Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stress, Fatigue and Hormones

Last night was my scheduled treatment time for physio and 1:1 time with Coach. It's always an amazing opportunity. An hour of uninterrupted time with Coach as he checks the ol' bod' is still in one piece, aligned and the itbs are playing the game (which they are phew!) It is also time where Coach checks in on me in other ways. "How are you Sammi?" is not just about are you sore, are the itbs ok, what hurts. His question more relates to how are you handling the work load, how's work, are you stressed, are you sleeping, what's the diet going like, are you tired etc. It's the mental check-in as well as the body. His approach is wonderfully holistic.

Previously, I had brushed over his inquiries with a wave of the hand and a 'Yep I'm cool." as a standard response. I have learnt however, that this doesn't help him learn about me and how much work load he can give me before me and/or the body can't take any more. Countless hours laying on the physio table with him gently prodding and probing for answers to his questions has finally melted the ice maiden and now when I walk in the room and he asks "How are you Sammi?" with a concerned and genuine look on his face, finds me sometimes jabbering on about crap that I would never normally discuss with anyone, except maybe Gazza.

One of the main things I am discovering is that I find it hard to recognise fatigue. Weird I suppose. I figure if you're tired then sleep. However, I am learning that if you are fatigued then it is like a snowball rolling down a hill effect I reckon. It's like doing a hard session and then hitting the showers and bed. You wake up in the morning after a solid nights sleep and expect that during the night your body has recovered and is ready to go again fresh, recovered, stronger and keen for more of the same. WRONG!!!!! It's more like the body has not fully recovered and a little layer of fatigue has stuck itself to the outside of the snowball. Each session adds another layer of fatigue and there is never enough sleep in 8 hours to shake off the layers. Eventually my snowball hits the bottom of the hill and smashes into smithereens. Usually after a race I find or after about 6 weeks of the program. The problem is the smash in reality is me laying in bed for a week unable to find the motivation to get up and do the program/work/sessions.

What should happen is that I recognise that there are layers gathering on my snowball, the hill is getting steeper and the snowball is gathering speed. I then need to act and find ways to scrape off the layers, slow the speed and adjust the incline of the hill. I got to say I really haven't found the answer to how yet. I am trying though and with regular check-ins with Coach and communicating honestly about how I (or rather the snowball) is travelling is crucial.

But now imagine that my snowball which is travelling along at a, let's say cracking pace, as I get to the end of a big 4 week training cycle and has to travel through a blizzard and then gets hit by an avalanche. Yep, let's add a good load of outside factors and internal factors to the mix. Good old stress and hormones. Stress for me is having my kid away serving in Afghanistan, having my girlfriend living with us (moved out now though) and work. Previously a cruizy individual without a care in the world and could forget totally that work even existed when the weekends came round, now I find myself getting stressed quicker. Remnants of my previous job and the bullying etc that went on. (But that's a previous blog) The point is that I still haven't healed completely. After all it has only been 6 months. I should give myself a break, and I do. It's just hard for me to recognise when the stress is coming on and because I internalise it no-one sees what's happening on the inside. To all, I am in control, calm under fire and happy go lucky. On the inside the blizzard is raging and the snowball is reaching break neck speed.

Now let's add a great big dollop of hormones. Yeah I'm female and that sux when it comes to the swinging moods and hormones that flush through the system each month or so. At 47 you would think they would quit their fussing and go pick on some other poor soul. But nope, I still find that there are times across the month where, I just wanna kick the poor dog across the yard and then crawl up in a tiny ball and hide from the world and then eat the fridge out. Sometimes there are just never enough Tim Tams to make it go away. And after discussions with Coach I am learning that there are other hormones that are associated with fatigue, neural overload, muscular stress etc that are also in the mix.

The snowball is now reaching Warp 6......(insert Scotty quote "She canny take anymore Captain!")........As I plummet headlong into oblivion I realise that this week I have a healthy (or rather unhealthy) dose of all 3 factors. Yep, I got the hormones, stress and fatigue all mixing up in one big cauldron of steaming crappola. Way to go Sammi!


Give myself a break. Yep, easier said than done. Sleep-ins, program on hold, do what I have to as far as sessions are concerned. Try and eat healthy avoiding comfort food. (Epic fail on the avoidance strategy). TALK TO COACH!!!! - Working on that one.

Tonight is an open water swim with Coach and the Crew. I will roll up for that. Saturday is 100kms on the bike, yep I will roll up for that. Sunday is a club team race, yep I wont let the team down and I'll show.... Monday is rest and then the week will start again. I will pick up my shit covered proverbial snow sled and trudge the long walk back up the hill to jump on the luge ride again. Hoping that I can find strategies to lessen the incline, recognise the snow that I am gathering along the way and put the brake on when I see I am gathering too much speed.

Wish me luck.... oh and if you are an experienced snowball rider and have found an answer...feel free to share with the Rookie. Enjoy the Ride!!!!

This blog is dedicated to Megzy - whose snowball just hit the wall.. It happens to the best of us.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Checking the Rear View Mirror

Every now and then I find it beneficial and very satisfying to take a look in the rear view mirror of my life. It's a good way of taking stock, seeing just how far I have come and appreciating what I have achieved. It is also a way of staying grounded. Remembering that once it was all I could do to muster a run to the corner of my street. That riding a bike was something that I did in my childhood with a basket on the front of my bike and spoki-doks making my wheels make a happy tune. Swimming was with a bubble on my back, totally humiliated in Primary school.

My parents aren't sporty. They don't even go for evening walks. The thought of sweating is insane and only happens while you are at work. Not that mum worked. She stayed at home and took care of us kids while dad brought home the earnings and handed over her housekeeping money on a Thursday night when he got home from the pub. We loved when he came home from the pub. We would be sitting on the floor eating our fish and chips and he would come in with a packet of beer nuts for us to share. It was a typical Aussie household, 3 bedroom house, white picket fence, 3 kids and a dog scenario. Hobbies were horses for the girls and football for my brother. Mum and Dad did the dutiful drive us everywhere job. But never participated. 

So sporting endeavours would have been supported if I had have chosen to do running or netball or something other than ride my pony. But it was never role modelled. I have never seen my dad run.

Where the joy of triathlon came from I am not sure. Finding the pleasure of training and being active and being a part of competition is foreign to my family but it is something that I really love. For me it's all about seizing life by the throat and running like hell! And Triathlon is just one of the ways I can validate myself and provide to the judge (whomever that may be?) the evidence that yep, I grabbed every opportunity in life to be the best of my ability and gave it a bloody good crack!

So here is my rear view mirror shot of the moment.

3 x running photos taken over the course of the 7 or so years I have been doing triathlon with a goal of improving my overall health, adopting a healthy active lifestyle, eating healthy and moving ever increasingly towards a plant based diet. (But that's another blog at another time :)

Left - 70+kgs. I had stopped weighing myself. Pinkies triathlon 6 years ago. Trying to finish 3kms and struggling big time in the heat. I realised at this point that just running, swimming and biking occasionally was not the end of it. Other things had to change too. Diet, attitude, training.

Middle - 65kgs. Port Mac 70.3. 2 years ago. I was training but not consistently. Sugar, V drinks, chocolate and the whole "I train therefore I can eat what ever I like" mentality still strong. I did my run in 2hrs and 40mins. I walked some due to the ITB issue. But mostly I walked because I wasn't fit enough to run the entire distance.

Right - 59.3kgs. Last weeks Port Mac 70.3. Done in 2hrs 15mins. Ran the whole way except to walk the aid stations. Could have been faster if not for the blister on the arch of my foot. But most importantly is recognising that so much has changed for the better. My diet, my attitude, consistency in my approach and training.  

There has been a constant need for adjustment, attention to detail, commitment and reaching a realisation that being fit and healthy is so important and integral to me leading a happy and fulfilling life and I believe that those people who I love and have in my life are better for it as well.
I am soooooo less grumpy lol.