Famous Olympian runner’s departure from the running world
In today’s professional sports world it breaks my heart to see such athletes like Ryan Hall have to step down at a time when typically most runners are just getting into their prime. If you don’t know much about Ryan Hall, he is one who had accomplished extraordinary things in the running world when he came on the scene in 2007 by breaking the Houston half marathon (13.1 miles) time of 59:43, which had stood for 22 years by Dathan Ritzenhein who ran an even 1:00:00 half marathon. Other crazy features like becoming the fastest marathoner in American history and being an Olympian in 2008 and 2012. I believe he can be regarded as one of the best American runners of our time.
So the curiosity and fascination in me from a bio-hacker health and performance standpoint came to this idea. How could Ryan Hall at the tender age of 33 have to depart from the sport he loved and was so great at? Well according to some of latest information coming out. Ryan Hall had to retire due to extremely low testosterone levels and chronic fatigue. This in tandem with the nagging injuries he was dealing with since 2012 played a role in his departure from the sport.
For starters what is Adrenal Fatigue (AF)? Adrenal fatigue is the inability to meet and deal with life demands. This is caused in part by your adrenal glands being unable to pump out the hormones to handle the daily stressors of life. At the center of AF, is cortisol dis-regulation. Some of the classic symptoms of AF are trouble getting out of bed, chronic tiredness even after waking up in the morning, trouble thinking clearly and finishing tasks. A lot of times AF can be traced back to poor lifestyle choices like lack of sleep, inadequate sunlight exposure, excessive amounts of processed sugar/caffeine consumption, highly processed foods, lack of healthy fats/trace minerals, overworking your job and not enough play time w/family and friends.
So now that you know a little background of what adrenal fatigue is and what it can lead to it. Here are some simple strategies you can incorporate into your training regimen/ lifestyle to prevent adrenal fatigue from taking over you and forcing you away from the things you love and adore most.
For starters, one must understand the importance of proper recovery and rest. As a hard charging athlete, I struggle with this notion of taking breaks and dialing down the intensity. Give yourself permission to take a few weeks off or more doing yoga, tai chi, deep diaphragm breathing, reading, laughing and play-time. Always remember that growth, repair and rejuvenation happens when you are resting. So look at this phase of training in a different light and you will feel more at peace with time off away from the sport or activity.
The area that needs to be addressed is to get your nutrition dialed in. What I mean by this is making sure you are getting enough nourishing calories to support your activity levels, age, stress levels, and gender. A classic example I see all the time is doing intermittent fasting with heavy loads of training. This style of training can be great, but to maintain this and continue to do it in day and day out can takes it toll on the adrenal glands. I’m in no way against IF. I personally use it most of days of the week especially on my recovery days of training. Where my calorie needs are not as high. Remember folks. It’s about balance and variation in your training. This is key to thriving in your sport or activity for many years to come.
Beyond just getting enough nourishing calories. There are specific targeted macro/micro-nutrients, fat-soluble vitamins and adaptogens that are vital for adrenal health and function.
• Mindful fats: grass fed beef/bison, nuts, seeds, avocados, raw full fat dairy, pastured eggs, wild caught fish like salmon and sardines
• Fat Soluble Vitamins: Combination of Vitamins A (retinol), Vitamin D3 and K2.
• Adaptogens: I like a combination of Rhodiola (500 mg) in the AM and Ashwagandha (500 mg) in the evening
• Vitamin C (look for it in magnesium or calcium ascorbate form)
• Magnesium (look for it in the chelated amino acid, citrate and/or glycinate form)
So what is the take away message we can learn from Ryan Hall’s departure from running. There is such a thing as overtraining and going too far. More is not always better and in this case, always cranking up the intensity without having variability in your training is recipe for adrenal burnout. Taking into consideration that it’s ok to rest and even walk away from the sport for some time. Allowing your body’s neuroendocrine system time to replenish and rebuild muscle fibers, restore hormonal balance and optimize neurotransmitter signaling.
Having dealt with this challenge first hand with competitive golf throughout high school and college years. I know what it’s like and it’s certainly not pretty. At times depressing and paralyzing knowing that the sport or activity I once adored and loved has turned into this beast where I can barely be around. Know the importance of when its time to take time off.
This a wonderful time to explore other sports, activities and hobbies. You never know what you might discover with trying something new or challenging. One last piece of advice I have for you is to not beat yourself up if you have gotten to the point of burnout and adrenal fatigue. Use this experience as a means of becoming a more robust version of your self and accepting yourself unconditionally no matter the circumstances. I will leave you this quote that can apply to anyone no matter where you are in this life journey.
“Where there is struggle and pain, there is growth and a more graceful, stronger version of yourself coming into being.”
- 25 Aug 2015
- Optimized Nutrition