Back in June, when I had my functional medicine evaluation, one of the things that I learned was that my adrenal system was on the edge of collapse. While my cortisol levels were technically normal, they were the lowest they could possibly be and still qualify. My doctor explained that I seemed to be able to produce sufficient hormones, but that my system was not draining them away adequately after the moment of need was past. This seems to be, at least in part, a function of the constant state of stress most of us are in these days. The adrenal system was designed, as it were, to deal with fight or flight situations, which in the very old days came along only very occasionally, when our hunter-gatherer ancestors ran up against creatures that might like them for dinner. The body would produce adrenaline to enable said ancestors to get the hell out of town, and then drain the excess away once the danger was over.
In the modern world, while we rarely have to face errant saber-tooth tigers, we live in such a way that small stress is piled on small stress until our systems are in a near constant state of red alert. One of the first things I learned at Green Mountain was the need to provide some respite, through deep breathing or meditation, or even through a mindful walk, throughout the day. But as my test results showed, those techniques were not getting me to where I needed to be. So my doctor prescribed some supplements to support my adrenal system, advised me to get adequate sleep, and also gave me an exercise prescription. To promote adrenal healing, stretching and strength training are key, as is keeping aerobic exercise at low and moderate levels only.
I confess, I was dismayed at hearing that last part. As regular readers of this blog know, biking is both my cardio activity of choice and my joy, and the idea that it was not actually good for me was too horrifying to contemplate. When I raised this to my doctor, she said I could keep biking if not doing so would be more stressful than the actual biking and suggested that I lower my gears a notch or two to keep at a lower level of exertion. That seemed okay, though I figured it might be hard. I like to pedal at a certain rate, and biking is the one activity I do where I don't mind working at the vigorous level.
Shortly after that evaluation, I embarked upon two months of pretty solid traveling, so I never did get back on my bike. It felt a little scary, to be honest, so I didn't make any extraordinary efforts to ride, even when I could. When the travel ceased, I tried swimming, which had been recommended as an every day activity, but though I like swimming and used to be a major lap swimmer. I didn't manage to get into it in any meaningful way. So, finally, earlier this week, I got back on my bike and decided that I would do whatever I had to in order to keep riding.
It wasn't bad. I suppose that from a biker point of view, what I need to do now might be considered wimping out, as I drop down in gears at the first sign of an incline, however small. And every now and then, despite my best efforts, I end up on a course where I have to peddle harder than might be ideal. But I feel so good on the bike, I think it's worth it. I love all the sensory aspects of biking, I love moving through space, and I love being a person who bikes.
So I'm back in the saddle again. And very grateful to be there.
A hui hou.