Autoimmune Disease and Too Much Cardio

I wanted to take some time today to write about what to expect if you have a workout regime that is heavy on the cardio side, but also have an autoimmune disease that you are dealing with.  One thing you’ll notice when you have an autoimmune disease is that you’ll often have days where you are utterly exhausted, and that can also lead to heavy feelings of depression from that exhaustion.  Let me share a little bit of what happened to me over the past few years…

I used to teach a lot of classes on a weekly basis… a combination of BODYPUMP, Turbo Kick, Cardio Kickboxing and Yoga (and now PiYo).  I used to be able to hang with it ok, but that schedule soon started to overly tax my adrenal glands, and that started to slow me down and I started experiencing a lot of bodily pain and a lot of weakness and exhaustion… and I started to GAIN weight despite all of this.  With that also came heavy bouts of depression.   Last Spring I gave up my cardio kickboxing class and things started to get better… however, after time, I discovered that I was still pushing my body a little more than it desired.

When you have an autoimmune disease you need to regularly check in with your body to see how it’s responding to the load you are giving it.  You also need to learn when not to play the “superhero” card and continue to plow through simply because you “used to be able to.”  I know, it sucks… trust me.  We need to learn to respect and honor the body and meet it where it’s at sometimes.

If you are someone who has a heavy cardio load in your workouts, but you also have an autoimmune disease, and you notice you are struggling with lots of exhaustion and depression, you may want to seriously considering changing the type of workout you are doing.  This does break my heart, trust me… because I was always a die-hard Turbo Kick (Turbo Jam/Turbo Fire) girl.  When our adrenals get taxed, though, we do need to lay off of them a bit so that they can heal… otherwise we’ll just start to compound other symptoms and issues with our autoimmune diseases.

Even as I type this I’m in a funk.  I subbed an extra Turbo Kick class this week to help out, and it utterly kicked… my… ass.  For the whole day I’ve been on the verge of sleep walking and the depression hit me hard hard hard!  Don’t let this happen to you!

If you LOVE a good hour long cardio, you may want to consider limiting that style of workout to one time per week.  I know that I am generally ok if I do Turbo Kick just once per week only (it was the second one this week that did me in).  For any other cardio do short HIIT style workouts (1/2 hour or less, no more than twice per week).  You may even want to consider keeping your HIIT workouts low impact… that means not getting overly crazy into the anaerobic zone with lots of jumping around.  On the other days of the week, I highly suggest picking up weights to doing a more strength based program that has fewer reps and heavier weights.  Also… become one with Yoga and Pilates.  A good mind/body exercise can be very effective with autoimmune disease.

If you struggle with an autoimmune disease combined with crazy exhaustion and depression, here are some program suggestions I offer you (ALL of these are available with Beachbody On Demand):

~The Master’s Hammer & Chisel (mostly strength and some HIIT cardio stuff… I’d, personally, do a Yoga workout once per week and subtract one cardio with this program)
~ChaLEAN Extreme (shorter workouts that focus on heavy resistance, less cardio and some mind/body work)
~PiYo (an intense pilates/yoga fusion)
~Beachbody Yoga Studio (TONS of yoga workouts to choose from… from mild to challenging)
~P90X3 (a great mix of everything… more intermediate/advanced level)
~21 Day Fix (a great mix of everything… great for beginner/intermediate)

As much as I love some of the newer programs like Country Heat and Core De Force, they may not be the best to be followed as designed for autoimmune folks.  You can still throw one in for cardio once per week… but I’d definitely pick a program that’s less cardio and work to heal those taxed adrenal glands.

If you ever want to chat about any of this, send me an email at OR send me a message on Facebook (I’m on Facebook and Instagram pretty regularly)


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