Lost my endurance
June 4, 2015 5:18 PM   Subscribe

I have never been in good shape from a cardio-vascular perspective but something is getting much worse for me now. I am roughly fifty pounds overweight and when I go to exercise I find that I can't make it for very long whether that be jogging, using the elliptical, or biking.

I have had a complete physical and my doctor said I am in good shape other than the fact that I need to shed the fifty pounds that I am carrying around with me. I recently bought the 4-hour body by Tim Ferris and have been following the advice for trying to take off the weight, but I haven't noticed any substantial weight loss quite yet.I am alarmed by my lack of endurance these days. I used to be able to jog 2 miles without stopping to walk and now that is almost impossible. I also used to be able to use the elliptical for an hour and feel damn good after I was done working out. Has anyone experienced something like this before? If so, what do I do to build up my endurance again? I have resigned myself to taking long walks and with proper dieting I hope that I can shed the fifty pounds, but I can't stand how my body feels. I will also add this, that I don't feel any better after working out anymore. I don't understand that. I used to feel great after I ran a couple of miles and now it's like I don't feel any positives from working out. I think that this problem is psychological. Instead of enjoying the feeling of resistance when I am working out, I get overwhelmed by it. Any suggestions? Anyone else ever experienced what I am talking about? How do I get past this?
posted by nidora to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Oh heck yes. Every time I stop running (which is every winter), I lose my endurance. The only thing you can do is work back up to it. Increase the amount of time you run and then walk, then run again.

It'll come back!
posted by xingcat at 5:31 PM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

My first question is, are you confident in your workup? If you're a woman heart disease can be overlooked. How long ago did you used to run?

After that, I think it's partly sticking with it, and maybe trying something with a payoff beyond just the workout, like cycling or power walking to appointments, with friends, etc. It may be once you're more fit that comes back. It may not.

Also, are you eating properly for your workout. If I work on an empty stomach or a full one I feel way worse than if I have a snack before. (I prefer a small amount of nuts; ymmv.) Hydration is also important.

It could also be depression, so that's something to check out.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:32 PM on June 4, 2015

2nd xingcat - I took a month off cardiovascular stuff recently and noticed a difference, for sure. Have been back at it for a few weeks, and my capacity's returned. If you had more time than that off, it might take a bit longer. Just be patient and stick with it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:36 PM on June 4, 2015

As someone who has been on 4HB for 2+ years (close to goal, mostly maintaining) - when you're first starting out, you have a lack of energy due to the lack of carbs. When did you start?

4HB isn't really intended to be used along with intense exercise because the calories you're consuming are just so minimal. I have never been the type to use the elliptical for an hour, so I'm not sure how intense that is.

(if you want me to help you troubleshoot the diet, memail me - I am as close to certified on this plan as you can get) :)
posted by getawaysticks at 5:38 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

When you say "used to," do you mean before you gained the last 50 pounds? If so, try to pick up a 50 pound weight at the gym and walk around with it. That's the excess that your body is trying to deal with now. Your feet probably hurt like hell. When you get closer to your goal weight, you'll have more energy for every reason, and you'll have the endurance to run long enough for the endorphins to kick in.

You can't lose weight and gain muscle at the same time. In order to gain muscle, you have to eat to feed the muscle growth. It's good to increase activity, for heart health, etc., but weight loss is about 99 percent diet. It's really a matter of what you put in your mouth. You can eat in a caloric deficit pretty easily at 50 pounds overweight -- in order to maintain that weight, you've been taking in about 1000 calories more per day than you need. If you cut down to the right number of calories for your desired weight, you will see results very quickly.

Until then, I think you'll be better served with walking. When your weight reaches a more manageable level, I'm willing to bet that you won't have the psychological block that you've got going now.
posted by janey47 at 5:38 PM on June 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

When a sudden loss of exercise endurance happened to me, it ended up being caused by hyperthyroidism. You can also get weird exhaustion with hypothyroid (which would also make it hard to lose weight).

Did your doctor run thyroid bloodwork? If not, I'd go back and request that (along with Vit D and B12 and blood counts if he didn't run those).
posted by pie ninja at 5:45 PM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ramp up slower with something like Couch to 5k, and it will be easier for your body to adjust and feel good.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:56 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Anecdata: fat, muscular person who always thought myself pretty active, bike commuted year round, etc. I started up at the gym last fall and could not do more than ten minutes on the elliptical at a moderately brisk pace - and ten minutes was pushing it. It took me about a month of regular fast walking on the treadmill to get up to doing the elliptical. I just got back from a workout that was 30 minutes of elliptical at a high speed followed by barbell work and goblet squats.

If you put on fifty pounds and got older at the same time, you were gaining weight and losing built in youthful flexibility, and that can be startling. Right now, at forty, I am fitter and more flexible than at any other time in my life, but when I started this last November, I was really shocked to find that I no longer had the automatic "I can easily lift my leg onto the barre to stretch" thing that I had even when I was slothful and lazy in my early thirties.
posted by Frowner at 5:58 PM on June 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm trying to shed 50 pounds myself, partly because I was noticing my endurance was embarrassingly low. I started by just trying to exercise more because at first I was more worried about the fitness than weight.

One thing I noticed is that when I did improve my food intake (vegetables, high fiber dishes, fewer sugars, the standard) my ability to exercise longer increased again and I felt more like my old self when active. Even before I'd lost any real weight.
posted by mark k at 6:42 PM on June 4, 2015

How long has it been since you last ran on a regular basis? I find that running fitness is especially hard to maintain. I took almost a year off of running since doing a half marathon, and even though I hadn't gained any weight, it was terrible to start back up. I could hardly manage a mile or two without needing to stop and walk. And as you describe, even after my runs I felt bad. If it's been a long while and you've put on significant weight since, it's not surprising that your cardio fitness is not what it used to be.

A walk/jog interval program would probably be the fastest and safest way to ramp back up to continuous running (you could try C25K, repeating weeks if that's more comfortable), and as mentioned above, losing some weight will make a big difference. The good feeling workout endorphins will come back once your body gets used to regular exercise again. Changing up your diet will give you the fastest weight loss results, especially if exercise is difficult right now. As the adage goes, you can't outrun a bad diet. And in a month or two, you'll be glad you started today.
posted by keep it under cover at 7:07 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Age + lack of practice = shocking drop in endurance.

I ran a marathon last year, and three halves. But I let it go for 2 months and now I'm struggling with a 12km. This is life over 40.

Nthing the advice that walking is more effective until you lose the weight (use something like myfitnesspal to create lists and see what kind of sustainable hacks you can make in your regular habits and avoid dieting). Use the energy boost from the weight loss to start running.
posted by frumiousb at 9:43 PM on June 4, 2015

I was more than 50 lbs overweight when I started, and found HIIT the most helpful for losing weight. I think you need to try upping your intensity in controlled doses.

Losing weight is not always 80 or 99 or some high percentage about diet, in fact some people find exercise more important or as important. Personally, my metabolism slows down and down if I just diet, revs back up if I exercise properly.

It is not true that you burn anything like 1000 extra calories a day because of 50 pounds of *fat*. Also if you've lost significant weight previously your metabolism is likely slower--people who lost lots of weight burn something like 20% fewer calories than their peers of the same weight who were never heavy. That's a significant difference! The always-average person may be able to consume 2000 calories and maintain their weight, while the former fatty might only be able to consume 1600.

Diet composition matters too. In particular, increased protein seems to help people lose more weight on the same number of calories.

This whole attitude of "hey just eat less, walk, easy peasy" fails to take into consideration both many people's personal experiences of difficulty losing weight despite calorie reduction, and research that shows there is much more to the weight picture than calorie in calorie out. Genetics play a big role in weight. Sleep plays a big role. Hormones play a big role. Gut health plays a big role. Spend some time on a site like PubMed reading about what makes research mice who were fed exactly the same diet (both in terms of composition as well as calories) differ greatly in their weight. Read about the response to long-term overfeeding in identical twins. Read about hormones like ghrelin and leptin and the interesting but incomplete picture we have of how they work to influence our weight.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 11:16 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

How much have you cut back on your daily calorie and carb intake? If the answer is "substantially" and this drop in endurance seems to coincide with your adoption of the 4HB diet, I don't think you need to look much further for your answer.
posted by drlith at 4:21 AM on June 5, 2015

I have had a complete physical and my doctor said I am in good shape

Did the physical include blood tests for thyroid, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, cortisol levels, lyme disease, epstein-barr virus, and CRP (inflammation)?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:45 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

two things: in my experience, endurance isn't a linear thing--my endurance gets higher or lower depending on a billion factors, including how much/when I've eaten, whether I have a cold or allergies,* how much cardio I've already done that week, etc. My endurance drops sharply whenever I break through a plateau of resistance or reps or distance or speed, and then gradually builds back up. In a way, you don't actually ever want your exercise to feel consistently "easy," (though I know what you mean about feeling net better rather than net worse afterward and that IS a good thing.)

But I would say if you've suddenly made a drastic calorie drop and/or major change in your diet composition, that would definitely impact your endurance. Sometimes with exercise things have to feel worse before they feel better.

Either way, if it persists it might be wise to talk to your doctor again. Detail your diet habits and describe the way your endurance has dropped, because as people have noted, it could be any number of things that a regular physical couldn't catch.

*hey that reminds me, it's allergy season--if you're prone, it may be affecting your breathing/endurance
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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