The Skinny Girls at the Gym…

Or, why exercise is hard with Hypothyroidism or Adrenal Fatique

My entire life exercise was nearly impossible. In high school, I joined the track team but realized running was way too exhausting, so I did the shot-put instead (three steps, toss, and you’re done).  I desperately wanted to do sports but I couldn’t keep up with the others girls. No, no, this isn’t a sob story about me.  Like me, I think there are just lots of girls out there who have hypothyroidism & adrenal fatique and want to know how the skinny girls do it?

When I say “any kind of exercise completely wore me out” I really mean that. And not the usual “I’m tired, but I feel good” kind of workout. This was an “I’m tired, I feel like hell” kind of feeling.  For me this meant:

  • My muscles would be sore for 4-5 days (not the normal 1-2).
  • I would feel nausea, even flu-like aches and pains.
  • My face would turn bright red during exercise.
  • Exercising two days in a row was impossible.
  • And oftentimes I would get so hypoglycemicfrom exercise that I would crash for hours afterward.
  • To make matters worse, I would never lose weight from exercise!

Around the time I started treatment for Hypothyroidism, I also started an amazing, really athletic yoga class. But it was so frustrating watching the 50-year-old ladies hold a downward dog longer than me. My arms literally couldn’t support me (from what I hear arm strength and endurance are common Hypothyroid problems).

As the Thyroid medicine started working, I noticed I was able to do more in yoga class.  Everything started to improve; my strength, endurance, recovery time. So that’s how the skinny girls at the gym did it! They didn’t have Thyroid problems.

But there’s more… two years into Hypothyroid treatment, I found out about Adrenal Fatique (a condition linked with Hypothyroidism, which also shares many common symptoms).  When I started treatment for Adrenal Fatique something incredible happened for the first time in my life.  I wanted to run. Literally, I wanted to strap on my sneakers and just run. So I did. And guess what? I ran and I didn’t want to stop. And I didn’t get sick. My muscle recovery was less than a day. Can you say shocking? Omg, yes, it was for me too!

These days in yoga I am one of the strongest in the class.  I know, I know, yoga is not about being competitive (Ohm…) I only share this detail as a point of reference for before and after.  It’s amazing to go from unable to lift a finger, to doing handstands, running 3 miles and feeling great.  Now I can exercise every day, sometimes for hours, with little or no recovery problems.

All those years I thought I was just lazy (insert sigh). But, hey, I am glad I know, which is why I share my story with you. To all the girls out there who are exercising, not losing weight, feeling physically terrible and frustrated like me, now you know my secret (or at least one possible explanation for how the skinny girls do it).




Please note: not all overweight people are Hypothyroid. I have to follow a very specific eating plan, the HypoT Girl’s Diet, which I created just for me. But if Hypothryoidism is an issue, like it was for me, losing weight was almost impossible without treatment.


Miss LizzyThe Skinny Girls at the Gym…

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  • J. G. Oliver - April 14, 2010

    I can SO relate Lizzy! When I read the "Stop the Thyroid Madness" book I nearly cried when I read Janie’s description of teaching an aerobics class for months and feeling like she’d been "hit by a truck" after each one. The exact phrase that I’ve used for decades! I also joined track in junior high, hoping to be one of the "skinny girls". I thought I’d be a natural at it because my grandfather was (he used to run against Jesse Owens), but sadly it kicked my butt like everything else. I knew I wasn’t "lazy", but I was pretty sure that nearly everyone else thought that I was. I fought through the pain and continue to do so. I’m still not far enough along in my treatment to feel remotely like taking a jog; what an amazing feeling that had to have been!! Every time I jog my joints swell grotesquely. It just doesn’t work. I took bellydance lessons for years trying to build up my endurance with a low impact exercise, but I still couldn’t quite keep up with the 60 year old in the class. One of these days I hope that I’ll feel like jogging too!Can I ask how long the entire process took for you, from feeling "hit by a truck" to steaming through the yoga classes?

  • Lizzy - April 15, 2010

    Wow JG, sounds exactly like me, thanks for sharing your story.To answer your question, I was on Thyroid (natural dessiccated) for about two years and in that time was able to exercise more than ever before. But the real endurance and recovery happened when I started Hydrocortisone (HC) for Adrenal Fatigue. So there are two parts; I wish I had increased my Thyroid medicine dose faster (over six months rather than two years) and I wish I started HC sooner! I think on Stop the Thyroid Madness they said that Cortisol/HC helps the thyroid medicine reach the cells (where its needed to do its job). And in my experience that seemed to be true, once I started the HC my strength, energy and endurance improved really quickly (I found an immediate difference and it continues to improve).So if adrenals are an issue thats something to explore. Let me know what you learn!Cheers!~Lizzy

  • C. Hanson - April 20, 2010

    Hi Lizzy! I’m so glad you have shared your story! I got the link from the NTH group. I was wondering, after starting HC, how soon were you able to exercise? I am on HC and the one 30 min. walk I took near the beginning rock bottomed me for a few days. I used to love exercise and can’t wait to start again, esp. to loose these HC pounds. Everyone on the group seems to think I shouldn’t exercise at all until weaned.

  • Lizzy - April 22, 2010

    Hi C. Hanson, Thanks for writing! The NTH group is really knowledgeable and totally helped me figure out HC. I was able to exercise a little after starting thyroid treatment. but still struggled. When I started the HC I noticed an immediate energy, endurance and recovery time improvement. And it continued to improve over maybe 4-6 months. But definitely I felt it right away. A few questions…how much HC are you taking, when did you start, and how about Thyroid meds? They are all tied together.

  • Sue Taylor - December 28, 2010

    OH! I sure miss feeling like exercising for hours, I used to and loved it!Even with the thyroid and adrenal probs. Compounded meds take me away!

  • Essi K - July 22, 2013

    Hi, I hope you will see this comment although this post is kinda old.. :)I have been diagnosed with autoimmunethyroiditis, which leads to symptoms of hypothyroidism. I have been gaining weight a lot and exercise doesn't seem to help. I also have a problem that I get blisters on my feet every time I go for a run or a walk, still looking forward to solving that. Anyways, mostly I was wondering that has your face redness helped with medication etc.? My face has always been such a tomato after exercising (and it does make going to the gym a little harder, since I have to put make up on because otherwise I will look scary after even a light workout) I was always thinking this might be just a characteristic of mine but did it ease with you? I'd like to know if somehow I wouldn't turn bright red after working out.I was really skinny before I was diagnosed so this weight gain has been really depressing, I have started to get used to it but it still bothers me all the time. I'm also gonna try yoga soon and see how it works. That adrenal fatigue is also an interesting thing, I don't feel THAT tired anymore because now my TSH has gotten lower but working out doesn't motivate me at all. Do you need prescription from a doctor for medicine for the adrenal fatigue?

  • Lizzy - January 8, 2014

    Hi Essi, I'm sorry for the slow reply! Yes, on the right medicine, the face redness during exercise has improved greatly! I still get a little red when running but I think that's in the range of normal.Yes, when I was treated for Adrenal Fatigue, I took a prescription of oral Hydrocortisone. Please read around the blog about this as there is much to understand. After weaning off the HC, I increased the daily intake of Vitamin C to 2500 a day which is supposed to help with adrenals. And I take Licorice Root and Ashwaganda. These all seem to help my adrenals stay solid. Big love to you!

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