My thyroid and I have been through a lot together over the course of our lifetime and though I've managed to land on the side of happiness, my thyroid has not. The grand sum of stress and tumult has finally taken its toll leaving my dear friend depressed and wholly despondent.
I have taken it to the doctors office where they enthusiastically extracted quarts of blood along with a significant portions of my bank account to no apparent avail. Consequently, I have taken matters into my own hands, dedicating myself to creating an environment that will hopefully lure my thyroid back into the world of the living. I think my little thyroid simply needs to be reassured that it is safe to come out of hiding now that life has settled down.
Don't Sweat... the Small Stuff
As part of my quest to save my thyroid, I have been reading, The Thirty Day Thyroid Reset Plan, an enlightening book about resetting your thyroid. I'm still in the reading process but one thing I've taken away so far, besides hope, is the recommendation to keep your body stress-free while exercising. I have since experimented with my workouts and discovered there is merit to this theory.
My treadmill reports my heart rate during my runs so I have been able to identify the margins that keep my body from going into stress mode. If my heart rate begins to creep to the edge of disaster, I stop for 10-15 seconds to let it drop back down then continue running. This has made a huge difference.
I have discovered room temperature also makes a difference while I am running. If I get too hot my body starts to send up red flags so I am careful to keep the heat turned down in the workout area. I also hung a fan that blows directly on me the entire time I am running and make sure I have cold water available in the cup holder. The result is that my thyroid is becoming responsive again and I'm able to return to running. I'm very happy about the progress.
Another thing I am finding successful is to tell my brain that the reason it doesn't feel good to run anymore (due to weight gain) is because we are doing an "extreme workout".
I used to be 40 pounds lighter and could run 8 miles a day at an 8 to 8.5 minute pace but those days are long gone so I can't allow myself to worry about it anymore. I have forced myself to change my mental focus.
The main goal is to keep moving at any speed so instead of thinking about how heavy I feel, I visualize myself doing one of those crazy extreme workouts you see fit people with healthy thyroids doing in YouTubeVerse. In my mind, I imagine a lighter, more fit version of myself carrying a weighted 40 pound sack on my back while running up a steep mountainside.
So far, my brain is buying into this mind trick. I highly recommend it. In many ways, it's not a trick. My body really is trying to carry the extra weight so carrying my own excess body weight through a run is, in reality, an extreme work out for me.
I used to live my life on no sleep. Americans exist in a world that allows for and encourages this bad behavior. My thyroid has put an end to this nonsense. I have discovered it is essential to get at least 8 hours of sleep in order to keep my thyroid happy enough to keep working out. The glory days of sleeping 4 or 5 hours and running eight miles are over. It never goes well if I try to workout on less sleep. The days of thinking I could have it all and not pay a price, are definitely over. It's a bummer. Time already felt like it was in short enough back when I didn't sleep. Now it feels as if life has been cut in half but my body is happier. I can't argue with feeling better and feeling better makes life feel more full.
The last thing I am doing has to do with motivation. Hanging around with a depressed thyroid can make a person feel sluggish and unmotivated. To avoid the doldrums, I've created a running log. I'm a visual person so seeing my progress displayed in chart form motivates me as long as I keep the data collection to a dull roar. Too much data can feel overwhelming or make me feel worse if I'm not careful so I keep the display limited to days and miles.
Here's an image of what the chart looks like so far.
You can view the real-time version here.
I enjoy looking at my running log and when I don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning, I think how much I don't want to see that zero dip in the chart. It's simple but effective.
I might make another chart that replaces miles with minutes for when I do other types of workouts. I'm interested in trying some HIIT workouts to offset my running days. It feels a little discouraging to see a ZERO on a day I did a different type of physical activity and the book I am reading says HIIT is a good choice for thyroid recovery workouts.
Of course, no journey can be successful without a good support team and for that, I am ever grateful to my husband who has agreed to join me on my "get fit" adventure by nudging me to the treadmill each morning so we can get our "Ks" done (that would be Ks as in 3K, 5K, 10k, etc.). He rides his bike next to me while I'm running and helps me remember that this is really what I want to be doing each day. It's hard to keep that perspective when you are lying in a warm, comfortable bed and it's dark outside.
I'm also incredibly grateful to my father and step-mom who bought me the coolest treadmill ever as a gift. I won't lie. It's incredibly nice to not have to rely on a gym membership for access to equipment or worry about inclement weather conditions. I can set the conditions for each run precisely as I needed from the privacy of my own home.
The journey to revive my thyroid is just beginning. It's helpful for me to document progress so I don't forget. My thyroid and I - we'll see where we end up.