Hard training and racing too much may stress the body in a way that disease symptoms suddenly reappear
Performing great and peaking at the right time – that does not only apply to sports – has a lot to do with finding and keeping your body in balance.
As an athlete you are constantly challenging your very own balance. At this point, I would like to mention that one’s balance is something individual, that parameters that define your balance cannot be simply passed on to someone else. The other may have a distinct pattern of parameters from you signifying well-being and balance. Balance is an active process, a condition that needs to be reestablished everyday, if you train and push your limits.
This can eventually be a tricky thing to do.
If you do not want to topple off the narrow ridge of balance into the valley, from where the path is often very tedious, then you should take the signals of your body that are indicating a threatening decline in efficiency seriously.
I am defining the dynamic balance here as a condition of one’s well-being that is produced by the optimal co-operation of the immune system, nervous system and hormones.
A body increasingly losing its balance
The story of a pro triathlete, a case report
First, I’ll tell you an athlete’s history that impressively shows how a body becomes unbalanced and how its buffer capacities are slowly depleted. The athlete suffered from severe exercise-induced asthma ever since. Sometimes he could control it well, sometimes the symptoms just deteriorated. An allergy component has never been clarified.
During the 2005 racing season, he again suffered badly from asthma, the symptoms could be hardly controlled. One reason for this was definitely the preceding extremely strenuous season of 2004 with 4 IRONMAN distances and quite a number of short distance races.
In July 2005, during the highly intensive training phase just before the IRONMAN Switzerland in Zurich, where he wanted to start, O. S. hurt himself with a cut in the front of the sole of his foot. Of course, training especially running seemed no longer an option. Due to the injury, he was given the routine tetanus injection. Right after that, he felt really bad: headache, joint aches and pains, extreme fatigue, like when having a bad bout of flu. Statistics say that 3 to 5% of those vaccinated suffer from such side reactions to vaccinations, especially when the immune system is already weakened. In this case, it was very obvious what happened. The immune system had to be active in too many places.
- The highly intensive training meant stress for the immune system (muscle adaptation and healing processes of the micro-lesions).
- The asthma symptoms needed regulation and control by the immune system.
- The foot injury triggered off a process of inflammation that demanded healing as well.
- And the vaccination was another provocation of the athlete’s immunity.
O. had to cancel the Zurich race, trimmed his training until the reactions to the vaccination eased and the foot wound had healed. But then, round about one year later another serious health incident occurred. A tumor of one of his testicles was diagnosed and he had to undergo an operation and radiotherapy. His age back then was 35. Obviously, O. S. immunity was stressed so much during all these years of intense training and racing that these became chronic stress factors that lead – beside the genetical part that is always involved in tumor growth – to the development of the tumor.
The conclusion is that severe stress weakens immunity. Training and racing can be strong stress factors depending on the robustness of your body. There is always a genetic component to what extent you are able tolerate your sport. In the case of O. S. the system had reached its limits, and O. had to slow down and change his approach to his sport.
Many athletes suffer from symptoms that point towards a stressed immune system
My work with Biestmilch made me talk with many athletes about their health issues. It was amazing for me to find out how many athletes suffer from various illnesses that point towards incompetence and strain on the immune system. Many of the symptoms they have get worse during the stress of intense training and racing. Even young athletes between the ages of 15 and 20 complain about unclear symptoms of chronic pain that seems to be orthopedic because its location around knees, groins or lower back, but they are not. All diagnostics are negative. Immune imbalances can provoke these symptoms of chronic pain. Other athletes come down with some infection or another after having hardly moved out there comfort zone in a race or during training.
Physicians are consulted, the diagnostic outcome remains poor
In many cases, an odyssey from doctor to the other does not lead anywhere. Here is a short list of the problems that indicate that you may just about to fall off the narrow ridge of immune balance. If these alarm signals are cropping up, you should be careful and slow down, focus on recovery: severe respiratory infections and infections of the sinuses, herpes infections, gastrointestinal disorders or irritable bowel disorders, sudden injuries, pains typically in the groin, knee, back or Achilles tendon that bear no relation to what the x-ray shows, stress-induced asthma, spreading of an existing allergy to other organs ( hay fever suddenly accompanies asthma), worsening atopic eczema….. the list could go on and on.
Illnesses or other the performance impairing issues in athletes are either due to acute stress situations or long lasting chronic stress. The sequelae of are acute stress are reversible and disappear fast, if you take your time for recovery.
It is different in the case of complications that result from chronic stress. Here are some of the most frequent sicknesses that are most likely due to chronic stress and a genetic aspect: increased sucsceptibility to injury, whereby the healing process is slowed down, over-training, chronic viral infections such EBV (burn-out syndrome, chronic fatigue or increased worsening or reactivation of existing illnesses.
Many an athlete has told me that in times of not be able to train due to the job or family engagement, all of a sudden thesymptoms of allergies, asthma or atopic eczma disappeared. Upon starting the training again, the problems returned, sometimes even worse than at the beginning of the athletic career.