Why I had to stop running

Hello friends! It’s been awhile so I thought I’d pop back on my blog to share some life updates, since I’ve grown pretty quiet on social media lately.

My silence hasn’t been fully intentional; since January, I’ve been busy with wedding planning, entertaining three dogs, hiking, social events, friends, family, work, and now getting the yard ready for summer. Any free time/downtime I do have is spent reading in the bath or watching Netflix with Matt. And it’s not that I don’t want to write — I just don’t have anything new to say that fits into the categories of running, yoga and lifting for the blog.

I’m still practicing yoga a few times a week at home, strength training four days a week and running  3-5K once a week with Gus.

But I’m not logging miles. I’m not researching my next race. I’m not hashtagging Instagram photos with #yyjrun #running #sweatpink. I’m not spending all my money on running shoes and clothes. And I’m not devising yet another training plan to get my elusive 3:30 time so I can get into Boston.

Running and racing has been a part of my life for close to 10 years now. I will never stop running completely and will probably get back into training and racing at some point, but for now I need to take a break.

Years of endurance racing — sometimes racing three or more times a year — has taken it’s toll on my body.

About two year ago I started seeing various doctors to address my longtime gut health and skin issues. I’ve shared here before about my hormonal acne struggles, and was finally able to pinpoint the root case on the birth control pill I was taking (FYI: the laser treatments worked for a month or two before my acne came back, and I couldn’t afford any more laser treatments) and eating too much chocolate (I’ve actually had to go cold turkey :(). I stopped taking the pill about a year and a half ago, and while my skin cleared up AT LAST and my stomach settled down, I have not had a period since.

This concerns me not only because we’re hoping to start a family within the next year, but also because there could be some underlying cause that I would have never known about had a continued to take the pill.

Spring on the Coast Trail in East Sooke park

After reading Tina Muir’s story, I had a feeling all that running plus spending half my life taking synthetic hormones basically shut down my reproductive endocrine system. While I was waiting to get in to see a specialist, I spent months researching amenorrhea (loss of your period), hormones and thyroid problems and freaking myself out, as you do.

Last fall, I finally got in to see a gynecologist and she tested my reproductive hormone levels, plus ruled out other potential problems via ultrasound. I don’t have PCOS, thankfully, but my estrogen and progesterone hormones — the hormones that tell your ovaries to release an egg and your uterus to menstruate — are very low. She told me I was not ovulating, most likely due to all those years on the pill and all those years spent running. How did she put it — “you’re an inhospitable environment — your body is under constant stress so it thinks now is not a good time to have a baby, so it shuts that all down.” GREAT.

Gus still gets plenty of exercise, don’t worry!

She told me to come back in a year when we actually want to start trying, and she’ll give us a full work up and can give me a pill to ovulate. I asked if there was anything I can do in the meantime, and she said to cut way back on the running and basically chill the eff out.

I wasn’t satisfied with this, so I went to a naturopath who specializes in fertility. I know what you’re thinking… just listen to your doctor! But it was a naturopath who helped me immensely with my skin and gut issues when my regular GP would not do anything about it. I always get a second opinion if something just doesn’t sit right with me.

With the naturopath, I was able to get a full thyroid panel done and some other fertility tests, such as the AMH test (which was very good so we that ruled that out!). My thyroid panel showed off-the-charts low free T3, and very low T4. Basically, I don’t have enough of the hormones that tell my body to do things, such as ovulate, circulating in my body. The naturopath suspects sub-clinical hypothyroidism, which makes sense given some of the other symptoms (always cold, high cholesterol, dry skin and hair). Armed with my thyroid panel, I went back to my GP to get his opinion. He said he wanted to monitor it since my T3 was so low, so I have to go back in June for another panel. The good (and bad) thing about hypothyroidism is it’s treatable with a daily T3 or T4 medication I’d have to take for the rest of my life.

So it could be hypothyroidism, or it could just be my body taking a long time to return to normal. In the meantime, I’m trying to “chill out” as much as possible, and have cut back on running as suggested. It makes me sad, but as my life shifts I know it’s for the best. I still get out hiking once a week, so I’m not missing out on trail time.

So there you have it — more than you probably wanted to know, but I always find sharing these kinds of struggles and issues can help others having similar problems — either to point them towards help or just so they don’t feel alone. It’s a shitty feeling to know your body is inhospitable, especially when everyone around you is pregnant or has babies. But I’m prepared to do whatever it takes it to make it happen.