Thursday, May 29, 2008


It's breakfast time and I’m sitting here reading my morning news. Honestly, most of the time I breeze through other blogs and then head over to Perez Hilton. I’m a glutton for celebrity smut. I have no shame. But in more exciting news in BlogLand this morning I see that Wee has pulled herself away from death’s door. Ness is learning to distinguish between pain. Candace fears her legs are falling off. Rachel is walking around her house in a HazMat suit. And Marit is throwing things across her living room.

And now, everyone…..BREATHE!

I know that’s easier said than done and what the hell do I know anyways. I, after all, was also knocking on death’s door a week ago, I was the one that gave Ness the workouts that caused pain and Marit crashed into none other than….me. I’m no better off than anyone else but I have learned in these past few weeks that you are nothing if don’t remember to breathe.

Breathe comes to me from one of my athletes. He is a complete spaz and he knows it. He told me so. Each of his e-mails is closed with “breathe”. I seriously think he needs to remind himself to breathe throughout the day. He called me the other day, totally random, just to tell me he was fitted on the brand new Cervelo Soloist and said “Liz, it’s a reaaaaaaaly nice bike.” That’s all he wanted to tell me and then a few seconds later he ended the call.

Rob, breathe.

So it has become a mantra for me recently. I sat around last week wondering if I would ever feel good again. I was sick in many ways! I was overtrained and had done nothing but read the worst about overtraining. Damn the internet; its tales, reports, stories and information overload. I talked with my doctor who was convinced my body’s defenses in the form of fatigue, illness, night sweats and other fun things was its way of protecting itself before I killed it. Gee thanks. And I had .5 percent desire to actually do anything swim, bike or run again. The .5 only because I realized at some point I would have to burn off all the peanut butter cups.

To say the least, I was pissed! It really hit me on Saturday. By 10 am I had made a list of 5 people I wanted to slap. Myself included. I had done all of this great training and where did it get me? In a hole. Would I be able to train again? Who knows! Overtraining could take weeks to dissolve – if ever. I thought about athletes I knew who ended up washed up and 15 pounds heavier after bouts with overtraining and fatigue. I didn’t want that to be me! Plus I love to race. Would I be able to race again? And if so, when? Who knows! I had plane tickets, visions in my head – all on hold. In fact, I have a race next week and still don’t know if I’ll be there. When was the last time a week out you weren’t sure you would show up at a half Ironman?


So Saturday I spent the morning talking with my mom which is not really good if you are angry because women have a way of commiserating, plotting and stirring things up even worse together. And a way of bringing out tears. After those dried up, it was back to rage. I was ready to throw something but seeing that we were in a public place and I was holding a coffee cup, I just ended up shopping and spending money instead. It’s not as effective but it felt nearly as good.

Here I was with all of these physical not so good feelings which I had to accept but it was the turbulent emotions were tearing me up with nowhere to displace. Normally I would just swim, bike or run myself out of emotion. Feeling angry? Beat myself up on the bike. Need to relax? Swim it out in the pool. Escape for awhile from the annoyance of myself? Run on the path. But I couldn’t swim, bike or run. There was nowhere to hide. I had to face myself.

It got me to thinking to why we all do this in the first place. And what would happen if we had to stop. I realized that I would have to actually learn to accept things, deal with my emotions and make peace with myself. I couldn’t pretend I was better just because I was feeling an endorphin rush or act like the problems were solved because I sorted them out in my head on a run. I couldn’t distract from the issues by counting my strokes on the swim. I had to just sit there, deal with it idle and by myself.

And I had to find other ways. Other ways to fill my time and fill myself up. Other ways to feel good about myself. That’s probably a good thing because we can’t all do this forever. And we can’t keep doing it if it means risking our health. I realized I was at my body’s whim – it would be ready to train again when it was ready. And I really had nothing to do with that. All I could do for it was to step back, relax and breathe.


A few days later, I felt closer to normal again. But still not 100 percent. Maybe this breathing thing works, sort of. And rather than jump back on my bike and pedal into the wind I said – maybe I should wait. So I did. And yesterday after a great but short swim rather than joining Chris on the bike I said – maybe I should just count my blessings with the swim and leave it at that. So I did. Slow it down, take it day by day and….breathe.

I know this is our little world that we all play in together. We love our sport and have fun talking about it in BlogLand. But there is always the chance that something will happen that separates you from sport. Or anything that you enjoy. It’s easy to spiral yourself into worrying about when you will return or how long until you feel better. Yet in the past few weeks I found that when you feel yourself fighting against the current of what is happening in sport or life, it’s really best just to turn around. To quit fighting so hard against it, instead to simply relax and go with the flow. And you might just find you get where you want to go faster. Because no matter how fast you swim your 100’s, I've learned it’s really hard to outswim the current of things you cannot control.



Danni said...

It is scary to come to the realization that sometimes there is NOTHING we can do.
Breathe is a good mantra.

Ashley said...

thanks Liz, I needed that.

~Robyn~ said...

Liz...I've been overtrained before, and it is NOT fun by any means. But I got thru it and you will too. You will find that passion again and probably sooner than you think. It's good that you realize you were probably taking it too far and that you know when to back away...that's the first step: admitting you have a problem ;)

Erin said...

This came at a perfect time for me, too.

I love this: "I realized I was at my body’s whim – it would be ready to train again when it was ready. And I really had nothing to do with that. All I could do for it was to step back, relax and breathe."

It's good to remember, now and then, that our bodies get a say in all this...and that they're usually wise in a way our heads are not.

Rest'll be back out there again soon.

Stef said...

That last paragraph . . . that's pretty much what you told me to do in open water when it gets choppy. Remember??? It makes sense there and it makes sense for life as well.

Oh and I cannot BELIEVE that you read Perez. I check in there at least twice per day (at least). LMAO.

rr said...

Perez is my home page.

In my little melodramatic world I've been wondering if I will ever recover and be a real athlete again. And had the same thought - what the hell would I do?

So thank you for the reminder.. I'm going with the flow. Which means I give myself full permission to just float half of the honu swim this weekend. And stop to play with the turtles.

Alicia Parr said...

You'll be fine. I was stupidly overtrained at Tri Nats last year, aptly demonstrated by two DNF's the next two weekends. Two months and almost zero quality workouts later, I managed a pretty good day at Worlds. The body is amazing. Do what you need to do now to take care of yourself and have faith.

Cat said...

let's just get right to the celeb trash ... if you love people's "star tracks" as much as i do ... then you gotta get with X17 online. makes friday's people publication a little anti-climactic ... but it's immediate and it's allll week long.

i'm just sayin'...

BreeWee said...

Don't listen to Rach, she ain't floating anything, unless it is in the form of a number 2 pre-race in the toilet!

I SO LOVE this post... BREATHE... I gotta do that more often, never thought I needed to, I am so "chillaxin"all the time, but when I get sick like right now I am a miserable wreck scared outta my mind.

I am so happy you are getting more motivation, zest, passion for sport, joy, and life back in your little body.

In some way I betcha this "overtraining" thing is a good thing because now you can help your athletes to never get it or can help them through it if they ever get it... it'll make you an even better coach!

SERIOUSLY love ya!! Go read more junk on the internet and play with Boss, you deserve to!

kerri said...

Well done Liz. Glad to hear you are SHOPPING...YES!!!! Find some great shoes, will ya?? Anyway, yes, BREATHE...DAY by DAY. IT will come back. After witnessing my friend Ashley go through a mess of broken bones,rehab,pain, etc, he was the epitome of calmness and patience. He recovered after a broken neck to race at Du Nationals 3 months later. Amazing what the body can do when you remain positive, stay calm and go with the flow. Most of all, it's the lessons we learn about ourselves as we go through this process.

Jay said...

Thanks for a great post! I am a relatively new runner, and just finished my first half-marathon with one helluvan IT Band issue on my left leg, and posterior shin splints. ouch. After years of hating to run, I'm falling in love with it, and now this. Frustrating.

As to the breathe, it's actually one of the most effective ways you can shift your state. Science is telling us that it shifts your brain chemistry and a lot of other things. It can prevent us from being emotionally hijacked, in the words of Daniel Goleman.

To put my professional hat on for a moment, I lead a personal development workshop called Taking It Lightly in Milwaukee and Detroit, and work with folks who want to free themselves of the past emotional baggage like you mentioned. Everyone developes strategies to do some combination of deal with/avoid those painful emotions, and you've put your finger on what many athletes do. :o) We're in the process of writing an eBook on this--I'll send it to you when it's done.

Hope I'm not getting over-zealous; I'm on a bit of a campaign to make the world a better place.

Thanks again for sharing your frustrations re: overtraining. It's helpful to me to know I can slow down and breathe as well.

KK said...

Great advice, I loved the last sentence. It is so true! I hope you are back to "normal" soon.

CAMI said...

Thanks, I needed that! I'm breathing, I promise! And I promise that tomorrow when it starts to hurt and even if I start to cry like a girl, I'll remember to breathe... to push through like you've taught me and finish the race. I'll figure out after - AFTER.

Sarah said...

Hi Liz,

I love your blog - come visit from Marit's blog or Bree's blog etc. Your posts are always such a great read and you never fail to inspire a smile, laugh, a "me too!" or just plain inspire.

Anyway, I felt inspired to write this time. I guess it was nice to know that other people go through some of this same stuff.

How angry we can get when, as you said, something can happen to separate us from this sport.

I got into this blogland thing because people here really know what it's like to love this sport. But outside of BlogLand and teams at home...the rest of the world doesn't quite get it. And sometimes, it's nice to be part of that world and mingle with it. To play in it. To realize a little bit of what life could be like when every bit of free time isn't taken up by swimming, biking and running.

It's nice to allow our bodies the rest they deserve, even if our mind is vehemently fighting against that idea.

I also loved what you had to say about dealing with issues and not simply distracting from them with a swim, bike or run. It's so true!

Anyway, good stuff and I'm wishing you the best. You'll be back into it in no time. Let's all just breathe and enjoy the moment as it is, for what it is. Tomorrow will have more moments to be lived.

TRI-ROB said...

SO! I'm a "spaz"? A SPAZ????!!!! Yeah. You're right. I am.

Can I just say, I'm SO glad you're breathing. Keep doing it... it works.

Oh... and by the way... what else needed to be said besides, "Liz... It's a reeeeeeeally nice bike"? Seriously. More words would have filled the space... but would they have added anything?

Simple is good too.



ace said...

Impressive post.

Karen said...

Overtraining sucks... like coming back from surgery, or having an injury.. patience is the key.. although with overtraining there's no specific trauma so harder to get to the point of acceptance that you just can't do the doing!!

Great blog - wise words and wise actions - enjoy the "shorter" workouts and hold back...

I like the whole "breathe" thing too.... Thank you (and Rob!)

Jay said...

Hi again,

I'm listening to iTunes on Shuffle, and this song came on (link on youtube):

It reminded me of your post. I thought you might enjoy it. The content of the song isn't related—it's the chorus.