Wednesday 23 November 2011

Learning the hard way - Part I

Some lessons I seem to learn only if I learn the hard way.  This is one of them.  Or, in fact, three of them.

Having undertaken very very low levels of training all year, in fact ever, I raced a few races and didn't do terribly badly.  Fared well in my age category, improved a little and then the season ended.  My pathetic levels of training dropped off to pretty much nothing at all.  I went on holiday and got a bit tubby.  I came back.

With no races to keep me interested, no goals in place, no plans or thoughts other than the distant mountains next year, I was in a wilderness.  So I forgot how little I'd been doing before, forgot that I'd been doing almost nothing for a couple of months and threw myself into an ill-considered 'base training' plan.  I forgot that my endurance levels were never really that great and that my power wasn't ever that great and my technique is nowhere (though improving significantly in swimming over the last couple of months).  For example, I worked out that I'd run six times in August, the last month of the racing season for me; then twice in September - and one of those was a half marathon; and once in October.  This is really bad.

Last week, I did 2x runs, 2x swims, 2x strength sessions and a cross-training session with Jez.  I had one rest day.  6 hours training from pretty much nothing.

This week, I started back cycling to work again... Monday 30km, Tuesday 30km and a planned swimming session with Jez.  Wednesday strength session, Thursday cycle and swim.  Friday strength session.  Saturday rest/Parkrun/  Sunday long slow run.

Monday felt great.   Tuesday morning was a less pleasant ride to work and then I got to my session with Jez.  I was mentally already not feeling very up for it and, thinking about it, I was already about 1200kcals in deficit for the day (how I got there I'll explain later) and with a hormonally abnormal state (for me) due to trying out being on the pill again (another post for another day).  And I did a few lengths to warm up before the session.  Felt OKish, a bit more whacked after each pair of lengths than usual but nothing to make me really worried.  Then we started training.  And I was increasingly getting wound up about how out of breath(!) and prickly (you know that hot, prickling sensation you get in your muscles when you do a lot of low weight repetitions for a while... that) I was feeling after each drill.  Eventually Jez stopped the session and we chatted a bit.  He basically said 'Stop getting so wound up about going so hard with cardio now.  It's wrecking your training and it's achieving nothing.  Now is not the time for this stuff, now is the time for strength and conditioning.  Rest at the weekend.  Stay in Zone 1 otherwise.  Now it the time for catching Zs as much as you can."  So I ate my banana and cycled home.  I tried to keep it trundly, but I got angry a couple of times as car drivers tried to kill me and/or got stroppy that a bicycle dared be on the road and that ended up with a bit of high heart rate towards the end.  I got in to the house and fell apart a bit.

We were supposed to be having cottage pie for dinner, but ohgod I didn't feel like it by the time I got in, plus MrTOTKat was working late and not back yet.  So I got pizza in.  *ding* once the potato wedges had hit my stomach, I started to feel a whole lot better.  Slowing down to munch through the pizza, I did the calorie calculations for the day and it turned out that by the time I hit my swimming session, I had about 1200kcals to take in to maintain the activity I'd already done that day.  The banana I had afterwards just about put back what I'd taken out during the swim and by the time I got home on my bike, I was another 400 under where I should be for the day.  1600kcals in deficit by the time I got home and -of course- I was going to be feeling awful!  I don't deal with deficit very well (cranky, tired, wobbly and if I don't make up most of the deficit I start to lay down fat and put on weight!).

So there we are.  Three enormous mistakes.   Three lessons to learn, not just one.

A - too much too soon from nothing is BAD
B - underfuelling within a day is BAD (physically AND MENTALLY)
C - now is the time for long, boring, gentle cardio, not thrashing it on the commute to work

A and B are quite easy to deal with, C... less so if I want to cycle to work.


  1. C - find a wiggly route to work along quiet, pretty, relaxing back-streets!

  2. But but but... that's so... gah! Cannot comprehend lack of optimisation!

    (Also, I'd get horribly lost ;o))

  3. AGH, A is a bummer cos you have all this energy and you feel great and and and then bang!
    ps thats one heck of a spreadsheet you have there ;-)

  4. Sounds familiar. You were an 'all or nothing' child. Experience was always the best teacher.

    Why cycle to work in the winter? It's much more dangerous in the dark and/or bad weather.