Today, I would like to introduce all of you to Noël Phillips and ShapeShifters. Noël became interested in fitness at 12 years old when she started learning about weight lifting and aerobics. Tired of attending adult classes, Noël worked with the trainers at her local YMCA to develop youth aerobics and step aerobics classes.
After graduating with honors from the University of Montana and spending a year in Japan, Noël decided she wanted to make personal training a career and became certified with the National Strength and Conditioning Association in 2003. Certification with NSCA requires that Noël remain up-to-date with the fitness industry as well as continue educating herself. Upon opening ShapeShifters in 2005, she worked to attain RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certification through the Yoga Alliance, and is now E-RYT certified (Experienced Yoga Teacher). Noël is also Total Barre and CPR-AED certified. She works with each client by listening to their concerns and developing a program specific to each person.
Her sincerity and love for what she does is evident. Over the years, she has helped a number of people reach their fitness goals—she can help you reach yours.
Please read on for her excellent article on Adrenal Fatigue and the role balanced exercise can play in your healing:
Lizzie woke each morning feeling as if she were buried in wet cement. It took all of what little energy she had to pull herself out of bed and force herself through her day. She’d forgotten what ‘rested’ felt like. She couldn’t remember the last time her thoughts weren’t a muddled mess as if she were constantly wading through a fog. Sickness plagued her; the smallest of stressors broke her; her constant cravings for salty foods wreaked havoc on her waistline; sex held little interest, except during those brief spurts in the evening when she actually felt a little more energized—overall, though, every moment required such effort.
Lizzie had seen countless doctors and heard all the diagnoses—stress, depression, perimenopause, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia…the entire assortment of the catch-all diagnoses doctors give their patients when they have no real idea what’s going on. Eventually, Lizzie heard a new term: Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue is a stress-related condition caused by the sub-optimal functioning of the adrenal glands, hypothalamus and pituitary glands. The adrenal glands are responsible for controlling the body’s response to stress by triggering the release of hormones such as cortisol and DHEA. In one suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, the adrenals have been overworked and are no longer producing hormones at the proper levels. Adrenal Fatigue receives very little attention in the medical world unlike the auto-immune condition known as Addison’s disease which occurs when the adrenal glands stop functioning. This is a life-threatening condition and must receive treatment.
There are plenty of articles out there explaining the biology behind the workings of the adrenal gland and about Adrenal Fatigue. Look them up; read; educate thyself. I’m here to talk more about the culprit and what can be done physically, as I often receive many questions about what exercise is appropriate for sufferers of AF.
No matter the diagnosis, the leading culprit behind so many conditions is STRESS. Our bodies were designed to cope with bursts of stress, like outrunning a saber tooth tiger or fighting in a battle. The proper hormones are released; we experience the “fight-or-flight” response; we defeat our foe or escape the tiger; and the body recovers. Hormone levels balance again. But in today’s world of constant low-level stress, cortisol is being constantly pumped out—something the adrenals, and the rest of our body, are not designed to handle.
It’s been repeated over and over until it’s become a mantra that one must reduce stress through proper diet, meditation, sleep and, yep, exercise. But what if the exercise is doing more harm than good? Is that even possible? Is a trainer about to tell you to stop exercising?
It’s all about balance. Stress breaks down the body—again, educate thyself and read more about the effects of stress on the body—it’s scary. Exercise, believe it or not, is a stressor. During exercise, we are tearing apart muscle fibers. Our blood pressure and body temperatures rise. Our heart rate increases—seemingly innocuous occurrences, but our body still has to cope with the changes. If we are running on fumes already, then our body has no fuel to deal with these stressors, and we end up doing more damage than good.
The key is to listen to one’s body. If someone has been diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 AF, or is dealing with constant high levels of stress and already feels worn out, then going for a long run, murdering the body in Spin class, or playing that pickup game of Ultimate are going to worsen the condition. Better options are swimming, walking, yoga or tai chi—gentle exercises that will produce endorphins and aid in improving the body’s coping mechanisms and decrease the effects of stress without tearing the body down to a state at which it can’t rebuild properly.
If one is suffering with stages 1 or 2 AF, or dealing with smaller amounts of stress, then more vigorous exercise can actually help moderate cortisol levels.
Like I said, it’s a balance—everything in moderation, even the good things. Each day is different and one must be prepared to allow the body rest when it needs it. Set the ego aside and listen to the body. If your workouts are leaving you feeling more exhausted, maybe it’s time to make a change.
What have you found to be a beneficial, effective way to handle the effects of stress on your body?