My Struggle With Exercise and Autoimmunity

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My entire life I have struggled with exercise. As a child I was severely asthmatic and therefore banned from doing P.E. or any sports that caused my heart rate to increase. Fortunately I discovered that I could ride horses, and my parents gladly supported that in lieu of doing sports. When I was in college and discovered that my asthma was really a severe dairy allergy, everything changed. I bought my first pair of running shoes and was immediately hooked. I decided that I needed to run a marathon. I would get all worked up into a frenzy and start training much too often too soon, and my efforts always ended in injury. Once this cycle had repeated itself over and over for a few years, I took up cycling. I began commuting long distances to work on my bike, riding after work with friends and then going on long destination rides on the weekend. I went through phases where I would begin a running program on top of all of the cycling. I don’t know if it was because of the lack of exercise in my childhood, but I was obsessed with pushing my body to the limit.

In late 2011 I had my big “crash.” It followed my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, a liver cleanse, an exhausting road trip, and one of my recent running/cycling phases (one where I was running and cycling more than I ever had in my life). All it took was a viral infection in the midst of all of this and boom, I was deep in the throes of adrenal fatigue.

As I began to heal from this crash, one thing was incredibly apparent – exercise was not my friend. I was obsessed with the need to move, but my body wouldn’t allow it. I went for months only managing to be able to walk a few blocks around the neighborhood (some days having to be supported by my loving husband and sister because I was so weak). My mom  gave me a rebounding trampoline and I gently bounced on it for 10 minutes twice a day. I was extremely upset to discover that I could not do yoga because my blood pressure was too low. I figured out a couple of seated poses that I could manage and built that into my routine. I also got into meditation and qigong. My “exercise” routine consisted of a short walk, some bouncing, a couple of yoga poses, and a meditation. For someone that a few months earlier was strong and fit, this was an incredibly humbling experience.

2012 brought with it many revelations about health and my life changed considerably. I was intent on figuring out how to heal myself, and I knew that one of those pieces was going to be exercise. The answer wasn’t what I expected, however – it was a clear “no”, at least to my definition of exercise. This was an incredibly difficult lesson to learn. The second I felt any type of improvement in my energy, I started dreaming of all the ways I could use it. I seriously had to put my running shoes away because they were taunting me. At this point I was aware of what I needed to do to help my body heal, and I made a plan.

My exercise goal for 2012 ended up being this: I would attempt to do a little yoga every day. I would try and walk as much as I could. Thats it! I would not run or start riding my bike again, even if I felt I was up to it. I would not get a gym membership and take classes that would exhaust me. Instead I would work on exercising my spirit through meditation and reading.

How did I do? I was a little disobedient – I rode my bike once and attempted to run a few times, I am not going to lie. In the beginning of the year when I was still quite sick, I found it hard to do the little yoga that I could tolerate. Eventually I felt myself getting stronger, and I was able to do more and more poses. The day that I was able to stand up without fainting was met with celebration – I could now do standing poses! I continued building my practice until I could endure an hour-long session almost every day. Other than yoga, the only other exercise I have been doing is walking. As I got stronger, I could walk further and in more hilly areas in my neighborhood. I have really come to enjoy it – I have met more of my neighbors, know where all the cool fruit trees are and have a greater sense of being connected to the place that I live.

What are my exercise goals from here? This year I am so happy to be where I am at. I love my yoga practice and my walking routine (although it is hard to be inspired by the weather in Seattle this time of year). I am considering adding some strength training to my yoga routine and putting more effort into planning hikes. In essence, kicking it up a notch, but not really heading into the running/cycling/adrenal fatigue territory that I was in before. I am open to trying some new things that aren’t super intense – maybe kayaking or bouldering. It feels good to be here and not feel the pressure to push myself because I feel the need to be an incredible athlete. I accept that with autoimmune disease my body has limitations, and I seek to respect and work with them instead of ignore and force it to do something that is counterproductive.

What has been your experience exercising with a chronic illness? I am curious to find out what you have done to stay moving while not overdoing it!

About Mickey Trescott

Mickey Trescott is a cook and one of the bloggers behind Autoimmune Paleo. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association, and is the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol, and AIP Batch Cook, a video-based batch cooking program. You also can find her on Instagram.

68 comments

  • Unfortunately, my experience with exercise and chronic illness (APS and Sjogren’s) is that they’re almost totally incompatible. Like you, I decided to try and do at least a little stretching and toning every day. Maybe just a couple of minutes – if that’s all my body can tolerate, I have to accept that. Inevitably though, the minute I start, something gets in the way. Either I’m busy with other things – don’t have time, or just plain forget. Or, most often, I suffer a minor (or not so minor!) setback and HAVE to stop. So it’s constantly back to square one again. And walking, I’m afraid, just bores me to death! Swimming’s w-a-y too much trouble – all that changing and drying! It’s a challenge! One I haven’t yet conquered.

    • Hey Judy-
      Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you can find a solution that works for you, or you may need to just not worry about it. Have you tried meditation? When I was physically at my worst, that was the only form of “exercise” I was capable of – just breathing. It helped me through some rough times, but I know it isn’t for everyone 🙂 Take care!

  • Amy says

    I am trying really hard to honor how my body is feeling. If I am too tired, I respect that feeling. Like you, I was active and fit before the “big crash” and so it is hard to feel like you’re being idle. But I go for short walks and do some yoga when I feel up to it. I know eventually I will be able to add-on, but for now I am working on being kind to myself.

    • Hey Amy-
      I like your style. Keep listening and collaborating with your body instead of forcing it to do something exhausting. 🙂

  • I am proud to say that I have never been inclined to push myself. 🙂 I was an athlete in middle school (soccer, basketball, track) and gave it all up in high school when my symptoms began to appear and I got hooked on much-less-exhausting theater instead. For years, I made myself do yoga knowing that it was supposed to be good for all kinds of health problems… but I never liked it and during teacher training last year, I realized that during yoga was the only time I ever got neuropathy and nausea anymore, so I quit and have never looked back. I did work a manual-labor night-shift job last year at an animal shelter and I credit that with my adrenal fatigue nowadays. I walk a little now and then, not as often as I’d like, and I am working on setting up a treadmill computer desk now that it’s too cold and rainy outside… and now that I’m spending so much time on the computer writing and researching anyway. Even cleaning the bathtub gets my heart rate up too high so clearly, I still have some adrenal issues that need addressed before I push myself too much. All of this is another good example of how commonly-touted healthy habits… aren’t really that healthy for a lot of people! <3

    • Christina-
      I don’t know of anything that will cause the adrenals to suffer more than nighshifts! It has been years since I had to wake up in the middle of the night to open the coffee shop, but my body is STILL on that schedule (I wake at 5AM no matter the season or how fatigued I am). Of course, the six cups of coffee a day that I drank in those days sure weren’t helping… if only we knew then what we do now, right?

  • Eileen says

    I can definitely relate. Prior to developing my own autoimmune condition, I was a massage therapist who often helped people with AI recover from medically prescribed exercise programs. It would be so frustrating for them to flare after exercise while simultaneously being told they needed to exercise to regain their health. So, I’ve seen this effect for years, and only recently experienced it myself. When my Rheumatoid Arthritis was at its peak, I couldn’t even stretch gently, because I would flare the next day. At that point deep breathing, meditation and what I call “chair dancing” were all I could do (sitting in my lazy girl chair, listening to groovy music, and just moving my body gently to the beat.) Now I still do deep breathing and meditation, but I can also use the exercise bike and do some gentle yoga. However, I’m limiting myself to 15 minutes of each, because I don’t want to overdo. I miss hiking, kayaking and strength training and hope someday to do all of those again and more, but I know if I tried any of those right now, they’d set me back. Coming to peace with where I am each day has been essential for me – being gentle with myself not only physically, but in terms of my expectations.

    • Eileen,
      I love your idea of “chair dancing” – I could have used some of that in my darker moments. Thanks for sharing!

  • LisaK says

    Since being diagnosed with AI diseases 16+ years ago I’ve been able to exercise or not depending on whether or not I’m in remission. When I’m sick, I’m too tired and too sore to do more than try my best to make it through the day.

    Since starting the AI protocol 6 months ago, I’m off all meds, sleeping better and – best of all – exercising again (which I LOVE). I was able to start back to the gym and doing CrossFit about 2 months ago. Now I go 5x per week. I am so excited to feel good enough to not only do what I need to do but do what I want as well.

    • Wow, crossfit! Honestly I have had fleeting aspirations to do something that intense, but I usually stop myself from thinking that is in my future. Congrats on your success with the AI protocol – its amazing what food can do for us, right?

      • LisaK says

        Thanks Mickey! You can absolutely do CrossFit! The beauty of it is you do what *you* can do. My class has a number of people with physical disabilities from injuries or surgeries or age…. They tailor every class where needed to address them all!

  • Great post, I can completely relate. I am a runner and i’m pretty sure that’s what got me into this mess I am in. I quit cardio 9 days ago. I am now just doing yoga and walking, with a little bit of weight lifting.

    I want to eventually get back to running. I coach in the spring and summer and I don’t want to give that up!

  • georgie says

    I keep joining gyms, but prefer to just walk. I love yoga, especially with a gong meditation at the end. Thanks for your post, now I don’t feel guilty for NOT rejoining the gym. I do have a treadmill at my house, and some weights… but I prefer yoga.

  • Rachel says

    I’ve tended to increase exercise in spurts and then end up sicker and with less energy. I push too hard sometimes. I’ve made myself all red and whoozy trying to jog. In the hot summer, forget about it. I’ve decided jogging isn’t for me anymore. I like gentle yoga and walking. I would like to build my strength.

    • Amely says

      Have you tried bicycling? It works for me, as well as, weight training. Moderation is the key. I do it at level where I am working, but I can Talk while doing it. And under 30 minutes.

      • Joymarie dillman says

        I suffered with thyroid problems for 16vyears and just foind out i had hasimotos disease about 1 year ago i had my 6th child 6 months ago and i actually gaines weight after having him but found it was cause my tsh was very high so they upped my meds & i just started excersing 3 days ago to try n lose weight and omg the first day of squats 12 reps 4 sets hurt my thighs so bad i couldnt walk there still horriblely sore on day 4 so i tried my arms n abs the next 2 days and for some reason i dont feel better i feel worse no energy sore tired and i hate it n i dont understand it any one who can help me understand

        • Mickey Trescott says

          Hi Joymarie! It sounds like you are doing too much too soon. I would start with even a 1/4 of what you are doing so you aren’t so sore – this is a very common problem with those of us who have autoimmune disease and we just need to go slower when starting to exercise. A good physical therapist or trainer who gets a gentle approach might be able to help you as well!

  • Peri says

    This is a great article and I really love your website. I have Hashimoto’s and I find that exercise affects me differently every time I do it. Sometimes I can go for a little jog and feel so pumped up and energised afterwards and other times I can do the same route and spend the rest of the day asleep. I am beginning to realise how much of an impact sleep and diet has upon my stamina and when my body is even slightly out of sync my recovery time is slow. I am sticking with Yoga, bodyweight exercises and gentle walks for the time being but when fit enough I will definitely take up horse riding again.

    • SueC says

      I’m with you — I have Hashi’s and I find exercise effects vary widely. My frustration is that I am now 63 and gaining weight. I feel I NEED to exercise to prevent more health crises but I keep getting stopped by injuries. Very disheartening.

      • Mickey Trescott says

        Hi Sue! Some times we need to slow down and change the focus on to health and not image. I know this can be difficult with issues like weight gain with Hashi’s. Have you done the elimination diet, and are you seeing a quality doctor that is medicating you properly?

  • You have a great website. This winter has been a hard one for me, I realized the cold and I are not friends. I live in northern MI so cold and snow is the way of life. I could not cross country ski this year, too cold!

    I teach Tai Chi, a modified form, to older people and I think that has been what has kept me stable for so many years (9 years since diagnosis).

    I also cook this way & have all of my life. I just never bought into processed convenience & dont like desserts. It is still hard to go on the auto immune protocol.

    Thank- you for your work.

  • Patti says

    Wow! Thanks for that article! I was doing exercise all my life, since diagnosed with hashi 2009 I still managed to go surfing every day and do yoga once a week. Than I started a slow process with changing food to AIP, maybe on full AIP 6 months now, getting worse and worse as my hashi progressed…I had to stop all exercise, trying just to manage my everyday life making food, getting food and making dollars to buy the food. I now go swimming very day for 10 min. And I do medical qi gong every week. My deepest wish while kicking hashis ass with coffee enemas and juicing is that I will be able to surf again and enjoy painting again (as I stopped that too feeling too depressed)
    It’s good to read other people struggle too and manage to come back to ‘normal’ life! Thank you!

    • Mickey says

      Hi Patti,
      Thanks for the comment – might I suggest that you also seek out the care of a qualified practitioner (I know they are hard to find) while you are working on your own with AIP? You should not be getting worse, and I wouldn’t wait for diet to fix your problems if your body is lacking in thyroid hormone. Wishing you the best!

      Mickey

    • Skye says

      Meg-where in Northern MI are you? I was just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and am moving to MI-downstate for the winter then to TC. Please email me at [email protected] Thanks!

  • Anrtist says

    I was dx with GCA and PMR last October. By November walking from room to room was a struggle. By February I couldn’t go up stairs without assistance or on all 4s. Couldn’t raise arms above head. Was very athletic before.

    Have gone Paleo and organic with Diet… Huge changes. Began PT 3x a week to build strength, improve coordination and balance and started walking.

    Today I think I am about 80%. Told Physical Therapist I wanted to go rock climbing by the end of October/beginning of November and she thinks it is possible based on my progress. What a great way to celebrate the anniversary of my DX!!!!!!

    Best wishes to all out there in your recovery!! Stay positive…SOOOOO important! If the pain gets so great you can’t get your mind off of it, I highly recommend mediation!

  • Vonnie says

    It’s reassuring to read these comments! I always wondered what was wrong with me that I got so wiped out from exercising and that I unconsciously avoided it. I felt so lazy. But now I realize that when my body is feeling well and I have energy, I WANT to exercise. So it isn’t laziness. Now I listen to my body. I try to get outside for a while every day and move in at least gentle ways. I love the chair dancing! Another chair exercise I’ve read about is called “jarming,”–short for jogging with the arms. You put on some music you like and conduct it as gently or vigorously as you wish. Since music has its own healing properties and some sort of movement is necessary to keep the blood flowing, it’s a great form of exercise when you can’t do more.

  • jess says

    I appreciate this post. I think I am still trying to figure out what is making jogging hard for me. I have not been diagnosed with any autoimmune disease. But, I recently found out I had a dairy allergy when I went to see a Nutritional Therapist. I also follow a lot the guidelines from the paleo diet. Last spring I started gagging when I would go jogging. I would start feeling the sensations in my throat that I needed to vomit, and sometimes would. Soon it was happening at the most random times, even just when I would get up from my desk to go to the restroom. I had a feeling it was stress induced, and then it got better after I stopped eating dairy and started meditation. However, jogging is the one thing I still cannot do or it triggers the gagging again. My doctor consulted with a neurologist, and they basically told me it is all in my head. I do meditation and yoga but would love to jog again. Has anyone heard of this?

    • Mickey says

      Hey Jess – sorry to hear about the gagging, that sounds awful! I would suspect something is up with your stomach, which can be linked to stress. Have you explored the possibility of low stomach acid or gut infections? Maybe other readers have some ideas for you. I hope it passes soon!

      Mickey

  • I’m just so relieved to know I’m not alone. My last bout was about 6 months ago when I joined a 30 day workout challenge with some friends and as the month went on I just get sicker and more exhausted and cranky and then the harder I worked out the more I puffed up like a balloon I was gaining rapid weight and everything just started to hurt worse than ever… that was the moment I knew I wasn’t just regular “tired” …I’m slowly working my way back and very grateful that I have had a long standing mediation practice, it’s the only thing keeping me sane. the hardest part is staying still even on the “good’ days because when I cheat it always sets me back. I’m learning to see walking around my kitchen cooking my new paleo diet as my exercise for now 😀

  • Kate says

    Micky! Have you tried incorporating a trace mineral supplement to help with your blood pressure? I like Schindele’s from Austria and have had great results! Kate

    • Mickey says

      Kate –
      Thanks for the suggestion! I wrote this post awhile ago, and at this point my blood pressure is normal. I think I am finally out of the woods from the deep adrenal fatigue, after a couple of years of resting and healing. I am still not back to intense exercise though 🙂

      Mickey

  • Hayley says

    Great post, Mickey! I was diagnosed with stage 7 Adrenal Fatigue about three months ago. I had already been healing for about six months from a series of AI and digestive issues when this was added to the mix. It finally made sense to me as to why I had been having “crashes” and feeling so exhausted on a daily basis. I immediately started taking time to take care of myself, mentally, physically and spiritually. At first I couldn’t do anything, working at a stressful job was enough to knock me out everyday, but then I started gentle yoga, yoga Nidra, Tai Chi, psychotherapy, and eating up as many positive teachings, books, movies, lectures, as possible. I am now feeling much stronger, am able to make it through most days without exhaustion, enjoy walking around the neighborhood in the evening, and have also introduced acupuncture to my weekly regime. For anyone feeling hopeless, just take it easy, listen to your body, reduce stress as much as possible, laugh as much as possible and take inspiration for sources such as The Secret (movie available on Netflix) and Bruce Lipton (youtube interview with Wayne Dyer). Your state of mind really does control how you feel.

    • Mickey says

      Thanks for the encouraging comment Hayley! I love that interview with Bruce Lipton – I need to go re-watch it. Thanks for the reminder!

      Mickey

  • Chana says

    Since being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis about 6 years ago, my stamina for exercise has decreased to nearly nil. I’ve tried gentler methods, like quigong or yoga, and I’d feel TERRIBLE after. It would take me days to recover. For now, I just try to walk as much as possible. I wish I could do more, and I wish my family and friends would understand that sometimes the sheer exhaustion and inability to move is a real thing. My now-fiance took me on a crazy hike in the dead heat of summer a few months back, and I was ready to kill him. I think he thought I was complaining “just because.”

    • Mickey says

      Chana-
      I had a similar experience, and that is when I started just doing the restorative or meditative parts of quigong and yoga that I started being able to handle it. Some days I would do a 10 minute standing meditation and it would wipe me out. Its great you can walk, and I hope your family learns to be more supportive. I remember a similar struggle when I was sick – my sister was confused that I was tired after walking a few blocks. Hang in there!

  • K says

    I have a diagnosis of SLE. For the first several years of my illness I slept a lot and didn’t move much. Now, 5 years down the road- bi weekly massages, a balanced diet with enough calories and plenty of sleep have helped tremendously. I now do Crossfit 5 times a week and keep up with my Crossfit buddies. I don’t expose myself to chemicals or wear perfume. I have been very fortunate that an illness that has the capacity to cripple and control my life has not.

  • Barbara says

    Just came across your website through my ND. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in early 2013, and have been healing myself through complete elimination of gluten and soy (8 months), and through weekly acupuncture (12 weeks). Thankfully I caught the Hashimoto’s before it got too bad (started with TSH of 5.8 and TPO antibodies of 144), but I was suffering from the symptoms for quite a long time. I have not taken any thyroid supplementation, but through the dietary changes and acupuncture, I now have TSH of 3.55 and TPO of 89, and I’m feeling better than I can ever remember feeling.

    I am also dealing with the inability to exercise much without exhausting my body. In my case, I get tired, but the main issue is that all of my muscles will seize up and I get really bad tension in my neck and back and shoulders that pull my spine out of alignment. I practiced Iyengar yoga for 15 years, but recently had to give it up, because even the more gentle postures would throw me off. About a year ago I started Svaroopa yoga (Deep Spinal Release), which is very calming, relaxing, and opening for the spine. It has saved me, as I’ve been depressed that I can’t be very active. Walking is okay (to a point), Svaroopa yoga is great, and I practice QiGong as well. Anything more than that, and things get bad.

    Beyond chronic fatigue issues as related to exercise, have you heard about exercise intolerance due to hypothryoid/hashimotos? Here’s one article that has a section talking about why it occurs: http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/thyroid/overview.php

    • Mickey says

      Hi Barbara!
      Thanks for sharing your story. That is so great that you have been able to achieve some healing through working with your naturopath and changing your diet.

      It has been a long time since I wrote this article, and although I am capable of a lot more now than I was back then I still can’t really handle more than yoga and walking without getting some pretty serious exhaustion. I have a friend with Hashimoto’s who does not have this problem – in fact she is a triathlete. I think we are all at different places with our autoimmunity and what our bodies can handle. I’m still trying to give myself rest and let my body heal in hopes that some day I will be capable of more.

      Thanks for sharing the article!

      Mickey

  • JEANNE says

    I am so grateful for this topic. Part of me is, I think, in denial about having AI. It’s been difficult to tell my friends and family why I’m so “lazy” and I’m embarrassed. When they see me, I put on a good show. I have been a very active person and now, I don’t even know who I am anymore. I see pictures of myself skiing, biking, rafting, fly-fishing…. I wonder if I will be there again. I al The diet has helped a lot. However, it’s tough. After a year of doing, nothing, I’m going to start yoga and walking again and try not to over do it.

    • Mickey says

      Jeanne, I can so relate. I have finally come to terms with the idea that maybe I will never be as active as I once was. I do get stronger, with every passing month since I started on the journey to better health so who knows how far that will bring me. At this point, I am happier walking and doing gentle exercise and being healthy than forcing myself to overdo it. Wishing you the best!

      Mickey

  • dawn says

    This is the article I have been looking for. Thank you. I have been so discouraged that i can’t exercise. I use to do hiit exercises and weight lifting a little, now my knees shake when I walk down my porch steps. My strength is gone. I use to carry 50 lb.bags of animal feed like nothing, now I’m lucky if i can move it and open the bag lol. I got myself a fitbit and I aim to walk 10000 steps per day which usually doesn’t happen and if it does I pay for it in pain and a down day afterwards.

  • Natalie says

    I ran my first mini marathon in April 2013. It was awful. I had ran 10 miles a few days before the race but I figured my body would just run on adrenaline the last 3 or so… I ran the half marathon. Though my pace had changed drastically, I started seeing black spots in my vision. You could see the salt pouring out of my body. You could touch my arm and salt would fall off. And of course, what foods do they offer at the finish line?? Tables of bagels, peanut butter crackers, etc. I tried to stomach a banana but the acid made me sick. I had some peanut butter crackers… bad idea. My husband had to basically carry me to the car and I had to stop 4 times to sit down. I was in tears.

    In that moment I thought that maybe I was just more of 5k or 10k runner. Or maybe I was going to have to find another way to stay fit. I continued to run and walk shorter distances, with no set goals or motivation… But I never felt good. Finally, I went to the doctor and after many visits and tests, I was diagnosed with celiac disease.

    I drastically changed my diet. Tried to really watch cross-contamination. And decided in January, to attempt the same half marathon again. I started training.

    I ran the race this year and cut 19 minutes off last years time. I was so ecstatic, words can not describe. I hydrated after the race and felt amazing (well not amazing, a little sore). I am running another half marathon in August, and training has been going wonderfully. Going for 15 minutes off my most recent time.

    I don’t think anyone else understood my excitement, besides my husband and fellow celiacs/autoimmune!

  • Richie says

    After years on giving up on a cure for my alopecia universalis, your blog has given me a glimmer of hope. I had heard of the Paleo diet but only found out about AIP after I started crossfit a couple of weeks ago. I am very keen to start the process but am concerned about my recovery periods after intense exercise (I also play rugby and cricket). I usually take a whey protein supplement after a session but it looks like I may have to eliminate that due to the AIP restrictions.

    Any suggestions or advice on protein supplementation for athletes on AIP? Thanks!

    • Mickey says

      Hi Richie,
      You can make a smoothie with collagen instead of protein for directly after your workout, and then make sure you eat a nourishing meal over the next couple hours (one with meat and fat). Many athletes do Paleo and are fine without protein powders. My husband who is a cyclist finds that he needs to eat lots of starchy carbs to keep his energy levels up–sweet potatoes, yams, yuca, taro, and plantain. Hope it helps!

      Mickey

  • […] get outside in the fresh air and sunshine, try meditation or something similar, and find a way to exercise that supports your health. All of this is essential to healing, now and […]

  • Tara says

    A 6 week, 3 days a week extreme Boot Camp followed by at least 6 months of strenuous Zumba sessions, my body gave out. My health literally hit a wall from pushing myself so hard that I finally had to take a look at myself and realize that something was really wrong with me. I knew something was wrong for a while but I thought this was the way to fix it. I was very wrong. But it was only through that experience that I finally became my own health advocate, researched night and day, found a doctor that would listen and finally got my diagnosis of Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s.

    It has been about a year since that exercise fiasco and I’m starting to feel like I might now be in a place where I can try some kind of light exercise again. My doctor banned me from Zumba and told me to do something less intense like Yoga. I haven’t quite made it to that point yet so I try to walk daily and that has been a good stress release for me. I look forward to getting back into some kind of routine soon, once my body can handle it! You give me hope that it will happen soon! Thank you!

    • Mickey says

      Thanks for sharing your experience Tara! I am sorry you had to go through that to realize you needed to slow down, but sometimes that is what it takes. Wishing you luck!

      Mickey

  • […] get outside in the fresh air and sunshine, try meditation or something similar, and find a way to exercise that supports your health. All of this is essential to healing, now and […]

  • […] Mickey Trescott, from AutoImmune Paleo, wrote about her own exercise struggles and the path she took to find her balance. […]

  • Noemi Romano says

    Mickey,
    All these years people thought I was a hypochondriac because of my inability to exercise.
    I tried to tell doctors regarding the breathing issues I had when my heart rate got to a certain point and they just said I had exercised induced asthma. So there I was starting to use a med I didn’t need which I’m convinced made the situation worse because of all the adrenaline I was pumping in. I later found out I had Hashimotos but never with hypo symptoms but hyper symptoms. When I exercised, I would go into a panic attack of sorts. My breathing would become sparatic, shallow, and could not get a deep breath in. Once I started on the inhaler, the meds would take care of the “breathing in fully” part but the worst part was not alleviated at all. I felt faint but never passed out and would just freak out and have to stop to control my weird breathing pattern. I am stubborn and tried and tried for years before I gave up. Like you, I discovered yoga but struggled at first with the same issues if the class was run by a teacher that was to intense or did too many moves too quickly. I found a great teacher who graciously taught me in her home for a year with great results. I still can’t run( That I know of) I haven’t tried but since those days have changed my eating habits and have calmed the monster in me. It’s only been a year of doing AIP and maybe I can try some other form of exercise soon when I feel more comfy. Side note: Weaned off the asthma meds 4 years ago with alkaline water. It was a side effect I wasn’t expecting. Thanks for sharing your story. I thought it was only me. Turns out my 12 year old son is already showing signs of the same. A “Deep Stress” spay I found at Sprouts contains it for him so he can play baseball.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Noemi,
      Thanks for being here and sharing your story! I’m so happy you’ve found that eating this way helps at least in part and that you found a slower-paced solution that works for you. Have you tried walking instead of running? These days that is my workout of choice. Wishing you and your son the best!

  • Linda Polan says

    Thank you so much for this article! I too, had severe asthma as a child. After giving birth to my two daughters, I embraced a “healthy” lifestyle which included limiting carbs, fats, sugar and dairy and getting plenty of exercise. I became a “gym rat,” I loved lifting weights and spent hours doing cardio. I began training for and running marathons! I suffered some injuries but was able to maintain this lifestyle for years. Fast forward about a decade and I’m in my 40’s, had a traumatic experience with one of my daughters, suffered from severe stress to the point I quit my job and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. My doctors now include the endocrinologist, orthopedist, rheumatologist, and neurologist. I also have terrible back pain from bulging discs and arthritis which limits my exercise abilities. At this point, I cannot walk around the block without experiencing severe pain. I also struggle constant fatigue. I have been in physical therapy now for four months. I have good days and bad days. At the moment, I am eating paleo and going to the gym for a few weight training exercises and I can manage the recumbent bike for about a half hour. I’m hopeful that my condition will improve with eating paleo and not pushing my body to the limits.
    Thanks for being there! I feel a little less alone in the journey!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Linda,
      I’m sending you healing vibes, and hope that you are able to continue making progress!

  • I feel your pain, Mickey! It’s a good thing that you have been able to reintroduce mild movements. I was able to add in up to 13 minutes of HIIT on my Gazelle, then came down with two colds, then the flu. Needless to say it’s been a while since I excercised, but at least I know now that when my health is in good shape I can go back to that. I’m thinking next week is going to be that week!

  • Mindy Bates says

    Thank you for the article. I thought I was alone in my inability to exercise with autoimmune disease. I have Hashimotos and exercise is really a struggle. I came across Terersa Tapp’s workouts called T-Tapp. There is a 15 min workout for those with autoimmune disease. While the movements are a little odd and can take some time to get used to, I’m able to get through it. Many people have had great results. Thought I would share in case anyone else is looking for a doable workout.

  • Edith says

    Posting this on here as well as another workout article on this website – just in case this might be helpful to someone 🙂
    Right before getting diagnosed with Hashi’s, I had finally worked my way up to a 1 hour/day workout, 5x/week. Right after getting diagnosed (I had had Lupus for 7 years as well at that point), I did more research and found this website, and have been AIP for 1 year now. I’ve been too scared to start re-introductions, but probably will start in a month or so.
    To be fair, so far I’ve had a milder form of all AI conditions I’ve been diagnosed with – I’m only on vitamins and an adrenal supplement, no traditional ‘medication’. AI has also never landed me in the hospital. But it HAS caused severe fatigue, severe depression (to the point that I felt I was a danger to myself and others – thankfully this has vanished with the right supplements, regular naturopath visits, and eating AIP), brain fog, hair loss, other mental health problems. All of which have improved greatly on AIP. Anyway!! I’m an expert at rabbit trailing. Back to my point:

    I’m excited because I’ve had success adding in some HIIT again!
    About 2 weeks ago, I decided it was time to try HIIT again. I missed it so so much, and had been doing nothing but yoga, intermediate weight training, and walks for the past year.
    1) DO cut back on exercising/bring it down to very very gentle exercising. I firmly believe this played a huge part in my healing! It felt like I was letting my body take a sabbatical, in all areas. Food, exercise, everything.
    2) Don’t be afraid to try bringing in harder workouts again after a time of healing and seeing progress. Start super slow (I use FitnessBlender and on their website, you can choose the level of difficulty ..so I would pick level 3 HIIT/cardio, and started off with 4 minutes tacked on to the end of my regular, gentle workout. I’ve since worked my way up to about 15 minutes, but I did it very carefully, very slowly, never pushing too hard).
    3) Listen to your body! This advice used to drive me insane. But the longer I’ve been on AIP, the more I’ve realised how easy it gets to listen to your body. Doing something hardcore like AIP, really tunes you in. It took me quite a few months to develop this ‘sixth sense’, but now I find it super easy and it’s one of the best skills that AIP has taught me. I can now easily tell whether the challenge I’m feeling during a workout is just a good one, where I’m carefully pushing my body out of it’s comfort zone and again increasing my ‘workout range’, or if it’s a bad one of me causing stress to my system. If it’s the latter, I immediately stop, guzzle some water, lay down, and call it a day where working out is concerned. And that’s ok!
    4) Ties in with the last part of #3 – don’t force yourself to adhere to some regular workout schedule. If you’re having an off day, you’re having an off day. And you’re doing yourself a much bigger favour by resting that day, rather than forcing yourself through a workout that will just cause you to experience a big setback.

    Anyway. I ramble. Clearly. Thank-you SO MUCH for this website, this community, the recipes, the advice, everything!

  • Yvonne says

    I also have Hashimoto and run marathons, so everybody is different. But I started low and slow and built up my strength over the course of 5 years. With marathons and especially if you’re running with autoimmune disease you cannot simply run a marathon after a year you’ve just started to train. It’s a determined, steady and slow practise that brings you to the finish.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Good for you Yvonne – I don’t think my body could ever handle even a 10 mile run, much less a marathon! Take care of yourself 🙂

  • Jax says

    I didn’t know i had hashimotos and was going to the gym every night after work lifting weights and boxing generally for 45min; I couldn’t understand why I was getting heavier without gaining any muscle . When I was diagnosed my doc told me to stop as I was just making it worse and now I’m only allowed to do 15min of intense excercise once or twice a week.
    So frustrating.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Jax, it is true that stressing our bodies with over exercise can cause us to gain because of the way it impacts the adrenals. The fat we gain tends to be in the “middle” too. I’ve found that shorter bursts of intense (or mildly intense ;)) exercise has worked well for me.

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