23. Angela Naeth tells us about life as a triathlete with Lyme disease

Angela Naeth runs out of the water at a triatlon competition.

Join us for a candid conversation with Ironman athlete, Angela Naeth. Angela contracted Lyme disease in 2018, the same year she completed the Ironman race in Kona, Hawaii. Born in Prince George BC, and now living in Massachusetts, Angela has had to continually adapt and evolve in order to optimize both her own health and her performance as an athlete.

She describes the learning curve that many Lyme patients are faced with in trying to navigate this complicated disease. After seeing many doctors and finally receiving a Lyme diagnosis, she had to research various treatments and be her own advocate to receive treatment. One of the added challenges throughout this process was that she appeared healthy but felt extremely unwell. 

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Sport Psychology and the Lyme Marathon

Angela points out the similarities between her strengths and experiences as an athlete and her marathon journey with Lyme disease. She draws upon the mind-body-spirit connection of athletic performance along with finding her own inner peace when her body is not able to perform. By focussing on what she can do in a day, rather than what she can’t, she is able to make small gains both in her sport and with her health. By doing this, Angela finds gratitude for even the smallest things in her daily life. Through her work with a sports psychologist, she learned the importance of both finding a mantra, and of letting go of outcomes while competing and in the face of health challenges.

“Some days I don’t know what I’m going to get in my body, nor do I know what’s going to happen. If I let go of that outcome, it allows me to live a bit more and take each day as it comes and make those small little gains”

Angela Naeth, Professional Triathlete and Coach

Lyme Changes Everything 

Angela talks about how life’s challenges, including her own struggle with Lyme disease, have given her an appreciation for how precious life is. Because of these experiences, she takes fewer things for granted and has more gratitude in her life. She has also learned that fear is often based on what could happen in the future. In her case, this includes the significant challenge of not being able to run. She describes her daily practice of letting go and focussing on what she is able to do, even if it’s something small. This practice brings her peace and keeps her moving forward on days when she’s not physically able to run.

Angela’s experience of having Lyme disease has prompted her to develop a new awareness for ticks and new habits when going outdoors. When she moved to Massachesetts, she became much more aware of ticks, especially after taking the dogs out for walks. Some of the strategies she uses to prevent tick bites include wearing long pants and tops while mountain biking, checking the dogs for ticks after being outside, removing and washing clothes and showering after outdoor excursions.  

“I went to so many different doctors, and it was so difficult because I was the epitome of health on paper, but yet I was dying inside.”

Angela Naeth

Role of Athlete Advocates

Angela has connected with other athletes who have Lyme disease and many athletes have approached her as well, relating their own experiences with the disease. She recalls an Ironman race where she met another athlete with Lyme disease. Angela went on to win that race and when that news reached the other athlete it inspired him to push on through the remainder of the race. She appreciates the feeling of mutual support with other athletes who are going through similar challenges. 

Going with the Flow

Angela describes the ever changing nature of what her body is able to do, including how long it takes to recover after physical exercise. It seems to take her longer to recover after running and weight-bearing activities; whereas riding and swimming keep her active and support her detoxing. While racing is on pause due to COVID restrictions, Angela has opted to continue with her treatment and hopes to compete again in 2021. She continues to research treatment options and shares some of those with us. Thank you Angela for sharing your challenges, your courage and strength!

“I don’t think people who have never experienced Lyme really truly understand what it’s like to have Lyme, so just to have someone else that’s in that process, or going through that process, has been huge for myself and I hope for them.”

Angela Naeth, Professional Triathlete and Coach

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