Osteopenia Diagnosis, Recovery, and Running

A few years ago I wrote about my journey with osteopenia. For several years I kept breaking bones (metatarsal and fibula) or getting stress fractures despite taking vitamin D and thinking my diet was good. And as a man in his early 40s this was distressing.

Several years later, I’m injury free, run between 30-50km per week and feel more robust than ever before.

Someone came across my older blog site and contacted me asking for advice on how I was able to return to running. This is what I sent plus I’m adding additional information. Others with osteopenia may also appreciate this advice.

Thanks for reaching out. I’ve come a long way and feel a lot more robust than when I discovered I had bone density problems. I’ve yet to get another bone density scan but I feel a lot stronger now than I did several years ago.

In addition to discovering the osteopenia I found out I had really low vitamin D levels. In late 2013 I started pumping the vitamin D supplements and I still take around 5000iu per day. I used to take 1000iu per day but still had really low vitamin D. I get my vitamin D blood test twice a year now to ensure my levels are good. I was just recently tested and my vitamin D levels were at 154 nmol/L. In 2013 they were lower than 60 nmol/L. My calcium is also pretty good and in the higher range but I don’t take any calcium supplements.

(Here is a great blog post I came across just a few days ago on Vitamin D and athletic performance by Christopher Kelly and his colleagues at Nourish, Balance, Thrive.)

In my research I discovered a number of contributing factors, alcohol, coffee, sugar, gluten… etc.. anything that promotes inflammation acts as a calcium leach from your bones. I mostly cut out sugars and gluten as a way to lower my C-Reactive Protein (a measure of inflammation in the blood).

But to answer your specific question, 2014 was a year of slow but consistent running. I ran three times a week (around 5km each run) and did a lot of walking. I also bought a weighted vest that I wear around the house while doing chores or on long conference calls. I sometimes do short 5km runs with the weighted vest. I think I did my longest run (around 10-15km) at the end of 2014. In 2015 I ramped up the running and did several trail races, a 30km trail race, and also did a lot more distance than I had in 2014.

This year, 2016, I am doing a lot more running, about 30-50km per week. On March , I did a 30km run in 2.5 hours and I felt great and robust. I ran this morning around 8.5km and didn’t have any pains or soreness from Sunday. So I think I’m holding up well. I hope so, as I’m doing the Paris marathon on April 3. However, whenever I get a pain, the first thought is… “could it be bone?”.

I also ran with zero-drop shoes for all of 2014 but with really thick soles. You may want to look at the Altra Olympus running shoe. It has a lot of cushioning but still let me run in a forefoot running style, meaning, don’t land on your heels but land on the mid foot to not only be more efficient but also lower the force of impact on your legs and bones.”

Additionally, increasing my vitamin D levels has made a huge difference on my energy, my overall health, and my sleep. I sleep really, really well. Sleep is so important to recovery, health, and vitality, not to mention the clarity of mind.

Note, I’m not a doctor and haven’t been rescanned but I recently fell hard and thought I may have broken my kneecap but it held up well and I was running again in a week.

I hope this helps and if anyone wants to contact me please do so.


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