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Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Posted Jan 16 2013 11:14am
I have a cold.  I started to notice that I was under the weather a little bit on Sunday morning.  After teaching skiing all day on Sunday, I fell asleep on the couch just after 8:00 that night.  I've skipped workouts since then, hoping I recover before next weekend, which is a holiday weekend and will be a very busy weekend at Sugarbush.

I looked through my workout logs from the past year, looking to see how much I'd been sick in the past year.  It seems like I've been sick too much in the past year, and my workout log confirms this.

I got a cold on almost the exact same date last year.  I first noticed it while skiing on a Sunday.  I rested for (only?) three days and even 10 days later, I mentioned that I was "simply beat" in my workout log.

In the last week of March, after I was done teaching skiing for the season, I noted that I was ready to get back to working harder at CrossFit.  A day later, I changed my mind because of "fatigue" and took a rest week.

I don't know if that week helped or not, but four weeks later, I got sick again.  This time, I couldn't believe how tired and beat I was and I used some sick time at work.  Usually, when I'm "sick", I simply work from home to cut down on my commute and not spread germs.  I had noticed that I was starting to get sick on a weekend day when I'd planned a hard interval workout.  I did the workout despite how I felt, and hours later, I was really hurting.  I missed nine consecutive workout days before I felt ready to return to the gym.

So, I had returned to the gym on 5/1, and on 5/31, I got hit by some weird eye infection and a fever that knocked me down for a few days.  During that illness, I also got hit by a gout attack - something that had never happened to me before, and was diagnosed after I went to the Emergency Room with a foot that felt like it was on fire.  It was a bizarre week, and the third time I was sick in the first five months of 2012.

Then, my year seemed to turn around.  Through May, I had only been averaging 10 CF workouts per month, partly due to the illnesses and a rest week and a vacation week.  Starting in early June, I was able to increase the volume of workouts and I had almost five great months.  During that time period, I set all kinds of new PRs in the gym and felt great all of the time.  It may be a coincidence, in terms of illness, but this five month period started right when I started taking testosterone injections.  I don't think my gym performance in those five months was a coincidence in any way.

At the end of October, I got sick again.  I was too sick to go along with my daughter when she toured and interviewed at Phillips Academy in MA.  I ended up taking codeine for a cough for almost two weeks, although I got back to the gym after only missing one week of workouts.

So, I'm currently sick for the 5th time in 13 months.  It's easy to think about potential causes
  • Working 7 days per week, five of them at a stressful job
  • Long commute adding to the length of the work day
  • Working out too much - I've been trying to ski 2x per week and get to CF 3-4 days per week.
  • Less than optimal diet - great at times, terrible at other times
  • I'm old?  This seemed to start right when I turned 50, although I doubt that my immune system is big on numbers.
  • I'm surrounded by children on the weekends, many of whom have been sick themselves recently.
I do think I'm doing lots of things correctly.  I get lots of sleep.  I take rest days when I think I need them, although I might not take enough rest days or enough easy workout days.  CF workouts are rarely, if ever, easy.  I take fish oil and vitamin D and vitamin B12 regularly.  I've been fighting a nagging shoulder problem, but I'm making progress with that with the help of a chiropractor and lots of foam rolling and the use of a lacrosse ball for massage.

But, I doubt that this is some sort of bad luck.  Five times in 13 months is too much, so something needs to change, before I simply burn out and fade away.

I'm not trying to complain here, although it is frustrating.  But, I would love to find a way to avoid illness, even if it means cutting back on things that are important in my life.

Yesterday, on Robb Wolf's latest podcast, he had Eva Twardokens as a guest.  She is well known from her time on the US Ski team and also her very early involvement in CrossFit.  There is even a brutal CF workout named after her.  She talked about connections between gluten and frequent illnesses.  Yet, for the week before I just now got sick, I'd eaten no gluten at all.  But, the previous few months had been far from gluten free.  It might be grasping at straws, but I don't have any concrete answers right this minute.
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