I posted recently about my newest challenge! Training for triathlon! So far it’s been a blast! And actually last week I was so keen on reaching the adrenaline high that I thought I might be getting addicted… I pushed through every wall, every barrier. If the coach said you could stop early if you felt tired… Did I stop? Nope! I drove through the pain and finished it, panting and exhausted but equally thrilled at the accomplishment.
I upped the training volume by nearly 50% that week and during the week I did feel a bit like superwoman. But then the weekend happened. I literally could not be more EXHAUSTED. Now I know maybe most of you will be thinking, ‘well obviously?’ ‘What were you thinking haha’. And when I write it down, yes I guess it does seem pretty predictable. But honestly I just expected to keep superwoman-ing my way through life, at least after maybe a days rest or so!
Unfortunately I am now bearing the burden of overtraining and have been super tired for the past 5 days, wanting to sleep all the time and sleeping a LOT! Not only this but I also gained weight from pushing myself into the ground. This is perhaps the opposite of what you might expect, but in fact it’s a common reaction that happens when the body has increased stress (cortisol) levels over a long period of time. The body doesn’t know that you’re just in a spin class, a swimming pool or running up a hill, for all it knows you’re being endlessly hunted by a ravenous bear. And cue survival mode.
BUT at least I have recognised the signs, and BACKED OFF for the time being…
In the past I was extremely perfectionistic and even more driven than I am now. I know from experience that if you don’t back off when you’re body is under this kind of stress response, it will only back fire later. When I was sixteen/seventeen I was very underweight and undernourished and overtrained my body on a relentless no-excuse basis. Although at the outset I got ‘results’ there came a time when my body had enough. I had lost my periods, was heavily fatigued, I had digestive problems, high risk of osteoporosis amongst other health concerns. And actually in the end it took me a really long time to recover and nourish my body back to health.
And so, my ‘little superwoman you are not not so super’ experience has reminded me of how health and fitness is not so much about always driving and pushing. It’s about respecting your body too. Yes you can run hard, swim fast, squat heavy etc. but, in my experience at least, hard efforts are only successful in the long term if you nourish your body and give it time to recover and rest when it needs to. This doesn’t only apply to sports but to everything you’re doing/ thinking that makes you stressed! To some extent, your body doesn’t know the difference between being chased by a bear, doing hill reps or doing an essay the night before a deadline. It all provokes a physiological stress response.
Instead of overriding the signs of tiredness and fatigue by reaching for the next cup of coffee, or pressing on regardless, why not take a minute to listen to your body?
And if you need to, REST.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30