I Overreached! Now What?

I look at myself and my own programming as an ongoing experiment: how far can I push it? How much work can I do before I break down?

When I’m training for an event, I’m pretty good about towing the recovery line. I do just enough work to progress (get stronger or faster or build endurance) and no more, and in turn do what needs to be done on the recovery side like eating a lot of nutrient-dense food and getting a lot of sleep.

Around 8 weeks ago I put together a pretty aggressive program for myself. I wanted to attempt building an endurance base (from ~10 miles per week up to around 35) while pushing the weight in my lifting. It had me running 4x per week and lifting 4x per week. The running intensity was intentionally low, though I didn’t always follow through there (more on that later). The lifting intensity was high.

This is not how I normally train when I’m lifting and running simultaneously. I’ve always relied heavily on speed and tempo run workouts in lieu of lots of easy miles, and it’s always worked really well! But right now, with no end of this pandemic in sight and no real ideas as to when I’ll be competing again, I figured why not go a little wild with it?

The first four weeks were AMAZING.

My runs felt easy and I quickly got to the zen place I look to find when on a long run. My lifts moved really well, the assistance work I chose helped correct some hip issues I was having, and all was wonderful.

The second four weeks, not so much.

Stress was higher as we were finally nearing the opening of Victory Float Lounge. I was picking up new clients and trying to figure out a schedule that would allow for both my own business, the brick-and-mortar business, and taking care of the dogs, the house, myself and my relationships. The heat and humidity didn’t let up, and I wasn’t acclimating at all. My heart rate was way too high on a lot of those “easy” runs. If I didn’t run either very early or very late (later than I’m comfortable being on a trail alone), I was going to suffer. I pushed through anyway. My lifts also tanked a bit, particularly in the second week of that cycle. I could move the weight but it was slow and ugly. By the end of the third week I was wrecked – full body soreness that wouldn’t let up, constantly fatigued, sleeping 9, 10+ hours a day, alternating between extreme hunger and total lack of appetite. I’d overdone it this time.

So I took an entire week of almost complete rest – two shorter runs and nothing else. And after that rest week, when I tried to get back to my normal routine, I was faced with more of the same – extreme soreness, oversleeping, a haywire appetite.

It was quite a bit of overreach. 

I moped for a few days. My desire to lift and run had disappeared. I love training and I’ve made it a part of my identity, so to lose that spark was painful. But I can also recognize when my body is asking for a break, and I’m doing what I can to respect it. So I’ll need to pivot for a little while to recover.

Here’s my gameplan for the next 4 weeks or so:

Utilize my home gym workout template, and maybe simplify it even further:

  • 3 days per week OR every other day
  • A squat, a hinge, a push, a pull, and a carry or running element
  • Nothing over 60%, changing movements every single session and doing what feels right in the moment

Take a break from running, replace with long walks and hiking

  • I’ll run if I really want to, but no force
  • Take advantage of living so close to a state park!
  • And finally get out to Ohiopyle for a solo Yurt stay

This honestly comes at a pretty good time. Here’s why:

  • No events on my calendar, so there’s no reason NOT to rest at the moment
  • So much going on with VFL opening! My schedule is chaotic while we figure out our processes.
  • I’ve been really rekindling my other hobbies. I’m reading a lot more, spending more time outside and learning about growing things. I’m making things in the kitchen again, from ferments to fancy dinners to (soon) sourdough bread now that my starter finally arrived. I’d hate to give it all up because I’m spending my only free time training!

So I’m thanking my body for hanging in there while trying something out. I learned a valuable lesson about how far I can push myself. I’ll go back to running just three days per week, backing off on the mileage but upping the speed effort a lot. With some tweaks, the lifting side should go back to normal as well – I just couldn’t recover from that amount of work. 

And I’m settling in with a new routine and thoroughly enjoying all the free time to bake and cook and hike and lay in the grass that I think I really needed.

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