In just about a month, it will be three years since one very scary week in the hospital and my subsequent diagnosis (and relatively happy ending) with Addison’s disease. I’ve learned a whole lot about the disease, biology and how best to handle my own personal situation, but the biggest learning has been about how to continue to exercise safely.
I’m an active person. One of those strange breeds of human that truly enjoys sweating, exercising and pushing the limits of my heart rate monitor. It’s one of the things that makes me happiest. I believe it makes me a better person to be around. It’s also one of the things that was most threatened with the diagnosis.
Three years on, I’ve learned a few best practices about how to exercise with Addison’s in a way that doesn’t put myself at further risk. In fact, exercising and continuing to workout is something that can help with many of the symptoms of the disease (bone density, chronic fatigue, irritability), as long as you do it safely.
With Addison’s even if you follow your treatment plan and take your medication, you will likely have higher levels of fatigue. The body is very good at regulating your hormones and while the medications can replace the cortisol and corticosteroids that your body needs, sometimes that regulation can get thrown off through no fault of your own.
You can feel tired or lethargic. This happens to me most days in the mid-afternoon. Not a surprise as the afternoon affects most people this way, it’s the normal time the body’s circadian rhythm kicks in. It also makes it the perfect time for a quick nap.
After all the partying this past weekend, Cecilia came down with a cold that kept her out of school the past two days. She was back at it today, but I started feeling crappy yesterday afternoon.
Michelle and I have very different reactions to feeling a cold coming on. She will try to bull her way through it. I basically go the opposite way. At the mere tickling of symptoms, an errant sneeze, I throw all the switches and do my best to head off any cold before it can get started.
Triathlon training is about balance. You need to prepare and train for 3 very different disciplines and there are only so many hours in the day. But it gets worse because to really succeed and give your best effort and avoid injuries there is a fourth discipline you need to consider: strength training.
Strength training is where I struggle most whether it’s in a training block for a triathlon or a marathon or something else. It just seems like it’s the first thing to fall off the plan when things get squeezed. This is doubly true during the season. I’ve found some success using HIIT sessions that combine cardio and weights during the off-season, but I still struggle to maintain a regular strength session within a training block.
It’s been three weeks since the addition of the new meds and I still sometimes catch myself smiling for no reason during my runs. The difference is just so drastic that I’m almost giddy. I’ve gone from cautiously pessimistic of even finishing without walking to cautiously optimistic of having a really good run.
My friend Addy and I had our one year anniversary this month. What’s my biggest lesson learned after one year? It’s not all the high school biology I had to freshen up on. Nor a greater appreciate for the small moments in life. Both of those are true, of course. No, it’s that there is now a line in my story, a clear demarcation of before and after. The phrase “before I got sick” or “since I got diagnosed” comes up almost daily. That is my takeaway. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a fact I live with now.
So my chronic disease and I have now spent six months together. Went to see the good doctor yesterday and all the markers look pretty good. My electrolytes continue to run on the low end, somewhat expected with Addison’s, but of bigger concern to me given my active lifestyle. We discussed a few strategies, namely, using a sports drink that has higher sodium and electrolyte levels than the standard sports drink.