My body has thrown me a few curve balls over the past few years. As a runner, I feel like I’m quite in tune with my body, almost to a point where I notice when the smallest thing is off. You know like the hangriness creep that starts after eating lunch a mere 30 minutes later than usual.
A few months ago, I knew something wasn’t right. Sure, I had some vague symptoms when I wasn’t running, but it was my running that really tipped me off that something in my body was amiss. In my case, it turned out to be my progesterone levels.
It all started when …
I’m a mother of two children, but I experienced two miscarriages in between their births. In 2014, after those miscarriages, our family doctor ordered me to come into the office the minute I had another positive pregnancy test, which I did when I became pregnant with my daughter, Lennon. For the following ten weeks, I would go into the office and have blood taken each week to chart my hormone levels. If this pregnancy ended in another miscarriage, my doctor would have referred me to our local fertility clinic if we wanted to have another child. When I mentioned this to my OB when I was 13 weeks pregnant, she casually mentioned something about progesterone, and we never really talked about it beyond that point more than two years ago now.
Something didn’t seem right …
Two years later and I never thought much about my progesterone levels, since I was no longer concerned about my ability to get pregnant. So I had no idea that progesterone might have something to do with how I was feeling when I ran.
In February of this year, I knew that something was off with my body. I was still losing large amounts of hair a year and a half years after having Lennon. I felt exhausted all the time and was falling asleep on the couch by 8:00 every night. I wasn’t even hearing my alarm go off on the morning. I felt stressed out and anxious about the smallest things. I was experiencing concerning dizzy spells and my period was all over the place, and when I did have it, they were more painful than they had ever been before.
When it came to running, I felt like I couldn’t find the next gear. To many, it still appeared that I was running “fast”, but to me, I was a passenger stuck on the struggle bus. I didn’t have my usual kick. My body wasn’t responding to me. My brain was saying go faster, and my legs felt like heavy logs. After a really amazing year of running in 2016, 2017 was breaking my heart. I felt like my 1:27 half or my 37:54 10k were flukes. None of this helped me enjoy the Boston Marathon in April or racing in the elite field at the Ottawa 10k this last May.
A lot of people, even me much of the time, assumed I was too tired juggling work, kids, and training. I started traveling down the Google rabbit hole, and stumbled upon a number of articles that helped me put two and two together. Many women reported experiencing the exact same thing I was and they all suffered from low progesterone.
After a lot of tests…
After a disappointing run in Boston, and levels of exhaustion that I didn’t even know were possible, I found myself telling our family doctor that I suspected I had low progesterone. That day, they drew a lot of blood to test for a number of things that they wanted to rule out, and there were different progesterone elements that were also being tested. I had to go back for more tests during certain points in my cycle, and my doctor analyzed the results.
When I went in after the final round of tests, my doctor told me that my suspicion was correct. However, I didn’t realize just how low my progesterone levels were. My levels were just above zero, and were more inline with a woman who had already experienced menopause, not a 30-year-old. My doctor was honest with me and said that he would work hard to find a specialist that would see me, as many had full patient loads or were more likely to take on the case of someone with low progesterone who was trying to conceive. One of the doctors he suggested is a runner. Go figure. That’s the doctor that agreed to see me!
I will be sharing my story as I work through these issues and take steps to help increase my progesterone levels. If anyone has had a similar experience, I’d love to hear from you and learn more about the steps you took to manage your progesterone levels.
Have you ever discovered a medical issue because of running?