From Setback to Comeback: How to Get Started Running After Being Diagnosed with a Salt Deficiency

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As runners, we can all agree that a forced break is a most unwelcome experience. This week, our Social Media Advertising Coordinator shares her experience with a setback and a comeback. Read on to see how she overcame the discovery of being salt deficient to return to her beloved sport.

To those of you suffering through a setback, you are not alone, and we feel your pain…literally.


Meet Sierra. She runs 40-50 miles per week and loves track workouts the most. She’s not a fan of running along busy roads, so when not on the track, she does some middle distance runs on her favorite trail in Cayucos. Sierra participates in a couple of smaller races per year that aren’t widely advertised. Her favorite distances are the 5k and 10k.


What caused you to take a break from running? Approximately how much time did you have to take off?

Sierra: I recently took three months off from running due to a severe salt deficiency (I sweat approximately 30x more than the sweatiest person you know), which was causing my heart to go into overdrive while running. It was pretty scary; I would lose feeling in my limbs and get lightheaded on what would have normally been the easiest runs of my life.


Were you able to do any other kinds of fitness activities? If so, what did you do?

Sierra: I wasn’t really able to do any intensive cardio exercises, so I focused on a lot of Body Combat courses (those could get pretty rough and I had to monitor my heart rate pretty regularly) and just walking my dog anywhere and everywhere…it was a really tough time, I was going stir-crazy.


How did this running break affect you emotionally?

Sierra: I was a lot more stressed than I normally am, and that stress definitely showed through in important relationships in my life. I had trouble staying present and feeling happy at first, but I learned to devote my free time to more advanced cooking and playing with my dog.


Can you briefly explain the progression of your comeback? How did you ease back into it?

Sierra: When I learned that my problem was a simple fix (drinking copious amounts of salt water, what??), I hit the ground running, and running hard. I assumed that my fitness would come back within a week of running, and that was just not in the cards for me. I ended up with knee pain and a shin splint from too much too soon. If I learned anything, it’s that building fitness takes time and that you have to be patient and remember that you’re lucky to even get to run at all.


How long did this process take for you (from start of comeback until you felt fully fit again)?

Sierra: I started running again in the middle of February and now, near the end of May, I am finally feeling my fitness start to return. I’m transitioning from base building to more intensive training, and I am so excited about that!


Any tips of advice or encouragement you can offer to other runners that are sidelined?

Sierra: I had the pleasure of meeting Leah O’Connor right before I was diagnosed, and she gave me a really wonderful piece of advice. She told me to “trust in the process.” Losing my ability to run for three months gave me new skills and hobbies that I would not have otherwise developed. Leah is right. That was all a part of the process for me. You run, and at some point you’re bound to breakdown, but that’s not the end-all-be-all because there are other parts of life that can and will fill that hole.


Thank you, Sierra, for sharing your struggle. Your story shows how important it is to listen to and understand your body’s signals.

*This is just our shared experience, please note that we are not doctors and encourage you to take the advice from a trained professional with expertise concerning your particular ailment.

Need some extra electrolytes on your run? Sierra benefits from using the following hydration products from GU.

Shop GU Hydration Drink Tabs

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Jenny is a marathon mom in every sense of the word. Not only does she run marathons, but she is constantly running around with her two kids, helping to teach them the value of an active lifestyle.

Read more posts by Jenny

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