Written by Guest Blogger: Angela Hanlon, ND
Alex was a high performing pre-teen with a strong competitive spirit. She found winning races to be encouraging and empowering. It gave her focus and, frankly, it kept her out of trouble. Through her pre-teen years and into her teens she flourished into a grounded young lady with a refreshing mix of confidence and clear-headedness. She performed well in school and on the race track. Alex had developed a secret weapon to manage the stress of growing up; she did a rigorous combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise every day. In addition, she competed almost year-round.
As she got older she did more travelling for her competitions. This was great! Her team would take off on whirlwind adventures that connected her to friends in other regions. This helped Alex to keep the drama of high school life in perspective, but it was also taxing on her body.
Alex got a scholarship for a local university and continued to train through her freshman year for the Canada Games. However, her performance began to decline. Alex gained some weight and started to show early signs of anxiety. Fortunately her coach had trained her to check her resting heart rate every morning, and she’d been doing so for almost 2 years. Alex’s resting heart rate, which had previously been nice and low, had increased this season. She was also experiencing some mild dizziness during training. She became winded more easily, developed dark circles under her eyes, and continued to gain weight. Finally she admitted that she’d been having strong food cravings. She also admitted to having dizziness when carrying laundry up the stairs, particularly when she’d spent extra time sitting around folding it.
As winter came around and peak competition season approached, Alex continued training for the Canada Games, under the close watch of her concerned coach. However declining race times became a growing issue. She just didn’t have the speed, strength, and endurance she used to have. She began noticing her heart suddenly beating hard and fast during practices. Sometimes she even noticed transient spots in her visual field, usually when she was climbing the big hills. In addition, her heart would sometimes flutter while she was at rest. She also noticed that her menstrual periods were getting lighter.
Alex’s performance in school was following a similar pattern. She began to struggle, despite doing everything she could think of to keep her mind focused during study time.
She was having a progressively harder time dragging herself out of bed in the morning. Strangely, she was also having trouble settling down to sleep at night. She seemed to get a second wind around 8pm. Anxiety and food cravings continued to increase and Alex’s eating habits became irregular.
Despite Alex’s best efforts to downplay what was happening, her coach warned her of the consequences of pushing herself any further. Alex continued pushing herself until she’d done her Canada Games competition. She then stopped competing and focused on her schooling. Over the next 2 years, as she slowly learned to take better care of her body, her system recovered and she became resilient again.
How to Check Resting Heart Rate:
Before getting out of bed in the morning, use your index and middle finger (not your thumb) to find a pulse at your wrist or throat. Count your heart beats for 60 seconds. If you’re short on time, count for 30 seconds and multiply by two. Try to avoid doing the 10-second check; it’s not quite accurate enough. Remember to keep a log so that heart rates can be tracked. It’s normal for resting heart rate to fluctuate day-to-day. You’re looking for week-to-week or month-to-month changes.
*Stay tuned for more on overtraining syndrome. Part 2 will discuss the different stages of overtraining and the role of the nervous, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems.
Dr. Angela Hanlon, ND
Holistic Healing Arts Centre
274 King George Road, Brantford, Ontario