Overtraining and underperforming

(Cover picture by Greg Guillemin, Secret Life of Superheroes)


Scene: Early morning in a forest with sun’s first rays stretching the shadows of the tree trunks. Mist gently drifting, hugging the ground. It is quiet except for the tentative tweeting of birds. It is peaceful and beautiful. 

Crash, thump, thump, snap, *cursing*

Ominuous crashing coming from the undergrowth.. A sense of dread is taking over… 

Red faced, sweating and panting creature emerges destroying the calm of the morning 

Hello! It’s me – been a while!

In case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, I have two words for you: overtraining and underperforming.

Last year was my best year of running yet; I was consistently putting in great distance every week and able to run even when slightly injured (not very often), hungover (with increasing occurence) or poorly (regularly). And I kept at it. I had my routine of running twice a week and going to the gym twice a week. On the average I had more good/great runs than I did those souldestroyingly crappy ones.

And then at some point earlier this year the accumulative effect of all that running started catching up on me. My pace got slower and perceived effort higher. I started dreading the runs and the idea of the 25km stretching ahead of me was almost unbearable. What really didn’t help was taking April and May off from the gym and adding more running in to compensate. Talk about literally running yourself into the ground…. I would start a run and within minutes my Apple Watch would buzz an alert to say that my BPM was up to 180. And if I was running up a hill it would go as high as 190 BPM. And I felt it; my chest would feel like my lungs were about to blow out of it. All that I can just about deal with, and I have, but the most recent development was incredibly dodgy stomach when running. I’ve talked about the Gingerbread Man before but this was a whole new category of hell; I was starting to get nervous about venturing too far from home in case I didn’t make it back in time… My IBS was finding new ways to torture me.


Something had to change. Something still has to change – I am not out of the woods (ha – back to that initial image) by any means. Even now a run will wipe me out to the point where I will crash on the sofa for the afternoon.


So, I have been trying to get back to the basics and a) learn to go easy on myself and not expect a distance of 25km each run b) mix things up. I have been trying running as little as 10km but running every day; I have been doing some runs in the evenings (normally only run in the morning); I have done days when I have done two short runs a day. Anything to break out of the rut and the routine and maybe shock my body into getting back into the groove and the brain into believing in my ability to run again.

Mentally it is very hard to go from the long distance to a shorter distance and feel ok about it. Running has very much become something that defines me and to not be able to do it is like losing your mind. Especially if even a 10km run feels hard. But then there are days like last Friday when I got home from work and reluctantly headed out for the planned short run. Which then turned into a fast and enjoyable 25km. Whoopde-bloody-doop! There might be hope for me yet…

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