All kinds of tired!

This week's blog post comes from our good friend Nic at Velosister. Here's her experience of training for an IM. It's not all blue skies and high fives!

Throughout this IM training adventure I’ve had a massive smile on my face and told everyone who’s willing to listen how epic I feel. But it’s not been all rosy – most of the time I’m either tired, sore or both. There are many different kinds of tiredness as well as soreness, and by now I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced most if not all kinds. I’ve been ill/injured so much that my friend Pat says I should be sponsored by NHS Direct! There’s so much to write down that I’ll split it up into 2 posts. This one’s about the tiredness…

My friend Neil, who’s also training for Outlaw (also his 1st ironman), texted me one day to say he was so tired and was thinking of skipping the training he had planned for that day, He asked me what I thought he should do. I said that it depends and asked him “What kind of tired are you?” which might sound a bit of a stupid question because tired is just tired right? Not in my book. I think there are at least 3 types and I’ve experienced them all:

‘Ahhhh I’ve worked hard today and I’m ready for a good sit down’ tired This is a good kind of tired. The type I enjoy. It’s satisfying to sit down at the end of the day when you’ve done everything you set out to do and you feel a bit shattered because of it. It makes it feel so much sweeter when you finally get the chance to sit down and just relax for a bit. This kind of tired is not rubbish in the slightest. I highly recommend it.

2. Sleepy ‘I’m struggling to keep my eyes open’ tired

This kind of tired isn’t so bad if you feel it once a day around 15 mins before you go to bed at a time that most people go to bed. It’s normal and natural. However, at the moment I feel this kind of tired frequently throughout almost every day. I often sit at my desk thinking ‘Would anyone really mind if I just put my head down on my desk and had a little snooze for 40 minutes?’. I’ve never done that but I have gone to my car for a nap a few times. If I don’t nap at lunchtime then I almost always have a nap as soon as I get home before training. I just can’t seem to get enough sleep. It’s understandable, and not a concern, to feel like this. My body is working a lot harder than it’s used to and the harder I train the more rest it needs. (One of my fellow Outlaw wannabe friends has told me he’s even fallen asleep on the toilet he’s been so tired!!) The only problem really is for other people. I really, really need my sleep even in normal pre-IM training circumstances and when I’m tired I go very quiet and quite irritable. So I’m really sorry to those who’ve experienced that. Thank you for your understanding!

3. No energy, motivation, grumpy, don’t feel quite right kind of tired

This is the unhealthy kind of tired. Based on my own experience, & from what I’ve read, feeling like this for more than a day means something’s wrong. In my case something was wrong. At first I thought I was overtraining. It was particularly bad at the weekends. I thought it was caused by what I called ‘Smashfest Fridays’: a 1.5 hour spin and core class followed by a 1 hour swimming session finishing at 10pm. I’d wake up on Saturday morning with a banging headache that would stay all day regardless of taking paracetamol or ibuprofen or both. I’d feel drained all weekend, and some of the week, like my legs and arms were hollow. I went to the pool one Monday morning to do my swim training and after 10 minutes had to get out because I felt like I was running on empty, and between me getting in the pool and getting out 10 minutes later I’d gotten another headache.

So I talked to my coach about it, had a few days rest, and he changed my schedule. Friday became my rest day instead of Thursday. I asked work if I could work from home more so that I had less commuting to do (I drive 100 miles getting to work and back). I also went to see the doctor who recommended I had a blood test. The results said I was low on iron so the doc prescribed iron supplements to take for a month. The symptoms of overtraining are very similar to an iron deficiency so its lucky I decided to go to the doctor. Although I’m not sure it was my decision – I think my grandma pestered me into it as I’d had a vitamin B12 deficiency before plus she’s always telling me I look pale and should get my iron levels checked. She’s always flippin right!

Here are the symptoms in case you’re interested:

  • Overtraining
  • Iron deficiency

Anyway, I started to feel a lot better within about a week and have been fine since.

It can be difficult sometimes to know whether you’re being a wimp and just trying to get out of training or whether something’s wrong but I think somehow, deep down, you know. People say ‘listen to your body’ and when I first started training I thought ‘but what does that mean? How can I tell?!’ but the more I trained and got used to the feeling of the different kinds of tired it became easier to tell. I always err on the side of caution and rest if I’m in any doubt because resting occasionally won’t hurt my training significantly but NOT resting, and pushing my body too far, could lead to injury/illness and mean I can’t train for several days or longer. That’s happened to me too but I’ll save that for a different blog post…