All posts by Alison

Sleep, stress, and injuries: is it all connected?

The last few months have been tough. Getting injured for the third time this year made me feel like a failure and it was difficult for me to get through. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, though, and this injury forced me to take a serious look at what was going on in my life and how it may have contributed to my injury.

A few major themes have been constantly coming up in my life over the last year and a half – constant stress, unrelenting eczema flare ups, and insomnia/disrupted sleep.

The lack of sleep and eczema flare ups stress me out, and stress, in turn affects my sleep and exacerbates my eczema. SUPER.

Stress is an ongoing theme in my life that I’ve got to learn to manage. In the meantime, I’m trying to tackle the smaller things and that is mainly my eczema and my sleep problems.

I’ve been seeing a naturopath to help me manage my eczema which I’ll probably write another post about in the future depending on how things go.

When Mike and I spent time in Switzerland last year, we unintentionally revolved our training schedule around sleep. If we had trouble sleeping the night before, we would sleep in and run whenever. Luckily it was during their winter as well, which meant that we didn’t have to worry about starting our run too late when it was the hottest part of the day. In fact, the later, the better as far as I was concerned.

Over the last year, I thought that it was unfortunate that I had trouble sleeping, but I never thought it could contribute to me getting a stress fracture. Trying to keep up with a certain level of training when I was barely sleeping was a pretty dumb thing for me to do. I should have known better.

So working on getting a better quality sleep is one of my top priorities right now. I feel like it will contribute to lowering my stress levels which will hopefully improve my ability to manage my eczema and stay uninjured. I really like this infographic below, from Casper, which is actually a mattress start up that I came across when I was doing usability research at work. A few customers I was interviewing for the company I work at actually cited Casper as having a very aesthetically pleasing website and a great business model.


The top takeaways for me from their infographic were:

Average pro-athletes get 10-12 hours of sleep, and the average amount of sleep adults need is 7-9.
I was averaging 5-6 most days and the majority of that was broken up into chunks.

A sleep environment that promotes restorative sleep includes a dark room, supportive mattress, and a cool temperature.
My insomnia started when we moved here last June. We were in the middle of a heat wave and none of the apartments seemed to have air conditioning. Air conditioning is a given in the majority of the apartments in Toronto, so I took having the ability to control a room’s temperature for granted. We DID buy a portable A/C this year, but it was too small and it didn’t always reach our bedroom. I spent so many nights tossing and turning with my thoughts and lying in a pool of sweat.

Quick naps are important.
I’m always hesitant to take naps. They feel so luxurious in the moment, but I’m always afraid they’ll impact my ability to sleep later that night. But maybe it’s worth taking a few naps here and there, especially on weekends, when I’m eventually running longer again.

A few other things I’m doing now to help promote sleep:

Taking magnesium.
I started seeing a naturopath to help me with my skin, but she’s also helping me address my insomnia. Every night, I’m taking some magnesium to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. In all honesty, it’s not working as well as I had hoped and I’m still waking up in the middle of the night.

Working on my anxiety/stress.
I think one of the biggest things I need to address is the amount of anxiety and stress I carry around. I’m trying to meditate, take a few breaths every hour on the hour (that has also been difficult, but it’s a work in progress), and choosing more relaxing and energizing exercise like yoga over high intensity / high impact exercise like running.

Ever since I started taking magnesium and the weather has been cooling down for the fall, I’ve been having an easier time falling asleep. Staying asleep is still a work in progress, but one step at a time.

To 8-10 hours of sleep and staying injury free for 2017!



I used to be a fighter

Sometimes I look back at some of my old blog posts and am impressed with the strength and resilience that my words conveyed.

I used to be a fighter.

Oh, I had my dark moments, just like anyone else. But rather than have the “why me” attitude, I tried to adopt the “there is a lesson in all of this and I will come back stronger” one instead. I was positive, and my glass was half full (most of the time).

Somewhere along the way, I lost her.

And I desperately want to get it back, because being the girl who feels defeated and unlucky is draining. It’s not fair to my friends and family. It’s not fair to myself.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been battling repeated eczema attacks that have taken a severe mental toll. It would be one thing if the eczema were on parts of my body that I could hide, like my legs, or my stomach. But when I break out, it’s all over my face, neck, and shoulders. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts. My face is hot to touch, I have a dull headache all day from my throbbing skin, and I feel self-conscious because I know my skin is red, swollen, puffy, blotchy, and as rough as sand paper. When it gets this bad, it’s extremely hard to go into work. It’s hard to focus in meetings because I just want to hide in the shadows. I’ve had eczema my whole life, but I was able to control it and minimize out breaks like this for the most part until the past year or so. I don’t know what has changed, but I can’t handle it anymore.

Since February, I’ve been dealing with injury after injury. After my first in February, I may have had to take time off running, but my motivation levels were high and I crosstrained like a champ and cheered at all the races I could no longer run. After my second injury in May, I was a little upset, but I managed to pull it together and fall in love with running again. By my third one, I just felt devastated. I threw my usual pity party for the first week, but when it should have stopped, it lingered for several more weeks. I couldn’t pull myself out of this one.

I’ve been lucky that some of my running friends have crossed over into real friends. But, some didn’t cross over. I took it personally. It hurts when you realize that some of your friendships are based around convenience. What happens when you’re down and out and can’t participate in the activity that brought you together? It also turns out, that when you’re down and out, everything feels 10x worse than they actually are.

10 long weeks have passed and I still can’t hop on my injured leg without feeling a sharp pain in my ankle. With this latest eczema attack on my face and neck, I’m finally realizing that I need some help. My body is literally falling apart.

I’m going to start with seeing a Naturopathic Doctor who can hopefully help me manage my eczema once and for all. And I guess EVENTUALLY, I’ll be able to hop on that leg and entertain the idea of running again. I hope the universe decides to let me run again, soon. Cross training this time around just doesn’t have the same effect.

And somehow, I’m going to find that feisty little fighter in me and stop playing the victim. I really, really, will. TBD on timing. Positive thoughts.


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