Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Amateur Tri Girl Battles Burnout

For the first time in 6 years, I've been experiencing burnout. Back-to-back Ironmans, including an Ironman, an ultra, and a half IM in 6 weeks will do that. Ironically, I thought I was immune to such folly things as "burnout". That only happens to the weak-minded, right? Wrong.

I was budding with enthusiasm and forget to pace myself. I felt great, my body was able, so why not? Unfortunately, being in great shape can get you into trouble. I used my body as a playground and almost broke my favorite toy. I know I will get through this, but how?, you ask. It certainly has been challenging.

For one, I've been going easy on myself. I've been pushing myself to go farther and faster for the last 6 years. It's okay to take a break. First, I allowed myself time off. I know I was supposed to be cross-training. Stuff like surfing, mountain biking, and hiking. But to be honest, I just couldn't bring myself to get off the couch. I slept a lot. Watched a lot of movies. Started a salt water aquarium. Did some cartoons. After 2 months of this, I realized something was wrong.

That brings me to step #2. Make sure there's nothing physically wrong. Turns out, I was suffering from chronic fatigue. I coudn't even work a full day. I was sleeping 16-18 hours a day. I had some bloodwork done, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to predict it was low thyroid (since I've suffered from that before). After much-painful tweaking to my medication (first it was too high, and then I suffered from migraines. Yay), my energy started returning. I also began focusing on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating regular meals full of greens, fruits, and whole grains.

Step #3. Begin doing something active but without purpose. For me, this basically meant getting out with the dogs. Hiking, walking, running, playing fetch at the beach, and even biking with the dogs. And my favorite...roller skating. Although the punishment for screwing up on this one is quite severe; I have several painful deep bruises to my tailbone that have taken weeks to heal. Sitting for long periods is quite painful but, hey, that's an even better excuse to get movin'! It felt good to just move, even though it was at low intensities.

Step #4 has been to reintroduce myself to exercise again. I don't have any race goals. I just want to be healthy and get into shape at this point. And have fun. Most of my friends are through the tri club so that's how I get my socializing done. Yet another excuse to get moving. It's been slow, and I have lots of false starts but little by little, I'm starting to work out again. I'm trying to do something every day. A short ocean swim, a run with the dogs, a fun little bike ride. I even signed up for a few races. Some sprint tris. The Carlsbad Tri is this Sunday. I'm not going to race it. Just use it as a workout.

Step #5 will be to fall in love with the sport again. I'm hoping to get my body back into shape and ease back into it. I really love trail running and am hoping to feel well enough to run a hilly, trail marathon this November (Catalina). I know from past experience that it gets easier with time. I just have to be consistent, take the pressure off myself, and get out there and move!

10 comments:

Wes said...

Recharging your batteries is a requirement chica, especially when you go hard early in the year! This, I know :-)

Christi said...

From the sounds of things it looks like you are right on track for recharging. Great to hear from you again!

Southern Cernock said...

I'm glad you had a little break. I was wondering how you managed to keep going and going! I'm also glad you're getting back into the swing of things.

bunnygirl said...

It sounds like you're doing a good job of getting the joy back. Sport is supposed to be fun!

Grey Beard said...

Nice to know you are human after all. :D I'm secretly feeling a little less guilty about my own slacking off this year.

Catalina would be a great place to train in the summer too. Cool, fresh ocean breeze, no smog. They have a killer 4th of July bash there every yr too. Maybe next year. Nice dive shop if you want to snorkel too.

Jack said...

I'm getting close to the burn-out point also, I can feel it coming on the horizon, I just hope I make it through the rest of race season, my last race is the end of September. I'm thinking of taking next year off from Ultrarunning, maybe just run a marathon or two, and do a couple more sprint Tri's. I think a good way to recharge the batteries is to do something outside of the norm, in my case some Tri's, in your case probably the trail running. The key I feel is that it has to have a high degree of "fun" attached to it!

Diana said...

Great to hear all is going well. Exercise "should" be fun! Way to get back at making it so. Good luck in the sprint tri this weekend!

Tortuga_Runner said...

sounds like a great plan. Good luck getting your stride back.

Jack said...

The best way to avoid burnout is a find a "tri-newbie" and coach them to their first race. Good luck Rachel.
P.S. Number 100 next Sunday.
Jack Finucan

Trigirlorlando said...

I want to thank you for this blog. I have been racing for 11 years (2 attempts at Ironman that were unsuccessful) 7 half ironmans, 9 marathons and so many half marathons I lost count. This was to be my year to attempt another full ironman but my body said no. Anemia and thyroid issues were the telling tale and now I am scaling back. Your blog has given me kind of a road map of what to do next...many thanks.