Too Tired to Run Means Something’s Wrong

What I’m about to reveal feels like some sort of dirty confession.

You see, my body recently screamed at me: “These workouts are wiping you out!”

So I listened.

Over the last six months, my exercise has gradually dwindled, reduced from multiple-times-a-day fun to an “I don’t know if I can make it through today” energy suck.

Clearly, something about my body is off kilter. But what?

From April Marathoner to August Couch Potato

Downward arrow with caption, "Running Out of Energy Sucks"

All summer, I struggled to get out the door for workouts. I figured Austin’s hot and humid weather was responsible–all my travel to cooler, less stifling places had prevented any of the usual acclimation that keeps me happily moving.

When my legs felt like cement, I blamed extra weight. Perhaps that poundage was  responsible for my skyrocketing heart rate during runs.

Always quick to criticize my work ethic, I credited my lingering lethargy to mental letdown. I’d lost focus–maybe I just needed a break. So I switched up the weekly activities, heading indoors for Jazzercise and to the pool for Aqua Interval. My running days dropped dramatically: no more long trail jaunts, just a few easy fun runs with friends.

But instead of feeling refreshed, I felt more drained and less energetic.

Nothing helped.

Downward arrow with caption, "Running Out of Energy Sucks"In July, I called my doctor. The office had no appointment slots open until late August, but I decided to wait instead of settling for a substitute. A runner herself, I trust my doctor; she always listens and respects my “something’s going on” intuitions (I’ll never hear her dismiss my complaints with “You’re just a menopausal 50+ woman with a slowing metabolism; cut 100 calories from your diet and settle for a nice, slow walk”).

Davis Mountain Fitness & Training Camp loomed in early August, and I was nervous; would I wimp out? It seemed I’d dodged a bullet when the workout-heavy week went off without a hitch…albeit at a somewhat lesser intensity than last year’s enthusiastic pitch. I stopped on hikes to catch my breath and settle my pounding heart; I bonked badly in the last 3 miles of a sweetly downhill 10-miler; that single-track loop took longer than it should’ve. One or two days, I opted to nap instead of stretch at yoga.

Back at home, however, I crashed in a big way. Entire days of little movement dragged on–I did almost nothing but lie on the couch, comatose before the TV, jettisoning workouts along with my fitness monitor. It was just too depressing to see that total decrease from 10K multiples daily to a mere 1,000-3,000 steps.

I was miserable.

By the time my appointment rolled around, 8 to 9 hours of sleep at night plus an afternoon nap couldn’t recharge my battery. Most mornings, I woke up tired and stayed tired, unable to even run a mile without hitting the wall.

What To Do About This Fatigue?

Downward arrow with caption, "Running Out of Energy Sucks"This isn’t the first time I’ve been mysteriously exhausted.

The first incident was in 2009, after the New York City Marathon. It took a good six months for me to return to normal activity, and my doctor found no explanation for its onset or resolution.

So what am I trying this time around?

  • My primary doctor examined me, ordered labs, recommended a sleep study, and referred me to a rheumatologist.
  • My endocrinologist reviewed the tests my primary doctor ran and adjusted my thyroid medication.
  • I met with a nutritionist, who listened closely and asked probing questions. She instructed me to keep a 3-day food log with careful measurements. In addition, she asked me to check lab results to determine if  vitamin C and all B levels were tested.

Where I am Right Now

Downward arrow with caption, "Running Out of Energy Sucks"My medication adjustments are kicking in and providing results. I managed to run/walk 3 miles twice this week. I’m sleeping much less and better able to focus during the day. I haven’t seriously crashed and burned at any point in the last two weeks. No couch time–woohoo!

Slowly, surely, it feels as though I’m climbing out of this funk. Every day is a little bit better; every workout shows a modicum of improvement. But I’m certainly not back to normal, and so I’m continuing on the diagnostic journey. Here’s where things stand:

  • The recommended rheumatologist wants more information, which I’m gathering.
  • I turned in my completed food log, and I’ll see the nutritionist for a follow-up visit.
  • My sleep study is scheduled for next week (oh, you know I’ll write up what that adventure entails).






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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

5 thoughts on “Too Tired to Run Means Something’s Wrong

  1. Leah! I knew you\’d been feeling \’off\’ but I hadn\’t realized just how bad it had gotten. I hope the docs are able to help you towards a speedy recovery. ❤️

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