Part One Since the start of 2014 I have been battling return from an Achilles injury. I do not use the word battling loosely as this is what it has been. A battle. I have tried just about every quick remedy I can. In this order I have tried and mostly failed:
Haggling with it
Getting the Han’Angries at it
Taping – every type possible
Epsom Salt soaks
Cross & strength training
Resting for 4 months
It was eight months and all this, before I finally twigged… ‘Something else must be at play!’ More importantly, I stopped looking for the quick fix and started to face up to my insecurities, fears and bad habits. Underlying all this work was knowledge that I had a lot of habits that were fueling the inflammatory enemy of my Achilles battles. For me, it all boils down to nutrition, hormonal health and recovery.
However, not completely naïve I did start to think about nutrition and recovery earlier this year when I sat with AIS dieticians, a leading sport nutritionist. I had reservations of my ability to recover from hard sessions, and constant tendency to iron deficiency and hormonal imbalance. I had noticed that my resilience from stressor loads was not where I wanted nor expected it to be, and that it was something I needed to address. In other words, I needed to stop patching and start fixing underlying causes. I made some changes to nutrition then:
Reducing the quantity of black tea I drink as the tannins make your intestinal lining less permeable and inhibit nutritional absorption
Mixing protein sources to increase chances of consuming all amino acids
Increasing sodium intake to fuel the glucose channels
Increasing nutrition during hard training and exercise
Increasing volumes of certain food groups to increase calorie intake
The results? A slight improvement but I was still noticing the niggles and my Achilles still showed inflammation. So I faced the reality and plucked up the courage to fight the biggest battle of all – removing all sugar from my diet. As the ultimate fruit bat, this is like putting a possum on a fruit-free diet. Yikes!?
Nutrition guru, Darryl Griffiths of the Australian company Shotz Sports Nutrition in Melbourne, first highlighted the evils of sugar to me. Built sturdier and more mean than an Audi sports car, Darryl was horrified at my tendency… no dependency… on sugar. At the time I shrugged it off as bulls$@t – ‘Yeah, yeah, but endurance athletes need the carbs!’ I was merely frightened. If I wrote my current dietary pattern for a day down it looked something like this:
Breakfast: Toast and jam plus an apple (= sugar and mostly fructose)
8:50am low: Handfuls of dried fruit (= sugar and mostly fructose)
10:30am blues: More dried fruit
12noon han’gries: Bread sandwich and another piece of fruit (= more sugar and mostly fructose)
3pm slump: A banana and a peppermint tea with honey (= more sugar and mostly fructose)
Before dinner: Dip & crackers with some nuts (not too bad but still had added refined sugars)
Dinner: Salad with lots of goodies, rice or bread, and finish with chocolate & chopped apples + pears (= more sugar, mostly fructose)
So there you had it, a day of highs, lows and one huge amount of sugar… mostly in the form of fructose. My moods swung, energy pitched and plummeted and stress levels were hard to control. I struggled to sit down, felt restless at my desk, and thoughts could even feel cloudy. If something got difficult I found myself reaching for the dried fruit jar. It sometimes helped a bit. However, underneath this is no way to live life. It was time to make a change.
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