This post is about going overboard. I have a tendency to overtrain. I know a lot of highly motived people who do. Hard training can be very addictive. I have had three distinct times in my life where I have physically overtrained. The first was when I was 19. Back in the fall of 1975 I went to The Netherlands to train for the upcoming Olympic trials. I did know anything about tapering before a competition. I ran myself into the ground by working overly hard right up to the competition. My race times were actually slowing down as I approached the trials. I retired from the sport right after the trials and did not put on skates again for 12 years. I did not return to the ice and skating, even for fun, for over 20 years. I was burned out and overtrained. My legs ached everyday for about 18 months after.
I did the same thing to a lesser degree just two years ago and had to take 5 weeks off from the middle of October to the end of November. In this instance I did a lot of weight work and not enough recovery work in between. I did not have a coach at the time of each occurrence. Coincidence? Maybe not.
I am currently having another bout with overtraining. I have a coach this time. We are being very aggressive about facilitating my recovery. I tend to go to extremes. It is in my nature, I know that. I have surrounded myself with people who can help me avoid this. I still need to be as honest as I can with myself.
Being sore is part of the landscape, being tired is also part of my training life. Deep down fatigue is not. When I lose the pop, when I lose my gratitude for the ability to do what I love, that is the difference. Then I must recognize a fundamental change has happened and strive to fix it and move on, all the while evaluating why I let this happen again so I can see it coming next time.
How did this happen? I will only be able to see this issue accurately by looking backwards. I can tell you the circumstances and what I feel went wrong and why I did this to myself. Every time this has happened it is different. The common denominator is me of course. I did this , I am responsible for what I have done. Once I have time to look back I can analyze and make changes for the future.
In the past, I used a number of resources to gauge my training load. The first is my own body feedback. Probably the most important question I can ask myself is how am I feeling? Sometimes that is a complex question. Unfortunately my own denial gets in the way. My coach asks a very important question when I talk to her. “How are you?” It is a question that I have to be honest about. If I am honest, then I can make good decisions about adjusting my training to get the most out of what I put into this work. Another method of physical feedback is taking my pulse right after I wake up and before I get out of bed. I now have added a device to my feedback loop that comes from a company called ithlete. http://www.myithlete.com. It takes place of my first morning pulse. It can measure my state of rest, recovery,and fitness and can give me a numerical value. It deals with the relationship of breathing and heart rate. It can help validate how I am feeling and give me some better direction for the decision to train hard, train normally, take it easy, or just rest. Unfortunately my device is not available right now so I must make my judgements by feeling. When I feel fatigued, I know it. Sometimes I have to hit the wall before I know it. My ego gets in the way of my own vision.
The most important part now, is making changes to recover. I have stopped all intense work. For me that means anything that creates more fatigue is bad. What works for me is stationary bike at low intensity (so low I may not break a sweat), walking, rolling my legs with a roller, saunas and ice baths, getting my feet up as much as possible, sleep, getting a massage, etc. I must work very hard ( I am good at that ) at recovery now. I will start skating again with very low intensity in a week or so, I don’t need to make that decision today. In fact I am taking this day by day and adjusting as I go. That is the physical side. I also need to look at my mental, emotional and spiritual sides. I need to tend to those aspects of my life that are out of balance. I need to look at my stress levels and how I am handling them. Am I using all the tools available to me? I can get carried away with my training. I think I am fine, I think I am addressing those other parts of myself but my denial gets in my way. I tell myself I am fine, I can be addicted to the high intensity work and focus. I get wrapped up in the results and forget about the journey. I just got a great big reminder to stop, sit down (literally) and look around. Hopefully I can recover in a few days. I am not in charge of the results of this process. I am in charge of what I can do today. I trust that if I do what I can today then the answers will come in time. That is true for me in all aspects of my life not just skating and training.
I am also reminded to be grateful for what I have and where I am. This attitude changes my perspective as well as my possible solutions going forward.
Bruce, have a seat, we need to talk.