Picture this if you will.
It's a bright summers morning in June. The year is 2013. I am on my way to train clients, navigating my way through the busy London streets. It's the day after my 34th birthday and I had a smashing night.
The happy memories begin to fade, as suddenly I can't breathe. I'm losing contol of my legs. My heart is racing. I'm feeling dizzy. Everything begins to go black. I stop suddenly.
The lights come back on, and I fumble for the nearest wall. Dazed and confused I sit myself down. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a life changing two weeks in hospital battling a life threatening condition, and the start of a four year personal journey prioritising health over performance after putting myself on the road to ruin.
What I'm leading up to is that too many of us prioritise our fitness over health and in doing so unknowingly put our health (and in my case my life) at risk.
But before we go further, let me clarify what I mean by health, or more specifically what I consider are the 5 pillars of health and why they are important.
Take a look at the diagram below.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health simply as
"A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Now you can be as fit as a fiddle and lean as a bean, but if the other pillars of health are not strong, chances are that some area of your life will crumble and then life, quite frankly, can become pretty shit for you rather rapidly (especially if disease, injury or illness sets in).
Since 2013 I've come across city workers, fitness professionals, athletes and entrepreneurs who put their fitness first, oblivious to the writing on the wall that if they continue in the same direction the wheels are going to come off the cart.
When faced with illness or their own mortaility they are forced to change. It doesn't have to be that way. Don't wait until you are falling apart at the seams and your body is having what I call a, "Freak The F*ck Out" moment.
So here are 11 warning signs that your training and lifestyle are putting you on the road to ruin (because everyone loves a list right?).
Shortness of breath at rest or with mild exertion: the medical term is Dyspnea. This is what happened to me. You can expect your breathing rate to increase physical activity, but it's usually in proportion to what you are doing. If you also experience dyspnea when at rest this is a red flag and should get that checked out.
Orthopnea or nocturnal dyspnea: this is difficulty in breathing when lying or sudden breathing problems at night.
Dizziness or Syncope: feeling woozy, light headed, disorientated or fainting episodes (you can see in my situation I hit this marker too).
Palpatations or tachychardia: this is rapid beating or fluttering of the heart.
Intermittent Claudication: severe pain in the legs when walking that isn't caused by a muscular issue as such (so don't confuse it with DOMS or a pulled muscle). This is a vascular issue and to do with blood flow and occlusion.
Unusual fatigue or shortness of breath with usual acitivites: Pretty self explanatory this one and links to the first point. The thing to remember is that this must occur with normal activities, not after a strenous tasks, runnign a marathon, monster gym session...(you get my drift).
High Blood Pressure: There is an ideal range and a safe range for blood pressure. If it is outside of these ranges (especially if paired with one or more of the above symptoms) you need to get it checked out.
Low Blood Pressure: This one is often over looked. If your blood pressure is low this can be a sign of various problems.
If your blood pressure drops when you are physcially exerting yourself it is very serious, you need to stop what you are doing and take yourself to A&E. Your cardiovascular system is no longer working effectively.
Sexual Dysfunction: Everyone has different sex drives. It can by influenced by culture, hormone balance or dysfunction. We all have a natural ebb and flow too. If you've noticed that your sex drive has dropped off considerably and this has lasted a while, you may want to get that checked out.
It can be caused by lifestyle factors, nutrition, stress or even disease. Again, if it is paired with some of the symptoms in this article, its a clear sign that you might not be in the best condition.
Irregular/ Missed Periods: This is self explanatory and there are numerous causes. Irregular periods, missed periods or extremely heavy blood flow compared to "normal" are signs not to be ignored. Better to get it checked out with your GP or medical professional.
Unusual / Unexplained Mood Swings: You may not have noticed this yourself, perhaps those close to you have remarked on the change. Maybe you've noticed a shift in mood recently where you are feeling more flat, delfated or numb (it can also be for no apparent reason).
You could even be experiencing wonderful highs, where it feels your senses are dialed up to 10, and you are full of energy only to come crashing down again. This cycle often repeats itself, or it can be a prolonged period of time,
If this sounds familiar, you may need to take better care of your emotional and mental wellbeing. Get help if you need too, there is no shame in it.
Now don't get me wrong there are many other warning signs that you are in ill health, but I covered these factors because as Coach these are the 11 factors that I often come across the most. In my experience they can be easily overlooked or dismissed.
Don't make the same mistake that I did back in 2013.
Since then I've learned to take better care of myself. I don't always get it perfect, but I now have a point of reference and a useful system (with the 5 pillars of health) to show me, and my clients when they are falling off so that they can take better care of themselves, and lead more healthier and happier lives.
I can see the warning signs more easliy now. All this helps me to stay not only fit as f*ck, but healthy and loving life!