This week was a fairly easy going base building week, with a mixture of road and trail miles. My body continues to feel pretty good and strong overall, I’m still loving the trails, but I am still somewhat tired. Not dragging myself around the house like a narcoleptic level of tired, but also not having any difficult getting to sleep. At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of mental fatigue from work, spending more time on technical trails, and continued high mileage. The weather is definitely warming up down here, and that can really be draining for me. After a couple weeks of feeling somewhat depleted, I thought it might be a good opportunity to share what I have found helpful in managing Cumulative Fatigue.
Related Post: CrossFitting At Home
Most of this week was fairly routine in terms of running and working out. We finally got our pull-up bar mounted, which has allowed me to see just how much skill I’ve lost in the last month. It’s been pretty hilarious, and my hands are sore from not very many pull-ups and knee raises. Which has me thinking that once I do decide to go back to the box (they re-open on the 18th), it’s going to be an interesting transition back. I feel like my overall fitness has been maintained pretty well, but I know my gymnastics and barbell skills are going to need some attention. Summer projects!
We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with some amazing Instant Pot Carnitas. I know this recipe will absolutely be in the recipe rotation quite a bit in the future. It was delicious.
On Thursday, Whitney Heins from www.themotherrunners.com and I chatted via Instagram live for a little while about her experience with running and injury. I felt like she had a great perspective on learning the hard lessons, listening to your body, and enjoying running for the sake of running. I’m so glad we had an opportunity to connect. If you’re not reading her blog, you definitely should be.
My family and I decided to celebrate Mother’s Day on Saturday because I am inpatient. I also wanted to relax after my long run, and I knew I wouldn’t feel great about spending all weekend acting like royalty. My incredible husband bought me a new Garmin Forerunner 245 as an early Mother’s Day gift, and I have been loving all of the new features. I’m really looking forward to having a little more data to help me ensure that I’m not venturing into the dangerous territory of overtraining, especially as my mileage continues to increase. Which brings me back to the discussion around fatigue, how it’s different from overtraining, and what I have found useful in managing it during training.
Managing Fatigue In Training
It’s not at all uncommon to feel tired or fatigued for significant portions of training. Especially if you are increasing mileage, incorporating speedwork, or running a fairly high volume in general. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are paying close enough attention to recognize concerning warning signs, and that you are taking care of your body that is working so hard.
Fatigue Vs. Overtraining
Overtraining is exactly what it sounds like. When you push your body too hard for too long, without utilizing training breaks or fueling appropriately, your body can revolt. Eventually, no matter how you push, your body won’t respond. It’s like one of those terrible dreams where you’re trying to run away from the serial killer, but no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get your legs to move faster. We all have those dreams, right?
Anyways, some of the important signs to recognize that differentiate overtraining from general fatigue are an increased heart rate during activity and sport. Having a Garmin watch or other fitness tracker and paying attention to your usual patterns can help you recognize this. Not making progress in your training for significant periods of time despite hard efforts can be one of the more frustrating signs of overtraining. Moodiness, sleep disturbance, loss of menstrual cycle in women, and being more prone to illness than usual are also all signs of overtraining.
Related Post: Running Base Training is Exhausting
If you think you might be knocking on overtrainings door, now is a good time to take a breather from your efforts. Rest, recovery, and adequate nutrition are your bff (this is the case for me anyways, tbh). So now that we’ve covered the differences between overtraining and just being tired from training (which is totally normal), here’s what can help you to manage those symptoms of fatigue a little better.
Ensure Proper Nutrition
A lot of fatigue can be explained from inadequate nutrition. Food is our body’s source of fuel, and if you are running or training with any sort of significant volume, you’re going to need to fuel appropriately. So what you’re looking for here is to make sure you are eating enough calories overall, and that you are getting a decent and varied amount carbs, fats, and protein. It’s also useful to make sure that you are getting in a good amount of vitamins and minerals.
Do you need to go insane tracking all of your food down to the gram to make sure you are getting enough of everything? No. Personally, I find that loosely tracking my food helps me ensure I am eating enough calories to support my training, but that is just my personal preference. I watch my weekly average caloric expenditure through my Garmin data, and use MyFitnessPal to make sure I am at least in the ballpark. I’ve previously explained why I’ve found it helpful to track my macros and how I incorporate this into my training.
If tracking isn’t for you, that’s totally fine. But it is useful to make sure you are eating a good amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some source of protein. I would never dream of admonishing anyone for including a good amount of ice cream and french toast in addition to all those nutrient dense food options, but make sure the bulk of your diet has some sort of a life cycle and you’re probably good. If you have concerns that you might be deficient in some sort of vitamin, consider getting some bloodwork done with your PCP or through a mail-to-order company like Inside Tracker.
If you don’t have too many difficulties eating enough calories (Reese’s can help), you might want to shift your focus to making sure you are getting enough rest. The average adult needs 6-8 hours of sleep, and honestly athletes need more. And yes, I know that just because your body needs more sleep does not automatically mean that your baby will sleep through the night to help you. But getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night can really impede your bodies ability to recover.
Related Post: The Running Dead
For me personally, I really struggle with sleeping when the sun is up. I once tried to work an overnight shift, and I was the definition of the walking dead. I was also kicking puppies level cranky. I didn’t do so great when my son was a newborn, and I couldn’t do any real meaningful training until he could sleep through the night. Once I started higher volume training plans, I found that I still wasn’t all that great at sleeping during the day, but I could usually make a 20 min power nap happen on days where I was really drained. And I could fall asleep at 7pm, no problem, during the fall.
The important thing is that you’ve got to know your body. Maybe you’re more of a natural night owl, so you shift your training schedule to allow you to sleep in a little more. Or maybe lunch time naps (or Laps as I affectionately call them) are your jam. Whatever works, make it happen. Get in the extra sleeps as much as possible. It will make a world of difference.
Rest More – Even Without Sleep
This was an absolute game changer for me in this whole high mileage business. While I may not be great at sleeping during the day, I sure can lay on my couch LIKE A BOSS in the late afternoon. While there’s a lot of physical and mental recovery that can only take place during sleep, there’s still some really good stuff that can come from just plain old rest. And honestly, has there ever been a better time to Netlix and actually chill than now? The answer is no.
So if getting extra sleep may be a tough battle, see if there are a few opportunities to get some extra rest time instead. Can you hang out and watch tv while your kid builds their 1,879th Lego set? Can you ask your amazing husband to take over dinner duty or pick up Chipotle so you don’t have to hang out in the kitchen? Can you keep your work/life balance situation more honest and close your damn laptop at 5pm like a responsible human being? Yes. You can do all of these things. Even if these questions are directly aimed at myself (these are all situations I need to personally be better about), there are probably similar opportunities for you to work in a little more rest in your daily life as well.
Caffeine – Be Careful
This recommendation is painful for me to write, but it’s important. Caffeine is a hell of a drug. It can make a new mom feel like maybe they won’t die of sleep deprivation for at least another 4 hours. It’s delicious, warm, and comforting. And honestly, I have a two cup minimum before anyone is allowed to ask me any sort of question. But like every good thing, too much can create issues.
As an endurance athlete, there’s no issue with utilizing caffeine in your sports nutrition regime, as long as your body can tolerate it well. But make sure you are timing it well, so that you can still get in all that rest you need. A great little hack many athletes swear by is having half a cup of coffee right before a midday nap. I’ve personally had a lot of success using this technique on my long run days. I know I can’t normally sleep for much longer than 20 minutes anyway, and I wake up feeling like a brand new freaking person most of the time. Just try to make sure you aren’t taking in any caffeine after 2pm if you don’t want to cause sleep disruptions.
Take a Rest Day or Cross-Train
The final recommendation to managing fatigue in training is take an extra rest day or utilize some active recovery cross-training to help you body bounce back a little faster. Endurance athletes have a hard time with this one. We’re a stubborn bunch, and we often feel fairly compulsed to stick to our training schedule or hit the training volume we had previously planned. But if you’ve tried all the sleeps and snacks, and you’re still dragging your almost lifeless body around, it’s time for a stinking rest day.
Your body is patient, but if you don’t listen to it when it’s screaming for some rest, you might dig yourself into a hole that is a lot harder to get out of. It’s much easier to prevent overtraining than to successfully navigate out of it. So take an extra day, or go for a hike or swim instead of pounding the pavement. You won’t lose an ounce of fitness, and you might save yourself from a host of issues down the road.
I hope these tips and recommendations are helpful for anyone else out there whose getting a little cranky and burnt out. If there are other tips and tricks you’ve found helpful in managing training fatigue, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 57
Total Workouts: 5
How the Runs Felt
This was another week of mixed surfaces, and early morning runs to beat the heat. On Sunday, my son joined me for a few morning miles on the Leon Creek Greenway. The birds were out, the Texas wildflowers continue to show off, and we enjoyed the easy pacing together. Monday and Wednesday, I got all of my miles done in the neighborhood before work, and I felt like my energy was pretty high. On Thursday, I got my first two miles on the roads, waiting not so patiently for the trails to open.
I was able to get 5 technical trail miles in before work at the nature preserve. This was a fairly exciting morning for me, because I had my first wild boar encounter! I was on a section of trail that runs horizontal, about 2/3 of the way up a fairly steep hill when I heard something rustling from further up the side of the hill. There’s more technical trails up in that direction, and for a second I thought a person was tumbling down the side. As soon as I looked up, I saw the back end of a boar running in the opposite direction. I’m not used to seeing much wildlife on my runs (unless you count seagulls), so it was pretty exciting. I was very happy that it was running in the opposite direction, though.
It made me think about how grateful I am to have a set of Aftershokz headphones that allow me to hear things happening on the trails around me while I still have some form of entertainment. Honestly, I don’t think I would be comfortable running on trails with traditional headphones for this exact reason. I know there are some rattle snakes and larger animals that I need to be able to hear in order to stay safe. And even on the roads, I feel a lot better being able to hear other runners and street traffic. If you haven’t checked out this kind of bone conducting headphones, I really encourage you to do some research. It just feels so much safer.
While we’re on the subject of runner safety, on Friday I joined the rest of the running community in remembering Ahmaud Arbery with 2.23 miles. The senseless murder isn’t something I can talk or even think about without feeling incredible sadness. I know that as a woman I often feel less than completely safe, especially running in early morning or evening hours. But I do take for granted the privilege that comes from looking non-threatening, even though I consider myself a person of color as a Latina woman. I’ve grown up in cities where my race is considered the majority, and honestly I think my mixed race has granted me a lot of privilege. It hurts my heart that large portions of our running community don’t experience the same sense of safety that I often take for granted when I run through wealthy subdivisions and communities.
I hope justice finds its place in this case, and I hope there is continued awareness of the cultural disparities in the sense of safety. It’s a hard conversation to participate in, but it’s imperative if change is ever going to take place.
On Saturday, I ventured back to the trails for my long run. This week I decided to drive out to Eisenhower Park, which is where I actually ran my first 50k ultra-marathon a couple of years ago. Similar to the trails near my house, Eisenhower’s trails are seriously rocky, technical, and have a whole lot of ups and downs, including some steep stair sections that I love to hate. I logged just over 1,400 feet of gain on my 16 miler, and once again my legs were toast. I’m thinking that next weeks long run might take place out at McAllister Park. I want to keep getting in as many trail miles as possible, but I think my body could use a little rest from limestone stairmasters.
What I’ve Been Listening To
The latest episode of the Run Hard, Mom Hard podcast was so interesting and inspiring. The ladies interviewed a fellow mother runner who holds several Fastest Known Time records for California’s highest mountains. Freaking incredible. I finished up Counter Clock, and I’m happy to say that it was probably the best true crime series I’ve listened to in a long time. It kept me interested until the end. I also listened to the Jodi Arias series that The First Degree recently put out, and found it super interesting, even though I think we’re all very familiar with the well known case. Lindsey Heins had a recent interview with Jurek’s that I found super interesting; they are such a fun couple to listen to. I love how different their personalities are, and how adventurous they are in taking their young kids on outdoor adventures.
How the WODs felt
I was back up to 5 workouts this week, and felt pretty great for the most part. I revisited DT (I guess I didn’t learn my lesson the first time), but this time I mixed in some double-unders. I started incorporating some hanging knee raises and pull-ups on our new pull-up bar this week, and my hands are SORE. I’m pretty happy to report that my double-under technique has seen a lot of improvement during the quarantine. I still whip myself pretty regularly, but I’m able to get in sets of 30 somewhat consistently, which is a huge improvement for me.
I’m still debating how I plan to approach returning to my CrossFit box, and I think a lot of what I decide will be determined once the box actually reopens. I’m excited for the CrossFit community, but I really hope all boxes take some extra planning and precautions as they begin to re-open.
What Went Well
I’ve continued to get some extra rest, and my husband has been great about encouraging me to relax as much as possible after work. My nutrition and hydration has been pretty consistent, and I’ve been mindful about making sure to get in core work and stretching at least three times a week. I feel like this has really helped my body stay in good shape throughout all of the ridiculous things I’ve put it through lately (back to back marathon programs, a virtual marathon, 24 miles in 24 hours, and now ultra-marathon prepping). Even though it’s been almost two months since I’ve been in a CrossFit box, I’ve continued to strength train regularly and I don’t feel like I’ve lost a ton of conditioning or strength.
What Went Shitty
Honestly, I can’t say that much of anything was crappy this week. Sure I was a little tired, but I’m kind of getting used to that. The temperatures rising has been a little hard to manage, but we haven’t hit that horrendous time of year where it’s 85 before the crack of dawn. Hopefully we continue to ease into those high temps.
Plans to Improve Next Week
Next week my plan is to just continue to prioritize my physical and mental health, use the new data available to me through my Garmin, and keep finding opportunities to explore the trails.