When I was training for my half-marathon, I was in the middle of building my midwifery practice and it wasn’t a rare occasion that I felt like ass because I was running on a sleep deficit that was stretching across several days or weeks. You see, if you work 30 hours in a row and then come home at 6am and crash and get a three hour nap before you have to start taking care of your kids or go back to work again and then you sleep 5 hours a night for the next six days, you don’t ever feel awesome.
I knew that I wanted to be fit and I knew that my life wasn’t going to change anytime soon, so I just decided to power through. I made a rule that I had to do the run/bike/HIIT class that I had planned for the day unless I was actually working at the moment that they were supposed to occur. I became the queen of discipline.
That was some dumb shit.
Dear readers, could you guess what happened next? It took another year, and a marathon, but then I totally crashed and burned. Shocking.
So, this weekend I found myself in the familiar territory of having a few workouts scheduled (an iaido class, a bike ride, a powerlifting workout). I missed them all. I worked most of the day on Friday and then worked from 1am Saturday to 3am Sunday, then from noon to 6pm on Sunday. You know what I did for the rest of Sunday? I held down the couch.
In that three day weekend I got to be part of two amazing births, including helping a mom have a healthy baby girl after she’d lost two previous children to a congenital disorder. I was a big ball of ugly crying when that birth was done and everything was joyful and triumphant. The stress of carrying the desire for a happy outcome on that one made me even more wore out than normal. I understand that for most people working 30 hours in two days would be enough to be wore out. It’s not my everyday normal, but it’s my normal.
It would seem to make sense to skip a workout after having your body and mind thrown through the grinder, but it is something I have to make a conscious effort to allow myself to do. I’m feeling a little different about fitness these days — the weightlifting and short, high-intensity cardio I’m doing leave me less flattened than long, steady-state cardio workouts did and so I don’t have to force myself to do them. I’m not really using my willpower to get to the gym. And I’m not punishing myself when I don’t get there.
A funny thing is happening — when I rest and drink enough water and have enough recovery time between workouts, I can do more. (I realize this is not rocket science, but allow me some grace for figuring out human physiology 101). And it’s exciting to go to the gym and totally crush my goals. I know that my progress will suffer if I skip a week or two weeks or a month, but it’s actually ok to take care of myself and enter my workouts healthy. This is my new balance with my crazy life. Last night I hit PRs on all my lifts and tried a few new accessory exercises (and had gas in the tank to do them). I still expect to work myself up to a heavy training schedule, but I’m also planning to be more holistic in my approach — seeing nutrition, rest, and strength and cardio work all as part of training and all equally valuable. I’m already a champion napper. I think I have a good start.