Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Recovery from CFS/Post Exercise Syndrome

Back in my original post about my electric bike conversion I mentioned that I had CFS, aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS is a poorly defined health condition that in my opinion actually covers a number of very different health conditions. I'm glad I never really accepted it as a diagnosis from the rheumatologist that mentioned it to me, but instead kept scouring my life and health for anything that could impact my energy level.

I'm happy to say I no longer suffer from it.

While it was a slow slide, it hit me hard in the fall of 2008. I just had my first big release as a new engineering manager; planned a wedding and got married; and I started flight training that summer. By the time the wedding rolled around I was beat in a way I had never been tired before. No amount of coffee or sleep would help.

It took me 4 years to figure out all the contributing factors and rehabilitate myself. During that time I met with 7 different doctors trying to get a handle on all the different causes that would contribute to being run down.

I can be a tenacious bastard when I have a goal in sight.

At one point I was working with an endocrinologist and still couldn't handle aerobic exercise. 10 minutes with my heart rate above 105 bpm and I would need to sleep a couple of hours later. I had to ask him "Do you have any more ideas, is there anything else _you_ can do for me now?" after a long pause he admitted no.

Which was a good thing because then I went searching for more answers. In the end I had to address the following things to get my energy back:
  • Allergies
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Stress Management
  • Sleep Quality
  • Vitamin D levels (I was near the level that causes rickets)
  • Stress response to exercise
The last one was the most interesting and least documented of the set. After I had addressed the previous five items, my baseline energy level was great, but any aerobic exercise knocked me flat. Dr. Emily Cooper at Seattle Performance Medicine was the person who helped my through that. It took 3 months of very precise interval based aerobic exercise at the gym to work through the fatigue. At the beginning I had to plan my days to allow me to take a nap after the exercise, or work out in the evening so I could just go to sleep.

After several months I noticed I no longer needed to nap. I was dumbfounded. I kept trying to tickle the dragon, but nope, I was solid for the first time in years.

So now I ride the electric bike for fun and pleasure.

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