In my last post I talked about training cycles.  I got some great replies.  One was about balance.  One was about work, recover, rest, and repeat.

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.

500 meter race just after start, Masters US Single Dist Championships January 2012, photo by Steve Penland

One thought on “Overtraining

  1. Thanks Bruce, as we age we need more rest as we do not recover as fast as some of our younger team mates. I have learned this from over training myself and trying to do as much as I did when I was much younger.

    Greg Oly

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