I have been a fairly focused and diligent athlete for over 18 years. What I mean by this is I am aware of what impacts my training, both positively and negatively. I have refined a skill for being in tune with my body as well as my mind, and how it all translates to my training. I am conscious about the amount of sleep I get (see Coach Leigh’s Synopsis of Sleep article). I try not to eat past 7 pm especially if I have an early morning workout or race. I also drink approximately 100 ounces of water each day as this helps my body and mind, and can actually put me (and you!) in a better mood.

So I was stumped when my usual diligence toward self-care was thwarted by a growing concern that my normal workouts were difficult to achieve and I had to extend more and more effort to get them done. I thought that perhaps I was just having a bad patch with my training, but my intuition was getting louder and louder that something wasn’t right. If I tried to do any interval sessions I literally thought I would pass out. My usual up-and-at-em attitude was replaced with an unusual avoidance of these types of workouts, and at that point, I knew something really wasn’t right. I knew I needed help and I sought out a blood test using InsideTracker.
What came back was a genuine surprise! My iron levels, along with a few other things, were dramatically low, and it started to drag down my overall red blood cells and hematocrit.
Funny as I wouldn’t have ever suspected this because I was eating red meat over the winter, and even taking iron supplements. (Floradix is my preferred iron recommendation without any GI issues.)
I have plenty of medical history to reference, and looking at my best hematocrit and my lowest hematocrit, I found a 13% difference. My FTP was also 13% lower, and I know there is a strong correlation. Without a doubt you simply cannot perform at 100% of your ability when your blood values are off.
In doing some research, I read an article by Dr. Jeff Rocco of First Endurance, and he mentions that what is normal for an everyday individual and acceptable within medical fields, can have a large impact on an athlete seeking performance. So please talk with your physician and draw their attention to your training and the differences between an average individual and yourself.
Your iron, B and D vitamins all have a major role to play, and if they are off, you will eventually find yourself under performing. In addition to understanding these basic levels, a visit with your physician can also help determine if your heart can handle your training load. While we cannot see what’s going on inside the body, there are tools and check points, and this is just a friendly reminder to have that annual exam. I highly recommend a blood lab test and follow it up annually and perhaps even bi-annually to simply make sure you are performing at your best!
Get checked, get cleared, and carry on!
Be safe.
P.S. I’m on the upswing, and look forward to seeing you on the course!
Coach Jim Hallberg believes that every one of us has the capacity to improve our efficiency, get stronger and run, bike or swim faster. Sure, it takes time, dedication and discipline but it’s possible. Working with an experienced coach can make sure that your efforts are targeted in the right areas to make sure you reach those goals!

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