Reassessing Physical & Mental Status

Even though we have officially passed the Dog Days of Summer period the heat and humidity in Florida is still as potent as it was in July and August. At this point of the year it can be physically and mentally challenging completing workouts outside. It sometimes feels as if summer isn’t anywhere near ending…

Today I will share a few considerations you can ponder as we deal with some of the challenges deep into the summer. I will also use a personal example I experienced leading up to a long and rigorous workout yesterday. It puts into perspective how I attempt to address the mental and physical aspects during this grueling period.

Let me start out by stating planning and executing training is a constant and ever changing challenge. There are many variables that come into play physically and mentally. This will never change. Some of the physical variables I have experienced include:

  • Dealing with injuries (are there limitations or is there a progression plan for certain parts of the body that come into play)
  • Handling soreness and/or tightness in muscles (balancing big efforts with recovery)
  • Fatigue (if you are constantly tired something is going on…consult with your coach or physician; could be overtraining, not recovering properly, lack of sleep, stress, nutrition, etc.)
  • The type of event you are training for (putting an emphasis on certain parts of the body – ex. run race, triathlon, general fitness, etc.)
  • Periodization (building a plan that is progressive with cycles)
  • Time to the event (do you have 3 months, 6 months, etc.)

In addition to the physical attributes, several mental variables come into play and are just as important:

  • Mental fatigue (be aware if you are simply going through the motions)
  • Stress (this can come in so many ways – consider all of our life stressors – professional, personal, training, racing, time constraints, financial, etc.)

I have found the key with these variables is to be constantly assessing and reassessing them. Some of the variables don’t change much. Like the type of event you are training for probably remains constant unless maybe an injury occurs or something else happens resulting in changing your schedule. But other variables could be or are constantly changing. I find life stressors seem to change almost daily for me.

I attempt to attack these variables first from a macro, big picture, perspective and then assess and reassess at the micro level including weekly and daily. Yesterday presented a big challenge for me. It would be my longest workout of the year and most challenging bike ride.

From the big picture perspective I had this planned out thoughtfully. My next “A” race I’m training for, the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship, is November 10 so I have my target date in place. I planned my periods of training and progression leading up to the race. I have considered coming back from a knee injury in the overall building of the plan. I also scheduled other races to test my progression, practice racing, and as a mental reward as I LOVE racing. The reward of racing is one way for me to stay on top of mental fatigue.

As the week approached I had a few things I was considering. Coming off my first race (Saturday) since injuring my knee I really wanted to focus on two run workouts in the the week targeting speed. I took into consideration it may impact the Sunday long workout but that was a priority based on my assessment of what I needed. Ensuring I had adequate sleep going into the Sunday effort was on my mind as the week began to close. I had early morning workouts all week and Saturday included a trip to Orlando and back for a University of Central Florida football game.

When I woke up Sunday morning at 4:00 am I rolled out of bed, loaded my gear to take to the workout, and took off on the 55 minute drive to the hills of San Antonio. My plan was to run two miles, bike 69 miles, and finish with an eight mile run. I was really looking forward to the test to see where my endurance was currently. As I was driving I consciously thought about how this fit in with mental fatigue. I am currently in a very high volume cycle which can easily become a grind.

I thought to myself, “How am I keeping this fresh? Why am I doing this? What is my goal for the day?” That really helped me consider all these factors.

How am I keeping it fresh?

  • Cycling in San Antonio is beautiful (change of scenery)
  • Constantly challenging myself…those hills are tough!
  • I loaded podcasts, music playlists, and other YouTube interviews I wanted to listen to (variety of inputs to keep me motivated and/or help me learn)

Why am I doing this?

  • I love feeling healthy
  • I love the sport
  • I love racing
  • I want to be ready for November 10

What is my goal for the day?

  • I challenged myself to complete three difficult loops (Trilby); two had been my previous high
  • Get comfortable running on tired legs after the bike ride
  • Practice my nutrition plan for the November 10 race. I prepared and practiced how I would intake my nutrition from wake up, during the workout and after.
  • Welcome adversity as it helps prepare for adversity in races

Going through this really helped me prepare for the effort. When I arrived at the San Antonio Athletic Complex prior to 6:00 am it was dark and nobody was there. I stepped out of my truck, got ready to run and went out for an easy two mile effort to loosen up. When I returned back to the truck I prepared everything else to begin my 69 mile ride.

As I started the ride I immediately knew it was going to be a challenging day. My quads felt sore, tight and fatigued. This I pondered as I was going into my longest and most difficult ride of the year. I quickly thought back to my final goal for the day in welcoming adversity.

One of my favorite statements from ultra endurance coach, Chris Hauth, that I really anchor to in these situations is, “get the body tired and then the training begins.” The key point here is for endurance racing, you need to get to the point where you are training tired as you will be tired in the race and you want to be comfortable with that discomfort. Experience it now as you WILL experience it in the race.

At that point starting out I knew I would need to alter my plan from an output (power/speed) perspective but this would really enhance the mental test and to embrace it. I did hold out some hope that I would loosen up or get fresh…but that didn’t happen…

Just over 28 miles in I was climbing a moderate hill while straining a bit more than the previous hills and felt a familiar sensation on my back tire. I was hoping the feel was some uneven patches in the pavement but my suspicion grew quickly and I stopped to check my tire. It was flat… At this part of the effort I was exposed to full sun as you will see in the pictures below. My hope was it was just the tube and the tire was ok to keep moving.

I quickly thought, “here is adversity #2 and how am I going to deal with it?” What can you do? Change the tire as fast as you can and get moving. Every minute spent there is simply time spent baking in the sun. Finally I thought it would be a good story to tell as I am on a run of getting flats…ha!

I changed the tube and got rolling again. After a mile I felt confident the tire was good as well. I kept my effort consistent and did a good job with my nutrition and hydration plan. The final 8-10 miles was quite difficult. My various leg and glute muscles felt numb and/or tired. When I returned back to the truck, I changed into my run gear and took off. My plan was to do four-two mile efforts so I could be back at the truck simulating water stops during the race. After each two mile effort I wasn’t sure I wanted to start the next.

At this point it was mid-day and the heat was pretty brutal. My plan to run eight miles was shortened to six. With the heat index and condition my body was in during that point in the day and week I pulled the plug. I felt good I went out for the second  and third two mile runs to get to six miles total as I really didn’t feel like it in the moment.

I got in the truck to leave and felt really good about the day.  I didn’t have it physically but reframed the day and took a lot out of it physically and mentally. When I got home, I left everything in the truck, showered, and dove into bed for a nap. After the nap my focus was on recovery to get me ready for the new week. That encompasses both the physical and mental aspects.

My advice – make sure you are addressing both physical and mental needs and keep reassessing how you are attacking your goals.

– Add Health to Your Life

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