Adrenal fatigue, COVID-19, Recovery

My Post-Viral Fatigue Recovery

A caveat

I’ve hesitated on posting this for a long time, because it’s my own experience (n=1) of one very ill-defined health issue. I don’t want others to think if they follow this formula, they will automatically be well. There are too many variables. I did get better – very much better – but it took over 3 years. I also know people who have had similar ill-defined fatigue issues who have never gotten better. So I don’t want to sugar-coat this or make any promises.

I’ve decided to finally post it because I’ve heard from half a dozen friends in the last week who are still suffering long Covid symptoms. I didn’t have Covid – I originally got sick in 2016 – but I had some of the same symptoms, specifically crushing fatigue and exercise intolerance that lasted in different severities for over three years. I also had really whacked blood sugar and cortisol issues. So who knows. Maybe some of this will be useful to others who are still struggling months after being sick, and maybe it won’t. But I wanted to share this just in case.

I’ll also add: having gone through this once, I am doing everything I possibly can to avoid anything like it ever again. Long Covid scares the shit out of me, because it sounds, if anything, worse than what I went through. So I’m all about vaccinations, avoiding being indoors with others, and masking pretty much all the time I’m around other people. I miss being with family and friends. I hate disappointing them by staying away. I’d be losing my mind if I didn’t have my sweetie and my house and my garden. But since I have those things, in my estimation, avoidance is FAR preferable than recovery. I would encourage you to do as many layers of avoidance as you can, too.

How I recovered from post-viral fatigue (aka adrenal fatigue)

In February, 2016, I had a bad case of pneumonia. I was knocked flat for two weeks, and it was two more before I could go to work five days a week. A couple weeks of asthma (steroid inhalers helped), then another bout of something viral in mid-March. Finally, around the beginning of May, I finally felt like I wasn’t actively fighting disease.

But I wasn’t ok. For months – then years – even small amounts of exercise or stress would knock me on my butt for days. I did get well enough to go back to work full-time, but for weeks, all I could do was go to work and sleep. Many nights, I couldn’t stand up and chop a couple carrots to go into dinner. Twenty minutes of light garden work on Saturday morning meant I needed to stay on the couch until Monday morning. I did make progress, but it was agonizingly slow. In fact, I wouldn’t be back to my starting levels of energy and ability to do daily tasks until 2019. And I wouldn’t feel good until 2021.

If any of this resonates with you, do what makes sense to you. Don’t do anything that runs counter to what a medical professional has told you. But in these days of long Covid, we’re all shooting in the dark. Maybe this flashlight will point out something useful for you.

My post-viral protocol – the short version

  1. Slept more than usual (10+ hours/day in the beginning). Laying down for 15 mins mid-morning and afternoon was astonishingly helpful.
  2. Figured out my safe activity limit and didn’t overdo it.
  3. Reduced cortisol responses – stress and blood sugar fluctuations.
  4. Ate plenty of salt.
  5. Took taurine to help balance electrolytes and repair damaged tissues.

The details

Sleep and rest

The first thing that helped immensely was to lie down around 10 and 3 every day for at least 15 minutes – especially during the work day. I was really lucky that my office had an unused sound-room-turned-storage-area and they let me throw a mat and pillow on the floor for my daily rests. I don’t know what it was about being horizontal, but that’s what really helped me make big strides in being able to work full work days in the early months. I did 2x/day for several weeks, then 1x/day, and after a couple months, I didn’t need to do this any more.

I also slept a ton. I’ve always slept a lot compared to most people, like 8-9 hours/night. But when this hit, I slept even more. The best I felt in 2016 was when were were on vacation in Europe. No work, little stress, and between sleeping in and taking a long nap every day, I was sleeping close to 14 hours a day. Paired with several miles of very slow walking each day, I actually felt pretty good and thought I was on the mend. But once I went back to work, I faded. I finally had to make myself head for bed around 9pm every night. Many nights, I would fall asleep on the couch after work, too. It all helped. And if I then found I couldn’t fall asleep at night, I just reminded myself that rest is nearly as good as sleep, and just zoned out for hours until I’d fall asleep.

Figuring out safe activity levels

This was a huge part of actually getting better. I’m convinced if I had figured out how very little exercise was “too much,” I could have cut my recovery time by a year or more. After several months, and the vacation I mentioned where I could actually walk several miles a day, I thought I should be able to get back to my regular activity levels. But I kept taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. I learned to be especially wary of days when I felt good – because I’d work in the garden, and go to yoga class, and maybe even more…and the next day, I’d be a wreck and it would take me a week to get back to where I’d started. I finally got a fitness tracker, and used it to track the maximum activity I should be doing in a day. I don’t think I could have figured it out without the gadget – things that I thought were easy, like puttering in the garden – showed up as being extremely taxing on my heart rate.

I’ve put together a PDF with details and some ways for you to figure out a good level of activity. You need some movement to heal, but you can’t overdo it. And if your experience is like mine, you will be shocked how little activity is “safe” at first. You’ll want to push yourself to get back to normal. You’ll be bored and frustrated and annoyed and you’ll want to “do more.” But what I found was that the #1 thing that kept me from healing was to keep pushing myself.

So, I focused on doing exactly the right amount of exercise, because healing is “doing something.” For me, it started with 15 minutes of seated yoga every morning and 15 minutes of exceptionally light gardening (like, harvesting pole beans) per weekend. I did breathing exercises while lying in bed. And I kept my daily activity generally around 50% of what my activity tracker said my goal should be for a sedentary person my age. If I felt good, I’d go as high as 75%, but never two days in a row. Over about 18 months I was able to increase my activity to the point where I didn’t feel limited or like I had to ration my activity.

See this activity tracking PDF for help figuring out your limits. And note that one key is that you can’t just set arbitrary goals for improvement, like “I’ll do 10 minutes of walking every day this week, and next week I’ll increase it to 15 minutes a day.” That’s pushing yourself, and it will keep you sicker, longer, than anything else. This was absolutely the hardest part of recovering for me.

Keep cortisol steady

My doc explained that my endocrine system was completely fried from a combination of work stress and then the pneumonia. (I think the OBC I was on to regulate my cycles also played a part, though he disagreed.) So, it was important to keep my cortisol levels working normally. That largely meant reducing stress and keeping my blood sugar steady.

Stress reduction was hard, but it happened partly automatically because I just didn’t have the energy to worry about a lot of crap. One thing that was very useful, though, was to find something to laugh about every day. Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me was very therapeutic. I also saw my reflexologist, chiropractor, and (to a lesser degree) massage therapist regularly, which helped a lot.

I also found ways to make cooking be less work. My sweetie did more kitchen stuff, and we had a lot of meals that were practically zero work – like a rotisserie chicken, frozen sweet potato fries, and green beans. It was super important to eat densely nutritious foods, because I had to keep my blood sugar steady. One blood sugar crash would set me back for days. I could only go about 6 hours without eating, so I kept a couple pounds of homemade meatballs in the freezer at all times. I’d wake up around 4am, eat a couple meatballs, and go back to bed. I remember when I finally slept through the night every night for a month. It felt like a triumph.

Pasta and white rice…were not good choices. I needed lots of protein, too, but I quickly learned a keto diet was also right out. Drastically reducing carbs might help for a lot of things, but that was definitely not the case for me. Two days of keto sent me into a serious tailspin, which ended almost instantly when I ate some carbs.

I wrote a whole blog post about this, with recipes. Go take a look there for details.

Salt

This was a weird suggestion from my doc, but it really seemed to work. Eat a lot of salt. In fact, every time you have a glass of water, put a pinch of non-iodized salt in it. Soup in salty broth is great, too. Apparently, in adrenal fatigue, you need extra salt. Not sure of the exact mechanism (here’s a quick overview), but it helped a lot.

Taurine

I didn’t figure this one out until 2021, and honestly, I’m not sure it would have helped me earlier. In the early years, I had “paradoxical reactions” to any kind of supplement. Most notable was that the magnesium drink called CALM made me very jittery, like caffeine. Anyway – by 2021, I was basically back to my pre-pneumonia state. I knew I could probably be better, but I didn’t really have any limitations on my activity, I was sleeping through the night, and nothing was really “wrong.”

Except for some heart palpitations. My heart would feel like it was skipping a beat a few times a day…then a few times and hour. I saw a cardiologist, who ran tests and confirmed it was benign, but if it really bugged me, he could give me medication. I passed on the meds, but I’d read that taurine can help palpitations, so I started taking 1000mg/day.

Holy. Mackerel. Not only did the palpitations go away completely in about 4 months, my energy went through the roof. Not in a sketchy caffeinated sort of way, but more like my body could actually heal and recover from exertion and damage. Our bodies are supposed to make taurine, but sometimes we don’t. Why not? Stress. Estrogen wackiness. Past infections. Yeah.

I’m wondering if this was what was missing all along. Taurine basically regulates electrolytes and fluids in and out of cells. So, you can eat or drink all kinds of good things, but if that can’t get where it needs to be, your body doesn’t have the materials to rebuild.

If you’re going to try it, take it in capsule form – not in an energy drink that has sugar, caffeine, and other garbage in it. Start slowly, too. I found I could handle one 1000mg capsule every other day at first. Any more than that had digestive side effects – I assume because it was changing how I metabolized magnesium, which is a known laxative.

After about 7 months of 1000mg/day, I felt amazing. I could work for hours in the garden and feel tired or sore. I could recover from any amount of exertion I cared to do with a good night’s sleep. Eventually, I was so energetic I was feeling a bit hyper at times, so I started staging down my doses.

Then my grandmother died, which was really stressful. It still seems like emotional stress still takes a harder toll on me than physical labor. I’m guessing that’s a cortisol thing. So I’m back to a full dose again. Maybe I won’t need it daily at some point, but for now, I’m still doing 1000mg/day. The good news is, I feel better than I’ve felt in…I dunno, 10 years? WAY better than I felt at the beginning of 2016, that’s for sure.

So that’s been my journey. Like I said, I don’t know how much of it applies to your situation. But I do dearly hope you find something that works as well for you.

Emily

Adrenal fatigue, Recovery

Using the Polar H10 and A360/370 for Recovery Training

Yesterday, I reviewed the Morpheus Recovery Band. Today, I’ll talk about a suite of Polar devices/apps.

I’ve been using the Polar H10 chest strap the longest, both for morning heart rate variability (HRV) readings and for tracking exercise. I started using the Polar A360 in October for wrist-based heart rate tracking. The A360 isn’t made anymore, but the A370 is very similar and has nice new features like all-day heart rate monitoring and GPS. Then I also need two free apps: Polar Beat (for the H10) and Polar Flow (for the A360 and bringing all the data together). I know it sounds kinda clunky, but in practice, it’s pretty simple. Here’s how I use all of this to guide my active recovery.

Goals

My current goal is to recondition after a long illness. One of the problems with adrenal fatigue is that if you overdo physical or emotional stress, you can knock your recovery back days or weeks. It took me a year to figure out that 20 minutes of gardening, sweeping the deck, or moderate exercises like a few pushups and situps constituted “entirely too much exercise.” I would wake up feeling good, overdo it, and get knocked back to the couch for several days. It was incredibly frustrating because I rarely felt good two days in a row. For, like, two years.

So I wanted a way to quantify how much work I was doing and have some data to help me understand how much was too much. The key data I needed were my morning heart rate variability (HRV) scores, and some way to measure how much energy I was actually expending not just during workouts, but during daily activities, chores, walking to meetings, etc.

Polar H10

For HRV

I’ve already talked about measuring my HRV. I largely did that with the H10, though Welltory also let me measure it with my finger on my phone. (I ended up abandoning Welltory – it seemed less accurate over time and didn’t give me much uniquely useful info.)

For exercise tracking

  • Use with the Polar Beats app. Start the app, tell it what kind of exercise you are doing, and press “Start.”
  • If you leave the app open, you can see your heart rate moment-to-moment on your phone – if you can put your phone someplace visible while you exercise.
  • Five “zones” are color-coded from 1-5 based on your maximum recommended heart rate (220 minus your age).
    • For me, Zone 1 (50-60% of max HR) is 88-105 bpm because my max HR should be 176.
    • Zone 5 is 90-100% of your max (158+ for me), and I avoid it like the plague at this stage of my reconditioning.
  • Building on what I learned from the Morpheus band, Polar Zones 1-3 are recovery, Zone 4 is conditioning, and Zone 5 is overreaching. In practice, I aim a little lower – I think my conditioning zone probably starts around 130 bmp, which is 75% max or “Zone 2.5” and I don’t like to go above 150/Zone 3.5/85% max right now.

Polar A360/370

polar-a370-white-600x600The 360 and 370 work basically the same way. You can use them as a wrist-based HR tracker for exercise, though it is not sensitive enough to track HRV (use the H10 for that). It is supposedly very accurate for walking and jogging, but less good for weightlifting and cycling. It also has an all-day activity monitor, and a sleep monitoring feature I’ve not used much at all.

The reason I got it is because I wanted to see my HR during exercise on my wrist, not my phone – I often use my phone to play workout videos and can’t see both apps at once. I also wanted to be able to track exercise on the fly during the day – e.g., walking to a meeting, or giving a presentation – because I suspected that many of my daily activities were more strenuous than I’d realized. It works great for this – I can see the same fitness zones on my wrist that I had been getting from the H10, and I regularly set it to record my activity while I’m at work.

You track day-long activity on the Polar Flow app. This will also take in info from Polar Beats, so if you do use the H10 for certain exercises, all the data gets collected into one place and count toward your daily activity. What’s slightly confusing is that “activity” is broken into different “zones” than training. Here’s a table…

Polar Training Zone

Morpheus Recovery Zone

HR range (BPM are for age 44)

Polar Flow Activity Level

0

Total rest

<88bpm

·        Resting + sitting

1

Recovery

50-60% max

88-104bpm

·        Low

2

Recovery

60-70% max
105-122

·      Low-Medium intensity (breakpoint around 65%)

3

Recovery

70-80% max
123-139

·      Medium-High intensity (breakpoint around 75%)

4

Conditioning

80-90% max
140-157

·    High intensity

5

Overreaching

90-100% max
158-176

·    Very high intensity

Danger

Galloping heart

177+

·    Dangerous during recovery from adrenal fatigue

Polar_Flow_Analyze-1_0_0To keep things simple, I mostly just look at the Polar Activity chart during the day. On “good” days, when my morning HRV reading is 8-10 on Elite HRV and 7.5 or above on HRV4Training, I go for 15 minutes of “high intensity” activity (HR above about 130). On days my HRV reading is around 6.5-7.5, I avoid high-intensity activity entirely but generally try to get in some low-medium intensity activity around Zone 2/HR 105-120. On days when my HRV says I’m overtaxed, I really try to rest as much as possible, including having my husband drop me off in front of my building at work, always taking the elevator, and going to bed an hour early.

I improved steadily through 2018, and I am MUCH better able to handle physical activity now! In Feb. 2018, I was pleased that that my edge was to do 20 minutes of gardening on Saturday AND Sunday, and feel fine on Monday. In September 2018, my edge was 3.5 hours a day of vigorous t’ai chi, on a Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and though I was a little tired the following week, it wasn’t a real setback. I don’t think I’ve come close to pushing past my physical boundaries since then (3 months), though I am learning the toll stress and allergies take on my HRV scores. But that’s another post. 🙂

 

Adrenal fatigue, Recovery

Using Morpheus for Recovery Training

In a previous post, I talked about basic concepts of recovery activities. I wanted to update you with a couple new months of data gleaned from two additional tools: the Morpheus Recovery Band and the Polar A360/370 fitness monitor.  I’ll review the Polar tomorrow.

About Morpheus

The Morpheus band and system are the only gizmos I know of that actually calculate how much a particular workout helps you recover, or knocks you back. (Update Feb. 2019: Biostrap also appears to do this, as well) Joel Jamieson, the creator, has done a ton of work around active recovery and avoiding overtraining. Probably 95% of what I know about recovery training came from his info. So I was very excited to try this tool.

You take a morning reading with the Morpheus band (on arm or leg) and get a baseline score and your set of target heart rates. There are three zones: recovery, conditioning, and overtraining, each with a heart rate range based on your age and your current state of fitness.  Then you exercise – using the Morpheus band, or another HRV monitor such as the Polar 10 chest strap – and at the end of the workout, it calculates your recovery points. For me, I was always trying to maximize recovery points, and generally avoid negative recovery point (a sign that you worked really hard – which is great for hardcore athletes but not good for people desperately trying to avoid overexertion as they recover from a long illness).

What’s awesome

  • Recovery scores were super-helpful! I learned that my body is “recovering” at much higher heart rates than I’d imagined.
    • My max recommended heart rate is about 176 (220-age), so I’d thought a good “recovery” heart rate maxed out at 110. But no – I was reliably seeing high recovery scores up to about 125-130bpm. And critically, I was seeing higher recovery scores at 125 than at 110.
    • I did take with a grain of salt Morpheus’s recommendation that on good days, I would be recovering up to 143bpm – that felt like way too much exertion for me at this point in time.
    • What I thought were good “recovery” activities (seated yoga, light t’ai chi) actually were calculated as “rest” and had little or no impact on my recovery scores.
  • The upshot is that I dramatically increased the intensity of activity I was doing, and continued to feel better.

What’s OK

  • Morning baseline readings were also helpful, but I was already getting very similar information from my chest strap and Elite HRV/HRV4Training apps. All of them seemed to agree pretty well.
  • The daily variation of HR zones was less useful than I’d expected, because they were nearly always the same. On a good day, the breakpoint between recovery and conditioning was about 143. On a bad day, it was about 135, which was not a very meaningful difference to me. In addition, this corresponds pretty well to the Polar zones 1-3 for recovery, 4 for conditioning, and 5 for overload.

Frustrations

  • The app doesn’t let me easily track HRV changes over time. It’s very much a “what should I do today” sort of device.
  • The app gives no information on LF/HF readings, which are useful for understanding how my parasympathetic system is/is not engaging. I don’t want to give up that info, so every morning, I was taking 3 simultaneous readings with two different devices.
  • The band is impossible to use during exercise. It was constantly slipping off my arm, and I don’t even sweat heavily. So I had to use my Polar chest strap during all exercise, but the Morpheus armband for the initial morning reading. (Update: Morpheus apparently now has a chest strap, which might help with this.)
  • You can’t just take a reading to see how you are doing “right now,” except for once a day in the morning. There were many times when I’d come home from work, and want to get info on how much my day had taken out of me, but it’s not set up to do that. That info was somewhat reflected in my next morning’s reading, but it didn’t help me narrow down non-exercise stressors.
  • The app and community were definitely focused on high-performing athletes and avid gymgoers. No one could really answer questions I had from the perspective of someone in deep recovery mode.

The Verdict

I ended up returning the Morpheus during its 60-day no-questions-asked return period. I do still occasionally miss the recovery score readings, but I wasn’t willing to pay $150 to keep having them – especially since I seemed to be able to track that data solely with my Polar chest strap.

Adrenal fatigue, Recovery

Adrenal fatigue Pt. 4: Recovery Activities

See Part 1.

Once I got to the point where I could work full days 5x/wk, I started feeling strong enough to begin exercising. But I kept overdoing it, in shockingly short periods of time (e.g., 20 minutes of gardening on Saturday left me tired through Monday). Following the guidelines of Active Recovery, I set the following exercise goals:

  • Prioritize recovery and stress reduction over building strength
  • Continue improving resilience (i.e., recover faster)
  • Learn what each workout zone feels like
  • If energy is good (judge by feel and HRV numbers), THEN alternate “long slow” and “strength/cardio” workouts. NO set frequency or schedule, to avoid overdoing it, or feeling guilt
  • Work on posture and breathing to increase available energy

I take an HRV reading every morning and compare that with how I feel. I use a Polar 10 chest strap gadget and the Elite HRV and HRV4Training apps simultaneously (I know, I know…I’m comparing them…gimme a break) to determine my morning HRV.  If most signs point toward needing to take it easy, I rest or do a recovery activity in zone 1 (or low zone 2 since it’s often hard to stay in zone 1). If both readings are good, then I do exercise in zones 2-3. If I feel great, I aim for zones 3-4, but no more than 15 minutes at a time and no more than 2x/week at this point.

I wear the Polar chest strap or Polar A360 fitness watch to track the intensity of my workouts and some of my regular activities, like canning or walking up stairs or giving a presentation at work. Its app shows my heart rate AND the zone I’m in from moment to moment, then tallies up my time in each zone per workout and day/week/month. Here are some sample activities:

Zone

Function

HR range

Activities Aug. ’18

0

Total rest –

Feels stretchy

<88bpm

·        Sitting, sleeping

·        Seated yoga

1

Active Recovery –

Easy motion; often hard to stay this low

88-104

·        Gentle sun salutations; seated active yoga

·        Tai chi warm-up

·        Walk to meeting

2

Light – base fitness – feels like “I’m actually doing
exercise”

105-122

·      Flowy tai chi

·     1 flight stairs

·     “Taking a walk”

·     Giving Reflex

·     Weeding

·     Slowest elliptical

3

Steady state – improve aerobic – feels like I’m working hard

123-139

·     Brisk walk

·     Moderate elliptical

·     2 flights stairs

4

Tempo – speed/stamina – breathing very hard

140-157

·    Mowing flat part of yard

·    Cardio workout

5

Max – increase max performance – starting to worry

158-176

·     Mowing slope

Danger

Galloping heart

177+


 

 

If you want to try this at home, there are tons of gadgets and apps out there. You absolutely need something that can measure heart rate variability – most FitBits and whatnot don’t do this, even if they can track your heart rate. I think HRV4Training can actually measure HRV using your phone – so that can be a good way to get started. It’s also super helpful to have a way to track your heart rate (pulse) as you exercise, so you know immediately if you need to slow down. I use the Polar A360, because it pairs nicely with the Polar chest strap, but if you’re using a phone app for HRV and have a Fitbit or similar, you’ve probably got all the data you need.

Short version: Using HRV for adrenal fatigue recovery

Your goal is to learn how much you can do without “overdoing it,” then restrict yourself to that amount of activity. This will be very hard. You may be surprised how little you can do at first. Take heart! You will improve faster if you can prevent overdoing it in the first place.

  • Take your heart rate variability each morning before you start your day (use the bathroom, then lie back down and take the reading). HRV is very personal, so it’s hard to tell you what number to look for, but after a week or two, you should be able to tell what “good” numbers look like for you.
  • Use the pulse meter to learn what activities put you in what heart rate zones. I was very surprised to learn that things I thought were very easy (like light gardening, picking beans, watering) put me in high Zone 3, and things I thought were moderate exercise (like seated yoga) were so light, they didn’t even register as light exercise.
  • Use the day’s reading to guide your activity that day.
    • If the app says you can train as per usual, aim for exercise in zone 3 (70% max heart rate). Start with no more than 15 minutes, twice a week, until you dial in what tires you out.
    • If the app recommends active recovery, aim for zones 1-2 (50-60% max heart rate).
    • If the app recommends rest, not only should you not raise your heart rate to Zone 1 with exercise, you should take steps to reduce other physical activity. Avoid stairs. Let someone else cook dinner. Go to bed an hour early. Do breathing exercises. Receive bodywork.
  • If you feel tired the morning after a certain type of workout, you’ve overdone it. Make a note and adjust your regimen accordingly.

I had to dial back my activity three or four weeks in a row until I got to a point where I had a sustainable activity regimen. At first, it felt pathetic – I barely felt like I was doing anything – but as I stuck to it, I got out of the overdo-then-crash cycle, and my overall strength improved rapidly.

Adrenal fatigue, recipes, Recovery

Adrenal Fatigue Pt. 3: Active Recovery

The last three months or so, I’ve been reading about and doing a lot of “active recovery” activities. While reconditioning after my long bout with respiratory infections and adrenal fatigue, I realized I really needed to restart exercising without overdoing it and just making myself more tired. The two concepts I’ve found to be fruitful as I look into this are Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Active Recovery .

I wanted to share some things I’ve found helpful. Maybe you will, too. Remember: I am not a doctor; talk to yours before you start. There are some conditions, such as Myalgic Encephalopathy or “ME,” sometimes called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that can be made very much worse by trying to stage back in exercise. So please be careful.

Background Concepts

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the amount of time between your heartbeats. If your resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute, that doesn’t mean your heart beats exactly one time per second. The time between the first two beats may be 1.00002 second, then .99998 second, then 1 second, etc. The amount of difference the time between your heart beats is your HRV. There are actually a bunch of different measurements that go into an HRV number, but that’s the basic idea.

Generally speaking, the higher your HRV is, the healthier you are. There are apps and devices that let you measure this easily at home. I’ve found tracking at my HRV scores to be very helpful in showing me how my body is doing, including:

  • What activities help me recover faster, and what activities wear me out
  • What type of activity I should pursue on a given day: rest, gentle exercise, or vigorous exercise
  • How to better tell how I’m doing from how I feel (it’s not always clear!)

I’ll go into more detail on these later.

Once I was able to get a handle on what I needed (rest/recovery/training), I needed to figure out activities for each of those needs. Rest is pretty easy – read soothing books and sleep a lot. The other two are harder, because they can overlap.

Enter “active recovery.” This is the idea that very gentle exercise can be more beneficial than straight rest in certain circumstances. I found a lot of work on active recovery coming from athletic trainers.  They are generally working with healthy people who are trying to take their performance from “very good” to “exceptional,” so I take their specific training regimens with a huge grain of salt. But their guidelines have been working well. The super-short version is, when you do active recovery, you want to keep your heart rate between 50-70% of your maximum heart rate (or “Zone 1 and 2”). For me, that’s between 88 and 125 beats per minute. (HR zone info here.) For other kinds of training, you aim for higher zones. I use a heart rate tracker and app while I’m exercising so I can target the right zone. It’s actually pretty hard to stay in the recovery zone, because when I’m tired, sitting at my desk and going to meetings can put me in or above the recovery threshold! No wonder I was having trouble overdoing it…

The other piece of recovery training is that breathing is incredibly important. I’ve come to appreciate yogic breathing and meditation in a whole new way. Likewise, body alignment and energy flow activities have also been super helpful.

Tune in for tomorrow’s installment where I’ll go into agonizing detail about those. 🙂