Was there a time when you could pride yourself on your ability to maintain 5-6 workouts a week?
Did you previously feel energised from your exercise but now not so much? 🙁
Do you fear that if you don’t exercise you will gain weight or struggle to maintain your weight?
I hate to have to be the bearer of this news but if you are suffering with issues related to adrenal fatigue your exercise may have been one of the contributing factors or it may be contributing to the intensity of your adrenal fatigue symptoms.
I CRASHED AND MAYBE YOU DID TOO!
I was always a regular exerciser from my early days of playing competitive tennis and into the days when I owned a women’s gym. My exercise routine has changed over the years but I was able to maintain a balanced exercise routine and maintain a good level of fitness until ………… I crashed under the stress of a business and relationship that wasn’t working. After too much chronic stress for a period of 12 months or so, my system crashed and I experienced severe adrenal fatigue.
NOTHING IN THE TANK!
As I tried to engage in my regular exercise program, I became more and more tired, in a way that didn’t feel right to me. I kept pushing on, but honestly it eventually felt like I had nothing in the tank.
The truth was the effect of what had now become chronic stress, had caused my adrenals to become severely overtaxed, they were exhausted, and the way I was exercising was not appropriate for me.
I learned 5 Pitfalls relating to Exercise and Adrenal Fatigue and the Adjustments that needed to be made.
1. HIGH INTENSITY CARDIO EXERCISE IS OUT.
Unless you are suffering with just a very mild form of adrenal fatigue, high intensity cardio exercise is a drain on your system!
If the adrenal fatigue you are experiencing is a mild form, often people don’t even know their adrenals are affected and they just carry on as normal but complain of feeling tired and often wired.
Keep Your Heart Rate Under 90 bpm
If you do have moderate, severe or extremely severe symptoms of adrenal fatigue it is advised that you keep your heart rate below 90 beats per minute until your system comes back into balance. (This information is courtesy of Marcelle Pick from Is it Me or My Adrenals)
Walking is your best cardio activity at this stage. I know many of you are saying to me right now, but I need to maintain my weight or I need to lose weight. Well, I can assure you that over-exercising while dealing with adrenal fatigue and putting further stress on your body is the perfect way to gain weight!
As Marcelle Pick explains in Is it Me or My Adrenals “We need to let our soothing parasympathetic nervous system take over occasionally, too much stress cues our body to go into ’emergency’ mode”. It is this emergency mode that throws our system out and causes us to gain weight.
Your first point of call is to balance the stress in your life and bring your adrenals back into balance.
Do You Feel energised or Drained from Your Exercise?
The best guage is how you feel after your exercise. If you feel energised from it, it is likely fine; but if you feel drained immediately afterwards or a few hours later, it is too much and you need to scale back.
2. OVER EXERCISE CAN CAUSE AN “ADRENAL CRASH”.
Dr Michael Lam (one of the pioneers of adrenal fatigue) in his book Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome explains that “over-use of energy for exercise may trigger adrenal crashes.” So, it’s important to find the right balance. He also points out that unless you are having an “adrenal crash” a “personalised exercise program designed specifically for the level of adrenal function” is recommended.
If you are mildly affected with adrenal fatigue you will likely experience a tiredness but probably recover fairly quickly. If your symptoms are more severe, you may find that you are hardly able to function because you are so fatigued and need to spend time in bed recovering.
The point is always honour how you feel with your exercise. Continuing to push over and over again, when your body is tired is a perfect recipe to intensify your adrenal fatigue or create adrenal fatigue symptoms.
3. A WEIGHTS PROGRAM IS TOO TAXING ON YOUR SYSTEM.
If your symptoms of adrenal fatigue are anything more than mild, I would highly recommend that you leave the weights out.
I used to use strength training as a regular part of my exercise program and in a healthy body this is a wonderful way to increase fitness, increase muscle mass and improve your immune system functioning; however in a body affected by adrenal fatigue many systems of the body are compromised and this is a further tax on your sympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system needs some “time out”.
Going Back to Weights too Early Caused Me to Have an Adrenal Crash
I learned this the hard way. A few months after my lowest point, I decided to try weights again, even though my energy levels were very low the majority of the time. I lifted very light weights and few repetitions, but I still experienced what I talked about above, an “adrenal crash”. I found it hard to function for a few days needing lots of bed rest, and my energy levels were even lower than before (I didn’t think that was possible!!).
Leave out the weights program until your system is more recovered. When you do start back, do it very, very slowly. You will get there, you will recover. Just one step at a time please.
After 4 Years I Have Returned to Strength Training
I have since returned to doing some strength training, usually a couple of times a week. This is 4+ years on since my lowest time and my body is ready. I still keep it very general and don’t overdo, and always guage how I feel in the process.
I am enjoying feeling my muscles work in this way again though!!
You too can recover, give it time, you won’t necessarily need 4 years like I did, you know your own body and what feels right for you!
4. YOGA STYLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUALLY
While yoga is a wonderful way to help you in the process of restoring your adrenals, please know that not all yoga is appropriate until your adrenals are more restored.
Styles such as Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Flow Yoga are going to be far too taxing on your system initially. Practiced with a healthy body they are wonderful practices. However, these styles will stimulate your Sympathetic Nervous System and cause further stress on your body and your “tired” adrenals.
The more affected you are with adrenal fatigue symptoms, the more you need a yoga program that is tailor made for you.
My top recommendations on the yoga front are:
Dr Michael Lam, has coined his own yoga style, that which he labels “Adrenal Yoga”. This was one of the main practices that I engaged in to help me in my recovery process.
He has created a 21 lesson yoga series to build you up from really severe adrenal fatigue and ready to fit back into mainstream classes once you reach the end of the lessons (this can take anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on the severity of your symptoms and your commitment to your recovery).
Great, Step by Step Instruction
While the quality of his recording isn’t that great, don’t let that put you off, because the quality of the program and what he suggests you do, greatly increases your energy and gives you a lot of guided instruction on how to help you restore your adrenals.
If your adrenal fatigue is severe, I don’t recommend that you try and navigate the exercise loop on your own, this program is well worth the investment and will guide you step by step through what you need to do.
b) Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga
Both of these styles of yoga are going to work with the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that we want to enhance with tired adrenals. It will help to restore your system.
Even if you are not affected with adrenal fatigue, these types of classes are a great way to balance out the intense doing of our lives.
Find the Right Teacher for You
If you are going to a class, tell your teacher that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue or that you are fatigued so that you are not pushed. Even though these are the more calming styles of yoga, there can still be many variations in the way that they are taught and you need to find a teacher’s style that is right for you.
Another option may be to have a private session with an experienced yoga teacher so that they can set up an appropriate program for your individual needs, and then you can incorporate back into a group class when you feel stronger.
c) Hatha Yoga
Once you feel ready to go back into yoga classes, I recommend this after the restorative and yin yoga styles. This is a slower moving style where you hold the poses for some time.
Make sure your adrenals are fairly well recovered before you do this, and if at any time during the class you feel too much fatigue, take a rest. Always know that even if you are doing a class, it is important to honour the needs of your own body on any given day.
A stepping stone may also be to have an individual session with your yoga teacher and set up an individualised program before you come back into something more mainstream.
d) Kundalini Yoga
Together, with Dr Lam’s adrenal yoga program, this was one of the main forms of yoga styles I practiced during my adrenal recovery process. This is a very spiritual form of yoga and many aspects of it are also very restorative on the system.
This style of yoga is practised with your eyes closed, so you are staying within your own self. I found this helpful in that it allowed me to really get in touch with how I was feeling, and what felt right for me to do. You may experience some dizziness initially when practising with your eyes closed (and especially from some of the effects of adrenal fatigue) so choose what feels right for you here, and please do open your eyes at first if it feels easier for you.
Choose a Gentle Kriya
This is a very diverse practice, broken down into what is called “kriyas” which focus on a certain aspect of the body, mind or soul. Some are quite intense kriyas and some are very gentle. The more severe your adrenal fatigue symptoms, the more gentle the kriyas need to be for you.
I found this style and way of doing yoga very restorative on my system, and the majority of the time I would feel better after doing it. If at any time, I found any of the movements or breathing patterns too intense or if I was having a low day, I would just rest it out or breathe with a steady, even breathing pattern.
There is in fact a specific kriya especially for the kidneys and the adrenals, but as you engage with this or any kundalini yoga kriya, go at the pace that feels right for you. Always gauge how you feel during and after the exercise. I would also recommend an individual session before you embark on a class setup to get some appropriate kriyas for your individual needs.
5. YOU CAN’T FORGET TO BREATHE AND RELAX!!
If you are feeling stressed and struggling with adrenal fatigue it is likely that you are breathing in a very shallow way. However, breathing too deeply can also cause further stress on your system during times of adrenal fatigue.
a) A Steady, Even Breathing Pattern
Take a few minutes each day or several times during the day and simply focus on breathing in a steady, even way. Neither forcing the breath too deeply or keeping it too shallow.
Dr Michael Lam, has a great program on adrenal breathing in additional to the adrenal yoga program that is very effective for the adrenals and this was also a program that I utilised in my recovery period. It was so helpful in bringing about a sense of calm and ease in my system, and it also helped to increase my energy levels.
The consistent, practice of doing this on a daily basis was one of the most helpful things that I engaged in.
I also practiced many different kinds of kundalini and other yoga pranayam (breathing) practices to help me energise my system and I would encourage you to work with your yoga teacher to find some breathing exercises that would be appropriate for you.
b) Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is described in the yoga community as a conscious deep sleep. There are many wonderful, guided cds out on the market and I would encourage you to experiment with this if you haven’t already. This is a practice I also use every week still to this day. I have a favourite cd I have been using for a few years. Experiment with a bunch of audio programs and find one that calls to you.
Getting into a deep state of relaxation also deeply enhances the parasympathetic nervous system and allows the body to come into a state of balance and homestasis. I would encourage you to use this as a regular part of your healing from adrenal fatigue daily/weekly practice.
YOU ARE ALWAYS THE BEST JUDGE OF WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
I have shared what worked and what didn’t for me, but in addition to my suggestions you may find some alternative type of restorative exercise that works perfectly for you, such as qi gong, tai chi or pilates. There may be activities that you may have previously done that your body is much more used to and you may find that you return to these activities more easily than another person who has not tried them before.
Healing from adrenal fatigue or any illness for that matter is never a one size fits all kind of a process. We are all unique and individual. Be willing and open to trying different things and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work for you. Always come back to how the exercise makes you feel so you ensure that you continue to make sound choices that enhance your recovery process.
I wish you well in your exercise program and your continued recovery to health and wellness.
P.S. The more severe your symptoms are, the more gentle your program needs to be.
Dr Lam’s Adrenal Yoga Program and Dr Lam’s Adrenal Breathing Program are my best suggestion if your symptoms are severe.