Monday, April 16, 2012

Negotiating My Own Mercy Killing

Not much has been going over here apart from training and training shenanigans, which explains both the lack of posts and the origin of this particular post.

The context for the email exchange below is this: I've been putting in a solid work, nothing that I couldn't overcome with a well-timed recovery shake, a good night's sleep, and a weekly massage, but good sessions day in, day out.  I tend to operate better with a bit of fatigue already built up, kind of like a pump being primed, but late last week I noticed I was actually tired, and not just before bed.  Dutifully, I noted such an event in my session notes, and should have gone to Vegas on what would be coming next...

Dun.  Dun.  Dunahnaaaaa.

Zebra Poacher:

"Concerned about your fatigue level. I'm thinking a recovery week is in order here."


"I was afraid you were going to say that, but I write practically everything else about my workouts so I figured saying I was actually (finally!) tired was as authentic and honest as I always am. 

In my defense, or perhaps just a better explanation, it's never painful or sore muscles (well, except after last weekend's 5k) that I could isolate as "this muscle here is the one that is tired/over-used", but rather just "I could use a nap."  Only Saturday and Sunday did it become specific enough - and only during intervals - to say "oh, it's my legs" that are tired.  And it's never been enough to think about skipping a workout, let alone not hit a workout (unlike after the 3.5-hour-sleep night in Galveston), or *gasp* even consume caffeine.  I figured it was just a natural result of doing the work day in, day out. 

For all I know I just described your perfect recipe for a rest week!"

Notice that my first response was to try and explain it *more* clearly.  As if I hadn't already done that in my session notes, which said something like "still tired, just a full-body tired, not an achy DOMS/over-use kind of pain.  What I wouldn't give for a full 12 hours of sleep, but my body keeps waking me up after 6 and then dozing for a couple more."  I get points for admitting it and not trying to rationalize my fatigue away, but I definitely was trying to parse "tired" into the 1s and 0s. 

Leave it to the Co. of Cost to bring truth and light into the world.  I was leaving their parking lot when I saw something very clearly, which I felt compelled to share when I got home.


"I realized that the reason I was chaffing about having a recovery week, and trying to describe why I might not need one, is because I feel like I have let you down by needing one.  Like I've failed somehow because I can't recover enough to just keep chugging along.

So there you go, your daily dose of self-aware psychoanalysis on Kelzie, by Kelzie."

Zebra Poacher: 

"You have not let me down. Don't be silly. The body, and the impulse-response models that describe it, require recovery to achieve a new level of performance. It's the way it works at a very fundamental level. The nonspecific 'tired' you are is one of the main signs that it is time for a bit of recovery. You may not need a whole week. In fact, you probably won't. But we'll play it by ear."


"See, I *know*, on a fundamental level, that I haven't.  "Gains are made during rest, not training" yadda yadda yadda.  But after dealing with highly-functioning and -performing individuals for years, and probably being one yourself (or doing a damn fine impression of one), you have to know that we simply do not show or admit weakness/failure well.  Many times the failure to admit weakness is the weakness itself.  We haven't made it this far by admitting these things and gosh darn it, we certainly are not going to start now!

One of the ironies which arises from being both athlete and coach is that while wearing my coach "hat" I often give my athletes support to make (sometimes glaringly obvious) decisions that I myself canNOT make alone when wearing my athlete "hat." 

This is when we sing kumbayah, FYI."

[End transmission]

As a coach, I have a front row seat to how many other athletes react to their fatigue.  I see:
  • not admitting it, and thus not dealing with it, and three weeks later, falling *splat*
  • admitting it, but rationalizing it away (it could be caused by all of these other X, Y, Z things)
  • admitting the earliest scent of it, welcoming all it to come in and co-habitate with their motivation, and eventually letting it move into the master suite and dictate the household grocery list 
I have learned how each of my athletes translates and emotes "being tired", and I help them navigate their particular dictionary and deal with it appropriately.

As an athlete, I need to know how I react to my own fatigue - and identify the emotions that come with admitting it.  Only then can I really be open to someone else helping me deal with it.  [Which is good, because the historical record shows I'm not at all adept at dealing with it in myself, myself (and I clearly state it for the record above).]   

If I can be aware enough of my own response - the "I'm letting the Zebra Poacher down" or the "I'm not really tired" or the "I'm super exhausted so I'll just skip the next three days because in my fatigued state that seems to be a rational response" - then I can just cut it off at the pass, get help, do what's necessary, and move on.  Right into that giant transition area in the sky.


Lynn Van Noy said...

Loving the internal dialogue!

Kelzie said...

Sorry to ruin the illusion, but the dialogue is an actual email exchange between me and my coach. He's listed in the cast of characters at the bottom right. If it had been internal, I would probably still be denying that I was tired.

I asked Phil what I should call him and among other options, he said Zebra Poacher. I couldn't resist.

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