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Why Don’t I Get Faster?

Run Slow

Find and fix these 7 health and fitness hazards that can slow you down

One of the most common questions I receive is from athletes asking why, despite all the training, don’t they get faster and improve performance. “Why doesn’t the MAF test improve—why am I still slow?”

Many factors can impair progress despite an optimal training program. Injuries, health issues, and other problems—many very well hidden—can prevent one from reaching their athletic potential.

Seven common hazards are outlined here. Any one of them can cause injury, impair health, restrict fitness, and ultimately slow you down.

It might seem like a paradox, but working out regularly may not make one immune to poor health or reduced fitness. Fatigue, asthma, depression, hormone imbalance, sleepiness after meals, and other signs and symptoms are clues that the body is not working optimally. The same is true for more serious disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. While we think of those who are sedentary as being afflicted with these problems, they are also found in athletes. Moreover, the ongoing overfat epidemic does not spare those who burn a lot of calories while running, cycling, swimming, or performing other workouts. This type of training does burn many calories—but too often more sugar and less fat.

Almost all health or fitness problems come with a warning. Various signs and symptoms, especially when grouped together, can provide us with clues—a red flag of potential hazards ahead. Heed the warning.

Below are seven surveys, groups of signs, symptoms and lifestyle habits common to a particular condition that can prevent the body from making progress. A “yes” answer to any one question may not be significant, but if two or three in one group applies to you, the likelihood of that problem increases significantly. In other words, those individuals who have more clues pertaining to a specific condition have higher risk for it.

Included under each survey is its possible implication or condition, common dietary and supplement needs, lifestyle considerations, and tests you or your healthcare professional might consider for verification or monitoring.

Survey 1

  1. Frequently eat restaurant, take-out or prepared/packaged foods
  2. Consume these vegetable oils regularly: corn, soy, safflower, peanut oil, or canola, or margarine
  3. Chronic pain
  4. “itis” conditions: arthritis, colitis, tendonitis, bursitis, etc.
  5. Hair loss
  6. Aspirin (or similar drugs including NSAIDs) improves symptoms
  7. Body fat above normal
  8. Frequent anaerobic training
  9. Take birth control or estrogen replacement
  10. Family or personal history of stoke, heart disease, osteoporosis, ulcer, cancer, allergies or asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, or cataracts
  11. Low-fat diet
  12. Depression

Possible Implications: Chronic inflammation. It’s not only common, but most people are actually unaware of its presence. It is often the earliest stage of cancer, stroke, Alzheimer disease and heart disease, not to mention to common ‘itis’ conditions such as tendonitis, arthritis, colitis, and bursitis. It can also trigger a wide range of unhealthy conditions: cataracts, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, and asthma, immune dysfunction and hormonal balance, and promote pain.

Diet: Consume more natural anti-inflammatory foods including raw ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, and 10 servings of vegetables and fruits. Include ocean fish (not farmed) such as salmon, sardines, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel.

Avoid all trans fats and refined carbohydrates as both can promote inflammation.
Reduce omega-6 vegetable oils such as soy, safflower, corn, peanut, and canola.

Most Effective Dietary Supplements: EPA-DHA (from fish oil). Flax oil is much less effective.

Lifestyle: Avoid anaerobic exercise, including strength training and competition until problem has resolved.

Tests: C-reactive protein (blood test).

Survey 2

  1. Fatigue
  2. Increased body fat
  3. Chronic inflammation
  4. Physical injuries
  5. Hormone imbalance
  6. Feelings of depression
  7. Reduced endurance
  8. Performance plateau
  9. Unable to improve aerobic pace (MAF test)
  10. Overtraining

Possible Implications: Aerobic deficiency syndrome. Typically a combination of reduced aerobic and excess anaerobic function. It often is the result of a combined training, dietary and lifestyle stress problem.

Diet: Eliminate refined carbohydrates, and increase food frequency.

Most Effective Dietary Supplements: Varies with individual’s need.

Lifestyle factors: Avoid all anaerobic training until problem is remedied.

Tests: MAF test, and others as per individual needs.

Survey 3

  1. Fatigue
  2. Dizziness upon standing
  3. Crave salt
  4. Allergy or asthma
  5. Low blood pressure
  6. Feelings of depression
  7. Often wake in the middle of the night
  8. Sensitive to bright light or difficulty with night driving
  9. Sexual desire reduced
  10. Recurrent infections
  11. Hormone imbalance
  12. Amenorrhea
  13. Frequent hunger/cravings
  14. Increased body fat
  15. Frequent anaerobic workouts

Possible Implications: General indication of adrenal gland dysfunction. Elevation of the stress hormone cortisol is often associated with lower levels of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, but is only one type of adrenal problem.

Diet: Eliminate all refined carbohydrates. Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Avoid skipping meals, and increase frequency of healthy snacks.

Most Effective Dietary Supplements: No particular supplement is good for all types of adrenal imbalances.

Lifestyle: Assess and reduce physical, chemical and mental stress. Avoid anaerobic training until problem is remedied.

Tests: Salivary hormone tests for cortisol, DHEA and sex hormones.

Survey 4

  1. History of bone fractures
  2. Low bone density
  3. Poor recovery from training or racing
  4. Reduced sexual desire
  5. Long standing hard training
  6. Loss of muscle mass
  7. Use of tetracycline
  8. Low-fat diet
  9. Low-cholesterol diet
  10. Feelings of depression

Possible Implications: Low testosterone.

Diet: Avoid low-fat and low-cholesterol diets unless for specific medical reasons as both are important for testosterone production.

Most Effective Dietary Supplements: DHEA, pregnenolone and or licorice as indicated in additional tests.

Lifestyle: Assess and reduce physical, chemical and mental stress. Balance aerobic and anaerobic exercise, and strength training workouts.

Tests: Blood and or salivary hormone tests as indicated.

Survey 5

  1. Poor concentration or sleepiness after meals
  2. Increased intestinal gas or bloating
  3. Polycystic ovary (ovarian cysts)
  4. Frequent hungry
  5. I ncreased body fat
  6. Chronic fatigue
  7. Insomnia or sleep apnea
  8. Waist size increasing with age
  9. Difficulty improving endurance
  10. Personal or family history: diabetes, kidney or gall stones, gout, high blood pressure, high cholesterol/low HDL, high triglycerides, heart disease or stroke, breast cancer.
  11. Low protein intake
  12. Cravings for sweets or caffeine

Possible Implications: Carbohydrate intolerance. This condition can reduce fat burning and impair performance. It can also precede more serious conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and others.

Diet: Eliminate all refined carbohydrates. Eat smaller, more frequent meals and healthy snacks throughout the day.

Common Supplements: Varies with individual.

Lifestyle: Reduce physical, chemical and mental stress. Aerobic workouts only until problem is remedied.

Tests: The Two-Week Test. Blood tests for glucose, insulin and others as needed.

Survey 6

  1. Athletic performance plateau
  2. Over age 50
  3. Work or reside indoors most days
  4. Moderate to dark skinned (natural or tanned)
  5. Risk or history of bone fractures or osteoporosis
  6. Reside in northern climates (above 30-40 degrees north) or around cities
  7. Regular use of sunscreen
  8. Wear tight knit/protective clothing when outdoors
  9. Pregnant or nursing
  10. Body fat too high

Possible Implications: Low vitamin D. This problem is not unusual in athletes who train outdoors.

Diet: Fresh fish (not farmed) such as salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, and mackerel, egg yolks, butter, Shiitake mushrooms.

Common Supplements: Vitamin D from fish liver oil.

Lifestyle: Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D. Proper expose is necessary.

Tests: Blood test for vitamin D.

Survey 7

  1. Chronic injuries
  2. Fatigue
  3. Performance plateau or reductions
  4. Less than about 7-8 hours sleep each night
  5. Regular anaerobic training throughout the year
  6. Low-fat, low-calorie or low-protein diet
  7. Depression, anxiety or other altered moods
  8. Chronic or recurrent infections
  9. Asthma or allergy
  10. Reduced sexual desire
  11. Resting, training or racing heart rates too high or low
  12. Menstrual problems

Possible Implications: Overtraining

Diet and Supplementation varies with individual.

Tests: MAF Test, salivary cortisol, others as required.

Chronic inflammation, aerobic deficiency, adrenal stress, hormone imbalance, overtraining, carbohydrate intolerance, and low vitamin D are common problems. Any of these conditions can reduce health and quality of life, and significantly contribute to injuries and poor performance. For more information on each topic, follow the link.

Most people can make appropriate adjustments in their training, diet, and lifestyle to remedy the problem. Others may need to seek help from an appropriate health professional. Now is the time to address these factors.