There's no doubt I've had a long and arduous journey through professional sport and, having been a triathlete for the best part of 35 years, there's been major bouts of injury and illness that I've had to overcome. Not just your standard ups and downs, either! After being diagnosed with chronic Lyme's disease in 2011, I quickly became victim to some very strange symptoms as well as injuries that would not clear up – this is when my hubby created the term: "Health Hustle".
When your career depends on your body functioning like a well-tuned race car, you better be motivated to figure out WHY it’s not working the way it needs to and HOW to fix it. This goes for both health AND for injury issues. Too many times, athletes and friends will moan to me about their gut issues, their fatigue, their migraines, their sore back, their bad foot....etc etc etc....and yet be doing NOTHING about getting to the bottom of why it's occurring or how to mend it.
From a health perspective, there are some basic things you can do if you're just not feeling right. First off, go to your primary care doctor and get a good comprehensive blood panel done that measures iron, ferritin and hematocrit levels, hormone levels, and other standard markers in the body. That way you can rule out the basics. Another great test to get done is a stool sample test that looks into things like bacterial infections and parasites. The current science now shows how important your gut microbiome is as a regulator of your immune system, hormones, energy systems as well as many other things. Your microbiome can be compromised by diet, stress, exercise, antibiotics, toxins, etc.
If testing from your primary care doctor doesn't result in anything abnormal, it could be worth digging some more and trying to find a good functional medicine MD in your area. Functional medical doctors look into the root cause of why you're having certain symptoms and use more detailed testing and a more detailed approach to fixing issues rather than just prescribing medication. They look at your body as a whole and how's its interacting with all systems and your environment.
Given the complexity of the health issues I've had, I’ve seen about five of the top functional medicine doctors in the world, listened to countless podcasts, and done plenty of research to learn more about my body and how to feel better. Most importantly, it brought to light some fundamental things that you can do to keep healthy while also training hard:
SLEEP - This is something we cannot compromise on, as its the main time our body truly heals from the punishment we put it through. Minimum of 8hrs in a quiet, cool and dark environment with NO electronics.
DIET - Pure and clean. Eating non-processed foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, organic as much as possible, plenty of clean fluids, gut-healing foods like fermented vegetables, bone broth, and probiotic and prebiotic foods will help you stay on the right track. Personally, I eat a largely paleo-style diet BUT with white rice as my main carb source – especially given all the high-intensity training I do.
TOXINS - Be aware of the environments we are exposed to like chlorinated pools, moldy gyms and offices, water damaged houses, electronics, plastics plus many other chemicals. I take binders like charcoal to help mitigate these toxins staying in my system and creating issues in my gut and body.
STRESS - Stress increases cortisol and creates all sorts of issues in our system. Finding time to meditate and to have time for myself is key to keeping on top of my fatigue.
RECOVERY - We get addicted to training and the endorphins exercise gives us. Be sure to take full days off and even weeks where you back it off. The body and mind need to heal.
As for injuries, I've had many of them and thus am no stranger to figuring out how to physically and mentally get over them!
First things first, see a physical therapist or biomechanical expert to assess what the injury might be and WHY it happened. If you don't figure out the “why”, then chances are it will come back. There are various ways to treat the symptoms (REST, massage, chiropractic, laser therapy, acupuncture, shockwave therapy, Active Release Therapy, Graston, etc). I've pretty much tried them all and ultimately, it’s about understanding the science behind each method and then seeing if it works for you!
Once you have covered all these bases, figure out what training and activity you CAN do without causing pain and making things worse. Create a program based around this in order to keep your mental faculties in order!