High-performance athletes (and many highly-motivated recreational athletes, too) walk a fine line between training hard and pushing themselves too hard. Both our bodies and our minds have limits and it’s possible to push over the edge into an exhaustion zone. At that point, it can be too late to recover without prolonged rest.
This week’s Training Log documents a time when I came very close to going over that edge. It was a critical time, too, about three weeks before my Olympic semifinal. George knew it was important for me to do some fast shorter runs on the track to sharpen my speed. Otherwise, I would find my goal pace of about 77 seconds per lap in the 10,000m too difficult to maintain for 25 laps.
The problem is that hard anaerobic training, such as the 300m and 400m sprints I was supposed to be doing, is one of the quickest routes to overtraining. It’s not just the muscles but the nervous system that gets fatigued by these workouts. Also, I found them psychologically difficult, especially with no one to pace me. Speed was never my forte—I found it much easier to run ten 400s in 68 to 70 seconds than to run four 400s in 64 or 65 seconds. Even though I got a much longer rest when I did the faster sprints, it only gave me time to dwell on my current and upcoming pain.
When I had extreme difficulty with my track workout in Abbotsford on September 6, George wisely cut my workout short and I did no more anaerobic workouts until I was in Seoul.
I remember that week in Vancouver when I felt exhausted very well. I was exhibiting all the classic signs of overtraining:
1) Poor performance. My times in my track workouts of September 4 and September 6 were not what they should have been, based on recent workouts.
3) Dread of workouts. No eagerness to run. (That was not normal for me, especially since I could still run only every second day because of my chronic injuries.)
5) Small nagging injuries popping up almost every time I ran.
1) Stop all hard workouts for at least a few days.
2) Evaluate your diet. Are you eating a wide variety of healthy foods? Are you consuming enough calories? Are you well-hydrated? Women should have their ferritin levels checked if they feel unduly fatigued or performance goes down inexplicably. Iron supplementation may be needed.
3) Evaluate your training program. Does it incorporate regular “easy” periods? Many athletes work on a “three weeks hard/one week easy” schedule.
4) Don’t worry that you will get “out of shape” after a few easy days or a week. You will return to training feeling energetic, refreshed, and eager to run.
Olympic Training Log
September 3, 1988
AM: Did “push” workout at gym, 62 min plus 12 min Lifecycle. Knee improving.
September 4, 1988
AM: Worked out on good track in Abbotsford. 10 min warmup, 3 strides. 2 sets of 800m, 600m, 400m with 2 min break. Times 2:27, 1:48, 68 (flats), 2:25, 1:46, 67 (spikes). Working hard but didn’t feel great because slept poorly. 3 x 100m relaxed. Went to Centennial Park—ran on woodchips 45 min—very tired by end. Knee improved, have a bit of arch soreness. 10½ miles.
PM: Did Lifecycle workout at gym. 24-min program, level 6 and level 9. 14 more min, level 9, level 7 test, level 6 hills. Dying on test and hills—gym way too hot.
September 5, 1988
AM: Did swim workout in Abbotsford pool. 1 km warmup—21:45. Ladder workout: 50m, 100m, 150m, 200m, 250m, 200m, 150m, 100m, 50m. Times 55, 1:55, 2:55, 3:55, 4:56, 3:55, 2:52, 1:52, 54. Pool overheated. Then did 52 min weights on Universal equipment—didn’t push too hard, feeling very tired and nauseous today—overworked.
PM: Hiked over 1 hr.
September 6, 1988
AM: Did workout at Abbotsford track. 11 min easy warmup, 4 strides. Felt tired. 4 x 400m with spikes—3 min rest. Times 67, 67, 67, 68. 2 more in flats. 68, 69. Felt awful—pushing hard, getting lots of rest, but legs dead. Not recovered from previous workouts. Felt so bad on last 2 that I cut off remaining 4 that were planned. Went to park and ran easy on woodchips, 38 min. About 8 miles. Injuries not hurting during workout, a bit sore after but not bad.
September 7, 1988
AM: Did 100 lengths continuous swim in 20yd Chilliwack pool. About 37:54. Felt OK.
PM: Worked out at Chilliwack gym—good machines, enjoyed workout. Combination workout, mostly pulls, 68 min.
September 8, 1988
AM: Ran on woodchip trails in Centennial Park, 56 min continuous, pushing uphill and paths through forest. Still felt sluggish, not sleeping well. About 8½ miles.
PM: Did Lifecycle workout at gym. 2 x 24 min. 1st one felt easy—level 6, level 9. 2nd one level 9, level 7 test, level 6 hills, level 9 + 10 warmdown. Felt good but very tired after.
September 9, 1988
AM: Did 100 lengths continuous swim—2000yd 37:15. Felt good except water too hot.
PM: Did 73 min combination weights.
This week: 27 miles running, 1hr 38min stationary bike, 4 weight workouts, 3 swim workouts.