If you read any autobiography of an elite athlete – involved in a sport that requires a lot of cardiovascular effort – you’ll know there is a fine line between peak fitness and injury. Paula Radcliffe spent a lot of her time seeking painful treatment. Dame Kelly Holmes was almost always injured, until she finally bagged double gold in London in 2012.
I’m not suggesting I’ve reached elite athlete status (the very thought haha)! What I do know however, is that even at my level, it’s tricky to balance sufficient effort to gain results and not overcook it so much that you end up injured. Especially considering the widely held belief that lots of cardiovascular based exercise is bad for humans. Google ‘chronic cardio’ and you’ll get a myriad of articles attesting to the evil of it.
My point? Living with fibromyalgia means I know roughly where my limits are. Although my body will constantly surprise me by mostly delivering what I ask it to. I also know when it’s had enough, it’s time to rest before fatigue becomes injury. So, at the start of week 16 I made the conscious decision to take some time off. It was bloody amazing.
Training for an Ironman is hard. It’s also time consuming. Suddenly G and I had time to go for leisurely walks along the beach again. Get fresh air without an agenda and start to pick up other hobbies that have been left by the wayside while training builds. I had a wonderful week and after a couple of days of feeling really rotten and washed out, started to look forward to proper sessions again.
On Saturday, G and I once again headed to Woolacombe parkrun for our weekly dose of sand. This would be a test to see how recovery had gone with an hour run written on the schedule. We arrived a little later than we normally would and so didn’t have time to warm up first. We would just have to throw ourselves straight into it. The first few hundred metres made my legs go wobbly. I think it was shock! After a few days off they’d acclimatised to not doing anything. But soon, they recovered and felt ok. The purpose of this run was to take it easy and just get used to activity again. So, I was really happy to cross the line in a new PB. Eight seconds quicker than my previous record. It looks like the rest was a success.
The following week started positively again. This was a week where speed work had more than a walk on part and so I was apprehensive and really excited to get going. Saturday had boosted my confidence.
The week started off gently with a recovery trot to meet G for coffee in Bideford. These jaunts out are really important. I work from home and so have little opportunity to escape the confines of the four walls until the weekend. Often I can go for days without seeing another person other than G. It can be quite debilitating.
The next day was a double bag of a swim followed by a session I’d been looking forward to for a while. ‘Defender’ is essentially an inverse ramp. Start high and then reduce either speed or resistance over a set period of time to lower the heart rate. The idea being, you’re working around threshold but because it’s getting easier, psychologically it helps with ‘perfection of effort management’. I loved it.
The next day G and I headed to the Tarka Trail for run reps. This session was a true measure of progress made. It was the same location as the miserable 400m reps in week 7. This time, the trail was dark and although we’d donned head torches, it was still difficult to get a real sense of pace. Despite that, I felt more in control. Able to concentrate and focus on form. It was world away from the last effort here.
The idea was 3 x 1k reps, each a little faster than the last and then 1 x 3k rep in zone three. The reps successfully done, we headed back on a reasonably protected route to get the 3k section in. Because I’m lugging around so much timber, its a real challenge to keep the heart rate down. So the final rep was slightly easier than my general running pace. I focused on holding a strong core and good posture and completed the session with ease. Phew!
A thankfully relatively quiet lunchtime swim the next day set me up nicely to do the second challenging bike session of the week. 4 x 5 minute efforts followed by 5 x 1 min efforts. The minute sprints were killers but it was a fun session.
The last two sessions of the week (a long run and long bike) were interspersed by building a greenhouse. Although G and I only got the frame done before darkness fell and we had to stop building and get on the turbo instead. My legs were tired, but it was a good tired and a great end to a more consistent training block.