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Help, I'm Having a Metabolic Reaction! [Send Jelly Beans, Stat.]

Posted Aug 10 2010 8:43pm

Today I experienced one of those weird occurrences that have baffled me ever since I seriously got into fitness - call it the Bermuda Triangle of Exercise, if you will. Just like Amelia Earhart - but less heroic and revolutionary and without the rubber helmet (just what exactly was that supposed to protect you from anyhow?) - today I awoke to a morning just like every other morning, not knowing that by the end of the day I'd be in the grip of a natural phenomenon that science is at a loss to describe. CrossFitters, with their characteristic understatement, have taken to calling what happened to me today "a metabolic reaction."

So there I was, dreaming blissfully of gym underwear that won't wedgify, when I awoke to a toddler shoving a balloon in my lips and commanding me to "fix it." The balloon, like all toys in their natural state at my house, was broken. This is awesome in two respects: a) every mother knows that popped balloons are Public Enemy Number 1 as they are the worst choking hazard known to humankind - not even the best EMT can dislodge the nefarious party good from a tiny windpipe, thereby requiring me to forcibly seize said balloon pieces, leading to b) an argument with a tiny person whose reasoning skills can best be described as "on the fritz." It was an inauspicious start to my day. Needless to say, I missed out on my first a.m. meditation.

The gym started out mellow with Gym Buddy Allison and I running laps and catching up on our weekends. We then moved on to the Monkey Bar Gym workout for the day and amused all the men on the weight floor by attempting plyo pushups alternated with "gorilla ups" - a plyo pull-up with a chest slap (hence the gorilla) at the top. As we were finishing up, we noticed Gym Buddy Krista in one of the studios. At first we were confused as to why she wasn't working out with us and then I realized with a bolt of panic that I had signed all the Gym Buddies up for a kettlebell tutorial immediately followed by a Pilates Reformer class. Today. Allison and I ran in sweaty and disoriented.

So after getting a good burn from the MBG and sweating buckets in the kettlebell class, we started on the Reformer already a bit shaky. I'm not used to an hour and a half of straight no-rest strength training and so by the end was a gooey quivering mess of flesh. All good workouts - don't get me wrong, I enjoyed them! - but I was hammered. By the time I got home I knew I was going to have a "metabolic reaction."

Knowing what was coming, I did my best to prepare. I fed the kids lunch, settled the baby for a nap and the preschooler with a movie and tried to get some work done before it hit. And hit it did. The first time I had a MR, I ended up passed out on the wood kitchen floor, asleep for a solid 30 minutes while my children ran circles around me. And when I say asleep, I don't mean cat-napping. I mean o-u-t. Tornado sirens would not wake me. So today as soon as I started to feel tingly and woozy, I ran upstairs to my bed. I didn't wake up until the first grader got home off the bus. And then I continued to feel unwell - spacey, tingly, fragile and with a ferocious and insatiable craving for simple sugary carbs - for the rest of the evening. I'd be in bed again now except I still have to grade the cursed SATs tonight.

This isn't the first time I've had a MR. Normally it happens when I try a new and particularly challenging workout. I'm not alone in this. Gym Buddy Allison has experienced a MR and it's also well documented on the CrossFit forums. But I haven't been able to predict exactly what circumstances will trigger a MR. What causes it? How do I prevent it? And what is it exactly? It's not just a function of too much exercise - I've gone hours longer than what I did today with no ill effects. It's also not like "bonking" in an endurance race (I've done that too and while it feels awful, it's awful in an entirely different way.)

Does anyone else know what I'm talking about? Anyone else ever have a metabolic reaction to exercise? What did you do? Anybody figured out a way to prevent them?

I'd really like to get to figure it out because I really can't be doing this when I have a houseful of little kids with a predilection for playing with popped balloons.

PS> This post is a rerun from February 2009 but I am putting it up again because a few days ago I had - oh yes - a metabolic reaction. And it throws me EVERY TIME. So please, yes to any advice/explanations/science-y stuff/commiseration.
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