Angus Sinclair: How I overcame Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and played 31 straight games
By Angus Sinclair
Before Chronic Fatigue struck in 2014, I was a fit and healthy 23 year old. I had just completed a season of professional rugby in the UK and was looking to sign a contract in Australia. I loved training, being outdoors, having fun and socialising with mates. But that all changed when I got CFS.
Similarly to many other CFS sufferers I initially didn’t know what was going on with my health and the doctors I saw didn’t offer many solutions either. After two or three weeks back in Australia, struggling with training, I crashed after a game and could hardly get out of bed for the next week. That’s when I knew that I had more than just a flu and needed to sort out my health. I stopped everything in my life – rugby, work my social life and moved back into my family home.
Over the next couple of months I tried a number of different doctors and health practitioners with varying success but nothing was fixing the underlying problems. I had been over prescribed with anti-biotics throughout my life and particularly during my time playing in the UK. I had also had glandular fever when I was 18 and picked up a parasite from food poisoning whilst travelling through Europe so physically my gut health and immune system were not in a good way. On top of this I had run my adrenal system into the ground by playing rugby nonstop for nearly 18 months without an off season.
My own research together with a book called the Body Ecology Diet helped me realise that I needed to fix my gut health as this was the catalyst of my problems. So I cut sugar, gluten and dairy and continued to stay away from coffee and alcohol. I noticed improvements in my health straight away, I managed to get rid of the flu symptoms after a couple of weeks, no longer suffered brain fog and boosted my energy levels.
My diet is still very similar today and consists of an omelet or wheat free oats for breakfast, salad and meat for lunch, boiled eggs or nuts and fruit for an afternoon snack and a dinner of meat (fish, chicken, beef or Cowra lamb) with some quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potato or rice and lots of greens. This helped me fix the physical problems that had caused CFS however I was still a long way of full recovery. My mum was recommended the Lightning Process by a friend and bought me a copy of the book by Ian Cleary to read. Straight away the concepts made a lot of sense to me and really helped me understand what was holding me back from a full recovery. I finished the book and contacted Ian. I was keen to do the Lightning Process to help me get back to living the life I love again and out of the pattern of being tired and sick all the time.
The course was great, I learned so much and immediately set about making the changes I needed to get me back to full health. In particular, practicing daily mindfulness, visualisation, positive reinforcement and retraining my brain and body to be healthy and energetic again. Ian is a great mentor and was amazing throughout the whole process.
I started to notice improvements straight away and got very good at being resilient and calm however a follow up phone call with Ian a couple of months later made me realise I was still holding back and scared of exerting myself and using too much energy. As soon as I made this switch in mindset I started to gain more and more energy each week.
Throughout the whole period my main motivation to get healthy again was so I could play rugby again at a high level with my younger brother Hugh for Norths. I knew if I could get back to playing rugby I would be fully recovered and could do anything! I started training with Norths in November 2015, 18 months after first suffering from CFS. I started with 15 minutes and built up by five to 10 minutes each week whilst slowly upping the intensity. This period was not without setbacks however mindfulness and positive reinforcement kept me on track.
Simon Cron suffered from chronic fatigue when he was younger and his understanding of my situation really helped me in slowly progressing at training. Rob Fowkes was also really helpful in managing the week-by-week progressions and strength exercises needed to play competitively again.
By the end of February it was our first trial game and I was doing most of the training during the week. I played 20 minutes in the first game. The next week I played 40 minutes then 60 minutes and by my fifth game back I was back to 80 minutes of 1st grade rugby. It was really amazing how quickly my body adapted again when my beliefs and mindset were in the right place through the Lightning Process training.
By the end of the season I played 31 out of a possible 32 games and even had my first beer in two and a bit years when we won the Shute Shield. I was also lucky enough to be a part of the Sydney Rays with an awesome Norths contingent.
It was by far the most successful and most enjoyable season I’ve ever played and by the end I was the fittest I’ve ever been. I am now studying a Masters, working full time, socialising all the time with mates and training again for the upcoming season and am healthier than I have ever been!
I have ticked off so many of the goals I set myself when I was sick and nothing is holding me back from ticking off the whole list. I recently drove from Darwin to Sydney with my brother in four days. More than 10 hours drive per day with not a huge amount of sleep. It was an amazing experience. It’s things like this that you don’t know will be possible ever again when you have CFS.
The experience has made me a happier, healthier more positive person and taught me to appreciate all the little things in life that are so awesome. I have to credit Ian Cleary for his amazing assistance, Toby Morrison who runs a chronic fatigue recovery program and my family and close friends who were so supportive during the chronic fatigue battle.
I enjoy sharing all the strategies that helped me recover and was able to assist Norths player Harry Emery get back to full health after suffering from chronic fatigue based on my experiences. I am in the process of setting up an Instagram blog called HealthyAS and would love it if you can follow me and show anyone struggling with chronic fatigue.
Unfortunately I had shoulder surgery in November and missed Saturday’s Australian Club Championships win but rehab is going well and I am on track to get back out there with the lads for round one against Warringah on April 1.
Follow Angus on Instagram @healthyas_