My Story of Overtraining Syndrome, Part 3: A Follow-Up (4-months later)

Summer N. Sides shares her struggles with overtraining syndrome, depression, and addiction through this touching editorial.

Through part 1 and part 2 of my story of overtraining syndrome you’ve gotten an inside look at what I was experiencing in 2014 and how my body was essentially failing me. I shared my confusion, frustrations and knowledge around the topic, and tried to make sense of it for myself. This article was published 4-months after part 1 was originally written. It is a great reminder that it’s a super long road to recovery. If you’re reading this because you’re personally dealing with OTS, I do hope that you aren’t experiencing the same levels of frustration and grief that I was by this point of the story.

Part 3 of 4 | Originally published October 2014

Okay, so I have a problem. YES. But what does this mean about who I am? I wanted to get better, but what did that mean for my identity as a fitness professional? What did it say about my abilities to teach, train, and motivate others? Ultimately, I started to ask myself WHO AM I???

Since June 2014 I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions. I have been having an identity crisis of sorts. I have felt lost and like I was wondering in my professional work and personal exercise routine.

I have been searching for a new community I could belong to. In that search I have tried yoga, went back to rockclimbing, started dancing again, and have done a myriad of other activities. None have felt as much like ‘home’ as running and teaching group fitness do. Therefore, I don’t find myself sticking with any of them. All I have wanted was to be back out on the road running and in the gym lifting heavy weights.

However, I have to continue to remember that “My name is Summer, and I am an overtrained fitness professional who has a bit of an addictive personality and loves to exercise. I am telling you I NEED HELP!!”

October 2014 is here….

Well here we are….It is October 2014. Are you wondering how I did with my challenge to not run for 4 months….to cut back and keep resting for 4 solid months?!? I wish I could say I was successful in this challenge. I wish that I could say I am fully recovered and back to normal. Unfortunately just like any addict who relapses and struggles through rehab, I’m not there.

These past 4 months have been really challenging. Not only physically, but also emotionally. I found myself experiencing symptoms of depression from not getting my daily dose of fitness. I found myself not wanting to talk to or surround myself with my friends and family who are fitness minded. I struggled to go to work because I didn’t want to admit to my clients or class participants what I was going through.

At one point I admitted to my co-workers that I felt like I was having an ‘identity crisis’. I was having trouble being able to still identify and place myself into two sub-cultures (group fitness instructors and endurance athletes) that had become so much a part of who I was on a daily basis. I was finding it harder to relate to my runner clients and found myself disconnecting from my group fitness participants.

So, just like a junkie, 9-weeks later I needed my fix. The treadmill won and called me back….

My journey had a bump. I have had some turns thrown at me. And I realize now how much bigger this is than me. This is going to be a LONG process……

The road to recovery can be a long, slow, winding one….

They say it can take up to 2-years for someone to fully recover from Overtraining syndrome. Four months into a firm diagnosis (and 2.5 years since the ‘disease’ first took over my body), I know it is going to be a long path to recovery. I am going to continue to have to find ways to allow my body the recovery it needs and discover the nutritional habits that are best in this situation. But most importantly. I am going to have to discover how to feel complete and whole WITHOUT doing 20+ hours of exercise in a given week.

I invite you all to be part of my journey. It is not going to be easy. I know I am going to have lapses and relapses along the way. However, this is part of life. This is what is my new normal; for now. I will beat this. I will be back out on the roads crossing finish lines and pushing my body to new limits. It may just take me some time to get back to that.

It has taken 7 years for me to admit to myself that this has been sneaking up on me. So I know just how hard it is to admit to yourself that your exercise addiction may actually be the cause of your sleepless nights, constant sinus infections, and horrible stomach issues. Take the time to evaluate your weekly training schedule and see if you may just be putting yourself into the same place that I was.

Read part 4 to see where I was by July 2015 – 1 year after the initial diagnosis.

Read the Full Story…

While you can get an essence of my struggles with overtraining syndrome by reading one part of the story, you really need to read the full 4-part series in order to get a true essence of the story, struggle, and changes that occurred over time. I originally published these stories in 2014 and 2015 as a way to process my emotions; today I hope they are a source of motivation and support as you work to overcome your own personal challenges.

Important Note

It’s also important for me to note here that when I published this in June 2014 I was on a downhill slide to a major case of depression. In November 2014, shortly after publishing part 3 I set off on a 8-week hiatus of life to try and regain a sense of who I was and ‘find myself’ after feeling like I had lost everything. It was a very tough time for me both personally and professionally. I feel the raw emotions from that stage of life shine through in this article – which may make it tough to read for anyone experiencing the same situation.

While I never became suicidal, I was majorly depressed. These days I am a strong mental health advocate, so before diving into the series, it’s important for me to share this reminder. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

Let’s Talk!!

I share my story with the hopes that even one person may recognize that the “MORE MORE MORE” culture of both group fitness and endurance athletes is not always the best.  Sometimes less really is more.

If you have any comments/questions/feedback, or just want to talk about your journey. Email me, or continue the discussion in our Facebook Group. I would love to hear your stories and see how we can help each other.

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