Is it Even an Excuse Anymore?

“Iron defficiency.” This is the distance runner’s easiest get away. Didnt feel strong? Must be iron defficient. Bad workout? Must be iron defficient. Not racing well? Must be iron defficient. It’s an epidemic. Years ago it was found that distance runners that feel weak have low ferritin levels in their blood. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it to the blood stream. With low iron stores, one becomes easily fatigued because it messes with the oxygen-heme group bondging, limiting the amount of oxygen spreading to the bodily tissues….making it the perfect excuse to poor performance.

I admit that I am one who has used this excuse in the past. In high school my xc team went to a camp up in New Hampshire every summer for a week. The summer before my sophomore year, one of the days they had a guy come in and lecture us about iron defficiency and the signs. That indoor season I noticed that I was feeling some of these symptoms. I was racing slower. It was harder to keep up with my teammates on workouts. I was frustrated as all hell. My coach suggested getting a blood test to see if I happen to have iron defficiency. What do you know?? I had low ferritin levels. Next thing you know I am on liquid iron supplements (which taste like straight metal) and I started performing better by that outdoor season.

I tried keeping my liquid gold a secret (soon became golden pills when I couldn’t handle the taste anymore) thinking it gave me an edge over others. However, I soon realized something. Everyone thinks they are iron defficient. Everyone is on or has taken iron supplements. There is no edge by taking them. It makes me think of the steroid issue in sports such as baseball. MLB players claim they only take steroids cause everyone else is and that the sport has become that. Iron pills don’t make you faster, but a lot of people take them so they don’t get slower. I do continue to take my supplements every day I can remember out of this same fear. I have experienced it and its not fun knowing you should be faster than your body will let you move. However, whenever I hear a person complain about iron defficiency effecting their performance I cannot sympathize for them. It’s not an excuse anymore if it’s affecting everyone….or so they claim.

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3 Responses to Is it Even an Excuse Anymore?

  1. snowcts14 snowcts14 says:

    I have to agree with the two previous comments. Iron deficiency is a real problem these days as I witness one of my friends experience it almost everyday. She was extremely fatigued and would often drift away without a moments notice. It took her most of spring semester to recover her iron levels to a healthy level. Also I have to agree that most athletes and children these days seem to be making more excuses. They don’t want to push or stress themselves too much. Instead they blame iron deficiency as an excuse. So while I do agree that children are making more excuses these days, I can’t agree with you on your stating that you cannot sympathize with people with iron deficiencies because it is a real problem.

  2. spondy12 says:

    Is this indicative of more athletes making “excuses” or the increasing number of athletes, or people in general, who aren’t getting enough iron? I haven’t seen any specific statistics, but with the bad reputation that red meats are gaining, it wouldn’t surprise me if many athletes cut them from their diets without adding other foods or supplements to ensure iron intake.

  3. kbox2015 says:

    I have to disagree with you on that one. Iron deficiency is a very real problem in the athlete’s world. When I was on the swim team last year, I let my iron deficiency go too long without checking, and I had severe symptoms. I was extremely fatigued, I had difficulty standing, I was taking naps daily, and sometimes I would start to fall asleep while I was driving. I eventually got it checked out, and my iron levels were almost on par with those of an anemic patient. I was put on high levels of iron supplements and eventually recovered. If an athlete is diagnosed with an iron deficiency, then it should be treated as quickly as possible. Many people on sports teams have low iron, especially if they are vegetarians. If they let the so called “easiest get away” go on for too long, anemia could be in their future.

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