“If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you’re willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.” – T. Harv Eker
I am thrilled to report that my latest 39-day experiment is finally over!! It was hard and I didn’t enjoy it but I am pleased with the final results. By the conclusion of this experiment, I successfully achieved all 3 of my key objectives:
- My scary symptoms disappeared
- My period returned
- My blood work confirmed that my hormones are all within the normal range
The first two weeks of the experiment were extremely difficult for me. Researchers have concluded that withdrawal from extreme exercise can feel similar to heroin withdrawal (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090817143600.htm). Although I don’t know what heroin withdrawal feels like, I can confirm that my exercise withdrawal experience was not fun.
My symptoms included:
- Profound waves of sadness
- Feeling like my muscles were wasting away
- Compulsive urges to run hard and push/pull/lift heavy things
I also had repeated nightmares of accidentally consuming forbidden food and drinks (pastries, cappuccinos, chocolate, wine and cheese).
If it weren’t for my son, Blake, who consistently shows me how to be happy for no reason, I likely would not have had many joyful moments during the first few weeks of this experiment.
This 39-day mindful-body balancing experiment focused on 4 pillars of health:
I froze my gym membership for 39 days and implemented a progressive movement plan that allowed me to incorporate light physical activity into my routine. Click the down arrow for details.
During the first week, my only “exercise” was 30-60 minutes of walking per day.
During the second week, I added bicycling at a leisurely pace for up to 45 minutes (maximum: 3 times/week).
During the third week, I added six 10 second sprints (maximum: 1 minute of running/week).
During the fourth week, I added 1 set of pull-ups, push-ups, and 10 unweighted squats (maximum: 3 times/week)
After the fourth week, I added 2 more set of pull-ups, push-ups, and 15 unweighted squats (maximum: 3 times/week)
I ate within 30 minutes of waking and then again every 2 and ½ to 3 hours. While this doesn’t sound particularly challenging, I found it incredibly time-consuming and inconvenient to prepare and pack enough “mini-meals” to satisfy my nutritional requirements for an entire day out.
Diet and Supplementation:
I ate at least 1 cup of dark leafy/fibrous greens, 25 grams of protein and some “good fat” with every meal (including “mini meals” AKA snacks). I salted my food liberally (using pink Himalayan salt), added heaps of superfoods to everything (such as chia, hemp hearts, bee pollen, cacao nibs) and started eating more estrogen-producing foods (such as tempeh, sunflower seeds, edamame, sesame).
Click the down arrow to see my diet and supplements list:
I took the following supplements daily for the duration of the experiment:
- Urgent care probiotics
- Super B Complex
- Vitamin D
- Bee propolis
- Primrose oil/flax powder
- Fish oil
- St. Francis Herb Strest Tonic
- Genestra TADs Adrenal support
- Licorice extract
I also consumed each of the following food/drinks daily for the duration of the experiment:
- 2 large cloves of raw garlic
- 1 table spoon of turmeric powder with black pepper
- Baking soda/Lime diluted with water
- Coconut water
- Green tea with lemon and *lots* of ginger
- Chamomile and Hibiscus tea
- A minimum of 2 liters of lightly salted water with lemon
I completely eliminated the following from my diet for the duration of the experiment:
I recognized that I need far more rest and recovery time than I had been giving myself so I committed to adjusting my social calendar, my screen time and my sleep schedule accordingly. Click the down arrow for details.
Week 1: I committed to ending my screen time by 8:00pm and going to bed at 10pm, 5 nights/week.
Week 2: I extended my screen time to 8:30pm and my bedtime to 10:30pm, 3 nights/week.
Week 3, I extended my screen time to 9pm and my bedtime to 11pm, 4 nights/week.
This component of the experiment represented a major lifestyle shift for me. I typically start my nights around 8 or 9pm and trade sleep for social opportunities whenever I can. In general, I find that interesting conversations are much more likely to occur after 10pm!
- Relaxation practices:
I did self-hypnosis exercises every morning. I had candle lit, epsom salt baths and castor oil massages before bed almost every night. I listened to “chill” music frequently and got a dose of “trail therapy” in High Park or the Humber River with Blake at least 5 days/week.
Giving up all of my vices at once was tough. I have had many dark nights of the soul over the past 39 days and after much contemplation, I have decided to quit long distance running for good. One of my hypnotherapy clients described her experience of quitting smoking and her words perfectly reflected my feelings about quitting long distance running: “I feel both a sense of relief and a sense of loss…like I’m saying good-bye to my worst enemy and closest companion.”
I thought about how hard I had worked to train myself to fight against the most basic human needs – food and rest – and actually win the battle. Ironically, the extreme training that created the imbalances in my body also helped me resolve them.
Once I learned to embrace the pain, something amazing happened: I actually started to enjoy the process. I figured if I could beat the suffering I put myself through in my last 39-day experiment, I could overcome almost anything. I was already used to following a restrictive diet, making countless trips to the health food store and consuming ridiculous quantities of nutritional supplements. Compared to being in survival/starvation mode, the boredom of balance didn’t look half bad! 😉
I had expected my body to start deteriorating the minute I stopped exercising and surprisingly, that was not the case at all. Any changes to muscle tone or body fat over the 39-day period were subtle enough to be imperceptible to me. Now that I’m back at the gym, I see that the break has been good for my body. After shaking off the initial cobwebs, I feel like I’ve come back stronger.
I am now acutely aware of the fact that any increases to the intensity of my training program require proportionate decreases to the duration and frequency. I’m also much more conscious of the nutritional support and rest time that I need in order to fully recover from periods of stress.
As I continue to direct increasing amounts of energy into passions unrelated to exercise/training, new possibilities are emerging in my life. I may be walking my path at a slower pace, but I am moving forward more purposefully. The movement feels less compulsive and more intentional.
This search for optimal balance has helped me temper my sense of urgency with a sense of clarity. It has inspired me to find safer, easier, more direct routes to my ultimate destination. I am finding my way out of the woods and it feels good to finally be coming home.