Sometimes, relating personal experiences is the best way to convey a lesson. Today’s post is one such time.
Last week, I hit a wall. I was completed fragged. Dragging ass. And it got me thinking.
As endurance athletes, we’re used to operating in fatigued states. Training long, hard hours is tough and we grow accustomed to carrying a bit of fatigue into our day-to-day routines. In fact, we’ve come to accept that we’re going to be fatigued on a daily basis, yet we still find ways to execute pretty darn well in our training and even our races.
For the past couple months, I deliberately cut back on my weekly volume and also inserted more complete days off into my routine. Rather than always pressing workouts (even while keeping HR and power in the appropriate zones), my recovery has been both quicker and more complete after hard workouts. Another benefit of the increased days off is increased sleep. I get up at 0-dark-30 to work out, so sleeping in affords me an extra couple hours of rest those nights. That’s huge.
In making these changes, I can now feel a clear distinction between being “tired” (lack of sleep) and being “fatigued” (result of hard work). And, I have now re-realized what it feels like when these two sensations overlap. Here’s what last week taught me.
Wednesday, I had a call with a client in Poland at midnight (8am for them). It went until 1am, then I had to get up at 5:45 on Thursday to take my son to the airport for his flight to the Simplot Games (a US regional indoor track meet for high schoolers). Thursday, I felt better than expected despite getting very little sleep. It was a day off from training which, to a degree, counterbalanced the lack off sleep. Friday was another story. I felt wiped out when the alarm went off. When I climbed on the bike, my legs felt good for the 50min L3 drone session, but watts were a little lower and HR was a little higher than normal. For the rest of the day, I feel like I had dug really deep like in an LT/VO2max workout. I had cinder blocks for shoes.
That tiredness from the lack of sleep which I then carried into a moderately challenging workout created the deep fatigue I then felt – a combination of being tired and fatigued. Doing that long L3 session was ok but I probably should have pulled back to recovery level effort and saved it for another day. So next time I will, regardless of the planned workout.
Carrying fatigue from one workout into the next workout is fine. Carrying tiredness from lack of sleep into a key workout should be avoided. Typically, output will be lower (measured in speed or watts) and HR will be higher at expected effort. Given the changes to my training routine that I outlined above, I can clearly differentiate between being tired, being fatigued and being overly fatigued when the two sensations hit at the same time.
The goal will be to avoid the combo scenario as much as possible.
In the past, I was admittedly weak on taking my rest days. These past couple months, I’ve really come to appreciate more days completely off, and actually look forward to them more than I do my challenging workouts. The benefits to my training have been marked, so I can’t wait to see what sort of impact it all has on my racing as well.