Over five days last week I did a sequence of consecutive training days that included an 8 mile hard run, an interval session of 10 X 400M at 7:40 pace, another eight mile run at an 8:30 pace average, then a sixty-mile bike ride at just under 18mph and a six mile run at 9:30 per mile, it was time for a rest day on Monday.
During that last six-miler on the running path on a Sunday morning, my legs were sore and my throat felt a bit tight. My resting heart rate had risen from its standard overnight rate of 48BPM to an average of 60BPM. My body was not catching up with the stress I’d placed on it. A couple more days of that and I’d have gotten sick.
That habit of overtraining used to happen quite a bit back when I was training 70-100 miles a week in distance running. I made myself sick every few months, it seemed, by overtraining. Doing two-a-days was a common practice in my peak years. That was necessary to cover 80-100 miles a week.
But sometimes, the fatigue would catch up to me. First would come the sore throat. The elevated heart rate. Hunger for sweets. Thirsty. Elevated temperature. A cold was coming on. That would slow me down for a good two weeks. Overtraining is easy to do if you don’t pay attention to the warning signs or get carried away by the thrill of successful workouts.
Moderation with age
I don’t often run more than thirty miles in a week these days. But throw in 2-3 bike rides, a swim or two and the training adds up. My wife cranks herself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to swim, bike, run during the week. She’s one tough woman, I can tell you that.
On weekends we often ride together on a Saturday and run together on Sunday. Sometimes I do the entire bike with her like last weekend. We covered those sixty miles at just under 18mph on a windy morning. Our best ride together this summer saw us finishing a 56-miler in under three hours. That’s a standard we like to hit in preparation for the Half Ironman distance.
I’m a bit older than she, so I’m more cautious about my recovery days these days. One needs to learn some degree of moderation with age. The 60+ body does not recover as quickly as one does at age 30. I can feel when my body’s had enough.
Signals from below
My wife’s situation this past weekend was complicated by the fact that she’d gotten a flu shot on Friday. By Sunday morning her body was in a compromised state. For starters, her arm hurt around the site of the shot. Her glands were also up. She felt draggy and tired. The flu shot forced her body into a state of fatigue and recovery. But it all happened kind of quickly, in the middle of her 13-mile run.
We have to trust our bodies in situations where we start sensing these signals. Taking a day off to recover, as I did yesterday, is like putting money back in the bank for another day. Sue rested on Sunday afternoon. By Monday morning she was feeling better.
Plus resting keeps your training interest up. Running or riding or swimming when you’re absolutely tanked or exhausted doesn’t really produce a positive training effect anyway.
The alternator theory
I once had a Plymouth Arrow (I loved that car) with a battery that would run down once the alternator belt got loose. The lights would start to dim first. Eventually the battery would run down completely. Then, the engine would just stop working. Once the belt was replaced, the car ran again like new.
Our rest days are just like replacing that alternator belt. We’re not “losing a day” by taking a day to let our bodies recover. We’re giving ourselves a belt of good rest. Remember that next time you’re feeling really run down. You can ask our pup Lucy. She knows best.