After four weeks of running all over the city for various scans and follow-up appointments I now have the diagnosis and prognosis. Officially medial tibial stress syndrome grade 2-3, another 2 weeks off before I can begin the slow trot back to running. And while I’ve been kept busy with a new job, I’ve also had plenty of time to think in the mornings and evenings when I’d normally be out training but instead sit at home twiddling my thumbs.
I once had a friend tell me that I needed to sit back and acknowledge what a huge achievement my PhD was because we often lose sight of that when we spend our days surrounded by likeminded individuals striving towards the same goal. And in no place is this fact truer than in triathlon. Triathlon is an all-consuming sport. Even when training for the shorter distances, so not trying to squeeze in 6 hour cycles and 3 hour runs, we are training to be awesome at THREE sports. And it is very easy to lose sight of that when you are surrounded by equally nutty individuals.
It’s all come back to bite me recently. I’m very good at the ostrich approach, thinking that I’m coping fine until suddenly I’m not. And if I’m brutally honest, I knew that something wasn’t right for a while. But being my stubborn self with an ounce of super hero syndrome I tried to press on. Life had become stressful and I was struggling to fit it all in. Getting up early to train was hard, training wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been, and while I enjoyed it once I got out there, it was an exhausting mental battle to get out the door. This shouldn’t be the case with a HOBBY. I don’t do triathlon to add more on my plate. It is my escape. Yet I had lost sight of that. I convinced myself that I could manage it all if I just dropped the training volume a bit. But to be honest this just added to the mental anguish because I knew I now wasn’t training to my full potential. Add a bit of financial stress into the mix and suddenly diet isn’t perfect either.
So with buckets of cortisol coursing through my system, less than ideal nutrition and an ever mounting fatigue that I couldn’t get on top of, something was going to have to give to make me wake up and realise I needed to stop.
As a sports biomechanist, with a focus on overuse injuries, I will be the first to argue that stress fractures are not as simple as too much training. You can get away with high training volumes, rapid increase or a slightly funky gait if that’s all your body has to deal with. But add life into the mix and it can become more than your finely tuned system can cope with. I’ve talked to another athlete who was recently pulled up short with a stress fracture and she also admitted to life events playing a part.
Triathlete’s are generally from a similar personality mould. The one that always ends up in a high stress life. Who piles task on top of task and wants to believe they are superman. And it is oh so hard to admit that we are not. That actually we need a break from something. Unfortunately, taking a break from life is very rarely an option.
My body has finally forced me to take a break, and it’s becoming clearer just how necessary it was. My crazy heart beats which are usually my indicator that I’m treading perilously close to the overtraining boundary has still not calmed down six weeks post A race. I am generally strict about 4 weeks of nothing post an Ironman race but by then I am itching to get back. While getting on my bike brings a smile to my face, I am in fact not ready to get back into the stupidly early mornings and the hours of listening to myself think.
It’s so important for us to realise that we are, still just human and that if we aren’t giving our bodies the chance to recover, with sleep, calm and good food, something IS going to BREAK. So make sure you schedule in some you time, somewhere in that hectic schedule. Take time out with your family. Have a good meal and a good sleep. Because if it’s not an injury, it could so easily be something more final like a heart attack.