Actively Underactive

2021 had some amazing moments for me. However, 2021 will also serve a very real memory for me as a year where my physical and mental health struggled.

Many won’t see it, as when I coach, it isn’t about me. It is always (and will always be) about the people who come to my lessons and want to be part of the mobility community.

I made many adaptations behind the scenes, like pausing my work with external clients and focusing on areas of this business which were less physically demanding but equally as important. And I am extremely grateful to have started a business where I could work at a pace and deliver a service mostly on my own terms for a precious group of people. This helped me tune in and prioritise health.

Summer Blues

I love the summer. The long European days, weekend camping adventures, bright mornings for runs and dips in the lake, and cycling through Amsterdam with the warm wind through your hair to sit on a terrace by a canal sipping some Aperol. It’s all my jam!

So when Summer came around in 2021, I had this same expectation. But something was seriously off.

I wanted to stay in bed all the time, there was this unexplainable heaviness in my body. When I cycled to work it felt like bricks were glued to my feet. 

My brain was incredibly foggy and it was hard to concentrate. Sometimes I would start sentences and forget what I was even saying. Simple tasks took heaps of mental effort and the feeling of fatigue was overwhelming. After I would teach a class, I fell into bed for a long nap to rest my heavy body and mind. Yet when I woke up, I still felt rubbish.

The physical fatigue was bad, I was getting intense muscle aches from just walking or recreationally cycling. The ache was not just in the target areas but everywhere! It was confusing and confronting. I was snapping up crowns on strava at the start of the year, training for a half ironman and feeling strong in my body, what was happening?

The digestive system was really unhappy, I had many long nights kept awake with pains. I originally thought I had developed a food allergy, however the tests showed nothing.

Nothing had changed in my everyday life, yet my body felt very different.

Detective Doctor

After many diet changes, plenty of rest and adapting my work flow I decided to get to the doctors. She booked me in for a cocktail of different blood tests and upon getting the results back it was very clear I had an underactive thyroid.

When I read into the symptoms of it, I felt very seen. From the dry skin, feeling cold, brain fog, digestion issues, weight gain….I felt literally every symptom.

Good news? It’s completely treatable! Hooray! Fast diagnoses and a treatable condition is a great outcome!

Bad news? It will never go away and therefore I am reliant on daily medication for the rest of my life. It will also take some time to get the correct dosage and it might not fully get rid of all the symptoms. I started this journey in July 2021 and in May 2022 the correct dosage still hasn’t been established.

Underactive Fitness Instructor Life    

I’m active, yet underactive. For the last 10 months I am a regular in the blood test clinic, getting my hormone levels monitored and adjusted accordingly.

It’s still a process, it’s still ongoing and it’s still a challenge to manage my symptoms. Working in fitness for so long means I am very aware of my body and usually I’m pretty good at listening to it and adapting. However, now it is basically out of my control.

For example, in the last month I have had about a week where I felt like the ‘old me’ (springing out of bed and grabbing the day ahead), a few days of overactive thyroid symptoms of restlessness/anxiety and then two weeks of very heavy fatigue, painful digestive issues and infuriating brain fog. I never really know what’s going to come my way at the moment. I also will never know when this will settle down for me. Just as I am actively underactive, currently my thyroid is consistently inconsistent!

My body shape and strength has changed a lot which, of course, I sometimes find mentally tough as I don’t recognise a body that was once very strong, helping me accomplish some amazing achievements/wonderful hobbies. My fitness is the lowest it has ever been, and the ‘come back’ is slow, forgiving, and flexible.   

So why I am being so open about all of this?

We are all on our journey. And unless you work closely very with someone, no one really knows what is going on behind the scenes. People who come to my fitness classes aren’t going to see the girl who needs a minimum of 10 hours sleep to function the next day, or my lower self-esteem bubbling to the surface when the exercise leggings don’t fit well anymore.

Everyone has their set backs and stories, and probably comparing yourself to the insta highlight reel of a fitness model is not going to be very relatable or serve you well.

I recently I did my longest run since June last year, it is a ‘short distance’ in comparison to my previous running endeavours and my minute per km was slower than my previous full marathon pace. Yet I was so frecking proud of it and my body. And most importantly, I loved it.

Rather than focusing on what I can’t currently do, I focus on what I can do. I try not to plan specific workouts/programs but ensure do I plan time to exercise and then choose what kind of movement is occurring in the body on the day.  

Focus on what you can currently do, rather than the stuff you have previously done…

If you have had or currently experiencing set backs and your health professionals have given you the green light to exercise, I encourage you to just start.

It might feel very confronting and exposing but remember that one squat today is already one more squat than yesterday! Expect setbacks, celebrate achievements, and just try your best to turn up with the body that you have today. And if you need some help and encouragement along the way, reach out and let’s have a chat.

My big learning from the last year is that health is a priority and fitness is a privilege. Find a sport/activity/movement that supports your mental and physical health in this moment and build around it (for example mobility to help with injury prevention).

Mobility training was (and still is) a real asset for me, it allowed me to add movement into my body at a level and intensity that was appropriate. More than ever before, I believe mobility is accessible and inclusive.

So if you are beginning or returning to your health and fitness journey, I recommend focusing on the movements that are available to you rather than dwelling on the ones that aren’t. Plan in time for movement rather than planned rigid program and consider giving your body the gift of mobility! From beginners sessions to full mobility workouts, the Move Better Mobility Portal has differing levels to support you, and I will always be an email/call away if you need any further support.

Sending you encouragement and love in your health and fitness journey,  

Your actively inactive mobility coach

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