Monday, July 26, 2010

On an edge...but it's all good

That fear sits in the back of my brain as I start embarking on training. And in all's hard to manage because it isn't like fear of a race: Can I do this? Can I do the training? Will I get through the race? Will I over heat? ect. Those sorts of fears I somehow am able to 'think' through them and manage them. This fear of the bottom falling out without warning, there is no 'crisis' management since my only option if the bottom falls out is starting back at square one and waiting until the body decides it is healthy enough to deal with the situation.

Reintroducing 'training', 'exercise', whatever you want to call it right now is one of those weird things at the moment. I'm gun shy to be honest. I'm scared of doing too much, but i HAVE to do something. I was telling a friend that my main motivation to lose the 10 pounds I have gained this spring has little do to with 'oh i need to lose weight because of XYZ reason' and more to do with the economics of the situation and the fact i hate shopping: I don't want to buy new pants.

So...i need some exercise that is a little bit more aerobic than yoga. Granted vinysa yoga does make you sweat a bit and gets the heart rate up...but not quite like other things. But my kettlebell class officially began this week...and that will definitely get the HR up. And I have been biking on the weekends a bit. But here was the situation this weekend. I rode 35 miles, they were hilly but I did not go out and smash myself. Then I came home and need an hour and a half nap. That is kind of frustrating. I had done the same route the week before and no napping was needed. So it is that sneaky thoughts of doubt that creep in and then say: are you doing too much? Are you trying to train too much right now? What if your body gives up again like it did back in March?

So managing the sneaky thoughts is much harder than I would have thought. But must manage them. But I have to say getting back into something with some intensity where i'm sweating and HR is high feels SOOOOOOO good. Ok, the being sore that it hurts to cough isn't super fun, but I miss the feeling post intensity exercise. I am sure in a week or so I won't be so sore anymore.

Granted on Tuesday I was most annoyed that my soreness was all due to body weight exercises, evil burpees, pushups, one legged pistol squats. Seriously? I didn't even need a barbell to make myself hurt like this? Well one thing I do miss are my deltoids so I guess those will come back in a hurry.

So it is good...i'm enjoying this and starting to think about more exercise on my off days (tues-thurs-sunday), but I'm also trying to make sure my body is ok and recovering well this first week. I'm also starting to look into other sports. Maybe venture back to Ultimate Frisbee? Or stand up paddleboarding looks kind of fun too. New adventures!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Overtraining Syndrome Part 1

I had a comment a few days ago from Ruby Dragon asking about my experience with overtraining syndrome (OTS) since it seems she is going through the same thing. There is information out on the web, but not a lot of accounts of what happens during overtraining syndrome. This is a long post and many may or may not find it useful...but hopefully it might help someone who is going through it. OTS is hard because it just levels you after being so active.

Last year in May I got a little over trained. Classic HR too high when it shouldn't be and too low when it should be high. I remember being on a run where I couldn't keep my HR over 120bpm...and I was running at a good clip. And I was tired. And I was cranky. And I was in the middle of training for Vineman 70.3 and we realized I need to back off. So I did for a little bit. Few extra days of rest. Fluids. Good healthy eating and I was right as rain. All was well. That is sorta the 'normal' situation when us triathletes get a 'little' overtrained. But it does happen...the super chronic form of OTS

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise
But most people don't really talk about it. Even doctors. They don't really know what it is or why it happens. Hormone imbalance? Cortisol too high or something like that? No one knows. Some people their training will put them into a state of OTS because the body has just had ENOUGH. They have been pushing without enough eating/fluids or recovery to support the training. In my case I think it was a combination of SUPER high stress (ie cortisol) for a NUMBER of years combined with poor digestion which resulted in some nutritional deficiencies (folic acid, ferrtin, Vit D...) mix in 8-12 hours of consistent training and the body will say enough at some point.

Last season I noticed I don't recover well from training (probably due to the bad digestion thing)...but then in january it just went down hill. These things are actually hard to notice until the bottom just falls out. It's that whole fable that if you were to throw a frog into boiling hot water he would jump out, but if you put him in a pot of water and slowly heat the water you can boil the frog without him noticing it or jumping out. OTS I think is a culmination of things and it is hard to detect. Sneaky, sneaky. Especially with us type A's who think we need to push the envelope in every training session and that we can go go go and when we are utterly exhausted we just rest a wee little bit, maybe one nap and all is right again.

The reality is that consistently cutting corners on the nutrition, sleep, too much caffine, too much refined carbs, will lead to an erosion of health and one day you will wake up to find yourself at a bottom of a canyon. Filling that back up...takes time and patience and a lot of sleep.

Here was my progression. I found this in my training comments. This is why taking notes for training can be important. I kept a weekly journal for my coach at the time and so this isn't how i felt ALL week, just on one or two particular days within a week.

Week of Jan 18th Slept in a long time. Very 'heavy' when I woke up. Slightly dehydrated so I ate breakfast and drank a bit of fluids hoping my body would respond so i could run ok. Warmed up for 10 minutes, got through my running drills and was utterly exhausted. Ended up walking back to the car and not running any more.”

Week Feb 1st “body wasn't feeling much more than an aerobic pace, but speed was very encouraging for going aerobic/not really feeling it pace.”

Week of Feb 8th I was swimming like a rock still after the weekend when I felt like lead all weekend.

Week of Feb 15th Sunday: woke up feeling sick...not a cold, just upset stomach, low energy.

...did see the stress 'show up' on Tuesday when I was running and running REALLY SLOW. Last week stress + less sleep + poor nutrition the night before = slow.

Week of Feb 22nd woke up a 4 mile run mixed with some walking in, but was supposed to do 75mins but couldn't drag myself out of bed early enough due to my exhuastion. My level of exhuastion on Sunday was actually concerning.

I may have a few clues to my lack of recovery that i'm trying to square away but this has been happening more frequently than it ever did before. For some reason

I'm a bit frustrated at the moment because it seems that when my energy levels are good...things are starting to 'click' and come together but I have been having an equally hard time recovering from some of my long rides but it doesn't feel like my muscles are pushed and are exhausted...i am just tired. Like i might wake up from 8-9 hours of sleep but i feel exhuasted and drained. I am sure it is a combination of many things... work, travel and training... But the weird part is one day I have a ton of energy and the next i won't. Sunday i felt miserable all day long, tired, headachy, horrible. But this morning I woke up with a ton of energy bouncing off the walls. I seem to be either full of energy or not and it is pretty extreme on both sides.

Week of March 1st...Raced this week and it was sort of the beginning of the end

had major energy melt down last week. I'm sure everything else that is going on in my life with work and travel isn't helping...but i think there is possibly something else going on. Underlyingly i feel like i have a lot of body is not tired from training...i'm just exhusted in general. If that makes sense. I have the energy underlyingly to do everything, but i am battling with a desire to sleep all the time.

Week of March 8th

Considering how I felt all week I hope the tests show something conclusive because I was dragging and extremely exhausted and generally feeling rotten, much worse than the week before.

I did half of my TT on Wed only to be so completely exhausted on Thursday (even with 9 hours of sleep) that I had to come home early and take a nap.

Week of March 29th

This week was marginal. Traveling on top of this fatigue i think really wore me out. In some aspects I am feeling better. My biggest problem with all this fatigue is that it is a HUGE paradigm shift for me to have to focus on not having a go-go-go mentality. Which is hard for me. I'm doing ok...and trying to be ok with it all...but it's not mentally easy either.

Week of April 5th First D.N.S

Sunday: I woke up, got ready, ate and was getting ready to pack my car when I could tell that if I raced i was going to dig myself a HUGE hole that would take a LONG time to get out of. It was a really hard decision not to race this morning, but after I went back to bed and woke up 4.5 hours later, still very tired, I knew I had made the right choice. I had wanted to come down and cheer everyone on, but was still really exhausted when I woke up.

April 12

Still pretty lethargic which makes me less motivated since it takes so much emotional energy to do much of anything

April 26th

sports medicine doctor thinks it is 'over-training syndrome' and I'm to check back with him in a month and keep my activity 'in check' in the meantime basically meaning if it makes me too tired it was too much.

still fatigued and pretty apathetic towards training most of the time still...but that seems to be a negative feedback loop of being fatigued and being frustrated that i'm tired and then just not wanting to do anything because it usually makes me pretty tired.

That night...Went to the ER...couldn't stop throwing up for no real reason at all. Took DAYS to recover from. Not really related to OTS, but showed how fragile my body was just freaking out all the time.

May: The pit of despair.

Basically in May, I cancelled a lot of bike ride. I slept in a lot. I was unmotivated a lot. And I tried to just focus on other things a lot. I tried not to let the nagging thoughts of 'will I ever'...what if and all of that eat me alive. It was hard to tell people over and over: I just can't. My body just can't.

It hurt. Recovering from 2 hour bike rides required equally long naps. I wanted to sleep all the time. I probably still didn't sleep enough. More out of apathy than out of not doing it.


First bike ride that didn’t wipe me out

Consistency starting to come back...key...not to push.


Kettlebell classes have started and 3 weeks of learning.

Trying not to drink coffee anymore.

Realized coffee basically makes me 'high' about a norepinephirine rush. No wonder my poor adreanals hate me.

Next week...first week of some actual consistent higher heart rates.

So while I am slowly on the mend, I also know I'm not totally out of the woods either. I'll admit it. I'm gun shy at the moment. I'm about to start kettle bell training in more 'full effect' and have a nagging worry that I'll stop recovering again. But...i have to try.

I say this as 'part 1' I think i have some other thoughts on the topic. But..well...i'm tired. Maybe later.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


As I have been talking about in my past few posts, i'm finally finding something I enjoy again and being active is about finding things you enjoy. Someone was asking me about what do I 'do' to be fit and active because they wanted to take some 'tips' from me. My first answer to that question always is: what do YOU enjoy doing? Being fit and active needs to come from enjoyment. Sure there are times when I'm in a training plan and I'm not enjoying how I'm tired or that a particular workout is killing me, but underneath it I enjoy it. Hence why for awhile I am putting multisport training away. I know many people claim they don't like to do anything active, but I think some of that 'aversion' is born out of fear. Fear of learning something new. Fear of worrying what other people will think. Fear of being bad at something new. We all like the comfort of the familiar, but sometimes we all need to branch out and grow and try to figure out what it is we like. I usually feel like i'm making a total ass out of myself when I'm first learning something and in truth... typically I I've learned to laugh at myself too. But I have found that with practice that awkwardness and self conscienceness does goes away...i promise.

After my foray into cross fit I discovered: I like lifting heavy weights. Give me a heavy deadlift and I am a happy camper. I think this kettlebell thing I'm doing now which will also incorporate some powerlifting and olympic lifting in a setting that is designed more to what I need as an athlete might be the perfect fit for me. Although I'm sure the first few weeks might be a lot of complaining about how sore I am. After all I'm really out of shape right now.

And as of late my biggest concern with my lack of activities has been more around my pants becoming too snug. So I made a date with my sports nutritionist and got my %bf tested. The good news, compared to March of 2009, my lean body mass has only gone down 2lbs. Not bad considering how horrible a spring and how inactive I have been (and for me putting on LBS is I actually wouldn't be surprised to see those 2lbs back on me pretty quickly). I know I had lost some strength, although this is a comparison from over a year ago. I kinda wish I knew what my LBM was in January...although that might depress me. So let's pretend that Jan 2010 I wasn't that much different fitness levels than March 2010. Granted I was, but I think if I knew I had lost much more LBS i'd be depressed so let's just leave them as close to being equal. And then the truth of the %bf. Looks like i have 10 pounds to drop to get to March 2009 levels. So let's start there.

My nutritionist and I discussed finding activities I might like and that it doesn't have to be swim bike run. It's nice to be reminded I SHOULDN'T swim bike run unless I WANT to. I know this, but it makes my aversion to running and swimming of late almost a relief. Wanna know a secret: i still pack my running stuff and swimming stuff hoping that if the urge to run or swim overcomes me I am ready. I guess i'm not ready yet. ;-) And yes running with friends and swimming with friends I will go and do...but it's being able to enjoy it on my own that I am waiting to come back to me. I still believe that one day it will. I ran 2 miles on my own a few weeks ago, and every part of that run was wonderful...but it was born out of a desire to run and I'm still waiting for it to return. Until then I will try to be 'ready'.

I know there are times to push through some things, but right now is not one of those times. I know that if I am too harsh on myself or force my self into any swim-bike-run that I'm not keen to do the long term consequence of the short term calorie burn isn't a good trade off. But I'm not going to lie when I say I might push a wee little bit and try one swim and one short run this week. There are also realities in life like those 10 pounds that I really would like to go away so that my jeans aren't so snug.

Another discovery I made today was white flour. I know it's not good for you. I know stay away from it. I know...I know...but sometimes we don't always do what we know is best for ourselves. I had some pancakes at lunch...and an hour and a half later I could barely keep my eyes open. A solid 1.5 hour nap later I'm finally awake. And the crazy part? I have dramatically cut back on coffee to the point that a cup of coffee makes me super alert these days and I EVEN had a cup of coffee during my drowsy period before I succumbed to the nap and it did NOTHING. So...bye bye pancakes. I heart you, but you don't heart me. I might actually try this experiment with wheat pancakes and see if it is wheat causing the power nap desire. I did have the pancakes with protein and some fat to try to slow the insulin spiking, but apparently not enough.

So...lots of discoveries made today a bit of a rambling post, but I think right now I'm trying to sort through some stuff in my head that I haven't been able to for the past few months. If I have the energy I hope to be here a bit more in the future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Power = is the rate at which work is performed

Work = is the amount of energy transferred by a force acting through a distance. W = F d

Force = m(ass) a(cceleration)

So...if you have a heavy mass, accelerate it quickly you have a high force. If you then move that object a specific distance you have how much work is done and power is related to the time of that work performed. So...if you lift a heavy object and accelerate it quickly over a great distance in a short amount of time there is a large amount of power generated.

Returning to doing some weight lifting, particularly olympic weight lifting which a given lift you have to have large amounts of power makes me think of physics a lot. I'm weird like that.

Recently I am discovering that for whatever strange reason, i'm quite physically strong for a woman. Even in my out of shape and undertrained state I still have a reasonable about of strength and it more gets me thinking where it comes from and why does it stick around. Also makes me think about the reality that I can gain strength rather quickly from lifting as well as pretty rapidly gain lean body mass from minimal lifting. I know it's all about genetics, but sometimes I wonder how far away from the norm I really am. People like to talk about women and how they don't want to lift because they are afraid of gaining too much muscle. Most weight lifting coaches laugh at this 'concern' and say 'women won't bulk up'...bla, bla, bla. I'm not really concerned about this as much as much as this is just reality for me. Last spring, not even in the fittest condition I have been in over the past year and change, I more realized that compared to other women my height I have as much lean body mass as I am supposed to weigh according to height/weight charts. I don't really bother with those and more am concerned about %bf...but it does make me pause a bit. I mean...that's a bit nuts if you think about it.

Today we started playing with olympic lifts. I like those for the most part but I will admit they can be scary because there is quite a lot of 'throwing' the bar and having to 'get under it'. But with practice they can be fun. Today we did practice some snatches, but the 45 pound bar intimidated me more out of 'feel 'than I think I can do strength wise. I'd like to wait until we have a lighter bar to play with before trying this.

I am looking forward to start really training in just over a week. Right now we are just learning lifts. But it brings me to questions like: what are my goals? Where do I want to go with this? I don't really know. Being 'strong' is just such an ambiguous thing. Even "doing one pull up" is a bit random and ambiguous. It's not like with triathlon where one thinks: I want to do this race. It is just different to contemplate.

So time will tell.

But best thing: i am enjoying it a lot...and really that is all that matters.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Like a kid at Christmas

Well my excitement has shown to be justified. I went to my strength training thing 3 times this week and every time...i was soooooo wicked excited to go. Yesterday it was almost funny because as the time approached about 9pm all i could think was: you HAVE to go to bed NOW because you are getting up at 5am. In the end I got to bed at 10pm, but then proceeded to wake up a few times during the night because i was SO FREAKIN EXCITED and didn't want to miss my alarm. Yes...I'm a nerd...and this is news?

And so far the excitement is super justifiable. I leave my classes excited about the next one. And that is HUGE for me these days. I mean excited about something active?? Phew...maybe aliens didn't take my body after all!

We have been working on a few things, standard lifts like the deadlift and squat as well as power lift, jerk press. And then today was all about body weight. legged pistol squats. There are a whole range of them all. I think what is cool about the pushups is that we will be doing a strength progression to get us to a point of doing one armed pushups. Now that's pretty awesome. Granted with all the push up stuff...i can tell my arms are going to be sore tomorrow. Hopefully not too bad.

I did try to run or swim this week...and really didn't get far. Sigh. I think triathlon will be on super hold for awhile. I'm ok with that, but it's sorta weird to realize that I need to find other ways to become healthy and fit that are not triathlon. It's a new chapter...and while I say it's a new chapter it doesn't mean that triathlon won't ever be revisited, but i'm pretty sure i'm not going to flirt with it (much) for at LEAST the next 6 months. The 'plan' at the moment is to work on my strength and flexibility so that if I decide to ever come back to triathlon I will have a good base to work from. I will get some runs in and hopefully not completely lose my feel for the water, but at the same time I'm not going to push that anymore. This spring I had more than one occasion where I would just SIT in the car and negotiate about swimming for almost 45 minutes. I remember thinking: if i had just not negotiated I would be DONE by now. When every workout becomes a negotiation it becomes a reality check into whether or not an activity is a good thing to be doing.

I still love reading about everyone's ventures. And there is still a part of me who enjoys the races and such, but I have come to realize that maybe right now...i really don't need to be triathlete-rific. And that's ok.

So...i have created 'schedules' that range from ONLY doing my strength stuff + something on the weekend to mixing into it all some swim-bike-run in reasonable quantities. Basically I have told myself that my basic commitment per week will be about 5 hours (3 weights + 2 hours on the riding or whatever)...but I have created bigger schedules (like i outlined in the last blog) about doing yoga and some swim-bike-run on the off days. Here is my thought: if all that happens great...but if first commitment is to my strength classes.

And yes...i'm quite excited about all of this when I realized today that it was definitely the weekend and while i am excited about the weekend...i also was a little sad when I realized it would be two whole days before I went back to class. I guess i'll survive. :-)