Don’t worry, I’m not calling it quits on making a baby or trying to figure out my ovulation issues; rather, I have come to the conclusion that I may have to say goodbye to my strenuous workout schedule. As I have spoken to various people (doctors, friends and family alike) about the fact that I’m not ovulating, the response I have heard the most is, “Maybe you’re working out too much”.
Now, if you knew me a few short years ago, you would have laughed at this being an issue — I can literally count on one hand the number of times I went to the gym during college. I was relatively active, but never athletic, or even especially interested in fitness. When I married Benjamin, however, I took up hobbies like bicycling and hitting the gym for group exercise classes, and I walk everywhere instead of driving (since we only have one car). Since then I have completed two century rides on my bike (100 miles in one day), dropped nearly 15 pounds, and gotten into a pretty vigorous weekly workout schedule. Recently I’ve been doing an average of about an 1 hour (to a 1 1/2 hours) of super sweaty cardio 5 days a week, and maybe 2 hours of strength training throughout the week. I run, take cardio kickboxing and spinning class, do yoga/pilates and lift weights. And here I thought I was doing everything right.
Turns out that prolonged strenuous exercise produces endorphins, which are powerful hormone-like substances produced in the brain that function as the body’s own natural painkillers, and can produce feelings of euphoria (runners high, anyone?). Endorphins block estrogen, and can result in a reduced estrogen level, especially in women who have recently lost weight due to exercise (umm, me). So, it’s possible that my super-healthy habits are actually reducing the level of estrogen in my body to the point of anovulation. Yikes. From that description, you would think I was an Olympic athlete or competitive body builder. Believe me, I’m not. I had heard that women athletes can sometimes experience amenorrhea due to their lifestyles, but I always thought it was because they got too thin, not because they were exercising too much. My Body Mass Index (BMI) is well within the normal range, so I hadn’t really considered that my diet and exercise schedule could be causing these issues.
While most people would be celebrating if their doctor told them to stop exercising so much, it worries me a little. I’m happy to put on a few pounds if it means I’ll see that little plus sign, but I’m not willing to let my current fitness level deteriorate completely just because it might possibly maybe kind of may have an effect on my ovulation. There are still a million things that could be affecting my ovulation that I haven’t even thought of. But, as with the full-fat dairy experiment, if there’s anything I can do on my own (naturally!) to get those cycles going, I’m willing to do it.
So this week my workouts will be strictly dog-walking. Oh, and I’m going to try out a yoga studio that’s a few blocks away from my house. I am not going to weigh myself or count calories or stress — I’m just going to trust that my body knows what it needs. And maybe it needs me to chill out a little.