Is there such a thing as “the right workout” for people with Hashimoto’s?

After my weight loss story was published in Women’s Health magazine two years ago, I received numerous messages from readers asking if there even is such a thing as “the right” workout for people struggling with Hashimoto’s; what I recommend, and if endurance exercise isn’t counterproductive when suffering from an autoimmune disease.

I would like to point out that I am writing this from the perspective of a nutritionist and fitness instructor – I am not a doctor and always recommend consulting a physician first before making any changes that may impact your health.

My background and how I was diagnosed

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in the fall of 2017. Unlike many others, I was diagnosed quickly and without heaps of preliminary tests. I was lucky to be in the hands of an experienced doctor who could immediately interpret all my prevalent symptoms for Hashimoto’s. Unfortunately, the blood test then only confirmed what she suspected already. Besides feeling lethargic, experiencing brain fog, and chronic fatigue, I was also overweight at the time (I am referring to the BMI calculator here).

I have always been very interested in everything health-related and was keen to educate myself about the condition and what I can do to improve my well-being (in addition to taking Levothyroxine). 

My 50 IBS weight loss and how I maintain my weight

I discovered the joy of walking at that time. Back then, I definitely couldn’t even run 100 meters at a time (I do not exaggerate); for reference, I’m currently training for a  marathon.

After about 2 months, I saw the first results – not only on the scale, much more importantly mentally, I felt insanely better, had no more brain fog, and my concentration improved immensely. I was continuously walking in the evenings after work until one day I thought, “okay, I’m ready to tackle running.” Like so many other beginners, I was super intimidated to see all the professional runners around me. Still, I felt ready because the decreasing number on the scale spurred me on and served as a huge motivation to keep going. I will never forget how the first few minutes felt – never before have I ever felt so light; In my mind, I was prepared to handle the kilos “wobble,” – but I had forgotten that the first 5 kilos had already come off and I simply was not yet used to my new, body.  Since running can put a lot of pressure on your joints, it’s important to mention here that I luckily never suffered from (another common Hashimoto symptom) joint pain.

Overwhelmed with joy, this was the beginning of my love for running, and well… the rest is history 🙂

4 years later and how my woorkout routine looks today

In the meantime, I became a nutritionist, fitness instructor and yoga teacher, which comes with cumulative knowledge about exercise, health, and mind-body wellness.

“Only” running eventually became too dull for me, and I realized the importance of muscle building and maintenance, especially with a sluggish metabolism associated with Hashimoto’s, so I put this into practice.

Around age 30, a physiological conversion of muscle to fatty tissue begins at a rate of 0.3 to 1.3 percent per year. If nothing is done to prevent this, around 30 to 50 percent of muscle mass is thus gradually lost by the time a person reaches the age of 80. In addition, strength training increases physical performance, reduces the risk of injury from falls, and improves posture. Thus, strength training is increasingly important for everyone, not just people with Hypothyroidism. Today I alternate between body-weight training, endurance sports, yoga and Pilates. 

My recommendation

I recommend working out 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes maximum if you are new to sports; Muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones must first get used to the load and need enough time in between to regenerate, which is especially important should you be overweight. Then, you can slowly increase the lengths of your intervals over the months if you’re up for a bigger challenge.

Starting slowly is especially important not to injure yourself, which would only set you back. Instead, give your body enough time to adjust to the positive changes. If you feel overwhelmed with getting started, I teach Yoga over Zoom for optimal autoimmune health; write me a message if you want to know more.

Conclusion

Those of us who have Hashimoto’s suffer from fluctuating energy levels but moving your body is crucial, increases personal well-being, and helps combat symptoms associated with autoimmune disease.

My weight remains constant (with normal hormonal fluctuations of +/- 3 kg). My TSH levels are stable, and the most important thing; I feel great and am fully convinced that this is because I only do what feels “right” for me. For example, I desperately tried to get into weight lifting, but it’s just not for me, and I fully accept that because I found alternatives that actually make me excited to get up in the morning and do my workout, and this is what it’s all about! Your workout routine should be a mood booster that gets you excited and not the opposite.

Over the years, I have learned to listen to my body. I also notice that I am much more relaxed about my weight – I am no longer obsessed with the scale. Life consists of so much more than counting macros. Find a workout routine that brings you joy and doesn’t stress you out when you just think about it. I tried so many things from Wheel gymnastics to Equestrian vaulting, basketball, and swimming until I found and cultivated my passion for running, bodyweight training, and yoga. 

Be patient, open to trying out new things, and most importantly – be good to yourself.

Warm wishes, 

Kim

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