Cyclocross Magazine columnist Lee Waldman checks in on his training progress and reports on his enlisted help to reign in his obsessive training tendencies. In case you missed it, go back and check out Lee’s previous column on instant gratification.
by Lee Waldman
“We have a new member joining us tonight…”
“Hi, my name is Lee, and I’m an overtrainer.”
If there isn’t a twelve-step program for people like me, there should be. I know that I’m not the only one either. I’d wager that many of you are connecting with me. Come on, admit it, you’ve done it! You’ve ignored those signals from your brain and body pleading with you to slow down, descended that dark, winding staircase from fitness to folly, suffered through the lackluster workouts where you’re legs hurt from the first pedal stroke, dragged your aching body out to do intervals when your heart really wasn’t in it. I know I’m not the only one.
I know exactly when I’m starting down that road. Knowing what it’s going to look like and feel like at the end never changes it. Starting in the spring, a winter of cyclocross combined with those base miles I’ve been putting in have an effect. Instead of getting dropped on group rides, I move closer to the front. I notice that I’m not gasping for breath as often, and that annoying feeling of lactic acid build up takes much longer to rear it’s head. And I love it! It’s exhilarating to cause someone else to suffer.
Most of the time I’m the oldest rider by at least four or five years, which adds to my enjoyment. It does my ego a world of good to hear the rider next to me sound shocked when I casually mention that, “I’ll be 60 in May,” and is especially gratifying when he has to stop to catch his breath before responding. What could be better than having someone tell you that he hopes he’s still riding his bike at all when he’s your age. And that’s the up side.
The dark side is that inevitable slide backward. I start believing that this time I’ll get fitter if I just ride a little longer each day, push my heart rate a bit higher on each ride and skip that planned day off. I ignore the pain in my legs, simply rolling out of bed in the morning. I can work through it, I tell myself. Don’t be a baby. The “real guys” are out training 4 or 5 hours today, so should I! Doesn’t matter that those “real guys” are in their 20’s and making a living pushing the pedals. If they can do it, then so can I. And so it begins. I start getting dropped, feeling tired, hating my workouts, hating the bike, but still riding. The hole I dig for myself gets deeper and deeper with each poor result and each half-hearted workout.
But guess what!? This year is different. I’ve come to the realization that I can’t control myself, that I’m addicted to training and that I need “professional help.” So. now I have a coach. It’s working! He keeps me in line, even though I hate it sometimes. I don’t think that I’m going fast now, and that’s frustrating. But I love feeling rested and ready for each workout. It gives me the inner strength to ignore the nagging voice in my right ear telling me that I’m just being a baby and that I can do more.
I almost caved last week. The weather finally turned, and I was able to patch together two whole days of riding outside in the sun. So I went for it. The only thing that slowed me down was cataract surgery that put me off the bike for two days. It also brought my weekly volume down to a reasonable level. Even with that glitch, I still heard from my coach that I’d done too much; that I needed to back off even more. Somehow I knew that was coming. The fact that it was someone else’s decision to back off made it easier for me. So now I’m back on track, taking another few days to rest and recover from a brutal final week of the last training block. It’s a struggle still, but one I’m winning…so far.
So, let’s hear it from all of you over trainers out there, “Hi, my name is _____________ and I’m an over trainer.”