Posts Tagged ‘fatigue’

This article originally appeared on myfoli.com

As a distance runner, you may want to consider incorporating cannabis into your daily regimen to optimize your training and even improve your overall health in between your workout routine.

If you’re an avid distance runner, odds are you’ve encountered a handful of injuries – whether major or minor – during your time hitting the pavement.

While there are a number of conventional aids to help you deal with pain, maintain focus and mental clarity, reduce stress, and improve speed and overall performance, there’s a more natural substance that can be used for all of these and more: cannabis.

As a distance runner, you may want to consider incorporating cannabis into your daily regimen to optimize your training and even improve your overall health in between your workout routine.

If you’d rather avoid the high that comes from cannabis, look for hemp-derived CBD products. These provide many of the positive effects without getting you high – the benefits of cannabis can be reaped without the psychoactive effects of THC.

In fact, more and more athletes are turning to CBD thanks to its plethora of health, wellness and medical benefits. With the legalization of marijuana in certain parts of the country, an upsurge in recreational and medical usage has encouraged studies that insinuate an abundance of positive, healing effects of marijuana – and CBD in particular.

As these studies have emerged to verify the benefits of medical marijuana, a recent ruling by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to remove CBD from their list of banned substances has allowed athletes the freedom to use the cannabinoid, both in and out of competition. Whether used to alleviate pain, reduce performance-related anxiety, or to help recover faster from rigorous training, CBD can be an effective tool for athletes.

How Cannabis Can Help You Become a Better Distance Runner

Over the years, an increasing number of studies have been conducted on cannabis and the cannabinoids within it, including CBD and THC. More specifically, research is focusing on the potential benefits of marijuana. The results tend to point to its ability to alleviate a number of ailments and even improve overall health and well-being – even when it comes to mental health.

But how exactly can cannabis fit into the world of a distance runner? What is it about the properties of cannabis and its cannabinoids that can make the life of a distance runner better?

Fights Fatigue

It’s no secret that distance runners require an abundance of energy to complete their long distance runs, but sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough fuel in the tank. When energy levels are low, performance typically suffers. Just struggling to finish the last mile or two can prove extremely draining.

But cannabis may be able to counter fatigue. In fact, certain marijuana strains may be effective at sustaining energy levels, making it easier for distance runners to keep up with their runs without caving to fatigue.

More specifically, sativa-dominant hybrid strains can help provide a little energy when needed most. Sativa cannabis types are those that tend to provide more energetic cerebral effects, which is why they would be more suitable for those who are looking for a pick-me-up.

On the other end of the spectrum are indica cannabis strains, which have been linked to a sedative effect that’s more suitable for users who are looking to relax and alleviate stress.

Hybrids offer a combination of both sides, with different indica/sativa ratios offering very different effects. How you feel depends on which strains dominate, and sativa-dominant strains lean more toward the stimulant side of the spectrum.

Improves Mental Clarity and Focus

While the physical aspect of training is certainly crucial for athletes when they train and compete, the mental aspect is equally – if not more – important. Being able to focus on training with maximum effort requires a certain degree of mental clarity and awareness.

But it’s not uncommon for athletes – including distance runners – to suffer from brain fog on occasion, which can have negative implications on their performance.

The CBD component of cannabis has been shown to help athletes – and the general public – improve their level of mental clarity so they’re more aware of the task at hand and the surrounding environment. In fact, studies have shown that CBD, in particular, has been showing great promise as a wake-promoting agent.

Helps With Pain Management and Recovery

Long distance runners are known to suffer from specific overuse injuries, particularly in the muscles and ligaments of the lower extremities, for obvious reasons. More specifically, distance runners are more prone to suffering from leg injuries such as stress fractures, muscles strains, and torn ligaments.

Overuse injuries require a certain amount of rest to ensure full recovery before training can recommence. Therapies are often required, including physical therapy or even surgery. But during the recovery process, a certain amount of pain is bound to be experienced, no matter how mild or severe.

While NSAIDs and opioids are typically prescribed to athletes to help them manage their pain, such medications come with a slew of side effects – some minor, but some more severe. Addiction can also arise from the ongoing use of these drugs, which we’ve all seen with the recent opioid addiction epidemic.

Thankfully, there are more natural substances that distance runners can take to effectively alleviate pain and discomfort from injuries without the potential for addiction or side effects that pharmaceuticals tend to have, and marijuana is one of them.

Several studies have linked the use of marijuana and the cannabinoids and terpenes within the plant with alleviation of pain and inflammation. Different types of pain can be targeted and treated, including pain resulting from physical stress and injury.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the two most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant – both interact with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system. This interaction activates the reward system of the brain and reduces pain levels. While THC also induces a “high” at the same time, CBD can relieve pain without any mind-altering effects.

Promotes Relaxation

Running with tense muscles wastes a lot more energy compared to running in a more relaxed state. Using up too much unnecessary energy can burn you out long before your run is done, and even increase the odds of injury occurring. That’s why it’s important to relax your body before you take to the open road.

Distance runners are encouraged to practice relaxation exercises to help pinpoint and remove any tension from the body. Taking CBD may also be effective at promoting relaxation in distance runners.

Not only can cannabis and CBD products help calm distance runners before big events, but it can also help relax runners them after they’ve completed their training.

Modes of Marijuana Consumption

Smoking isn’t the only way to consume and enjoy the benefits of cannabis. Not only is this mode of consumption irritating to the lungs and bad for overall health, but it can also hinder the performance of distance runners who rely on maximum lung function to sustain long distance runs.
The good news is that there are other ways to use marijuana that are perfectly safe, including the following:

  • Tinctures/Cannabis oils – Marijuana tinctures can be placed under the tongue using a dropper to allow the THC and/or CBD to take effect more quickly by bypassing the digestive system.
  • Edibles – Cookies, brownies, gummies, chewing gum, and candies can all be infused with marijuana and eaten like any other treat.
  • Tablets/capsules – Tablets and capsules are perhaps one of the more convenient ways to use marijuana.
  • Vapes – Rather than burning the marijuana (as is the case with smoking it), vaping only heats the marijuana up just enough to melt the resins and oils.
  • Sprays – Marijuana sprays can be applied orally.
  • Beverages – Like edibles, different beverages can be infused with marijuana cannabinoids for a quick and easy mode of consumption.
  • Topical creams – Topicals are ideal for those suffering from localized pain. Users can apply the cream directly to the area of discomfort to alleviate any pain experienced.
  • Transdermal patches – These can be applied to any area of the body and offer an immediate infusion of marijuana into the bloodstream.

Final Thoughts

Marijuana is a lot more than just a THC-laden recreational drug that gets users high. The benefits of CBD and THC are boundless for athletes and those facing other physical and/or mental ailments.

by Chris Kresser (web)

woman stressed outOf all the 9 steps, stress management is probably the most important. Why? Because no matter what diet you follow, how much you exercise and what supplements you take, if you’re not managing your stress you will still be at risk for modern degenerative conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism and autoimmunity.

I see this every day in my practice. I have a lot of patients that are following a “perfect” diet, and yet they are still sick. Stress is often the cause. (I’ll define stress more clearly in a moment.) Yet as pervasive as stress is, many people don’t do anything to mitigate its harmful effects. The truth is it’s a lot easier to make dietary changes and pop some pills (whether drugs or supplements) than it is to manage our stress. Stress management bumps us up against core patterns of belief and behavior that are difficult to change.

I suspect this is why all of the articles I’ve written about stress management are among the least shared on Facebook and Twitter and have elicited the fewest comments. I think many of you may feel defeated or overwhelmed by stress. I understand this. Stress management is hard. It asks a lot of us. It forces us to slow down, to step back, to disengage (if only for a brief time) from the electric current of modern life. It asks us to prioritize self-care in a culture that does not value it.

While I feel your pain, and still struggle with stress management myself, I’ve got to lay down some tough love here. If you’re not doing some form of regular stress management, you will sabotage all of your best efforts with diet, exercise and supplements. Stress management is absolutely crucial to optimal health and longevity. If most health conscious people spent even half the amount of time they spend focusing on nutrition and exercise on managing their stress, they’d be a lot better off.

I’m going to suggest several strategies for stress management at the end of the article, but first let’s define stress more explicitly and learn more about the harm it causes.

What is stress?

Hans Selye, the famous physiologist who coined the term “stress”, defined it this way:

…the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.

The prominent psychologist Richard Lazarus offers a similar definition:

…any event in which environmental demands, internal demands, or both tax or exceed the adaptive resources of an individual…

At the simplest level, then, stress is a disturbance of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s ability to regulate its inner environment. When the body loses this ability, disease occurs.

The adrenals are two walnut-shaped glands that sit atop the kidneys. They secrete hormones – such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine – that regulate the stress response. Because of this, the adrenals are what determine our tolerance to stress and are also the system of our body most affected by stress.

Most people are aware of the obvious forms of stress that affect the adrenal glands: impossibly full schedules, driving in traffic, financial problems, arguments with a spouse, losing a job and the many other emotional and psychological challenges of modern life.

But other factors not commonly considered when people think of “stress” place just as much of a burden on the adrenal glands. These include blood sugar swings, gut dysfunction, food intolerances (especially gluten), chronic infections, environmental toxins, autoimmune problems, inflammation and overtraining. All of these conditions sound the alarm bells and cause the adrenals to pump out more stress hormones.

Adrenal stress is probably the most common problem we encounter in functional medicine, because nearly everyone is dealing with at least one of the factors listed above. Symptoms of adrenal stress are diverse and nonspecific, because the adrenals affect every system in the body. But some of the more common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity
  • Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up
  • Mood swings
  • Sugar and caffeine cravings
  • Irritability or lightheadedness between meals
  • Eating to relieve fatigue
  • Dizziness when moving from sitting or lying to standing
  • Digestive distress

How does stress harm the body?

The short answer is “in every way imaginable.” It would take books to explain the full effects of stress. And those books have been written. Check out Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky and When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection by Gabor Mate for a more thorough investigation. I’m just going to summarize here.

When stress becomes chronic and prolonged, the hypothalamus is activated and triggers the adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is normally released in a specific rhythm throughout the day. It should be high in the mornings when you wake up (this is what helps you get out of bed and start your day), and gradually taper off throughout the day (so you feel tired at bedtime and can fall asleep).

Recent research shows that chronic stress can not only increase absolute cortisol levels, but more importantly it disrupts the natural cortisol rhythm. And it’s this broken cortisol rhythm that wreaks so much havoc on your body. Among other effects, it:

  • raises your blood sugar
  • weakens your immune system
  • makes your gut leaky
  • makes you hungry and crave sugar
  • reduces your ability to burn fat
  • suppresses your HPA-axis, which causes hormonal imbalances
  • reduces your DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone and TSH levels
  • increases your belly fat and makes your liver fatty
  • causes depression, anxiety and mood imbalances
  • contributes to cardiovascular disease

These are all well-documented in the scientific literature, and the list of health problems caused by stress goes on. And on. In fact it’s not a stretch to suggest that stress contributes to all modern, chronic disease.

But most people don’t need much convincing of this. You’ve witnessed the negative effects of stress firsthand, every day of your life. So the question is, what do you do about it?

How to reduce the impact of stress

There are two different approaches to reducing the impact of stress, and both are important:

  1. Reduce the amount of stress you experience.
  2. Mitigate the harmful effects of stress you can’t avoid.

Reducing the amount of stress you experience

Reducing stress means just what it sounds like: reducing your total exposure to all forms of stress, whether psychological or physiological. Of course it’s never possible to completely remove stress from our lives. But even in the most stressful of circumstances, it’s still possible to reduce stress.

The first step is to avoid unnecessary stress. This often seems obvious, but it isn’t. It’s easy to overlook habitual patterns of thought and behavior that cause unnecessary stress above and beyond the stress we can’t avoid. Here are a few guidelines for how to avoid this kind of stress:

  • Learn to say “no”. Know your limits, and don’t take on projects or commitments you can’t handle.
  • Avoid people who stress you out. You know the kind of person I’m talking about. Drama kings and queens. People who are constantly taking and never giving. Limit your time with these people or avoid them entirely.
  • Turn off the news (or at least limit your exposure to it). If watching the world go up in flames stresses you out, limit your exposure to the news. You’ll still find out what’s going on, and still be able to act as a concerned citizen. But you’ll have more time for yourself. I stopped getting the paper years ago, and don’t even have TV. And believe it or not I’m still well-informed. The difference is I get to choose what I’m exposed to.
  • Give up pointless arguments. This is especially true for useless internet debating. There is obviously a place for discussion and debate, and working towards change. But have you noticed that most arguments don’t lead to change? In fact, they tend to have the opposite effect – each side becomes more defended and entrenched in their worldview. Find other ways to get your point across, learn to listen with empathy, and don’t waste precious time and energy trying to convert fundamentalists to your religion.
  • Escape the tyranny of your to-do list. Each day spend some time in the morning really considering what needs to be done that day. Drop unimportant tasks to the bottom of the list. Better yet, cross them off entirely. The world will go on.

The second step in reducing the amount of stress you experience is to address any physiological problems that are taxing your adrenals. These causes include anemia, blood sugar swings, gut inflammation, food intolerances (especially gluten), essential fatty acid deficiencies and environmental toxins. If you have one or more of these conditions, it’s probably best to get help from a skilled practitioner.

Mitigating the harmful effects of stress you can’t avoid

Obviously there are times when we just can’t avoid stress. Maybe we have a high-stress job, or we’re caring for an ailing parent, or we’re having difficulty with our partner or spouse. In these situations it’s not about reducing stress itself, but about reducing its harmful effects.

How do you do that? There are several different strategies:

  • Reframe the situation. We experience stress because of the meaning we assign to certain events or situations. Sometimes changing our perspective is enough to relieve the stress. For example, being stuck in traffic can be a “disaster” or it could be an opportunity for contemplation and solitude.
  • Lower your standards. This is especially important for you perfectionists out there. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Let good enough be good enough.
  • Practice acceptance. One of my meditation teachers used to say “All suffering is caused by wishing the moment to be other than it is.” Many things in life are beyond our control. Learn to accept the things you can’t change.
  • Be grateful. Simply shifting your focus from what is not okay or not enough, to what you’re grateful for or appreciative of can completely change your perspective – and relieve stress.
  • Cultivate empathy. When you’re in a conflict with another person, make an effort to connect with their feelings and needs. If you understand where they’re coming from, you’ll be less likely to react and take it personally.
  • Manage your time. Poor time management is a major cause of stress. When you’re overwhelmed with commitments and stretched too thin, it’s difficult to stay present and relaxed. Careful planning and establishing boundaries with your time can help.

In addition to everything I’ve listed above, one of the most important things you can do to manage stress is to bring more pleasure, joy and fun into your life. This is the subject of Step 9, so I’ll just mention it briefly here.

Stress management practices and techniques

All of the stress management tips above are important, and can make a huge difference in your health and well-being. However, there’s a certain amount of stress in modern life that is simply unavoidable for most of us. That’s why it’s so crucial to have a regular stress management practice.

There are a lot of options here, of course. Things like exercise, yoga, tai qi, qi gong, a walk on the beach, etc. can all relieve stress. I’ll just share the practices I’ve found to be most helpful for myself and my patients over the years.

Meditation

In spite of the fact that I’m listing it here, I don’t consider meditation as a “stress management” technique – although it can certainly have that effect. Meditation is an awareness practice. Through meditation we learn to witness our thoughts, feelings and sensations and dis-identify with the story we tell ourselves about them. We learn to stay present to our lives even in the face of great difficulty or pain.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be able to “relax” to meditate. Sometimes we are relaxed during meditation, sometimes we are quite agitated. We don’t meditate to manipulate our feelings, but to learn to observe them without reacting to or “becoming” them.

One of the books I often recommend to people who’d like to learn more about meditation practice is Opening the Hand of Thought, by Kosho Uchiyama. You may also want to check out Don Matesz’s recent article, 10 Reasons Why I Practice Mindfulness Meditation, for more on the benefits of meditation practice.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) combines mindfulness meditation and yoga to cultivate greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as of the ways the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.

Through clinical research at the University of Massachusetts and elsewhere, MBSR has been shown to positively effect a range of autonomic physiological processes, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing overall arousal and emotional reactivity. MBSR is offered as an 8-week intensive training in hospitals and medical centers around the world. It is also offered as an online course, and can be done via home study with books and audio recordings. MBSR is particularly effective for anyone struggling with chronic illness or pain.

UPDATE: You can also download a free recording of the Body Scan and other mindfulness techniques here.

Rest Assured

Rest Assured is a program for healing insomnia naturally. However, the way this is accomplished is by maintaining a greater state of relaxation and ease throughout the day. We can’t run around all day in a state of constant hyper-arousal and expect to fall into a deep and peaceful sleep at night. The body doesn’t turn on and off like a light switch. This is why sleep medications have become ubiquitous. They’re the equivalent of hitting yourself over the head with a sledgehammer so you can fall asleep.

The Rest Assured program contains simple exercises that coordinate breath and movement. Many of the exercises can be performed in as little as 3-4 minute throughout the day, while some take 20-30 minutes and can be done when you have a little more time – or while you’re laying in bed before sleep. I’ve found these to be incredibly helpful myself, and my patients have as well.

So here’s my request. If you found this article to be helpful, please share it on Facebook and Twitter (you can use the FB & Twitter icons at the top of the post), or email it to someone you care about. Stress management is one of the most important things we can to do protect our health, yet it’s often the first thing that slips through the cracks in a busy life.