Hello all, I’m hoping to gain some insight into what has been a frustrating year for me. Sorry for such a long post; I’m trying to be thorough.
I am a wildland firefighter, which means I start my consistent training after fire season is over in the fall (usually starting at 6-7 hours a week) and my fitness peaks in early summer with 12-13 hours a week. I’ve been training using the TFTNA mountaineering model for 4 or 5 years now with most of my aerobic activity consisting of backcountry skiing and running. I usually use a heart rate monitor and keep a journal of my activity.
Starting around March, 2020, I started feeling off. I didn’t have my usual energy and didn’t have motivation to exercise. I was missing workouts or stopping workouts early because I felt spent. I basically felt like I was either dancing with overtraining or about to get sick. In the past when I’ve felt like this it’s usually right before I get a cold. I take a couple days off or more if needed, then slowly get back into the routine and all is well. However, I never could get back into the routine. I still had a decent base built up so I pushed through the summer but I couldn’t exercise like normal and was basically limping along. Most noticeably my HR was significantly higher (10-30 bpm) for a given activity and level of perceived exertion compared to previous efforts. I would run as slowly as possible and my HR would still be right at my AeT. I would end what should have been an easy run completely exhausted and feel that way for the rest of the day, or even multiple days. My level of fatigue during the day was as if I hadn’t slept the night before. I was basically wrecked.
Fall 2020 I had some pretty bad sub-sternal chest pain and my work commitments lightened up, so I finally got a primary care doctor and started trying to figure out what was going on. Fast forward to the present and I’ve seen a cardiologist, infectious disease doc, hematologist, endocrinologist, rheumatologist, neurologist and sleep doctor and they all have given me a clean bill of health. I’ve had a bunch of bloodwork done and it’s all normal. The best they can come up with is some kind of post-viral chronic fatigue. I never had a positive COVID test, although I didn’t get tested until the middle of July. After basically not exercising at all for several months I’ve started to slowly try and start again, but it’s baby steps. It’s so easy to over do it and get exhausted for several days. It seems like anything over 2 or 3 miles at the slowest possible jog is too much. I can bike for an hour but I’m pushing the granny gear most of the time and it’s so easy to get my HR up crazy high.
I’m not looking for a diagnosis here, but am hoping to gain some insight into how I can try and rebuild some fitness while dealing with chronic fatigue. It seems like some days I feel great and can perform ok, and some days even minimal activity is too much. It’s very frustrating and confusing. I tried to find a correlation between my activity and how I feel but it all seems so random. I understand I am very deconditioned, but even so it seems like my body isn’t responding to gentle exercise appropriately. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.