Sunday, November 8, 2015

The 50-Day Challenge: How To Get Rid of Allergies and Injuries

         Well, that’s it.  50-Day Challenge is complete.  At the time of this writing, I’m actually on Day 52.  I feel good.  I may keep it going indefinitely.  For the stipulations you can read a previous post here.  I also plan on posting the 50 workouts later this week. 
         Here are some raw stats:
         --Total Miles Run:  370.1 miles
         --Total Calories burned during workouts (approximate):  42,350.
Also regarding the 50-Day Challenge I have received several questions regarding the two following topics:  Allergies and Injuries/Overtraining.  Below I will cover each topic in a little more detail according to my experience.

Allergies:   Yes, I attempted this 50-Day Challenge in the midst of a major season change in Central Texas where the weather already suffers from multiple-personality disorder.  Allergies did not play a part in slowing me down one bit, because I do not get allergies.  Once upon a time, I did.  Itchy eyes, dry throat, itchy skin, unexplainable rashes and chronic inflamed sinuses were my norm.  Not any more.     

Here’s my take on allergies.  We get allergies because our bodies are out of balance.  The term “allergy” denotes that there are “allergens” or an “allergic” reaction happening in our body.  We (as individuals) and Western medicine have the tendency to treat only the symptom, or in the case of an allergy, the reaction itself.  We never get to the root of the issue.  From my study and experience all allergies are the result of inflammation.
         In this regard, treating allergies is pretty simple:
         --Get rid of the inflammation, and you get rid of the allergy forever.
         Make sense?
        To put it another way.  Let’s say I’ve been suffering from itchy eyes.  I put in eye drops and they work sometimes.  I take an anti-histamine to help mitigate the symptoms, but even then, some days my eyes are still going crazy.  That’s because the cause of my itchy eyes could be residual toxins stored in my liver from a bad diet, chronic stress, etc.  Because there are toxins in my liver, my healing system is trying to catch up, so my liver becomes slightly inflamed as a protective measure, but the resulting imbalance has to be relieved somewhere else.  The result:  my itchy eyes. 
             --But if I rid myself of the source of toxicity to my liver, I will no longer have itchy eyes, nor will I need to take allergy meds.  Toxins gone=inflammation gone=allergies gone.
            As a side note, strenuous physical exercise actually provides an excellent detox measure as it shakes loose residual toxins that are stored in organ tissues and joints.

         3 Recommendations to Stay Allergy Free:
1.    Acclimate Your Body to Outdoors:
The typical Western lifestyle has us plastered to chairs, glued to screen and stuck inside simulated environments our bodies weren’t designed for.  The more time I spend outside, the more I’m convinced of our body’s abilities to adapt and thrive in any environment.  I mean seriously, how big of a bummer is it when spring finally rolls around and we’re all stuck inside on the weekend because the pollen is too high and we’re sneezing and coming down with a fever?  Stop the madness!  Your body needs to acclimate to its natural environment which is the outdoors. 
     Here’s the issue:  Because many of us spend so little time outdoors, our immune system is on over-alert and recognizes everything that is not the perfect temperature controlled sit-fest we’re used to as a foreign invader.  What does our body to foreign invaders?  It goes into defense mode.  Spending more time outdoors re-awakens our body’s healing system to the degree that it stops seeing pesky villains such as pollen and sunlight as foreign invaders. 
     For further study on your healing system I highly recommend Dr. Andrew Weil’s book SpontaneousHealing.

2.    Wean Off Of Allergy “Meds”:
     We pop allergy “meds”, Tylenol, ibuprofen, naproxen and other “anti-allergy” and “anti-inflammatory” substances like it’s going out of style.  There’s no telling what this stuff is doing to our internal organs, but that’s a discussion for another time.  Meds should be looked at as a type of intervention, not a part of our standard operating procedure.
      Here’s how we should look at the use of Meds:  Pretend we have a friend who has become addicted to meth and is out of control.  The friend needs rehab.  So we, as friends and loved ones, stage an intervention so our friend seek the help he/she needs.  The intervention is how meds should be used.  Imagine having an intervention every time a friend or family member drank a glass of water.  This is the equivalent to how we use meds.
         Another point to be said about meds as related to allergies is that the meds dull our sensations and mindfulness about what is really happening in our bodies.  Pain and irritation are not bad things that need to be mitigated, they are teachers and important signals notifying us of imbalance.  By stuffing ourselves full of meds, we become blissfully unaware of these signals and the root causes to which they are pointing.
         Weaning off the meds is important in fostering the ability to listen to our bodies, identifying the source of inflammation and eliminating the inflammation and allergy entirely.

3.    Eliminating Inflammation:
     I’ve done this with diet and exercise.  I think the types of food one should eat are different according to each person.  While I do better on a high fat diet, others may do better on high protein, or high carb.  A lot of this depends on blood type and what health issues we may be facing or improvements we may want to make.  One general principal does apply:  Eliminate as many processed foods as possible. 
       The purpose of this elimination has profound effects because unfortunately, most processed foods have chemicals and substrates in them that our bodies cannot break down.  Thus our bodies recognize these substances as foreign entities and begin auto-immune responses, one of which is inflammation.  And guess what?  Chronic inflammation has been linked to many auto-immune diseases.  But I’ve got great news:  We can control our immune system, we just have to take back the reins.  Eating a proper diet is one of the first steps to this empowerment.
       Oxygen is also very important in releasing your body from inflammation.  Overloading on fresh fruits and veggies is one way to hydrate our cells and flood metabolic processes with oxygen.  Studies have also shown that cancer cells cannot exist in an oxygen rich environment.  Drinking alkaline water is another method of oxygenating our cells.  Though with the alkaline water I would recommend a gradual introduction because doing it do quickly causes a pretty gnarly detox.  Proper breathing is also a brilliant way of ridding our bodies of inflammation and promoting long term health.  I utilize a technique called developed by Wim Hof and I highly recommend it for a variety of reasons, but especially for the anti-inflammatory benefits.  Click:  HERE for another link to the method.

Injuries and Overtraining:  I’m 52 days in with no “rest” or “recovery” days and I haven’t had an injury.  I think the whole idea with overtraining is highly specific to each person.  Douglas Ernst has written an excellent article on the subject.   There is some “adult” language in the article, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. 
        Personally, I think “overtraining” is a highly personal and can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.  What might be a light day for me, might be another person’s threshold.  The type of exercise is also important.  Someone who has been powerlifting for the past five years, isn’t going to be able to start running 50+ miles a week with me cold turkey.  In the same vein, I’m not going to be able to hit the gym and rep 200 clean and jerks everyday like some guys can.  All in all, it comes down to listening to our bodies and raising our level of belief.
       Although improving fitness has physical effects, in my view, the mental side of fitness is 98% of the game.  My experiment running the Austin Marathon last year on a minimal training plan proved this point to myself.  I ran the course in 3 hours and 50 minutes on a training plan that incorporated speed and HIIT training with no runs longer than six miles.  With that previous experiment, I listened to my body and I did what I set out to do. 
        Ultimately, our bodies are made to move, and we are designed to be moving most of the time.  As we push the envelope, we continue to find that our minds and bodies are capable of much more than we think.  Take for example Dean Karnazes who ran 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days, or James “The Iron Cowboy” Lawrence who completed 50 Full Ironman Triathlons (that’s 170.6 miles total) in 50 consecutive days in a different state each day.  Both of these men completed their challenges without injury, and actually reported feeling stronger and faster on day 50.  In the case of Karnazes, he actually ran his fastest time on day 50.  Although these seemingly insane challenges go against the grain of conventional fitness wisdom, challenges like the ones detailed may be key in opening up a new realm of raw human potential.
       On a personal level, the more I train, the quicker I recover, which narrows the gap between “necessary rest” and optimum performance.  I believe our bodies will tell us when we truly need rest.  That’s what the challenge has been about for me.  Finding my body’s true threshold and blasting through old paradigms regarding my mind’s relationship to my body.  Becoming more mindful of the relationship has been the keystone in completing the challenge, though there are a few practical rituals I adopt that have been very useful.
        How have I stayed injury free?  One thing is that I’ve been doing this for a few years now.  With endurance training, the more one trains, the quicker the body adapts and facilitates recovery.  Consistency in training has been key.
        Diet is also huge.  About 70% of my diet is raw vegetarian or fruitarian.  The other 20% is supplemented by whatever my wife cooks.  About 10% of the time we have cheat days where we eat junk (A pizza once a week or a plate of enchiladas.)  Nearly 100% of my diet is a whole food diet.  I don’t count calories.  If my body is telling me to eat more I eat.  Some days I hardly eat anything.  Typically I have a small breakfast, which is usually a smoothie or mixture of different fruits.  For lunch will be some type of raw fruits and veggies with hummus or salsa.  Dinner is usually my big meal and varies according to the day.  As a family, we eat a lot of legumes, rice, avocado and veggies stews for dinner.  Keeping diet in check aids in making training easier and prevents inflammation, which…is also the culprit in most injuries.  (See a theme here inflammation-allergies-inflammation-injury?)
        Variation also helps in staying injury free.  If I run the same route everyday for the same distance, my body and my mind will get bored.  Also my body will get seriously out of balance.  In order to stay injury free, particularly for athletic performance with a bent toward endurance, workouts must be varied.  When all your systems are strong it’s virtually impossible to suffer an overuse injury.  See an older post I wrote here for more detail: The Fitness Balance Scale.  

         I hope that answered a few questions and demystified the process for some of you.  What challenges are you going to take on?
        Success stories and further questions are always welcome. 




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