Lukus Klawitter M.S.
Perfection. Obsession. Compulsion. Not exactly the decorated Citius. Altius. Fortius. But ask the majority of friends and or family who is close to any endurance athlete, they would agree to at least one of these words. We often become obsessed in the structure, compulsively doing the same things over and over to achieve perfection. Not going to lie, I am right there too and you have to be in order to spend so much time staring at black line, staring at a blank wall while you pedal a bike that stays in the same place, or running in place like a hamster for hours on end.
However, there comes a point, a point where you just can’t. This point is different for everyone and is very dependent on yes, the accumulating fatigue from numerous training sessions. But also, another endless number of variables. Most of us athletes juggle other life responsibilities like work and family which then creates another list of variables to make both of those responsibilities happy. All these physical and mental variables add up and eventually we just mentally crack, so cracked that no number of snickers bars and bottles of coke can fix. Therefore, any thought about structure, staring at a black line, staring at a blank wall, or spinning the hamster wheel seems impossible.
Training heavily activates our sympathetic nervous system. Additionally, stress, lack of sleep, crappy nutrition, etc. affects our sympathetic nervous system which in turn messes with our heart rate variability. The longer we are elevated in a sympathetic state our parasympathetic nervous system cannot do its job and allow us to rest and recover. Therefore, adaptations from training cannot take place. Thus, the only thing we can do to fix this is to let the mind relax.
When initially talking with my athletes about my coaching style I highly advocate for 100% open communication. This allows me to plan training around life responsibilities OR subscribe a “soul day” when needed. Playing bikes is fun, running at a desired pace for any desired amount of time is enjoyable, and for me skipping a swim to go on a run with friends is nice sometimes. Allowing yourself to just go out for an adventure, getting on the mountain bike, or running some single-track trail can do wonders on mental recovery. Thus, our mind becomes sharp once again and we are ready to get back into the structure of training. This is so much better than getting to a point where you need to take multiple days off and sacrifice fitness. So, when feeling over the top, opt for a coffee shop spin or a free run to keep the training plan going.