I had a bit of fatigue rear its ugly head this morning and it reminded me how much of an impact it can have on training, session quality and motivation.
I have been slowly increasing my training over the past few weeks and on the whole it has felt quite sustainable. A lot of the exercise I do at the moment is on the paddle board. This training is a good match for my current capabilities as it is a strength workout rather than cardio. This means that my muscles get tired before my heart does, which is just about perfect for me right now. I supplement the paddle work with cross training sessions of running, a bit of riding and gym work, but most of the time I am on the board.
This is where the fatigue has come in. Being muscle based paddling does cause a bit of muscle fatigue and over the past few days the arms and shoulder have been feeling heavy. The reason for the heaviness is a little unknown to me, but there are numerous potential causes. It could be because I am training more, it could be from recent gym sessions, it could be from racing on the weekend, it could be from lack of sleep. The list goes on. Irrespective of the cause the effect was fairly straight forward, it meant the quality of my training was decidedly lacking this morning. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get this morning's session to be the right intensity. It wasn't the case of fatigue causing my heart rate to be too high, but rather the opposite, muscle fatigue meant that I couldn't work hard enough. My muscles hit their limit before my heart did and as a result my heart rate remained low throughout the entire session. It was pretty annoying and made me feel like I had wasted a morning.
Now while I am talking about paddling, this phenomenon can occur in any sport, including triathlon. If recovery and rest aren't sufficiently taken into account then it is very easy to find yourself in a fatigue hole. When that happens session quality suffers. When the quality of the sessions drop then your training isn't doing what it is supposed to and you start wasting your time a little.
So, what is to be done?
Well firstly appropriate recovery needs to be taken into account. I suspect my main problem this morning is that I haven't let myself recover sufficiently and I am expecting things from my body that it is not currently able to do. I suspect I needed to give myself a bit more rest after the weekend and a bit more leeway with the training while I am resting up.
Secondly, I haven't been sleeping enough. Readers of this blog will know I am a big advocate of sufficient sleep and I know that this week I have been cutting that corner. I think what I have been feeling in training is a direct result of that. I simply haven't been getting enough rest to let my body recover.
Lastly the main thing I think I am guilty of is simply not listening to my body. The signs have been there that I am a bit fatigued and I have been ignoring them. Really it shouldn't be a surprise that the session this morning wasn't great as the signs have been there since Monday. Doing exercise is always a fine balance. I remember reading once that at the extreme end of things the right amount of training was the maximum amount you could do before you broke. If you recovered well then you could do more, if you didn't recover well then you had to do less. There was no right amount of volume for anyone person, it all came down to how much they could sustainably withstand. As I said that was a pretty extreme version of training followed by a Pro, but I think a lot of people follow something similar, cramming in as much training as they feel they can. Often trying to cram in too much.
I actually don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with the above approach, I have always had a similar philosophy (with a couple of caveats around making sure the training is good quality). However, if you are going to be pushing your body to the edge of its envelope then you need to be keeping a very careful ear out for any sign that you are pushing too hard, that you are digging too deep a hole of fatigue.
I am not pushing anywhere near the limit of my body and I am also not skirting along the edge of my fatigue limit, but I can definitely say that over the last few days I have not been listening to the message my body has been giving me.
Probably time to listen harder.