I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid in November last year. I had masked my decline with my healthy lifestyle and by making changes to my diet and increasing my activity levels. I had coped and managed to keep going remarkably well but I needed help now. In very simple terms my thyroid had ceased to work and that impacts energy levels and meant that my body processes had started to slow down.
At the point of diagnosis I realised that I had actually been in decline for a couple of years. It was whilst out running at the Wind Farm with my husband that I was forced to acknowledge that something wasn’t right and that I needed to go and see the Doctor. Within a couple of weeks I had been diagnosed and starting taking the medication that I will need to take for the rest of my life. It has taken a while to get the dosage right and for me to start to see an improvement.
As a fit, healthy and very active individual it is pretty galling to be told that you have a health issue and that it cannot be ‘fixed’ and that medication is the only option. I am always fixing things and assumed that this would be the same. It isn’t. I have also had to learn to stop when I need to. I don’t have a second wind and when I am done, I am done. If I don’t rest and eat properly I will be exhausted, pale, cold and struggle. For someone who has been winging it and operating at a hundred miles an hour that is a harsh reality to swallow.
I momentarily took to googling and found a number of people just like me dealing with auto immune hypothyroidism. Or were they? We all have different ways of coping and for me dwelling on the negatives wasn’t going to work. I may have the condition, but that isn’t me. There is so much more to me. I have to deal with it and manage it but I don’t have to be defined by it. So google was shut down and I started to think about how this could best be handled positively. At this stage doing exercise would always involve a nap later to recover as well as a large dose of frustration as I struggled to complete workouts that I would have sailed through before.
I came to the conclusion that I needed a focus and one that did not involve me making a comparison to what I ‘should’ be able to do. So the obvious choice for me was to run. It is not something that comes naturally to me and I hadn’t run much at all in the last 6 months. I signed up for an event that would present a challenge and require a commitment. So I then had 9 weeks to get myself ready to run a half marathon on Easter Sunday at Druridge Bay in Northumberland. I set myself the goal of finishing the run in around 2.5 hours (not fast even by my standards) and of enjoying the experience. My previous runs had involved me staring at the road in front of me and taking no notice of anything around me at all. I wanted to enjoy the run and the training too and to work with my body to get me to the start line ready to go.
This is not a conventional way to deal with a condition that leaves you short of energy. What it did give me was a focus and a way of managing and protecting my time and energy. I scheduled my runs, building slowly and didn’t do much else exercise wise. If I did a long run I made sure that I had time to rest later in the day if I needed to and that the following day was relatively light. Most of my running was on the treadmill so I could monitor exactly what I was doing and ensure that I stayed injury free too. I did some runs outside but not the longer distances. By the time I got to end of the 9 weeks I had enjoyed the training and was really pleased with the progress that I had made. I felt that I had done as much as I could have coped with in the time I had and that I would be able to complete the half marathon. The furthest that I had run was 16kms so I would need to find the energy for the additional 5kms but that felt doable.
I did it! I completed the event running most of it but I walked whenever I felt that I needed to. Getting to the finish line was the priority not how fast I got there. I really enjoyed the event and the setting and scenery was stunning. The aftermath has not been so pretty. Despite all my care leading up to the event my energy levels are still fragile. A half marathon was clearly enough to wipeout the reserves that I had started to build up. I am pale, tired and struggling to regulate my temperature again. However you would expect to feel pretty done after running 13.1 miles so keeping it in perspective I am in recovery mode. I have snoozed, stretched and used the foam roller. I have made a conscious effort to eat well and to rehydrate. I gave myself 4 full days of rest before attempting a run. I did 4km and it was hell. I didn’t know that my calves hurt until I started to run. Still I did it and rewarded myself with a soak in the bath.
I plan to keep going with the running and to do another half marathon by the end of the year. I have made a good start and have written a plan to keep me progressing in the months to come. I am still being careful and mindful of volume. Whilst I have a plan I will amend it as necessary to work with my energy. I have learnt an important lesson in how to take good care of myself and listen to my body. I have an auto-immune condition but that doesn’t mean that I can’t go out there and try new things.
So my advice is that whatever it is that you are dealing with, try and find a way to focus beyond this moment and look forward. Be kind to yourself and find a way to cope and to get you through. A half marathon may not be the solution for you but there will be a way – it is just a case of finding it. I have just finished reading ‘Rise’ by Sian Williams and I would thoroughly recommend it. She looks at how individuals deal with adversity in a range of situations. I found it inspiring and I was reduced to tears more than once. To read about the things that people have to deal with and to see that they have not only coped but grown in doing so is humbling. Life can deal some hard challenges but we choose how we respond to these. I have laced up my trainers, what is your plan?
I would love to hear your comments and your stories too. Please like and share with anyone that you think would find this useful.