Lessons from my 7 Month Training “Sabbatical”
One year ago I experienced an eye-opening break from my typical routine. I like to call it a “Sabbatical” because that can be defined as such:
“Sabbatical: a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year.”
This is specific to triathlon training btw. I didn’t need a break from my family 🙂 Honestly, this was all about health. It was a NEED at the moment, not necessarily a WANT. Yes, it was a true 7 months off of training. Truly time off. Yes, I walked the dog, and yes, I did a bit of restorative yoga, and a bit of swimming…. Nothing to where I was. Or wanted to be, but learning how to be complacent in the “now”. And learning a lot along the way…..
Let me back up. While 2016 was a great year on paper, 2 podium 70.3s and a trip to Australia for the 70.3 World Championship, it wasn’t so much a great year on my body. It was the beginning of a rather slow decline in energy, physical well-being and overall poor performance. I wasn’t myself and knew I couldn’t keep going down this path and ignore it any longer. So I talked to a lot of doctors, peers, and health practitioners. And while all this was happening I lacked the energy to do any sort of training.
I wasn’t necessarily depressed… per say, but I was desperate to find out what was happening to my body. I was at an all-time low from an energy standpoint. My head felt like it was bashing against a brick wall 24/7. I could barely make it out of bed, much less function as a wife, mom, and friend. I kept a lot of it to myself because I didn’t understand what the heck was happening, and it is also a very difficult thing to describe to others how you are feeling. But mainly, I knew it could be worse. I knew other people were struggling with other pieces of LIFE and my fatigue and headaches were my little piece I had to sort out.
I learned a lot through this process and also discovered a lot of other athletes in my same boat. After my blog last year (Less IS More),I have chatted with about 10 other women who experienced similar experiences. I have learned how important it is to reach out and use the support, and now feel the need to share with others my experience. Because if I can help one over-achieving-think-they-can-do-it-all athlete – then it’s a win! 🙂
So – here you have it – one year later – my learnings’, experiences, and thoughts (in no in particular order).
#1. Always take a step back and look in. We get so worked up in our own lives, our own schedules, that we sometimes forget who we truly are and who we want to be. I “look in” to my “pre-sabbatical life” and although I thought I was truly balanced, I wasn’t anywhere close to where I wanted to be (without even knowing it). Life is funny that way.
#2. Recognize being tired and figure out WHY. I am constantly reflecting on the year and how my body steadily went on a down turn. I remember being tired. All. The. Time. I remember not being able to “crush” a single workout. I remember not having steam to finish a workout. I remember a fatigue I have never felt in the 15+ years of competing. And I remember trying to ignore it and keep on plugging along.
#3. You simply can’t do it all. I was having big workouts, following by big weekend days (baseball games, soccer games, swim practice) followed by big weekend nights (dinner out, parties, etc.). I am all for a social life, but not at the expense of the body. Today, if my day is fully packed, I sleep in and skip the workout. (I can hear the shreaks of horror from you – WHAT? Skip a workout?!). I always took pride in waking up at 4:30am to “get it done” but somehow in the long run… it generally doesn’t turn into a win-win situation.
#4. Don’t settle with feeling shitty. I had so many friends tell me “isn’t everyone tired?” and “of course you are tired, you are a mom who is doing a lot”. The tired I was feeling was not normal. I knew it, yet it was so hard to explain to someone, no matter how close of relation they were to me. Getting to my next point…..
#5. Some things are better to keep to yourself. It is really hard to describe something you are going through to people who haven’t been there. No fault of their own, or anybody’s, but I found it easier to keep quiet then chat about my constant fatigue and body digression, especially when there were no answers. Plus, people have their own shit to deal with!! This was just a little barrier I had to get through….
# 6. Stress is stress is stress. Whether it is from work, personal, or over-working your body, it can hurt your body. I am a very laid back person, yet, I was working myself into the ground with everything I was doing, and all the sleep that was compromised.
#7. This might shock most of you triathletes – but – listen up – it really doesn’t matter. Remember #1 – look back in. Don’t stress the small stuff. I put so much stress on myself without even really being aware I was doing so. I wanted to win every time. I wanted to win every workout. I wanted to be super mom. And why? What REALLY matters? If longevity is the goal, then something needed to change.
#8. Kids & Family are truly amazing. No brainer here but it really helped me survive these months. During my “sabbatical”, I thought to myself ‘it will be good, I will have more time with the kids’ but in all actuality I felt so junky that I couldn’t even do the things I wanted to with them. I was a much better mom when I was healthy (and racing)!! I also realized how much they love watching me achieve goals, and love having me race. They know it is a passion of mine, just like playing soccer or sewing a quilt is a passion of theirs. They would ask why I wasn’t racing. Why I was sick. They longed for it nearly as much as I did.
#9. Back to sleep. It isn’t over-rated. IT IS SO IMPORTANT. Sometimes it’s ok to hit SNOOZE and get those extra minutes / hours of sleep. We are all so sleep deprived in today’s society and sleep is the #1 reason people’s body’s are crumbling……
#10. Nutrition & sleep are more important than workouts. I found out I was anemic as well as “depleted”. My body wasn’t absorbing vitamin D, B, Iron, or other essential nutrients that help ‘fuel’ my training. My cortisol was through the roof, a sign of Adrenal Fatigue, and hormones weren’t super impressive either. Explains it, just difficult to build back the right way. The smart way. I am learning every day.
#11. It’s just a triathlon. I know, I know…. It’s heart, sweat, and time. It’s passion and dedication. But at the end of the day sport is meant to make you healthier and happier. If it pulls from any of these – ABORT! Too much shit in the world going on…. Do what makes you happy & make it a priority 🙂
#12. There are some great doctors out there, and some really really REALLY bad ones. I was over-dosed with hormones & misdiagnosed which, as you can imagine, made the entire situation worse. It was really scary at times and Googling didn’t help! Which leaves me to my next point:
#13. Never use Google as your doctor.
And finally, #14. I know the word “Gratefulness” is such a buzz word – but let me tell you – there is some serious truth to deep breaths, meditation, and writing in a gratitude journal. I am by no means perfect in this area, my mind wonders around like the best of us, I have a hard time sitting still, getting away from being busy and just simply being in the moment. But over the course of the year I have found it’s ok to keep learning and growing in this process. And while I started at 5 minutes a day…. This has increased over the months. Some days more, some less, but the benefit has been enlightening. I am working on it. I am working on using Yoga as a moving meditation rather than needing to leave the studio thinking I had a workout. Rather than getting frustrated in traffic I count what I am grateful for on each finger and smile. Baby steps. For some, this comes easy. For others, it can be very difficult. And some give up way too easily. If that is you – keep trying. After all, it’s hard to argue quiet time?
As I go into 2018, I realize just how damn lucky I am to be racing. And it feels lucky. I look forward to training days and long weekend rides, mostly attributed to taking so much time off and re-aligning myself again. I am not going to let workouts or racing stress me out. I am starting to feel healthy again, to have the strength I longed to have last year. I am cautiously building back up smarter and more excited than ever.
I have a huge group of sponsors who believe in me and will help me in this journey and for that I am so grateful. Velocity Sports and Redondo Beach Cryotherapy have helped me immensely get back on track to have a stellar 2018. They know firsthand the power of restoration & recovery (and I’m listening!).
2018 marks my 5th year on the Betty Squad and I couldn’t be more excited to rock the Skulls and Butterflies! I have a fresh new look on training, on racing, and can’t wait to get back to the basics and just enjoy the ride.