This last month I have learnt why all exercise books tell you to build things up slowly. It wasn’t deliberate. I was just a bit stupid.
Christmas is pretty much always a slack fest especially post Half Marathon, and the first couple of months of this year were also pretty light. I had a terrible cold in January that persisted into the beginning of February and stopped me doing much of anything. In January I ran just 2.5 miles, and in February just 12.9 miles, most of those towards the end of the month. In early February I passed my Level 2 sign offs at Roller Derby, and this meant I could no longer attend the Monday evening 3 hour sessions, but I wasn’t yet cleared to scrimmage on Thursday nights, so my skating time was just 1.5 hours a week, down from 4.5 hours previously. Completely accidentally my exercise levels had scaled back dramatically for about 3 months. In February my workout regime dropped to 1.5 hours skating, plus a short 5k run once a week.
Then towards the end of February I recovered from my cold, and, acutely aware I had a 10k coming up in April I upped my runs a little. At the same time a new coaching co-ordinator was appointed to my Roller Derby league, and a few changes happened that meant not only did I go back to skating 4 hours a week, but the sessions were a lot tougher and faster, with a lot of new skills coming in to learn. I started going to the local rink in the afternoons when I could, for extra practice. I also tried to add in more weights and strength training, thinking it would make it all easier to deal with if I were stronger.
Over the last few weeks in March I noticed I was feeling very down, that buzz I’d get from a training session dissipated. I’d come home from runs and training sessions and cry. My legs were tired before I’d even started to skate, I felt weak, tired and depressed. Runs that were easy before left me exhausted for days and with aching legs comparable to after last years Half Marathon. To top it all off a lot of new skills involved stepping. I ignored the foot cramps, trying to push on through, wanting to nail these skills and prove I could do it, which lead to a flare up of plantar fascitiis, a condition I’ve had before as I have flat feet, but this time so bad that for the last week my arches have been sore and painful without even standing. I did get to use some very cool Rock Tape to strap it up though!
Basically my body was telling me I was being a total idiot.
When you read about over-training you assume it refer to proper “athletes” those people who somehow manage to fit in 20 hours of exercise alongside a full time job and social life, not me and my 6-10 hours of exercise a week, but I gradually figured out that was exactly what had been happening.
Over-training is when you exceed your bodies capacity for recovery and it can happen very quickly, after just a few intense days. It’s why all the books tell you to increase your running distance by 10% each week, to allow your body time to adjust.
It sounds a little pathetic to me, that what in reality wasn’t a huge amount of exercise can leave me injured, depressed and weak as a kitten, but it’s not the session themselves, so much as the dramatic increase from what I was doing before. I thought I could take 3 months off and then throw myself back into training with the same intensity as before.
It’s no biggie, I’m not going to die and no permanent injury has been caused (looks anxiously at plantar fascia), but it is a lesson learned. Listen to your body. Training is supposed to be hard, but if you feel tired before you even start, or part of you is in pain, pushing on through isn’t always the best way to go. I worry that people will think less of me if I take a break, I think everyone else is seeming to manage to keep going and I feel like a failure, but in the end I’m not helping anyone if I can’t perform to the best of my ability.
I’ve had a couple of weeks break from running and anything too strenuous and I’m starting to feel a little better, though my feet are still a worry! Tonight and Saturday I’m back at Roller Derby training, and on Sunday I have the Trowse 10k. I’m disappointed as with no training it’s unlikely I’ll beat last years time, but at least I’m still standing and hopefully not permanently injured!
In future I promise to take it easy on myself. To push myself to my limits, but not past them, and to value those rest days as much as the workout days, because they’re actually the ones that make you stronger.