Monday, May 5, 2008

How does stress affect your training?

It took me a while, but a couple years ago, I realized something about myself: I’m surrounded by stress-wads. No, no, I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense (many of these stress-wads are people I love and admire); it’s who they are. And so long as they don’t sink from stress-wad to stress-monger, they’re A-OK with me.

Some stress is OKOn a typical day, I am a stress-free zone. About ten years ago I verified for myself that stressing didn’t positively affect any situation (its negative effects were plenty), so I just quit. Cold turkey. It’s been a glorious decade.

Swatting down the mongers makes me smile now, and I (heart) converting my favorite stress-wads into chilled-out versions of their old selves. Talk about satisfying work!

I don’t let much of anything get to me, and when it does, I let off a five-minute soapboxing rant about what’s eating at me and then I just breathe easy. Sigh.

But sometimes you just can’t escape it. And the stress will eat you alive.

That’s what has happened to me the past 2-3 weeks. When my stress reaches fever pitch, I internalize most of my feelings and get worn down by it. I lose my energy, my ability to think, my will to blog. Yet I press on with my mantra, stress does no good; soon this will all go away. Excuse me while I go sit in full lotus and repeat that to myself…

Poor Neil, however, knows how well my chilled approach treats the stress-has-finally-breached-the-secure-zone alarm. Zero patience. Zero sympathy. Zero energy. And you can probably see how each of those mount on each other to make one unpleasant G.

If you look like this at the end of the day, you're probably doing something wrongLast week it finally started taking its toll on me. I was tired, cranky and wildly uncreative in my work. Then there was the training.

On Tuesday I headed for the towpath to do my brief “speed” work. After a 10-minute warm-up, I headed into 4x1600 at 10K pace with 3:00 recovery jogs. We all know, however, I don’t have a clue about pace.

I ran the first mile at 7:35 and recovered pretty quickly before setting out on mile two. Because the first was too fast for me, I just tried to run comfortably hard—pushing myself but not sprinting or overexerting—for the second. And, of course, ran it in 7:25. Grrr.

What should bug me most is that I can’t control my speed or even get a sense for how fast I’m going. In fact, during mile one I was certain I was below 9:00/mile. But I’m more irked that I can hardly break 8:30/mile in a race yet I’ve almost always been able to sustain (outside brief speed work) faster paces when I’m training.

Silly girl: train slower, race faster! How did I fracture my leg last year?

Strange as it sounds, fortunately my stomach started acting up on me as I headed into mile three. Lucky me, right? At least I know that if my legs aren’t going to stop me from running too fast, my innards will. I ran the miles back to the car at a sustained pace around 9:00/mile for a total of 4-5 miles.

Ahh, deadlines...My thigh pain nagged all day Wednesday, so I laid off the running and stuck to weight and core cross-training. It made me nervous to feel that twinge because it was two weeks out from the Akron Half (the Cleveland Half is two weeks from this past Sunday) that I really started feeling the stress fracture. But this pain wasn’t nearly as bad. No crying on the road involved.

And it wasn’t that bad by Thursday when I ventured out with Landon to do an hour of hill repeats on some disconnected stretch of Cleveland’s touch of the Towpath near Newburgh Heights. We ended up finding some mile-long portion of the Towpath that hadn’t found its way (yet) the rest of the trail and ran its hills for a while.

There was no super speed on this training day! It wasn’t sweltering (may a few pinches below 80), but it was hotter outside than any other day I’ve run this year. My legs just weren’t moving that day and the week’s stress weighed me down. But the stitch was more active than ever!

As we headed down one hill, I felt the thing coming on strong, so I tried to follow the condescending advice of one Runner’s World expert: “run through it—stitches only hurt a little bit and last only a few miles.” The minutes and the miles passed; the stitch did not. In fact, it got so bad that I could barely breathe or keep moving. We took a walk break to work the thing out, but it never really went away. Thank you, Mr. Runner’s World Expert!

(Note: we found the actual Towpath on our way home and should hit the Cleveland portion of the trail any day now!)

And that, my friend, was the extent of my quality miles for last week. Barely ten total.

My thigh ached on Friday and then we spent the weekend at our house in Euclid, dogsitting. I only ran Lucy and Harley about a half-mile each (we walked for many, many more) during the two-hour break in Saturday’s rain. My thigh started nagging again, so I rode the elliptical for 30+ minutes and hoped for better feelings on Sunday. It didn’t happen. So, I called it a week.

On the bright side, I gave myself a week of relative rest for a thigh that was obviously not doing well. Do I really need to run 30+ miles when my thigh aches in the morning? Probably not.

It’s a new week. The stress that I felt last week, which kept me from thinking, smiling, running, blogging, has lifted. And I’m not letting it pin me down again. In just a few weeks, the huge work projects, the move, the life changes will have hit their peaks and begun to roll down.

By the then the Cleveland Half will be done, I’ll be able to settle into my new house and I'll relax with a smile and a cupcake.

A girl can dream...



triguyjt said...

i like to think i treat stress like water off a ducks back but i know it gets to me....
i always worry about being mr. good guy and sometimes that can be a bit stressful...
how ever...i really believe the workouts help cut down so much stress....

i really need a cupcake..haha

Dana said...

Sorry to hear that you had a painful run & remember that "this too shall pass" if not there's always the cupcake(cute pic,btw).

TrainingtoTri said...

You are too cute. I tend to stress a lot at work, but not really about anything else. This place breeds stress, I'm sure you're well aware of that, just ask N. Sorry your thigh is nagging you. You are right you don't always need to be running 30 mile weeks. Let's get together to run soon now that I am back!