Why I quit running | Whole Earth Life

Why I quit running.

Is your exercise regime preventing you from healing?

I love running. All through primary school and until year 9 of secondary school I was a super speedy 100-metre sprinter and simultaneously a cross-country runner. These regular after school activities came to a sudden end when I was 14 and underage drinking, smoking and rock clubs were clearly way more fun. Oh yeah, this meditating yogi used to have facial piercings and a multi-coloured mohican. As I slipped out of this phase at 17 years old running made a renewed occurrence in my life but this time as freeing jog in the park, not a regimented training programme. I would run as much as five times a week in the summer and in the winter I would aim for at least twice. If I didn’t run I would notice a considerable difference in my mood and temperament. My Mars-in-Aries energy needed an outlet!

Last year I took a turn for the worst with Crohn’s disease. The flare was so bad I developed symptomatic arthritis in my knees and ankles that prevented me from walking let alone running. I hung up my new Nike 3.0s and didn’t leave the bathroom for months. When I finally ‘recovered’ (for the most part) with the help of steroids and the autoimmune protocol, the first thing I did was grab those bright purple and green trainers, ramp up the volume of my old Metal playlist and bolt my way to the park.

I was sorely, SORELY disappointed.

I didn’t have the strength or the stamina to complete even a fraction of what I was used to. I was experiencing big energy dips in the afternoon while my body was still adapting to the paleo diet and desperately trying to heal both of my autoimmune diseases so the only time I could run was first thing in the morning. I figured it wouldn’t take too long to rebuild my ability so I kept at it, running a little further or faster each day. Sure, I improved, but my overall health didn’t. I couldn’t say that I felt well, in actual fact I was drained and I could see that the improvement in my autoimmune disorders had plateaued. I then began to hate my skinny reflection (we’ll get to that in a moment) and came to a conclusive decision that enough was enough, the running had to stop.

There are three reasons why I quit running and I’ll cover each below. I’ll also share my experience of practising yoga, how you can learn how to do it for FREE, and why you don’t need to be a super-spiritual, tree-hugging vegan to appreciate it! No exclusions here.

 

1) High cortisol levels

Strenuous exercise such as long duration aerobic ‘cardio’ and high-intensity interval training are understood to be counterproductive for autoimmune disease. They can slow your healing or even exacerbate the problem further. [1]

The problem is cortisol – ‘the stress hormone’. Within the correct limit cortisol isn’t such a baddie; it regulates inflammation and metabolism and works with adrenaline to ensure your survival in a dangerous situation. But there goes a saying, “too much of a good thing…” Unfortunately chronically elevated cortisol levels caused by repeated modern-day stress puts the body into a constant ‘fight or flight’ state and neglects regular ‘non-essential’ processes such as the digestive system in favour of raising glucose levels so that you can run away from a saber-tooth tiger! This chronic state of raised cortisol levels can in turn lead to a dysfunctional immune system, contributing to a leaky gut and systemic inflammation. Autoimmune sufferers – you’ve heard these words before!! Yep, cortisol has the ability to loosen those tight junctions in the gut and expose your immune system to food, pathogens and bacteria for attack and thus raises levels of non-specific inflammation. I won’t go into too much detail here – if you want a bit more you can read my earlier blog post on how AIP works or if you’re interested in all the juicy science I urge you to read The Paleo Approach by Dr Sarah Ballantyne.

The takeaway point is this: physical activity itself is a source of stress. So do the maths. Psychological stress + physical stress = SUPER STRESSED (with highly damaging cortisol levels). Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “don’t exercise”. Physical activity is integral to healing and can actually regulate cortisol levels. Many people who exercise have a lowered level of cortisol in response to psychological stress that makes them better equipped to handle day-to-day madness. However, it’s the type of exercise that plays an integral part in cortisol regulation. I’m talking about both the level of intensity and the quantity here. There is some indication that cortisol levels are more greatly increased by aerobic and endurance exercise than in resistance training. Again, please read The Paleo Approach.

So here it goes:
No exercise is bad
Low-moderate regular exercise is good
Excessive exercise is bad

 

2) Weight loss

A very real aspect of the autoimmune protocol is weight loss and I don’t speak of it lightly. For many people it is a welcomed change but as a naturally slim person who had just been through months of chronic diarrhoea, a smaller circumference was not on my wish list. I’ve written about five things to expect on the autoimmune protocol in this previous blog post and in it I mention weight loss. Let me be clear – I’m not fear mongering, just stating some truths that affected me. In all I lost over a stone (7 kilos). I don’t like being skinny. I used to have a lovely big perky bum and it made me feel attractive. Without it I believed that resembled a child; which brings me to my final reason – you’ll notice there’s a bit of a domino effect going on here.

 

3) Amenorrhea

This is defined quite literally as ‘the absence of periods’ – no menstrual cycle. It’s classified into 2 groups: primary and secondary. The first relates to girls whose period never starts, the latter is when your regular period stops for at least six months and is recognised as a symptom of another problem.

I have secondary amenorrhea. It can be caused by a number of factors such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), coming off the pill, high prolactin levels and premature menopause but I want to focus here on 3 factors that apply to myself and have been known to affect a number of women suffering with autoimmunity: weight, exercise and stress.

Weight – Hormone balance is dependant on having a suitable weight/height ratio (your BMI). The body is incredibly smart and has innumerable defence mechanisms in place to protect it. It knows which organs to prioritise for survival in an emergency (the brain and the heart!) and has a highly sensitive feedback system in place to detect imbalance. The reproductive system is the only system of the body that isn’t required to keep you alive. In times of famine, distress and trauma energy levels must be reserved for priority organs and metabolic processes – not for making a baby! The reproductive system therefore shuts down to allow the body to concentrate its resources on keeping you alive. In addition, losing 10-15% of your body weight in a short space of time can lead the body to believe there is a famine and thus potentially not enough food for you and a baby.

Exercise – Body fat is essential to reproduction. Frequent or intense exercise can of course reduce the body fat ratio to a level that is too low and thus creates an inhospitable environment for pregnancy. As I mentioned above, excessive exercise can cause cortisol levels to remain high in that ‘flight or fight response’, shutting down the function of the reproductive system.

Stress – As above, any stress, physical or psychological = high cortisol. If you’re stressed, you certainly can’t cope with a pregnancy so you’re prevented from having a period! What a clever defence mechanism!

 

Positive results

I think those are three pretty good reasons to rethink my exercise regime and I was so right to. Since I’ve stopped running my rate of recovery has excelled ten-fold. My problem of afternoon drops in energy and aching joints has gone, my general sense of feeling a bit ‘feeble’ has completely evaporated, I can tolerate food reintroductions much better, I have less allergic reactions, no anxiety or mood swings and most importantly, my gut NEVER complains. It’s like Crohn’s never existed for me. And baldness? What baldness? My patches are racing to catch up with the rest.

 

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I quit running for yoga

While all of this is true, I haven’t stopped exercising. Exercise is INCREDIBLY important and conducive to healing. You just need to find a form that is less taxing. For some people that’s a long walk or hike, for others it’s weight training, for me it’s yoga. I have honestly never felt better than I do since practising yoga every day and it is solving more than one problem for me. Not only has it reduced physical and emotional stress, it requires enough strength training to actually help me BUILD muscle! I’m burning less fat and simultaneously building every muscle in my body – enough that I appear to be gaining weight and filling out my clothes again! WIN!

I’m definitely much happier with the appearance of my body now than I was four months ago and I can only imagine my weight will increase with time. I’m on a mission to gain weight not only for my physical appearance but also to get that period back. I’m considering using an old ayurvedic herbal remedy called Shatavari – I’ll post about this once I’ve given it a try but if you have any experience with it, let me know!

 

FREE YOGA!

My best friend introduced me to a wonder woman named Erin Motz. She’s a yoga teacher that she discovered through doyouyoga.com – a brilliant website for free yoga lessons as well as general tips and advice. Since then Erin has gone on to develop a very cool brand for herself, Bad Yogi, which strives to redefine yoga culture. Many people are put-off or feel excluded by the yoga community that is often represented by vegans and self-righteous hippies, feeling that they cannot conform to this culture and the point Erin makes is that you don’t have to. Yoga as a form of exercise should be open to everyone. Wine-drinkers, meat-munchers and cake-scoffers are all welcome and there is no pressure to open up to divinity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not laughing at or hating on yogis, I’m actually a very zany meditator with an Astrologer for a mother and I carry the nickname ‘hempy’ because my friends think I’m a hippy, but I get that it’s not for everyone. Plus, it makes me feel less bad about eating paleo 😉

Anyway, check out her free 30-day yoga playlist from DoYouYoga:

 

Then head over to badyogiofficial.com and also visit her YouTube page

So remember, AIP is not all about diet and it’s not about supplements either; your day-to-day habits play a HUGE role.

 

Enjoy the yoga!

Namaste ❤

[1] Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Approach page 158

 

 

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19 thoughts on “Why I quit running.

  1. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

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  2. Hi Stella
    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.
    I lost all my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes so have Alopecia universalis.
    I have been on the AIP for one month now and finding it very hard 😦
    I have noticed one or two hair on body parts but nothing visible on my head yet.
    I am eating sauerkraut daily but not taking any supplements as I u fear they might have an ingredient that might be against this diet.
    Can you let me know which type of probiotics and supplements you took.
    Many thanks
    I have also been drinking bone broth something I never thought I could ever do!

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      • Another quick one. Have you seen any protein shakes that are aip compliant. I’ve stopped all whey, and ones that include dairy. I have some vegan protein, which contains pea and rice protein (not Aip) and some hydrolysed beef protein ( closest but contains thickener, xantham gum) any thoughts? I was thinking of following aip as strict as possible but with two scoops of protein in my breakfast shake. Don’t know how much difference the thickener will make but want to be as strict as possible.

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      • Sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know of any protein shakes that are AIP compliant. I’m sure there probably is one but it’s not something I’ve ever looked into. See how it goes following AIP as best you can along with the shakes of your choice and if you don’t see any improvement in a few months then maybe you should consider cutting them out.

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      • Thanks I was looking at the link but I realised the probiotic supplement has potato starch and magnesium stearate.
        I read the magnesium stearate can irritate the gut and all the probiotics I have purchased have this ingredients.
        I do have a severe case, with the history of alopecia onto dads side but his hair grow back and it wasn’t to my extreme. I also suffer from eczema, had a baby, went through dress and was breastfeeding day and night for 18 months so my body is very deficient.
        I stopped breastfeeding in July 2015, went gluten free. Also my ferritin was 35 and I worked hard to bring it up to 95 in July too.
        I did get Sarah’s book as both me and my husband believe in it and being from a medical background helps to understand the science too.
        I am going to stick for another 2-3 months then do the fodmop as recommended.
        The other thing is breakfast. I currently have a home made juice but maybe I need to reduce fructose. I don’t have pork so bit able to have bacon or sausages. I can’t really stomach meat in the morning.
        Thanks Zahra

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      • Hi Zahra, I don’t know anything about magnesium stearate but if you’ve read that it irritates the gut then stay away from it. A small amount of potato starch won’t hurt though. The best way of getting probiotics is from food anyway – things like sauerkraut, kombucha, water kefir. The science in Sarah’s book is fascinating isn’t it!
        I’ve actually written a breakfast recipe recently which is now up on the blog but it’s a little bit of a sweet one: https://wholeearthlife.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/cinnamon-and-maple-breakfast-hash-aip-paleo-coconut-free/
        You might also be interested in this breakfast blog post by ‘Gutsy by Nature’: http://gutsybynature.com/2016/03/03/help-can-eat-breakfast-aip/
        Don’t worry about eating meat in the morning – it isn’t always necessary. You should also be careful about processed meat like bacon and sausages because they contain a lot of nitrates and sausages often contain many other non AIP ingredients.
        I hope this helps x

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    • Hi Stella
      Thank you for the breakfast link!
      I think it’s amazing what you doing! I would have never know about the AIP if I had not come across your u tube video. Thank u!
      I actually got the flu at the moment and been very ill. Have not had a cold or flu for so long. The little body hairs have fallen out. Maybe it’s the body fighting this virus.
      What are your thoughts about oregano oil? I read it is anti fungal.
      I am not having any bacon or sausages. I meant to say I don’t eat pork.
      I only order grass fed meat online now.
      I think maybe I can benefit from vitamin d supplements as currently can’t go on holiday until I complete the protocol. I have the l glutamine power too.
      I hope I get results soon to keep me going!
      X

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      • No problem, I’m glad I can help!
        Oregano oil is a great anti-fungal and can help to clear out bad bacteria in the gut. Just be careful not to take too much too quickly, especially alongside probiotics because this will cause a candida ‘die off’ reaction. Which is good in one sense, because you want to clear out any overgrowth if you have any but at the same time, killing off a lot of bad bacteria at once means that all of their toxins are released into the body before they can be eliminated. This can make you feel quite unwell with stomach upset, chills, sweats, nausea etc. Just take it easy and focus on eating well 🙂

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  3. Hi Stella. I’m trying the AIP. Did it for a month before xmas and symptoms improved a lot. Then I got slack and started slipping back to hold habits. Trying again but also don’t want to stop doing weights which you think is ok, what about meal frequency? The aip suggests three meals a day, but all weight training diets encourage 6 meals a day. What are your thoughts? Is quantity of meals as important as what I’m eating or not eating?!? 🙏🏾 ps thanks for all your blogs and posts. Found them at a time I was so low and negative! all changed!!!! 👍🏾

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    • Hi Parv,
      The quantity that you eat should have no differential impact your hour healing. As long as the foods are AIP compliant I believe you will be absolutely fine 🙂 The important thing is that you maintain your energy levels enough to train, and if that means extras meals, so be it.
      I’m so glad you’re feeling more positive now! Best of luck x

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  4. I am confused…. I actually want to lose weight but also need to heal my body. I have inflammation in my joints and need to cut wheat and dairy. Exercising hurts….. I do a Pilates/Yoga mix which can still be trying on my body at times (especially my back and hip). I have considered going to Paleo and sticking to a Yoga or something but will this make me gain weight possibly instead of lose?

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    • Hi Gina, not at all. I don’t think practising yoga instead of cardio exercise will make you gain weight. I have been eating a lot to achieve this. For me, not running has enabled me to store this extra food instead of burning it off immediately. Most people find that they naturally lose weight when beginning a paleo diet. I hope this helps x

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  5. Thanks for sharing! I’m an older lady (52) and have been experiencing a lot longer flares (I have RA, PA, and OA). I did the paleo diet a few years back and felt better while on it, but went back to eating grains – got lazy I guess. I did not go back to eating dairy as I knew it was a definite trigger for diarrhea for myself. I’m 1 week into paleo again in hopes I can exercise more. I like to take long walks and when the weather’s warmer, I swim in my pool. I’d like to start running/jogging, but after reading this, I realize I might have hit on why I can’t get to feeling well enough to run again. It seems every time I build up to 3+ miles, I get sick again. This last time was 4 weeks mostly confined to my bed, missing my son’s fiance’s bridal shower. I have lived for so many years in the fight or flight mode and can tell that I’m finally getting somewhere w/ changing that, but it still comes on me hard at times, usually for no reason (other than past traumas). I tried yoga, but found it very painful as we would hold the poses – especially on my knees and elbows. In all honesty, though, I don’t think I gave it a fair chance and will look into a yoga that doesn’t have me in poses that are painful. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks and keep sharing what helps you as it may help someone else. Well done!

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    • Hi Meg, I’m sorry to hear you’ve struggled with this too. Long walks are definitely the way to go 🙂 I can’t wait for the weather to be warmer so that I can do this too. Yoga definitely doesn’t have to be so painful and difficult – it’s about finding poses that work for you and not pushing yourself too far. It’s incredible how well the body stretches, loosens and adapts with time. I’m gradually working my way up to more difficult poses but it is possible with perseverance and little by little. I hope you can find something that works for you. Thanks so much for your message x

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  6. Hello,
    First i would like to say that all the information on your blog appears to be super researched and well written. It all makes super sense and it is easy to read. I am recently struggling with alopecia as well. My journey is actually just beginning. I dont know you but it excites me that you are on your way to become a professional in naturopathic medicine so that you can help people like me. Have you thought about building something in which you can be a consultant or a coach for people like me who is just starting to navigate all of this?
    Thank you so much for all of your information.

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    • Hi Kattia,
      Thanks so much for your message – it really made me smile! It means a lot to know that the blog is helpful and easy to follow! I would absolutely love to build something where I can act an AIP consultant or even just be somebody to talk to for anyone suffering with alopecia but I think I’ll have to wait until I qualify as a therapist. It’s against the rules of my school to consult before qualifying. Who knows, maybe I could look into setting up a casual chat option until then. Anyway, thanks for your feedback 🙂 x x

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