, that has a like-minded goal, and they depend on you to be there, and be ready. Nothing motivates more than that team mentality.

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.”

So there it is – my Triathlon version of A Clockwork Orange. Much like Alex felt when being made to watch violence at the same time as he was being made sick, the end result is that you are who you are, and you will adapt to accept any changes made to you in order to meet the true inner self.

I have been struggling recently with motivation. But what I need to find, and will find, was that burning desire to NOT be who I was becoming and find somewhere inside that 300-pound frame the younger man that I was. I wasted a good bit of my life in pursuits of things I had no business pursuing, and I have paid for them both mentally and physically. I hope that this change in my life the past 9 years did not come too late. My brother Michael said something to me once and it sticks in my head every day, especially when I start doubting and thinking I should just give up. We were talking one day about health, and the fact that we have both survived cancer scares (his was testicular, mine was thyroid) and why he has the hobbies and interests he has.

He said “Johnny, I may die tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years, but when I die I don’t want it to be by something I could have prevented.”

At times, my brother can be a very wise man.

Endurance Hydration

I have been talking on the show a lot lately about a couple of things; one (of course) is the never-ending saga of my inability to shed the weight I carry, and the next has been my issue with the second half of my racing, notably the way I feel after the bike portion of a triathlon or duathlon. Running off the bike is always a tough thing to get used to, but my issues go way beyond tough. It has been difficult to explain it to people how it feels but suffice it to say that there is just no energy in my legs. At all. I have tried to “power through it”, thinking that if I force myself to RUN it will clear out and the body will kick in. It doesn’t work. I try very hard to get my legs moving and they Just … Won’t … Go.

In prepping for the podcast I have been reading up on hydration (1), the effects of dehydration, and training and may be hitting on some things. The first being that I am nowhere near drinking the amount of fluid they are prescribing in the material I am reading. Not even in the ballpark.

I have done in the past the normal testing to check my sweat loss, and it normally comes out to about 41.3 ounces in half an hour (actually 35 minutes). This is come to by this formula (done about two weeks ago on a 2.2-mile run):

  • Starting weight of 277.0 – End weight of 275.4 = loss of 1.6 pounds
  • 1.6 pounds x 15 ounces (per pound) = 24 ounces of fluid loss + 0 fluid intake = 24 total ounces
  • 24 ounces / 35 minutes total time (or .58) = 41 ounces

Let me be crystal here … I took in NOTHING

And this was a short training run … so I went back and looked at my last duathlon in 2016

I drank 24 ounces of water mixed with 2 scoops of UCAN on my 90-minute drive … and nothing more before the race started. I drank … NOTHING … during the 1-mile first leg. In T1 I took one sip of water and got on the bike. During the bike I drank 2 times from a 24-ounce bottle, so let’s call that 4 ounces (Gatorade Endurance). In T2 I took one more sip, grabbed a handheld water bottle (20 ounces) and started the second run (3.1 miles). During this run, I drank at each water station (about 2 ounces each time for a total of 4 ounces) and about half of the bottle.

So, for a race that took me 2:09:32, I took in a total of ~44 ounces …

I did not weigh before and after, and was probably, according to my HR, working at a much higher level than the training run. So that means, using the training as a guide, I was under hydrated by about 148 ounces (192 ounces required [48 ounces x 4] – 44 ounces taken in).

Maybe this is the reason the run is bonking? It would make some sense since the person I trained with did much better at these races and drinks all the time.

I can also used a recent Saturday run as an example. I was carrying the same bottle with me and drank maybe three times in 4.5 miles. Granted I was staying in Z2 the whole way, but I have a tendency to NOT drink enough, and this may be the underlying cause.

The other issue is daily, ongoing hydration. I always thought I was drinking enough water, but according to the reading, I am well under the requirement. It states that daily fluid requirements are 2.5 to 3 L a day, and to average 8 ounces each hour. Now, 8 ounces is nothing really is it? One or two gulps and it is gone, so would/should be pretty easy to handle. I do carry around water each day, or have access to it, but I am bad at actually drinking it.

(1) Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan

The Racing Equation

We cannot always be podium finishers, especially within the readership of this blog or listeners of the podcast. Yes, we do have a few that finish high in the standings at each race, but the majority of us are middle of the pack to the back of the pack people, so measuring our success or failures based solely on where we finish is not reasonable.

So, how DO we gauge or successes?

That’s a big question, isn’t it?

There are some, even among the back of the pack groups, that feel starting a race, or just completing a race, is not enough to label it a success, and there might be a few more reading this that agree on that issue.

I am not one of them.

In the world of endurance sports the method by which you can gauge your successes, at least in the beginning, should be based more on an internal measurement than an external one. What I mean to say is that your success should be based on what YOU are capable of and the manner and effort by which you train or race. Only YOU know the effort you have given correct?

Let’s be honest…

You know when you have not trained enough for a race or event. You also know when you have not given 100% of yourself during the race. You may not admit to it openly, but you know it in your head. Personally, I have no trouble admitting when I have not given my all. I am VERY self-aware in this area. This has normally been met with graciousness from people, but on occasion, it has been met with scorn. I can’t let that deter me. Everyone has detractors; someone that doesn’t see what they’re doing as healthy or useful.

So, the bottom line here is that when you are racing and training, the only person you should be competing against is yourself, your history, your previous best effort or time. That is ALL that matters in our world.

But IS there an equation? A Race Equation?

I think there is, and it was pointed out to me by a long time listener, reader, and friend, and occasional co-host.

DFL > DNF > DNS

There it is, plain and simple, but let’s break it down:

DFL = Dead F***G Last

I have been here many times, and though some think I am OK with it, I am NEVER OK with it. I accept it, especially if I know I have given everything I had at that moment, but no one likes being last. Being last sucks. It’s soul-draining. And it too easily becomes a habit.

DNF = Did Not Finish

Just a step below a DFL is the dreaded DNF. It means you toed the line, started with the pack, and then for whatever reason you were not able to finish the course. Most of the time this is due to a timed cut-off that you could not make, but there are times where you get injured, overheat, sick, etc. that also causes you to call it a day. Pulling yourself out of a race is a hard decision. It’s a fleeting thought on some days, but one you can push aside, except for that one day where the mind and/or the body just isn’t cooperating. When I started this in 2010 I took great pride in the fact that I had never had a DNF. Every race that I started I had finished. Then came Disney in 2014. A race I was not ready to run due to an injury, but one that I was determined to start. The balloon ladies caught me at mile 8.2 and I got on the bus and rode back to the start. I still was handed a medal, which I did not keep, and was deeply disappointed in myself, but I could live with it because I know I was not prepared and it was the result I had expected.

Which leads us to the final, and bottom, rung.

DNS = Did Not Start

Before I start on this one, let me be clear. There are MANY times that pulling out of an event is warranted. Injury, emergencies, etc. come to mind immediately. A DNS is a VERY hard decision. It’s not about the money you have already paid or the hours of training you have put in leading up to the event, but about the admission of defeat, and the knowledge that, for whatever reason, you could not even attempt it for fear of further injury. The decision to take a DNS is not one that is taken lightly. I have had a few, and they were never easy decisions. What amazed me most was in 2017 at Infinitus was my decision to NOT take a DNS and attempt the event knowing that due to injury and under training I had a serious chance of both not finishing AND getting further injured, and how a couple of people looked at that decision as a failure, telling me that I not have tried at all. I don’t get that mentality. I’ll be honest and say that the thought of not traveling and attempting that event was very close to becoming a DNS, but I went and tried, and had the result I thought I would. A DNS is a horrible thing to endure because it will weigh on your mind for a long time. In my case, two years because I am traveling back there in 4 months to try it again. Not the same distance, but I have to complete this race.

So remember, we all have goals and ambitions, but the race equation is different for all of us.

Injuries and Adrenal Fatigue – Can You Train Through Either?


Author’s Note: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Information in this post is from my own research from as reputable sites as I could find. If you have better information, please feel free to share, as long as you cite your sources.


Athletes can be a stubborn bunch. Even those of us that should know better, that coach or advise others, tend to not follow the best practices when it comes to injuries.

You know who I am talking about.

When we are training for a specific goal, a target race, the only “A Race” on our schedule, nothing will deter us from those long training days, the early morning sprints around the neighborhood, the sneaking out of work early to get a swim in before a scheduled bike ride. Miles or Time in training equals success on race day, so the inverse must also be true, basically, that time or miles lost during the training period costs us on trace day. We will run through small aches and pains to the point that we are hobbled, then after an evening of ice, compression, and elevation, get right back out there the next day and do it again.

The trick is when is it time to say “enough”?

We are a short-sighted bunch. We either refuse to see the big picture or are so narrowly focused on the end event that we just don’t see it. We only see “today” and do not take into account what happens tomorrow if we continue to train through an injury. A slight tweak in an Achilles is run through until it changes from a “hurt” to an “injury”. When I played football the coach would always ask us as we lay writhing on the ground if we were hurt or injured. Back in the late 70’s when I played this was a HUGE distinction. If you are hurt, you can play, and if you can’t play, then you are replaced, and possibly never getting back on the field. This happened to me my last year of playing against New Smyrna Beach (damn them ‘Cudas). I was chasing a running back (#44 – will never forget that number) down the sideline and leaped at him just as he was about to score, grabbing him by the back of the shoulder pads (something that is illegal in today’s game). I snapped him backward (though not in time since he did cross the goal line) and I went flying into the spectator area, which was very close to the sidelines. I rolled a number of times before coming to a sudden stop against the concrete. When I got up I felt that my knee was off, but I limped back into the huddle for the extra point attempt. Back in these days, there was very little kicking, so they went for 2, using the same running back and I met him coming through the middle of the line, just as he planted his helmet directly to the same kneecap.

I couldn’t get up. My knee would not bend. A couple of teammates helped me to the sideline and sat me on the bench. My Defensive Backs coach came over and asked if I was OK. I told him “I can’t bend my leg”. He shook his head at me, swore, and yelled “Ingram … get in there for Harris” and walked away. I sat there for a few minutes, scared to pull my pants up to see what was there before the trainer came over. I leaned against the trainer we had as he pulled up my pants. My kneecap was about an inch off center. He looked at me and said “grit your teeth” which I did as he grabbed the knee and pushed it back in place, telling me it was “just dislocated” and would be OK. “Just ice it”. Since we lost that game (we played on Thursday nights) we had a practice the next day. I hobbled into my head coach’s office and told him I didn’t think I could go. All the coaches looked at each other, and then he said “fine … sit on the bench” without ever looking at me. I walked away, hearing them laughing when I closed the door, and never saw the starting lineup again.

So, when I feel a tweak, it is my first instinct to try to push through it. One day, to me, could mean not making the lineup, in this case, not starting the race. When I hear of others that have a nagging issue I am the first one to tell them to sit out, to rest, that losing one training day is better than losing the whole year, but I am the worst culprit. I am not alone. I know coaches who say the same thing to me yet are out running or biking on injuries themselves. As I said .. we are our own worst enemies.

Sometimes the injuries are evident, like a sprained ankle, a plantar fasciitis issue, a swollen knee, but often they are not, especially when we are dealing with true adrenal fatigue (AF). Once your cortisol levels drop to zero, there is no recovering from that other than taking time off. You cannot “train through it”. The issue is recognizing AF is not always easy, because it can feel amazingly like just being tired, or over-trained. So you take a day off, maybe two, and then hit it as hard as you can once more. And it is just as bad, or worse, than before.


What is Adrenal Fatigue?


From the Adrenal Fatigue website, AF is defined as a collection of signs and symptoms that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level, most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Pretty scary stuff right? I wonder how many of you reading this right now are walking around with it and never knew it? Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, said in 1969 that he estimated that approximately 16% of the public could be classified as severe, but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the percentage would be more like 66%.

And this was in 1969 … you know … BEFORE the internet, 24/7/365 work days, terrorism, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Donald Trump, etc. Imagine what the numbers would be today??

The problem is this; although adrenal exhaustion is a real medical condition that can be measured through blood tests, adrenal “fatigue” is not. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms, and there is no test that can identify adrenal fatigue (http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/myth-vs-fact/adrenal-fatigue).

Eric Metcalf, MPH writes (and reviewed by Dr. Brunilda Nazario) on WebMD that:

Adrenal fatigue is a term that’s used by some to say that fatigue and other symptoms are caused by a poorly working adrenal gland in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress. But it’s not a proven medical condition. Your adrenal glands make hormones. One of these is cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, if your life is too stressful, your adrenal glands may not pump out enough hormones, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. But there’s no evidence to support this theory. (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real)

Robert Vigersky, MD, a past president of the Endocrine Society, says the symptoms are very common in people in general. Though people often blame their hormonal glands, such as the adrenals or thyroid, for their tiredness, Vigersky says in many cases fatigue is due to common problems such as:

  • Poor sleep habits
  • Poor diet
  • Stress at work or home
  • Depression

All of these can affect your energy level without involving your adrenal glands. Fatigue is also a symptom of many diseases such as anemia, arthritis, diabetes, and heart failure, says Janet McGill, MD a hormone specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

I know this … I fit into every symptom of adrenal fatigue but mine is due to 2 of the 4 (maybe 3 of the four) common problems, in addition to having psoriatic arthritis and no thyroid due to cancer. Adrenal Fatigue is a new buzzword (much like Celiac, where people want to be Gluten Free, but most are not actual Celiac diagnosed … ) so when someone throws that at you … take it for what it’s worth and get checked out before buying supplements. Do your homework, and do what is best for you using an intelligent mind. Lots of information is at your fingertips these days. There’s no excuse for being misinformed. And remember, just because the medical establishment doesn’t recognize something as a disease doesn’t mean it is not real (for example Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease were not recognized for a long time, and the effects of Low T is not agreed upon as well).

And if you’re tired … how about resting?

Just a thought …