So you’re in the offseason, or coming close to it… Even if your racing schedule has simply slowed down rather than stopped (hello, cyclocross!), this time of year is a great time to handle some of those nagging health things you haven’t been doing for yourself. Take time to schedule those appointments you’ve been putting off. That could include the doctor for your regular annual checkup, gynecologist for the same, dentist for a cleaning, naturopath to check in on any lingering issues—you know, the stuff that’s hard to make time for when you’re in the thick of your racing season.
I’m always surprised how many little niggles are happening by this point in the year, or—when I get really honest—just how much stuff has started to go off the rails a little bit. Even some small things, like the ‘well, I should probably go to a podiatrist to get this weird toenail situation from running checked out’ can become big things if left too long. During the racing season, I know my eating gets a little wonky when we’re on the road a lot, and getting honest about how I’m feeling when my diet is a little less than vegetable-heavy is a big one. So this isn’t just checking in with experts, this is checking in with yourself. Take some time and do a full body scan from head to toe, journal about what needs work and what’s feeling great, and start chipping away at it while you have the time. Some stuff will be DIY—like getting a little more sleep because you feel super fatigued and the circles under your eyes are getting a little scary. Some stuff, like that weird toenail, may require expert intervention. And don’t forget those annoying-but-important annual or bi-annual things like dental, physical, and OBGYN appointments. They’re much easier to make now than they are when you’re training 15 hours a week!
If you do have great health insurance, make sure you’re taking advantage of all of your benefits and perks: Many better plans cover physical therapy, even massage therapy + chiropractic, in addition to your more typical specialists. Of course, you can also talk to a doctor about requisitioning bloodwork—go in with a specific list!—or ask if your health plan covers therapy (even some sports psychs can be covered!). And lastly, some plans will even cover working with a registered dietitian, which is a HUGE benefit for athletes.
In fact, it’s worth mentioning that working with a registered dietitian even for 1-2 sessions can make a huge difference to your athletic goals. If you want to learn more about what that could look like, make sure you check out this past episode with Kylee Van Horn, RD, or Stevie Lyn Smith, RD to hear more. This is especially important if you’ve make big changes to your diet (i.e intermittent fasting, going low carb) or your training (upping your hours in any major way).
We’re also pretty big fans of doing our own detective work: Not every doctor is willing to check your bloodwork—or do an extensive panel—and especially for our American readers, the copays to go to the doc to even get the requisition for bloodwork can be pricey. In Canada, similar is true: Doctors don’t love doing a ton of tests unless you have added benefits through work, so most people end up with limited testing or need to visit a naturopath to get requisitions. But with a service like Inside Tracker, you can actually get a huge spectrum of bloodwork done for relatively cheap, with zero added hassle. (In fact, they’ll even come to you to do the blood draw!)
If you’re interested, check out insidetracker.com/consummate to get 25% off (!) whatever blood test you’re ordering. That is a HUGE savings (and we’re not even sponsored by them right now, we just still use our own code!). No time to get to a lab? You can order a mobile blood draw where they literally come to your house and take your blood in under 10 minutes. It’s so freaking convenient. And if you’re on a budget, I wanted to add three notes here: 1) If you’re in the US, you can always go get blood drawn and save the $95 for a mobile blood draw. 2) If you use the ‘coupon clipping’ browser extension Rakuten, you can save an extra 4%. 3) While I love the Ultimate blood test, I do realize it’s not suuuuuper cheap, but the Essentials is a great deal! In fact, that’s the one we’re using this time, with the idea that we’ll see how everything looks on that, and if needed, we’ll upgrade to the Ultimate next time. We have done the Ultimate in the past and I loved having such a huge amount of results, but if the price tag on that is too much for your budget, the Essentials is really an awesome bargain that provides a ton of info.
I actually booked bloodwork for us just this week: Nothing is majorly off, but because I have a major goal on the horizon, and we’ve both been noticing that we’ve been sleeping a bit more lately, it makes sense to do a check in. Ideally, we would do this at least twice a year, more if anything is off and we need to check back in. It’s obviously a balancing act between budgeting while also investing in our long-term health. But when I think about how much we spend on various cycling and running gear, investing this much in my overall health simply makes sense. The same holds true for things like paying for regular dental cleaning (and any dental work) even if you don’t have dental insurance, or paying out-of-pocket for therapy. It may not be super fun in the moment, but it’s worth it in the long term.
Lastly… for women: This is my annual reminder to you to, when talking to your gynecologist at your annual check-in, make sure that you mention what your training looks like, and any issues you’re having with menstruation/your cycle, any birth control questions, any potential hormone issues you’re wondering about, etc. I’ve noticed that the conversation is entirely different between talking to a gynecologist who knows you’re training for Ironman versus when she doesn’t know that you’re exercising 12+ hours a week.
Head into your base building and next season of racing as healthy as possible!!