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 or return to the ice and skating, even for fun, for over 20 years. I was burned out and overtrained. My legs ached every day 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.
Last fall I had 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.
Soreness, fatigue & overtraining
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 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.
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. This is different every time. The common denominator is me of course. I did this; I am responsible for what I have done. Having 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 I have to answer honestly. 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 ithlete to my feedback loop. I am using this device in place of taking my first morning pulse. The ithlete measures my state of rest, recovery, and fitness, and gives 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. When I feel fatigued, I know it. Sometimes I have to hit the wall. My ego gets in the way of my own vision.
Smart training decisions
The most important part of recovery is to know when to adjust my training. First, I must stop all intense work. For me, that means anything that creates more fatigue. What works, is a number of things that I can rotate. 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 at recovery. 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 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. We are not in charge of the results of this process. 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.
After this bout of overtraining I recovered. Skating faster than ever, I qualified for the upcoming 2014 Olympic Trials at age 57, World Masters Sprint Champion, and three masters world records.