Monday, February 23, 2009

Running and symptoms of depression

I subscribe to Dr. Mercola’s alternative health newsletter and he wrote a recent article on effective treatments for depression. In short, he too is dead set against prescription anti-depressants and suggested 10 potentially effective alternative treatments. I’ve used several of these treatments (5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, Sam-e, exercise, time spent in the sun) with success.

In my first running life back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, I had a lot of injury problems and often became very depressed when I was unable to run. These injuries became more frequent and more serious in later years. A stress fracture in ’99 was the beginning of the end of my competitive days and the official end came 2 years later with tarsal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis that would not heal on its own. Fortunately, the pain did not prevent occasional running. Whenever I could not run, my mood markedly worsened and although other forms of exercise were better than none, they provided only a fraction of the benefit. On the surface, one would think that my body was simply no longer built for running and I would be better off both physically and emotionally if I would simply stop running or at least “let go” of its importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. I did not give up and refused to believe that at the age of 21, I was over the hill. Finally, in my late 20s, I am reaping the benefits.
I now know that my thyroid/adrenal dysfunction and other imbalances caused improper connective tissue healing, which of course, left me more vulnerable to injuries. Just for one example, my tissue calcium (related to thyroid) was measured at 19 ppm at the time of the diagnosis (ideal is 40). Can you say stress fracture? I often took off more than the recommended time but if my glandular activity was out of balance, I would not heal properly no matter how much time I rested. Looking back, if I had weak adrenal from birth as my doctor suspects, I am surprised that I managed to remain competitive as long as I did.
Of course, the injuries caused some disappointment especially when I could no longer be a part of a team but those circumstances did not cause full blown depression. Chemical imbalances did. It is known that running increases production of neurotransmitter serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and possibly GABA. My initial neurotransmitter test was done in the Spring of 2007 at a time in which I was running about 20-25 MPW and recently finished my first half marathon. It showed that my serotonin and dopamine were about 65-75% of normal. When I was not running, I’ll bet that dopamine and serotonin dropped to 50-60% of normal. Despite running and taking supplements containing bovine adrenal substance, my adrenaline level was less than 50% of normal. Inaction may have caused adrenaline to drop to around 30% of normal. That is a severe deficiency. Most doctors prescribe selective serotonin drugs, which by definition are only intended to balance serotonin, not adrenaline or dopamine so you can guess how I felt on anti-depressant drugs. In short, because I ran and took supplements, my depression symptoms were mild or sometimes even non-existent instead of moderate-severe before the energy crash in 2005. After I started taking neurotransmitter support, I feel that my running helped accelerate my recovery. All major neurotransmitters are normal as of my last medical report and my doctor told me that even the lab was surprised by how well I have come into balance.
Although I am a big believer in exercise to combat depression symptoms, there is an exception to the rule. If you are in a state of moderate or severe adrenal exhaustion, intense exercise will make you feel worse, not better. To clarify my situation, a proper diagnostic test probably would have revealed adrenal exhaustion as far back as ’98 but from ’99-’02, some of the symptoms were masked by thyroid medication. From ’03 to early ’05, a supplement containing licorice root extract and B-5 provided temporary relief. When I was relatively free from the symptoms, I was no longer competitive but was sometimes able to train at a fairly intense level and felt much better after workouts. Even now, if I am inexplicably slower by a minute/mile, I know that my formula is wrong and needs to be adjusted. I would not be nearly as well in tune with the many complexities in my body if I was not a serious runner. However, from May of ’05 until October ’06, attempts to exercise at high intensity were counterproductive to both my mood and physical well-being. If you are somebody who could once tolerate intense exercise but it currently leaves you exhausted, you may have adrenal exhaustion. If you do have it, continuing to push yourself is the worst thing that you can do. In this state, you may actually deplete neurotransmitters by pushing beyond your limits. I completely understand that you are vulnerable to depression without physical activity but in the long run, a few months of inactivity is not such a big deal. It would be better to take a full year off than continue to work out with a limited capacity to do so. Time off may accelerate your recovery and allow you to tolerate higher intensity workouts sooner rather than later. I am living proof of that. In the meantime, natural treatments for depression listed above may be helpful. Check my main website for how to diagnose and treat this disease. Simply avoiding exercise is very unlikely to cure this condition once a crash has occurred. Proper supplementation can cure it.
Relating back to Dr. Mercola’s article, which alternative treatment is right for you? That depends on your individual chemistry, which can best be determined by a neurotransmitter test. If low serotonin level is your problem, you will do better on 5-HTP or St. John’s Wort taken with a cofactor (B-6, Vitamin C). If you have a dopamine or adrenaline deficit, Sam-e is your best choice unless you are bipolar. If you have across the board low neurotransmitters as I had, it is safe to take more than one supplement. Other options to boost dopamine, adrenaline and increase thyroid activity include tyrosine with vitamin C and products containing L-dopa.
One of my readers expressed alarm at the fact that I made reference to taking Lithium, which is the stuff given to bipolar patients that causes side effects so severe that many patients refuse to take it even if they get into trouble in their manic state. For the record, I have never been bipolar and the form of Lithium that I take is a dietary supplement that is derived from vegetable culture that has been helpful in reducing the over-activity of my thyroid and adrenal glands. Causes of depression are not limited to neurotransmitter imbalances. It could be a by-product of mineral deficiencies and unbalanced glandular function that can be identified with a tissue mineral analysis. Also, body and brain chemistry are often interrelated. For example, adrenaline and dopamine are synthesized in the adrenal medulla so if you have adrenal dysfunction, you are more likely to have low levels of dopamine and adrenaline. Bottom line: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are about as effective as placebo and are less safe. Considering all the causes of depression in addition to low serotonin, ineffectiveness of that class of drug should not be a surprise.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

training Feb. 22-28

2/22- 5 mile "recovery" run in 38:15. Not very long ago, that would have been close to tempo pace. I tried to slow it down some but I felt so good that I just couldn't do it. This was a bit too fast and I hope it won't come back to bite me later. 1st half in 19-flat, 2nd half in 19:15. Soreness setting in a bit. Planning an easy 10 tomorrow.
Grade:A/1 credit/distance=5.0- no warm up, not real smart there.
2/23- Easy 10 in 80:31. Time and effort were on target. Perhaps a tad overstimulated but I don't feel that it affected me very much. Feeling a little weak but I have gone 34 miles in just 3 days so I have an excuse. Yes, this was still a very good workout. 1st half in 40:17, 2nd half in 40:14. Smooth and relaxed especially in last 2 miles. I may rest tomorrow. We'll see how I feel. I want to do well in my short tempo this week.
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=10.25
2/24- took my rest day today ahead of schedule. Legs don't hurt very much but the rest of my body feels weak. I'm paying the price for going too fast on easy days. I'll get a good night's sleep and hope to do well on my tempo coming up (shooting for a mid-20 5K at comfortably hard) then I'll go real slow on Thurs. and Fri. hope to go 20+ on Saturday with another 50+ week
2/25-Felt good all day so I decided to go for it in the 5K time trial. Came away with a new post- adrenal fatigue PR of 19:48. Fastest time since '04. 4 seconds shy of my best time since '98.
Splits: 6:19-6:24-6:24 followed by a 41 second kick in the last 200. Long warm up and cool down. A bit of soreness in the calf when finished but not at all exhausted on the cool down.
Grade:A/3 credits/distance=5.0
2/26-Overdue for a bad workout and it finally happened today. 7 miles at an average pace of 8:42 (shooting for 8:20-8:25) and faded badly in the 2nd half. I was running in the 8:50s in the last 2 miles and would have quit if I slipped over 9. I don't think my chemistry is out of whack. It's probably a combination of natural fatigue and feeling a cold coming on. Hopefully, I will be better by the weekend. Tomorrow is either a rest or very easy junk miles.
Grade:C-/1 credit/distance=7.25
2/27- Feeling better but did not run due to a severe weather alert. I played it safe and went straight home from work.
2/28- One thing that I can predict about my body is that it is unpredictable. Waited for the rain to stop and tried to run a 20 miler in brutally humid and windy conditions. I thought I might struggle but I had absolutely nothing and wound up quitting at Mile 11. Then I took more chromium and tried to run an easy 5 several hours later. To my surprise, I breezed through in a near effortless 36:54 with my first 4 miles within 3 seconds of each other. How to grade today? AM workout was an automatic "F" since I failed to finish. PM workout was an "A". I'll split the difference overall.
Grade: C/2 credits/distance=16.50
Weekly summary: Up and down week to say the least. Mileage was lower than I had hoped for but my GPA indicates that it was still decent overall. It is obvious that I now need to take 1 chromium pill/day to train effectively. How much will this stimulate my already overactive thyroid/adrenals? Will I be able to keep my weight up to at least close to 150? Highlight of the week was my 5K. Always good to have a time that starts with a 1 instead of a 2.
Distance=44.0/Weekly GPA: 29.1QP/9 credits= 3.233

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

training Feb.15-21

2/15- half marathon race in 1:36:16 PR. See race report for details.
Grade:A+/4 credits/distance=13.5
2/16- 3 mile recovery run. no effort expended at all and still ran a steady paced 23:10 just 24 hours after the race. Feeling good.
Grade:B+/1 credit/distance=3.5
2/17- 8 miles easy. Time of 63:50. Started out at 7:45 pace, which would have been almost tempo effort then backed off to low 8 pace in the last 6 miles. Off to a good start this week.
Grade:A-/1 credit/distance=8.5
2/18- 4.5 miles easy. cut short because of approaching storm. Time of 36:50 was about 8:12 pace. That's fine on an easy day. Tomorrow will be a long tempo and I want to a fairly fresh.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=4.5
2/19- Long tempo as planned. 10K in 43:47. Pace per mile of 7:04. Splits ranged from 6:59-7:11 and I'm pleased with that. I was holding back just a hair and put forth a bit more effort than I planned. How much faster could I have gone in an all out time trial? Maybe low 43 but probably not a PR. My body felt just a little on the tight side. This is still my best time of the year so I'll take it. Rest tomorrow then long on Saturday.
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=7.0
2/20- planned rest day
2/21- 18 miles in 2:21-flat (7:50 pace). On 2/21, I ran a 2:21. This pace was my half marathon race pace less than 6 months ago. Now, I can keep it up for another 5 miles without competition. This is the longest that I have ever held a sub-8 pace and I'm closing in on that sub-3:30 marathon. Splits: 8:03-7:58-7:57-7:57-7:56-7:56-7:52-7:54-7:53 (71:26 1st half)
7:49-7:51-7:49-7:48-7:44-7:50-7:46-7:49-7:08 (70:34 2nd half). No sub-7 last mile but still an excellent workout. 1/2 warmup and 1/2 mile cooldown to hit a new mileage record.
Grade:A/2 credits/distance=19.0
Weekly summary: Distance=56.0 (PR) Weekly GPA= 3.873 (PR that will be tough to beat)
Wow! I followed up one of my worst weeks on record with my best since starting this blog. I'm still high from the race and I don't intend to come down any time soon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mercedes half marathon race report

Preparation: No regrets at all about my training. I averaged 48 miles per week in January with very few runs at slower than 8:30 pace per mile. So far however, February has been up and down. In 2 of my last 3 workouts before race day, I was awful (calves felt like lead) but after a relatively minor adjustment to my supplement formula, I was terrific when it mattered.

Course: It was my first time running in this race and the course had been changed from years past. I have no complaints. Supposedly, it was not as scenic as in years past but I am usually so focused on my race that I often barely even notice the scenery. On the positive side, it had fewer hills and made a PR more likely. The first and last 5K were relatively flat through the downtown area but the middle section was largely residential and had some pretty significant inclines and declines (miles 6-8 were the hardest). Nothing was terribly steep but some were quite long. Overall, I would rate the course as moderately difficult, maybe a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being most difficult. The plan was to go out around 7:30, run an even effort on the hills and hope for a strong finish. My PR was 1:42, set in a steady rain 5 months earlier in Chicago. If this was a good day, I expected to be below 1:40 and a more ambitious goal was a sub-1:38 or 7:30 pace. I felt good warming up and was anxious to get started.

The Race: I was caught in the crowd early and perhaps lined up a bit too far back. I just ran with the pack in which I found myself but my pace was a hair on the slow side (3:50 1st half mile) so I picked it up a bit. That pretty much told the tale of the first 2 miles. I made several adjustments to my pace to hit the mile markers on target. Finally by Mile 3, I was in rhythm but a little worried that I was too fast. Ditto for mile 4.
7:30 (15:03)
7:18 (22:21)
7:22 (29:43)
I stopped at an aid station for water early in Mile 5 then drank my 3 oz. of Gatorade/Red Bull mix, which I carried in a small vile (I know of a world class marathoner who drinks that mix). I intentionally backed off the pace a bit but my GPS showed that I overdid it. This would be my 2nd slowest mile of the race (my slowest was almost all uphill). Finally, I settled back into a comfortably hard pace for the next several miles. I've always been a good hill runner and passed several runners on the uphill section and even more going downhill and sometimes said a few words of encouragement to those who appeared to be struggling. Once I hit the highest elevation point early in Mile 9, I would start pushing hard and try to maintain it to the finish. By this point, I knew sub-1:40 was in the bag and a sub-1:38 was likely also.
7:42 (37:25)
7:20 (44:45)
7:49 (52:34)-uphill
7:35 (1:00:09)- mostly uphill
Finally, we hit some nice long downhill and I let it loose and saw a few looks of admiration. I passed at least 10 runners in the next mile. I kept pushing hard and increasing my pace and by the final 5K, I was running at top speed. I held my postion give or take a few places in the last 2 miles despite the fact that they were my fastest miles of the race. Others had the same strategy as I. When I hit mile 12, I thought that I had a shot at going under 1:36 and kept pushing hard. When my GPS registered 13.00 miles, it looked like I would do it but it measured the course at 13.18 instead of 13.11. My finishing kick was good but not as fast as some of my previous races. My official chip time was 1:36:16. A PR by more than 6 minutes. I was thrilled.
7:06 (1:07:15) downhill
7:02 (1:14:17) downhill
7:10 (1:21:27) flat
6:59 (1:28:26)
6:47 (1:35:13)
1:03 (1:36:16)-unofficially 5:50 pace for .18
Pace per mile: 7:21 Age group: 20th out of 167- 88th percentile.
My half marathon race record:
3/07- 1:59:37
12/07- 1:48:17
9/08- 1:42:50
2/09- 1:36:16
*23 minute improvement in 23 months. I doubt that my body chemistry is fully balanced. The setback during my taper suggests that it is not. Almost halfway to a Boston qualifier.

Monday, February 9, 2009

training Feb. 8-14 (taper week)

Feb.8- Quarter marathon at half marathon race pace. Very even splits:7:24-7:30 then sprinted the final lap in a blazing 74 seconds. Overall time of 48:19 or mid-1:36 pace with almost no energy spent until the sprint. Good workout. I'm ready to go.
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=7.0
Feb.9- 5 miles easy running. Time of 39-flat was on target. Slowed just a tad in the 2nd half and my form got a little sloppy. Still a decent easy workout.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=5.0
Feb.10- planned rest day. Mileage is a bit high for the taper week. Tomorrow will be my last quality workout and the rest will be easy jogs until race day. Weight is down again to 146.
Feb.11- 1600-1200-800-400 plus warmup and cooldown. Horrible performance. Mile was a weak 6:14 then went sharply downhill. Could not better 1:45 in my last 400. 3 days removed from a 74 last lap of a quarter marathon? That sucks. It's either excess inhibitory neurotransmitters or continuing Mn/Cr issues or both. I have 3.5 days to fix this or I am guaranteed to suck on race day and may even pull out. Last year, I had setbacks the week before race day almost every time and turned in 6 out of 6 above average races. This is nothing new for me. Very depressed not only because of a bad run but body is out of balance.
Grade:D/2 credits/distance=3.0
Feb.12- MUCH better. Calf and groin were still a little sore but got relief after taking chromium and a very small amount of manganese. It seems that the inhibitory neurotransmitters may not be a problem after all. I can't take those pills every day because it stimulates my already overactive thyroid so I will be careful to take as little as necessary. I remain 10 pounds underweight but that's better than being sore and depressed all the time. As for the workout:
2.5 miles in 17:18, comfortable 7-flat pace until last 200 which I ran in 39. A little fast for being so close to race day but I needed to test myself to make sure the formula will work for me.
Grade:B/1 credit/distance=3.0
Feb.13- Did not take any additional chromium and paid the price. 2 miles easy running timed in about 15:30. 1st mile was around 7:30 then slowed to 8:00. I was actually pushing it a bit just to hit 8-flat and the pace was slowing rapidly. Calves and shins felt like lead. I am now just 36 hours away from race day and turned in one of the worst performances since starting this blog.
If I take no action, I'll probably DNF. If I overload with chromium, my thyroid will get worse and I will suck. I may end up with a DNF either way.
Grade:D-/1 credit/distance=2.0
Feb.14- drove up to Birmingham. No running but feeling better and still hopeful. Anything can happen tomorrow. I may not know if my formula is good until I am about 3 miles into the race.
Weekly summary: In terms of GPA, this is the 2nd worst week on record and my lowest mileage total yet but the latter is not important on a taper week. I will race tomorrow and do the best I can. If I do end up with a DNF, it's not the end of the world.
Distance=20.0/Weekly GPA=16.1/7 credits= 2.300

Monday, February 2, 2009

training Feb.1-7

2/1- unplanned but necessary rest day.
2/2- moderate 3 mile which turned into a decent tempo run. 3 miles in 21:03 in a comfortably hard effort. I did push the final 200 and ran it in 41. Workout was average overall. This would have been barely sub-22 for 5K so that's not one of my best. Maybe I will do my 10 mile time trial early.
Grade:B-/2 credits/distance=3.0
2/3- 10 miles time trial. This was one of my best runs ever. My PR coming in was a 75:41 and I would have been pleased just to break 75. Under 74 would have been great. I smashed it with an incredible 72:57. If I have my best stuff on race day, I fully expect to break 1:40 for 13.1 and may even make a run at 1:35 by the end of the year. If I can do that, I'm halfway to a BQ.
Splits: 7:20-7:17-7:18-7:16-7:21-7:22-7:24-7:23-7:22-6:54/ 13.1 pace of 1:35:37.
Grade:A+/3 credits/distance=10.25
2/4- "Short and quick" recovery run. It was cold and windy outside and I'm supposed to be tapering so I cut it short. Pace was around 7:40 and felt fine. Not bad for day after all out effort. The ill-effects may hit tomorrow. Plan to run 5 around 38 or so.
Grade:B+/1 credit/distance=2.75
2/5- Weak performance. Weight has dropped to 147 despite taking Lithium. I must be low on inhibitory neurotransmitters. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Hopefully, this adjustment will prevent a significant setback. Go Figure. I'm only 2 days removed from my best 10 miler ever. Stats from the run: 5 miles in 38:xx , close to target. Strong start but pace slowed considerably in the 4th mile. Tried to pick it up at the end and didn't have much left. Felt worse in the evening after the run. 10 days away from race day. Never fails.
Grade: C/1 credit/distance=5.0
2/6- Loaded on inhibitory neurotransmitter support and did get my weight moving in the right direction but the workout was even worse than the day before. This time the pain was in my legs. I probably need more chromium and manganese and hopefully that will do the trick. Again, the first 2 miles were not bad but I slowed in mile 3, tried to pick up the pace in mile 4 and had nothing. Finished at a pedestrian pace. If I attempted a quality workout, this would have been an F. Since, I finished the workout and it didn't go downhill until later ...
Grade:D+/1 credit/distance=4.0
2/7- Felt awful when I woke up, probably the worst I've felt in all of '09. Took the chromium and manganese and began to feel relief within hours. Went out for some easy distance and surprised myself by doing fairly well. 8 miles at roughly half mary pace (61:12) including a blazing 76 second final quarter mile. On pace for 1:40 for 13.1. Long cooldown.
Grade:A-/2 credits/distance=9.0
Weekly summary: Distance=34.0 GPA: 32.3/11 credits=2.936