I paid for my InsideTracker testing, but was offered an upgrade to the Ultimate Plan in exchange for sharing my experience on my blog. The opinions expressed here are my own.
After a disappointing finish at the Boston Marathon I spent a bit of time speculating as to why I felt the way I did (tightness in my chest and difficulty taking deep breaths). I mean, we all have off races but because I felt so physically “off” I didn’t want to just chalk it up to a “bad” race on a hot day. I’ve come to my own conclusion that my race-day performance was influenced by nerves and self-inflicted pressure along with a case of overtraining. Overtraining doesn’t necessarily result from high mileage and in my case I think that the major factor was lack of sleep and an immune system that had been fighting colds all winter long. Lack of sleep and constant exposure to kiddie-germs are par for the course when it comes to being a mother-runner, but when you add marathon training on top of that you can really set yourself up for classic overtraining symptoms: feelings of fatigue, elevated heart rate at rest, both of which I experienced in the weeks before Boston.
I knew that if I improved my sleep a lot of things would get better, including my mood. And sure enough a week after Boston when Liam finally started sleeping through the night consistently I saw a change. I felt totally different: I had more energy, I was happier and running started to feel “easy” again. Then three weeks after Boston I ran a really strong half-marathon (1:34 a PR by 2 min for me) on still somewhat fatigued legs. Sleep made a difference.
But I still wondered if there was more going on? I felt like myself again, but I wanted to find out what was going on inside. It wasn’t necessarily the disappointment of the race that was driving me, more so it was a motivation to be healthy going forward. I had considered getting blood work done with my PCP, but when I heard about Inside Tracker (from friends like Tina, Michele and Dorothy) it seemed like a more informed route to go. Not only would I get the data from the blood draw but their suggestions as well that are specific to athletic performance. I still planned to still visit my PCP with the results and get her opinion and to go over the results.
I opted for the “Performance Package” ($299) and I scheduled my blood draw for the first week of June and was relieved when they had an “at home” option (which InsideTracker calls “White Glove” service) which allowed me to not have to bring three small children to the clinic for a blood draw that takes less than 10 min. Total win in my book. Later on Jonathan, from InsideTracker offered to upgrade me to the “Ultimate Plan” and I’m glad I made the upgrade because it offered me the biomarkers I was most interested in.
Going into the test there were a few things I was curious about:
- My cholesterol (I have a history of heart disease in my paternal Grandfather and Maternal Grandfather and in each case both were healthy and active).
- My cortisol–I tend to be a high-stress person and often worry that my tendency to bring stress into every situation is harming my health.
- My immune system- I’ve never been as sick as I was this winter. It started in October with bronchitis and it seemed that every few weeks I catch a case of the sniffles and a sore throat. Typically I rarely get sick.
When I got my results back I called my PCP immediately to schedule an appointment because there were several factors that were red flagged. Factors that I didn’t anticipate even being an issue, but coupled with some other symptoms I’d been experiencing in May were cause for alarm.
- Testosterone- My testosterone was high. At first I thought, If my testosterone is so high why am I not jacked? Or as fast as the Russians? Ha! But seriously it made me a little worried. I’m still breastfeeding, so my testosterone should be on the low end. I had also just started my period, almost exactly 12 months postpartum. But instead of having a regular cycle, like I have in the past when my period has returned post-baby, I had three cycles about 11 days apart. Which is really unusual for me. I’d also experienced some abdominal pain early in May, which I had ignored–like runners sometimes do;) When I put the InsideTracker testosterone results along with the irregular bleeding and abdominal pain it was enough for me to raise some red flags. Of course my over-stressed imagination went wild: ovarian cysts? or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (which is characterized by high testosterone and irregular bleeding)? I needed to see my PCP and she got me in the next day to discuss my symptoms and blood work. Thankfully, she found no reason to suspect anything unusual (since I’m not growing facial hair-ha! among other symptoms of PCOS that I’m NOT displaying). She concluded that the irregular bleeding was probably my system re-setting postpartum and that the testosterone levels, though high were still in the “normal” range for women, just on the “higher” end of normal. She mentioned that every lab has a different range for what they consider “low,” “normal” and “high.” But she mentioned that Quest Labs (who InsideTracker uses for the blood work) has a very “standard” range so she trusted the accuracy of the test. She commented that because I am still breastfeeding and my cycle is restarting there’s a lot going on in regards to my hormones and the testing should be re-done when I’m not breastfeeding. She recommended taking a look at it again in July when I go back for a routine physical. If things haven’t changed at that point I may consider seeing an endocrinologist if my PCP thinks that is necessary. She was actually more concerned with my low Ferritin, noting that low iron storage and anemia would be problematic.
- Ferritin-My Ferritin, which is the storage of iron in the body, was on the low end. I had my iron tested last year when I was pregnant with Liam. At that time my iron levels tested during pregnancy they are always high. Probably because I’m not involved in intense training and I don’t drink as much coffee, which can block iron absorption.
- White Blood Cell-My white blood cell count was also low, which would explain why I was so sick this winter. I haven’t really been sick since April so the elevated white blood cells are a little concerning. Although my PCP didn’t seem too worried, she suggested we check again at my physical.
- Cholesterol-I was most curious about this and it turns out my numbers are good. Though my overall cholesterol is on the higher end my HDL is really high which is great.
- Cortisol-My cortisol levels were actually good, which suprised me. I was right in the middle of the optimal range. I wonder what it would have been if I was tested back in April before the marathon when Liam was waking 1-2 times a night? Probably not that great.
- Testosterone/Cortisol Ratio– Despite the fact that my cortisol levels are optimized, because of my high testosterone my T/C Ratio is not optimal. And from what I’ve read it seems that cortisol is often the factor that throws this ratio out of whack, not testosterone. Overtraining is usually characterized by low testosterone and high cortisol. You can read more about that HERE and HERE.
- Vitamin D-My vitamin D levels were also quite low and I’ll be making some dietary changes and considering supplements to try and get these levels back up.
I was really surprised by the results. My testosterone levels were an unexpected factor and I thought my iron levels would be higher. I was also concerned with the white blood cell count since I had not been sick prior to the blood draw, which may have affected my test results. There may still be some on-going inflammation and deep fatigue from marathon training with no sleep that my body just hasn’t recovered from yet.
Now that I’m informed about what is going on inside my body, my plan is to make some dietary changes to help improve my iron and Vitamin D levels. I love that InsideTracker provides suggestions on what to eat to help improve my levels, the visual display on my analysis is so easy to use. I plan to have my blood tested again to check again on testosterone and my white blood cell count. Hopefully, once I stop breastfeeding my body will settle back down and those counts will come back normal. If not then I’ll have so more exploring to do to see what is going on.
I also think that some rest from training will be helpful and my plan is to to take this coming week to re-set a bit before I tackle a few fun races at the end of July and August. My plan is to sleep-in, drastically reduce my running and skip any intense workouts. A week may be enough, or it may not be. Although I’m feeling “normal” in terms of my sleep and energy levels, my blood is obviously telling a different story. My plan is to test my blood again in July and then hopefully see if more prolonged rest is necessary. So until my blood starts telling a story of better health it is something that I’m going to keep checking with InsideTracker.
Want to get your blood tested with InsideTracker? Use code RUNFARGIRLJULY for a discount.
Have you had your blood tested? What did the test tell you and what did you do to make some changes?
I love connecting with readers! You can find me here:
Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com