Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Rubber Band

For me, the mental and physical exertion related to running is akin to stretching a rubber band. Let me see if I can explain....

Have you ever trekked up a hill and at half way just craved a bit of flat land to stand on - somewhere you can ease the constant pressure on your leg muscles. It's the same as when you snowboard (or ski) you get to a point where you just want to take the weight off your calves - especially when on a snowboard you are cutting across a very gradual slope; you move slowly but if you stop you lose the little momentum that you have, but the constant pressure on your calf muscles begins to gnaw at your mind. Sometimes sitting down isn't the solution, you don't actually want to rest, you just want the legs to be able to stand still without feeling a strain. It's more of a mental thing.

Well, for me, running is like that. When you run slowly the pressure on the rubber band is minor - and it doesn't bother you at all. As you keep running eventually the pressure builds on the rubber band. Certainly if you go faster then the pressure really builds. As the tension of the rubber band builds the more you notice it - it cuts through your psyche such that eventually you cannot ignore it. Sometimes you cannot bear the pressure anymore, even when you run at slow speed and the tension isn't great. It's just constant pressure which irritates. It's your mental strength that keeps you goings, eventually you just have to stop and have a break from the incessant pressure. Sometimes the pressure builds and builds and then the rubber band snaps. This is when you cannot run anymore, not another step - a deeper desire to end it and go home. When the rubber band breaks then you know you've definitely overdone it.

Even though we weren't running too fast on Wednesday I still, almost, could not handle the tension of the rubber band. Only two kilometres into our 15km run at DPT level (up to 90% HR Max level, hence 9 out of 10 in effort) I wanted to stop, even though at that point we were only just warming up. If I wasn't running with Jo then I'm not sure what I would have done...maybe I would have walked, maybe I would have quit and gone home, or more likely I wouldn't have run in the first place. Jo think that I would have been fine even if she wasn't there - as she thinks I have pretty strong mental strength. When you first take up running it is this mental strength that you lack - physically you can do it but mentally you cannot handle any kind of pressure for longer than 20 or 30 minutes (probably because most people spend 20 to 30 minutes on gym equipment at a time).

The strange thing is that I looked down at my heart rate monitor and my HR was below 130. I guess this is what they call being "heart tired" - your legs are fine but your heart just doesn't feel up to beating faster to make your legs go faster. I'd noticed this recently - how I was struggling to get my heart rate did not seem to reflect the amount of perceived effort. Maybe the heart is fine, maybe the perceived effort gauge is wrong because mentally I'm tired which in turn is affecting my mental strength.

At one point in our run we began catching up to a runner that had overtaken us - this spurred me on and seem to kick-start my heart rate, making it go to the next level. Things became a bit more manageable, mentally, after that, but it was still hard.

I've never considered that under-training would be a problem for us. When Jo and I train together we always drive each other on and whatever I put into our training plan Jo pretty much just accepts. It's over-training that I've always known would be a problem.

When you over-train then it's not just an issue of picking up injuries; there are other and potentially worse symptoms. When you over-train your sleep suffers, you become irritable and worst of all you lose your enthusiasm for training. I know I haven't been sleeping well lately and I have been a little grumpy (especially around Jo). Also, I've really lacked the drive to run, since about Saturday. I also find that when I am mentally exhausted I am more likely to succumb to bad eating habits. On Thursday I almost had a Subway sandwich for lunch but managed to resist.

So in conclusion I'm pretty sure that I have over-trained (either that or my lazy alter ego has re-surfaced!), so I'm going to take a few days break. Jo's on a course from Thursday to Sunday (which is why we moved Wednesday and Thursdays runs to Tuesday and Wednesday instead, hence losing the Tuesday rest day - which couldn't have helped). The days are going to be long for her and she wont be able to train. I could train in her absence but I've decided not to - I'm taking this opportunity to have a break.

If I really want to run (i.e. I have my motivation back) then I will run - but not if the desire to run is fuelled by some inner guilt at missing a run or two. So no running for four days - wow, you have no idea how relieved that makes me feel.

[Edit: Some of you have asked how my tooth is after my little episode with pain. The course of antibiotics has cleared up the infection and the pain. So now I'm pain free, but seeing the specialist at the dentists on the 6th of June for a long term fix to the problem - which will hurt my wallet instead :( Thanks for asking.]


Blogger Freddi14 said...

I am glad someone else is going through the same issue that I am. I think rest is as important as running but I always feeling guilty when I take a day-off. But I think if you take the time-off you will come back stronger. I find it difficult to get that long run in and balance the rest of day's demands. Just think when we get out in the Rockies we can relax knowing all we have to do is get a long run in and NOTHING else.

I enjoy your blog and the links you have on it.


25 May 2008 at 02:20  
Blogger Georgie B said...

Okay.... as a humble veteran of 35 marathons, I must remind us that the training is about biophysics.

We are teaching our body biochemistry to prepare for and handle the stress of extended exertion. It is not really about time or about exuberance at this point, it is simply putting in the time / miles. There is no substitute for the routine, we just have to suck it up and move the cells ! We will have the benefit of adrenalin when we actually race... this is an important additive that we are all missing right now because of the grind of doing this.

I would say that when in doubt, go long as opposed to go fast. I also would say that 5% Alcohol needs to be increased so we don't worry about it !!!

Vision Quest.... we can do this.

29 May 2008 at 00:40  
Blogger Sat Sandhu said...

Thanks for the good advice George, I totally agree especially about upping the alcohol percentage.

Would hate to hit some sort of "wall" while we're sitting in the camp enjoying a well earned beer ;)


29 May 2008 at 09:04  

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