How hard should we push our bodies??

Well it’s time for a rather heart felt blog! 2013 was hotting up to what looked like a good season. I raced at Thames Turbo and finished 2nd, did two bike TT’s and got PB’s on both and had a great run out at Dorney Super sprint where I finished 4 mins in front of the next lady. Things seemed to be falling into place nicely in time for Worlds Qualifers at Deva Triathlon… or so I thought!

931417_10152842373520268_311426187_nSo with just over a week to go before the race, training load was being tapered off, the body starting to rest with just some short, sharp efforts so I should be feeling on top of the world but yet my body still felt like it trying to recover from hard sessions. I went to the pool on the Wednesday and felt shattered after just 1500m, “Oh well… man up” I tell myself and head on into work. Day completed, commute home and still feel like I’ve done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson… come on body… please play ball!

I did my best to take it easy the rest of the week. Minimal training, lots of sleep and plenty of good home cooked grub. The secret to any pre-race taper, but part of me still didn’t feel that my body was playing the game. I felt ‘off the boil’, lethargic and generally tired. What do we do in these situations? You don’t want to moan, though I think you can always convince yourself that you don’t feel fine going into the race. Having a familiar little ache that you catastrophise about in the week leading to the race is all part of those heightened nerves and definitely a common joke in our household. It is literally the only time I have ever seen my other half stretching!!

So, bags packed, bike tweaked and a can of “man up” at the ready I’m on the start line and ready to race hard and hopefully achieve that all important qualifying spot. Unfortunately my body definitely had other ideas. To summarise my race: the swim was plain awful! The bike, usually the saving grace….even more awful and you guessed it, the run featured a very similar feeling of awfulness! When asked “what went wrong”, my honest feeling was “I really don’t know”! I was just unable to push on at a pace/power/speed (whatever stat you prefer) that I’m consistently able to do. It’s safe to say that this is the closest i’ve ever been to not wanting to be there. Despite the usual pain during a race there is ALWAYS an underlying feeling of focus, euphoria and will to achieve and keep going. I was severely lacking all the above on this race.

So what happened? Well, I raced one of my slowest times ever and finished in 9th position in my age category. I was gutted, I felt angry, demoralised and quite frankly confused! The worst bit was that I just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. All that hard work and very little to show for it, or so I felt! I dragged myself home, with tail between legs and a whole world of crazy and self doubt in my mind…not a good place to be!

It wasn’t until the next day, when I woke with a lovely bout of tummy flu (thanks theRiver Dee, first you break my soul, now you actually take my body!) and a suspicious looking rash across my chest. A trip to the GP and a confirmed diagnosis of …. SHINGLES! Deep impending doom and the word that is repeatedly being uttered is….REST, complete and utter REST!

So what is Shingles? Shingles is a virus that we all carry in our system from when we had chicken pox as a child (assuming you did have chicken pox!!). It basically lays dormant in our system and then can arise at periods when our bodies are under too much physical and mental stress! Looking back now i can see some of the warning signs. I had a heavy period of racing and training throughout April and the beginning of May, that coupled with a ridiculously busy period of time at work and some family worries to deal with for good measure (the glamorous world of an age group athlete hey!), it’s probably safe to say that I may have been a tad run down! I can remember feeling tired at the time but it’s supposed to be hard right?! If it wasn’t hard, we’d all be amazing athletes!

So where do we draw the line? When do we stop before we’ve done too much? I’m not sure I still have a solid answer here. It’s a question I’ve asked pretty much anyone that I respect in terms of coaching “When do we not complete or miss a session?” This statement alone is like the devil to me. I am an utter perfectionist and I will not stop, I will not be defeated by a session, if it’s on the programme, I’m doing it! But is this the right attitude? Maybe hard work is not ALWAYS the answer. And unfortunately I’m learning this one the hard way.

Having not come from an endurance sports background I’m still learning so much about my body and the limits that it can achieve. I’m consistently told that this is something that I will continue to learn over time and cannot be rushed! Now this may seem obvious. But I’m the kind of person that wants everything yesterday. I want to be able to control things and I want to be able to understand exactly what I should and shouldn’t do, which is ridiculous really. I’m a physio afterall. I know that there is ‘no one answer to the same problem’. In terms of managing and treating injuries I approach each injury individually according to the person in front of me and the thing I always say is “listen to your body, you’ll know when you’ve done too much!” and if I’m honest, looking back now, I was doing too much and I should’ve listened harder!

So where to go from here! With European Champs little over 1 week away. I will be taking it VERY easy, the dreaded word “R” word is being fully enforced by all those around me. Lycra and trainers locked away, even my beloved commute bike is sat collecting dust for the first time ever! I am going to have to play it by ear, hopefully I’ll be fit in time for this. So it’s times like these that I’m told: ‘to be the best we sometimes have to do things that we don’t want to do, things like training, eating right and also resting from an event. It’s part of what we do and its important! Listen to your body!” I’m certainly hearing that message loud and clear now!!

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