The cloud of overtraining is a foreboding one. Its misty tendrils extend through both the athlete’s body and psyche. The body is exhausted and the mind is suddenly tentative and uncertain. A simple rallying cry of YES I CAN lacks any conviction and certitude. The mind can think it. The body will call its bluff.
This has certainly been my case since my collapse a few weeks ago.
From that moment I have worked hard to find the balance between racing and healing, pushing and resting. There are fleeting moments when I have felt strong. More often moments where I have felt heavy and lethargic. My times have been slower though my effort levels feel just as high if not higher than before.
The thing about overtraining is that my experience is the hallmark of this syndrome. You try hard but the results are no longer there.
What’s more, the effects of overtraining often occur when training is actually lower in frequency/intensity than what you have previously done. Much like my experience this year compared to last. Why? Because overtraining is a result of an imbalance between training and recovery. My training may have lessened, but my recovery has dwindled even more. Not enough sleep. Increased stress. These factors wreak havoc on the athlete’s ability to rest up and be ready for the next training session.
So I have made concerted efforts to remedy this. Less running. More stretching. More sleep. More Omega 3’s (they help control inflammation and speed muscle healing).
And when I do run, I focus on having fun, on being grateful that I can run. Today I constructed my long run in 3 segments. On my own. With a friend. And on my own again. This helped me to keep things light. I run for a bit. I hang out with a friend (while running). And I run a bit more.
Moreover running with a friend, in this case a friend I haven’t hung out with for awhile, forced me to run at a slower pace so we could talk and catch up. This ensured that my heart rate was low enough to build my endurance as opposed to breaking my body down yet again. And it kept running fun for me.
What transpired is a run that felt a lot easier, even though the overall pace was significantly faster than what I’ve trained recently. This despite the fact that my first few kilometres were actually quite slow.
What I’m learning is that my body is still capable but it takes a good 5 or 6 kilometres for me to warm up. Whether that’s a result of overtraining or age I don’t really know. But it appears to be my current reality. And now that I am aware of this change, I can accept it without panicking over its possible ramifications. The truth is, when I respect my body’s limits I can expect so much more of it in the long run. Pun intended.
As athletes we are constantly preached at that the mind controls the body. That it is mind over matter. But sometimes this just isn’t true. Sometimes it’s not about pushing the body; it’s about working with it.