On a recent trip to visit family in Utah, I went on an early morning recovery run and wound up in the ER. After a long day of travel and a poor night’s sleep, I arose early to run and found myself struggling to maintain an 11:00/mi pace (for me, that’s very, very easy under normal conditions). Initially, I rationalized that I was probably dehydrated from the flight, and that I was now running at 5,000 ft elevation when I live and train at sea level, and that I was tired from not sleeping well. All of those factors were valid reasons as to why I’d struggle, so I pushed on, trying to shake off the extreme fatigue. However, I only made it around the block before deciding to stop and walk back. During that 5 minute run, my heart rate had skyrocketed and I had to sit down on the curb 3 different times just to catch my breath.
Something wasn’t right. And I knew it.
With the heat and humidity of summer quickly approaching, and the race season well under way, I’ve had some athletes and clients ask me why their heart rate tends to climb, even when their perceived effort remains the same. This is commonly known as ‘Cardiac Drift’ or the slightly more technical name, ‘Aerobic Decoupling’. Whether you are a seasoned athlete or an ‘average Joe or Jill’ looking to get outside and enjoy some exercise, it’s helpful to know what this sensation means and how we can avoid it.
This month’s performances were particularly challenging, and each of those athletes needed to not only call upon their training and fitness to compete, but they had to call on their mental toughness to finish their races. In fact, I was talking about the mental side of training with one client earlier in the month who was concerned about faltering in a race he’s competed in several times, but without achieving his goal of going sub 5:00 for the 70.3 distance triathlon.
Sometimes even though we are at the peak of our fitness, the mind can be a bigger part of why we struggle than the body. We start to think negatively, we doubt our training, and irrational thoughts do creep in. Especially when the workout or race is going poorly.
Recently I saw a news story which cited an interesting study. Researchers found that taking vacations increases life expectancy by 37%. While many of you may think that’s a no-brainer, many still struggle to maintain that coveted work-life balance. Here in the DC Metro Area is ground zero for type-A go getters.
These high achievers excel in their professional lives, working 60, 70, and 80 hour work weeks, thriving in the process. In fact, I know several people that forgo that vacation time each year due to their hectic jobs. They trade in time at the beach for a few more hours at at the office, a last-minute client meeting or to catch up on paperwork, proposals, or emails.
“So, what’s the rule about exercise when you’re sick?” I can’t count the number of times I’m asked this question during the winter, when colds and flu abounds. Die hard runners are wanting to push through coughing fits to get in training mileage for upcoming races, triathletes have been know to swim a 50, then hang on the edge of the pool trying to recover as they suffer from the flu. And everyone gets a little grossed out by that one guy in the gym who seems to be coughing all over every piece of equipment he touches.