Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sacrificing Health for Sport

Athletes are supposed to be the epitomy of health right?...Of balance, strength, stamina, speed, agility, and power. But that’s hardly the case. To be an elite athlete, to compete at world class level, and to even go on doing so for years- decades- requires some sacrifice of health.

Putting aside health consequences of drug use- like steroids in baseball, to name one- I want to talk about sacrificing our health by pushing through injury, ignoring it until it becomes chronic pain that we just keep shutting up; or pushing through states of fatigue until we blur the line between tired and having our entire hormonal/adrenal system in turmoil; or simply too much of whatever it is that we do.

Reading Andre Agassi’s “Open” is one example. Growing up watching Andre play, I never would’ve guessed behind those ridiculous shots he nailed, the superhuman way he moved along the court, and all the victories, that here was a guy in his 30’s lying down on a hard floor before matches because his back was in excruciating pain.

Well I’m not here to write a book, nor am I claiming to be crippled or with chronic fatigue- it even makes me feel bad going into detail about my issues when all in all I’m a healthy 24 year old and (knock on wood) have never suffered a major illness or life threatening accident.

I do, however, want to provide an insight on what racing and training for 8 Ironmans from age 19 to age 24, along with multiple Half IM’s and dozens of other shorter races, has done to my body so that other teenagers out there wanting to go down this path think twice.
(emphasis on the Ironmans, not the other stuff that I do believe is healthy, Ironman I do not believe to be healthy AT ALL….but I still love it, I guess that makes me crazy).

First of all, I have no regrets, and I was warned that I was too young to keep doing this year after year. But in pursuit of my goal to conquer Kona, meaning achieve what I deemed to be “special” in that race, I kept plugging along, ignoring what would inevitably come back to haunt me.

When I came home from Cozumel to San Antonio, I expected 4-5 days of napping, being constantly hungry, and heavy legged. I did not expect to feel like a complete zombie, have constant migraine like headaches, random stomach issues, and bouts of dizziness for 10 days. I also did not expect to break out in hives 8 days after the race because of a soap from the gym. Looking back at the allergic reaction, after speaking with my homeopath and being on a med since Dec 9 after landing at Urgent Care because my entire body (I’m talking even my butt) was covered in hives- was more than just an allergy. Hives are also brought about by stress or by a detox in your system. The honmeopath made me look back and think if this really was the first flare up. No, it wasn’t. After Kona, in a week training for Coz that had me exhausted, I was in the middle of a long run and had the same reaction- think exercise urticaria.

Perhaps that whole nightmare was a blessing because it forced me to really question how quick I want to get back in to training. My plan now is not until mid January. I tried doing a duathlon with Daniel last Sunday and while I “won” that doesn’t tell the truth. When I crossed the line barely being able to hold sub 7:15 for 5ks(!!) my brother looked like he’d seen a ghost- I was puffed up….I mean like you could squeeze my fingers, my face was all swollen and cankles are an understatement. My entire body did something scary and I don’t know what the hell it was but I did not like it.

It’s been 3 weeks and today I sort of felt like half myself. I felt ok a few days before the allergy ever started but I guess it showed up to stop me because I would’ve been training again by now for sure. The day before flying back to San Diego I had this weird episode at the gym after riding 20min on the spin bike and doing some abs- I got very nauseous and lightheaded and suddenly fell- luckily didn’t flat out faint, just snapped back as quick as I fell.

Ok that’s part 1. Part 2 came today

I went to yoga. I’ve always sucked at Yoga so it was no surprise that I couldn’t touch my toes. What was a surprise was looking at the 50 yr olds in envy. It seemed reverse….like I should be middle aged seeing them be my age and thinking “oh to be young again”.

I look in the mirror and see the slant in my hip and the dip in my back from my bike accident in 2008. It’s been the cause of my constant struggle to be comfortable on a bike, but I’m used to stopping numerous times to adjust cleat bolts even in 2hr rides…I’m used to my left hip and knee, or my right knee from compensating, hurting and swelling during every ride. So it was only normal to see my legs trembling because I had no balance, and my left knee not able to stand that leg on its own without hurting really bad.

Last year when I did yoga it was not so bad, but this year was my last chance for my goal in Kona (which I still didn’t reach by 2min), and so I trained harder, ignored absolutely everything from my bike pains, and told myself I don’t care if I can’t function after Hawaii I just want to blow that race away.

Well now I’ve turned pro, and now I see the signs of a breaking tired self. It’s like these last 3 weeks all 8 Ironmans came down on me at once. I feel so weird and unlike myself it troubles me. I have no choice but to step back, really far back and address all of these things because I will not make the gains I want if I don’t fix my body inside out.

At this point I’m still sorting out the bike I’ll be riding next season, so for the next couple of days I’ll enjoy spinning a road bike around the coast. Then will be fix #1 going back to Studio DNA with a bike that fits my size and get retuled from ground zero.

In the meantime I’ll be a Yogi, and doing some work at Rehab United to work on what I can’t work on once I’m really training. I’m running and swimming as I wish and eating cleaner than ever before.
Lastly getting constant work chiro work by Rob, and ART from Dan, and getting blood work next week. This is what will really let me know if something is of deeper concern. I know my hormones are not in balance at all…I know for various reasons which I don’t want to go into.

So that’s my price for my sport. It’s not every ones price for triathlon, but we all have our own issues- some have bike accidents, some get a gnarly injury like plantar, some unfortunately get hit by illness, others mentally burn out…..some go through sport rather smoothly. I’m not the worst case, or even a terrible one, but this month I’m experiencing things I never thought I’d go through this young. It has made me value my health even more and forced me to take a much later start to the season, and address things not only for continued success and improvement in triathlon, but for my well being as a person.

I hope reading this at least makes you assess your own state of being.