This is the number one area that I see 90% of athletes getting wrong.
A simple, effective tool and mindset shift that can change an athletes life and performance.
Endurance athletes are wired to go go go and go and go. It may be ingrained in their personality and habits or maybe involvement in endurance sport transformed them into this non-stop go-getter.
I still remember the day it FINALLY clicked with me.
I’ve been told most of my adult and teen life “you need to slow down”.
I’m a hard wired, A-type, high achieving, superhero wanna-be and you’re telling me to SLOW DOWN? – “Meh – get stuffed” I would say.
They were totally right. The ingredient list of University, two jobs, triathlon training, parties and general life is a recipe for disaster.
I survived, but only just.
And I sit here, 8 years later still feeling the affects of being a person who took on way too much at rapid speed. And I just hit age 30. Not cool.
What my brain couldn’t compute at the time, but what has finally clicked is THIS…
There is a difference between CALMING down and SLOWING DOWN.
Can you see it?
Of course my superhero self didn’t want to back off from all the great things I was doing, I loved them all. But later down the track my body gave me an ultimatum because I didn’t back off, slow down or calm down. And so, I experienced two years of horrible health consequences that have taught me a HARD lesson.
Personally, I would relate slowing down to being less productive, being less successful, being slower at swim, bike, running. So of course I didn’t want to.
Calming down however is a different story. Because what if you could do all your superhero activities each week, in a mindful, present and happy nature?
The result would be a body that feels calmer, happier, stronger, resilient and healthy.
All that is required is a shift in the way you go about your week and the THOUGHTS that you have along the way.
Is getting stuck in traffic inconvenient for 90% of people? I would say yes.
Is getting stuck in traffic STRESSFUL for everyone? Not necessarily. Because it’s all a matter of perception and pre-disposition to experience stress, physically and mentally.
I conduct seminars on a number of performance and wellness topics, so the content varies. HOWEVER there is one slide that you will find in every seminar that I conduct;
“Your body does not know the difference between physical and mental stress”
Stress- physical, mental, perceived or actual; is processed by your body in the same way. Which is why, even the most zen endurance athlete can experience the affects of rampant stress hormones, namely cortisol. The result of this can be inflammation, lack of recovery, high heart rates, lack of adaptation, poor gut health and digestion, susceptibility to illness and poor weight management.
To look after our physical and mental well being while training for endurance is critical, but often overlooked in the pursuit of performance.
“The only time fitness comes before health is in the dictionary.” – Brett Jones
I’m not going to tell you to stop training, to stop achieving, or to stop being productive. Because I wouldn’t listen to that advice either. However, you can still respect your superhero self and activities by bringing in more CALM and presence into your life, while simultaneously kicking butt.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to sit cross legged for one hour while burning incense in a corner. There are simple and effective strategies that we can all implement seamlessly into our lives.
Here are 7 ways to bring more calm into your day, all while being your superhero self.
1. Waking & morning rituals
The way in which you awaken your body into a new day will set the tone for the hours that proceed that first alarm or eye lid flutter. Do you have one of those alarms that is loud, harsh and abrupt to ensure you wake up? It’s so startling that it gives you no other option than to jump out of bed and start running from the boogie man? You may have relied on this crazy loud alarm up to this point – it’s time to switch your alarm tone with something more calming to bring you out of a slumber with a sense of calm and peaceful energy (yes, this is possible even when training for an Ironman). Utilising light is a great way to naturally re-set your melatonin levels if you need to rise before the sun does. Check out a great devise called “the wake up light”.
Once you’re up and about, spend sometime cuddling your loved ones, animals or giving back to yourself with a cup of tea and some stretching before hitting the pavement hard for training.
2. Time management
I know it’s a skill that doesn’t always come naturally but it is a skill that can be learnt – so there are no excuses. If you want to train for an endurance event, work, have a family, a social life and have some relaxation time – time management needs to be a priority. A well planned day, week and month will ensure you minimise the tendency to rush and be stressed by lateness. It will provide you with the opportunity for consistent training, which is the key to performance changes. The key to good time management:
don’t over commit
always allow extra time for travel
if you’re super busy & the diary is stacked to the brim – schedule in relaxation and down time
communicate your life movements to your coach so they can adjust your program to suit life commitments.
Such a simple concept that is essentially life changing. I’ve worked with athletes where this was the ONLY element of their life and training we changed. This resulted in a more positive outlook on life, their performance and racing – I also saw changes in their aerobic efficiency and breathing.
You can implore mindfulness habits throughout your day or even in training. It’s just about drawing yourself into the present moment to focus on what is NOW. What do you feel? What can you sense? What do you smell? What do you notice? If mindfulness training is new for you, I recommend an app called 1Giant Mind – it will help guide you through effective mindfulness practise.
Your breath is the key to enhanced aerobic and endurance performance, but again, such a simple tool that goes under the radar. But more than endurance performance your breath is also the key to unlock a calm state of mind and body. In a stressed state, your breathing will become restricted to your upper chest. This type of breathing keeps your body in an alarm state. All it takes to calm your entire system are some simple deep belly diaphragmatic breaths. This style of breathing during your training will also make you a more efficiency endurance athlete. Win win. Give it shot by checking in with yourself throughout the day. In the car, at your desk, right now – relax your shoulders – let your belly ‘flop’ out and take nice calming breath. To integrate this into your training – start my practising during your warm up and cool down when intensity is lower.
5. Night time rituals
Just like your morning rituals, your night time rituals will dictate your quality or quantity of sleep which in turn will affect how you wake up the next morning. Think grumpy athlete versus motivated athlete! Backlit devices such as TV’s, IPADs and phones will disturb your melatonin levels mainly due to the blue light, impacting your sleep. Switch your screens for books, a light walk, legs up the wall or mindfulness activity or you can even buy blue light blocking glasses to enjoy your favourite TV shows before bed. If it’s an absolutely necessary to work or study on your computer prior to bed (try and minimise this with good time management) you can install an application called f.lux to minimise the blue light exposure. You can even get light globes more suited for bedrooms to assist with quality sleep
This is the simplest thing you can do right now is turn off app, social media and email notifications on your phone or devices. This constant stimulation is a contributing factor to the stress that our bodies and minds are being harmed by in this modern world. If its truly important – you will check it yourself when it suits you. No excuses, turn them off, NOW.
7. Stop the rush.
Rushing from one task to the next creates an environment for stress hormone production. Plan your time well, say no to things that will stretch you, stop procrastinating on social media which then means you have to rush around to be on time. Simplify life and watch your enjoyment and performance sky rocket.
To be honest, I don’t expect many of you to read this article in it’s entirety, so for those of you who made it thus far – I’m proud of you! Calming down can seem like such a fluffy action step to take in the driven and precise world of endurance performance. But time and time again, athletes have shown me that calming down can be the key to unlocking performance gains, while achieving a level of life satisfaction and balance, foreign to most people. I’ld love to hear from you if you have experienced the results of calming down on your performance.
I pride myself on practicing what I preach..
However I am going to admit, that over the past few months this hasn’t been the case…
I’ve basically fallen off the wagon and cracks are starting to show! Fortunately for me, I’ve come to realise this now and I can now put measures into place before those little cracks become grand canyons!
Ok so here are the home truths –
- I never really gave myself a chance to recover fully from my first Ironman (back in June)
- I have tried to keep my Ironman fitness AND spent a lot of time in the grey zone trying to do so
- I have continued to eat like an Ironman… yet not training like one…
- My wellness and mindful activities are nowhere to be found.
- All in all, I have placed a huge amount of stress on my body and mind without really saying thank you :-/
Tell-tale signs and the Cracks:
As I mentioned above, cracks have started to show, many of which I have basically ignored or due to not ‘listening’ to my body have slipped by as being ‘normal’…
- Poor sleep
- Feeling tired all the time
- Not finding enjoyment in my training sessions
- Not recovering from sessions as well as I previously had
- Weight gain, poor skin, dizzy spells and the biggest alarm bell – changes in my menstrual cycle
Sound familiar to anyone….?
Where to from here:
It’s not all doom and gloom – it’s just a matter of getting real at making some ‘easy enough’ changes –
- Reassess training goals – still working on this but kicked my butt into gear and programmed more structure and purpose to my workouts leading into Busselton 70.3. I also looked at the actual time I had available time to train and prescribed workouts based on this, instead of trying to make more hours in the day 🙂
- Highlight life stressors – ultimately this came from the lack of structure, trying to fit so much in. Once I made peace with what I had time for and what I ‘made’ time for – the stress has slipped away!
- Re-organise my work, training and life etc. – dust off the Google Calendar and set routine and structure
- Get back to meal prep and mindful activities – boiled eggs, chai pudding, energy balls and…. yoga is back! 1-2 times a week
- I also recently done a MET – for which I can now be more specific in my training and work on areas related to that.
So ….. what is the purpose of this ?
- Sharing is caring – you are not alone, I can guarantee that there are many others out there feeling just like you do – lets be open and honest – not hide behind filters and pretending we have it all together all of the time!
- A number of athletes are soon doing their first 70.3/Ironman and I wanted to highlight the potential trap you may find yourself in, knowledge is power and you don’t know what you don’t know right?
- To let you know that we are all human… including your coaches 😉
- Again – sharing is caring!! #wecare
In a three part series Coach Katee, gives us some insight as well her thoughts and feelings on being Katee – The Business Woman, The Coach and Athlete.
You may have previously also read Coach Sarah’s blog on “ A Day in the Life of a Coach”… if not, you can read it here.
Part 1 focuses on Katee as a Business Woman, let’s get into it!
- As we know, you are not just a ‘Coach’ you are also the Director of Holistic Endurance, alongside your team of Coach Sarah and myself (Jackie). So, how do you manage and allocate time to all the business practices required to run a successful business. Ie: Business modelling, marketing, industry presence, finances, future projections and so on. Do you do this “back office” planning and processes weekly, monthly or quarterly?
It’s been an interesting evolution really. Like most coaches, this coaching thing started as a side gig for the love, so it wasn’t a huge part of my week. As the years have gone by, I now find myself as a full time Triathlon and Endurance coach – Which I’m now learning is quite rare. And as a it has grown into my full time gig (I really can’t call it a job!) it is also a thriving business. Which means my tasks each week go beyond the regular programming and communications with my athletes. And the great thing about coach life is each week is VERY different.
The greatest proportion of my week is dedicated to program writing on Training Peaks in conjunction to reviewing my athletes session notes, session data and performance management chart . I block out time on a Monday to review athletes sessions from the weekend – more so for those within 12 weeks of a key race or going through a rehab process. Then Thursday’s and Fridays are my dedicated Program writing, data analysis and athlete communications day. Between that, I will also be responding to athlete emails and texts that come up during the week – there is no structure to this as it really just has to occur as needed.
I also conduct wellness consultations, 1:1 Strength & conditioning sessions and 1:1 Swim, bike or run technique sessions, which I really enjoy as part of my week, so there is some time allocated to these consults and follow up notes.
Beyond that, I would complete a bunch of business related tasks such as:
- Monthly finance reports and day to day finance such as invoicing
- Marketing plans and social media planning
- Content development for our athletes
- Research and reading for professional development ( I LOVE to ‘save’ feature in Facebook – this way I am able to “chunk” my research time to review those saved articles all at once rather than mindlessly scroll through Facebook)
- Website editing
- Training camp and event planning
- Meetings with super Coach Sarah Grove and our legendary admin super star Jackie.
Time for these tasks is mapped out on a monthly basis to ensure efficiency, as I believe in task grouping. For example, I am better off being in a finance head space for 4 hours per month than I am for 30min per week. I get a lot more done, more effectively.
In summary, without my weekly structure and planning, I would go mad and be incredibly inefficient. My planning and flow ensures I am productive with my time – allowing more time to chill my main man, our dogs, sleep in and enjoy the beach.
- And what are some of the other not so regular things you do as a coach and business owner?
This is very dependent on the time of season, or what phase majority of my athletes are in. Currently we are completing annual season reviews and goal setting with each of our athletes, so more time has been directed in this area.
When we are prepping for a Training camp- about 4-6 weeks prior our time is largely directed to ensuring the success of our camp for us and our athletes. This happens 1-2 twice per year.
I also present at seminars on the topic of hormones and performance, which I LOVE. Who knew I would love presenting – because I didn’t! In prep for a seminar I would spend my normal research or content development hours on developing and preparing for this.
Then there are pathology tests and supplement prescriptions. This is a big part of our philosophy at Holistic Endurance to ensure the health and wellbeing of our athletes. So on occasion I will spend time analysing pathology results and consulting our athletes on their next steps. We also work very closely with The Natural Nutritionist – so each fortnight I allocate time to update the team at TNN for anything they need to know about our athletes health, nutrition and training.
- How do you manage working from a home office?
I personally love it, but I can see how it wouldn’t work for everyone. It’s taken practise but I now take a concerted effort to not go into my office or sit at computer during “personal time” and at the end of the day I do a proper “log off” – this involves small tasks that help make the mental distinction of work and home life. This helps my brain turn off from business mode (easier said than done). To log off here are some of the steps I take:
- I close down all the open tabs on my web browser – If I need them – they get saved to my “reading list”
- I plan my next day – ensuring I have flagged key emails that need to be addressed first thing
- I update the to do list, so I know where I’m at for the next day. This goes a long way towards starting the next day efficiently.
- I TURN OFF my computer – just like my brain. It deserves a break.
- I leave my phone in my office
- I tidy up my desk and sort out anything I might want or need for the next day. Ie: I love having candles and or a diffuser going during my work day.
- Then it’s important to have a “break up” activity. Whether it’s playing with dogs, going for a walk, or training. The simple act of leaving the house, then coming back in later on – without going to the office – is a way to switch off the business brain.
I don’t want my coaching life to have a short time span. So I feel it’s important to set up systems and boundaries that align with the intent to be running a coaching business long term, avoiding the all too common entrepreneurial or coach burn out.
- Do coaches have to deal with conflict from outside Holistic Endurance? Ie: from coaches of other clubs who do things differently. If so, how do you deal with this?
Interesting question! My first reaction is no, because it’s certainly not direct conflict. But if I look deeper there is an element of coach / club competition that can contribute to ‘friction’ or as a competitive driver.
In the early days, my frustration with people who bashed or disapproved the ‘holistic’ approach was certainly an issue. Over time I have come to accept that I cannot help everyone, not everyone wants my help and my approach won’t work for everyone. I am very confident in our approach and the immense results we have achieved with athletes over the last few years – it goes beyond podiums and PB’s – and these athlete results make it very easy to drown out the nay-sayers and stay on our path, with an open mind of course. The other element helping shift the attitude of many in the endurance community is the vast stories that are coming to light, regarding burn out, hormone imbalance, infertility, injury, over training and so on. I am gradually noticing a shift towards people wanting to understand the holistic approach to training and performance as opposed to thinking it’s a bit “fluffy”. Some notable athletes that come to mind are Emma Snowsil (Frodeno), Stef Hanson (WITSUP) and Pete Jacobs .
In regards to the direct, blatant put downs. Well, again, overtime I get better at dealing with this. But it’s not easy at all. Yoga is my friend in these times 😉
- How do you make time for yourself and where do you draw the line of putting others before you?
I LOVE my morning and evening times, so this is a big part of my me-time. As I alluded too before – I’m pretty dang organised. But the thing with loving what you do as a business owner is that it is VERY easy to over indulge in “work hours” and give too much of yourself. I’ve learnt this the hard way many times in my life. So this time around, I have been very savvy and realist in my commitments to my business, my athletes and everything outside of that. I say NO more often, I commit less. This has taken time to learn what is too much to have on my plate.
I have a very holistic view when it comes to business – life balance (sounds obvious right) but honestly it would be SO easy to over work myself doing 50-60 hours, cram in training and a semi-resemblance of a social / personal life. But that wouldn’t last (been there, done that).
Ie: If I plan out my week ahead and I can’t see gaps for “personal time” during the day or even a lunch break I know I’m in trouble, because things will always pop up. With this in mind – I keep lots of blank / white space on my calendar for the things that crop up along the way. And if they don’t? well it’s bonus time where I can choose to do some professional development reading or simply chill in the sunshine.
I love waking up without an alarm majority of the week. It allows me to listen to my body & recovery needs. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but it’s my default where I can. This sets the tone for a chilled morning, I hang with the dogs, test my HRV, go for walk and grab an almond latte from the best in the business – Store15 . After that I’ll usually complete my training, but if I’m on a tighter schedule for the morning, I do this first thing and take the dogs as part of my recovery. If number one husband hasn’t been on night shift – he joins me for all the above!
So my ‘work’ day gets started generally from 8 – 9am and I aim to finish by 5-6pm – at least off the computer. This means my mornings and evenings are for me and my man, and provide that balance. My downfall? Lunch time. I get engrossed in my work or chatting to an athlete and this is the first ball that I drop, time for myself to eat mindfully. Sometimes being fat adapted can work against me here. A work in progress.
- Holistic Endurance provides a lot of educational material in the form of articles/blogs/webinars to their athletes / general public; how important is this to you and why?
In essence, this is what what makes me, me and our mission, our mission. There are a plethora of coaches, training groups and resources out there. I don’t need to replicate what others are doing, I strive to understanding the gaps of knowledge for both coaches and athletes and spread key messages that work towards athlete longevity, health, happiness, and performance. It’s the thirst for knowledge and spreading that knowledge that drives me day to day, month to month, and towards my greater vision for the long term.
- What are the worst/best things about being a coach and/or business owner?
As I write this, I’m coming off the high of athletes racing on the weekend – The completion of events or challenges, goal achievement and race performance success is defiantly the greatest highlight of being a coach. Although I must admit that the DURING is also tough! If I’m tracking an athlete from afar or I’m at a race spectating, my mind morphs into a very protective “mother figure”, worrying about if they have had enough nutrition, hydration or are pacing correctly! I have to implore independence on their part, I have done everything I can do to support and educate my athletes to make good choices – it’s up to them come race day.
Further to that, the results we get with athletes go beyond their times, paces and podiums. We guide them towards life balance, health, wellness and vitality. Seeing an athlete FEEL better and live a HAPPIER life provides a huge level of satisfaction. As a result, I find we naturally gravitate away from shouting results from the roof top, our athletes know how their health, mindset and performance has changed for the better and that’s what matters to us.
And I can’t not mention data analysis. It really is a favourite part of my role as a coach. Planning an annual training plan, crunching the numbers, setting goals, testing and setting athlete training zones – this definitely puts a fire in my belly.
The worst parts… Like athletes, as coaches, we feel the ups and downs that training and racing brings – the challenges are really a right of passage in my eyes. So I can find it challenging when an athlete is feeling low, disappointed or frustrated, because I feel it too! And at the same time I might be feeling pure excitement and exhilaration for another athlete in the same moment. It’s an interesting experience.
The other thing that I find difficult as a coach, not just with my own athletes, but any athlete in the endurance community – is watching them experience health or performance troubles that can be EASILY avoided with a shift in focus, perspective or approach. I feel very passionate about athletes being fit AND healthy, not fit, yet unhealthy . But it’s similar to if my Mum told me to do something, I would feel resistant and likely not take it on board – even if it is a good and worthy task / solution. This is common in coaching too – I cannot simply tell an athlete what they are doing wrong or what they should be doing, because they might not be ready to hear it and I find when an athlete is empowered towards finding a solution themselves – it creates an epiphany and a higher likelihood of long term change. So sometimes I see athletes getting in their own way, and I have to wait patiently while I guide them towards solutions – this can be tough, but it’s about them. Not me.
The use of https://www.therapyheals.ca/xanax-1mg/ can lead to bad mood, which gradually turns into depression. Patients have unhealthy thoughts and tearfulness, as well as suicidal tendencies.
- In summary, it sounds like you approach business the way you approach training and programs for your athletes – with an all and well rounded approach – holistically. What is your advise to future and aspiring coaches who want to go into business?
Know your WHY. Much like when you enter a key race that has meaning and significance for you, a business goal, mission and a values need to be tied to strong sense of WHY. Because life as a business owner can get rough at times. Without a strong sense of purpose or WHY it can be easy to loose sight of your goals, vision and general business mojo. This then leads to less satisfaction or a jump in careers/jobs. I discussed this more in-depth during an interview with Training Peaks, “How to Assess Your Coaching Values to Get the Most Out of Your Athletes”. Check that out here.
And that concludes part 1 of the series … Next week we get more on Katee as a Coach.
We have the absolute pleasure in coaching this young lady and could not be more proud of how she has embraced our training principles and philosophy. She smashed her first half ironman last year, nailing it to a tee. And now she is set to be a mum to be March!
Throughout her pregnancy she has continued to swim, bike, run, listening to her body as well as her coach and medical team and is looking and feeling amazing at 33weeks! She recently joined us for an open water swim, showing us all how staying healthy can be achieved during pregnancy.
Dayna shares some of her pregnancy progress with us:
“So I’m at 33 weeks and still feeling great! I think i ran properly through to about 20 weeks and then tried for another couple of weeks but kept having to stop. If only I knew about the maternity belt then… I might have been able to run for a few more weeks! 🙂 I’m still swimming 2+ times a week, pilates classes twice a week, and include a variety of walking my coach loves to give me to mix things up – stairs, hills, flats, long slow walks, power walks… I’m loving keeping fit and healthy. And I have no doubt it will make my return to training after bubs arrives that much easier too!
I’ve had a pretty cruisy pregnancy compared to most of my friends and i really think that being fit to begin with and keeping active most days during the pregnancy has really been the key to that. I will make sure I do the same with the next one. The only thing I would do differently next time is get to work on those pelvic floor muscles beforehand. But now I know!
The effect starts within 20 minutes and I feel fine. I’m very grateful to found this Lorazepam Online medicine.
One thing that surprised me was how comfortable i am with my pregnant body… usually I hate any kind of weight gain and I thought that I might struggle with being “larger” but I actually think I have more body confidence pregnancy than I had pre-pregnancy! That really was a pleasant surprise. The other bonus was finding how much I enjoy Pilates. Not long to go now, and we can’t wait to meet Bub!”
While on holidays recently I stayed with my in-laws….. some may cringe at this, but in my case it’s definitely a win! My mother in law is very active and fit, a PT and Pilates instructor and veteran triathlete with multiple Ironmans under her belt.
Not long after arriving I came across her stash of recovery tools, many of which I hadn’t even seen before. I know most of you would be familiar with the regular foam roller, stretch bands etc so I thought I’d share with you a little about each of these contraptions that I had come across!
An unbelievably versatile tool that allows you to apply pressure to tight spots and trigger points in those hard to reach places like your shoulders, neck, mid-back, hips and can even get right into your calves. I used this around my right shoulder which tends to get hot spots and tightness, after a bit of poking around and applying pressure to some very ‘ouch’ spots I felt instant relief and increased range of movement.
2. Accupressure Roller
I call this the ‘red peanut’… This small roller is quite firm and designed for upper and lower body trigger points and is ideal for rolling out the para-spinal muscles; those little muscles that run along your spine that can affect mobility when tense or tight and cause headaches and irritability.
This ball is heatable or not… your choice. The heat element can provide extra help in releasing tight and tender spots. Using the ball with your own body weight for just a few minutes and loosen and provide better mobility. The Acuball can be used on practically any part of your body that requires attention.
4. Muscle Trigger Point Triangle
For a small piece of equipment this intense little device sure packs a punch when you find ‘that’ spot. The design and shape of this trigger point triangle allows it to get into the deep muscles that you can’t get to using a roller. You know, those ones your massage therapist is great at finding?! Again, this tool can be used on any part of the body. I found it useful for loosen up in around my glutes and hips. Deep and controlled breathing is a must with the trigger point triangle.
5. Mini Foam Roller
The majority of people would be familiar with the good old foam roller. The mini version is the perfect size for travelling and you don’t need a lot of room to use it. I love using my roller for my quads as well as releasing my thoracic spine.
6. Massage Handle Roller
The handle on this small roller makes it easy to apply pressure to areas that need it. I found it particularly useful from the inner thighs (adductors), quads, ITB, calves and also forearms, which we tend to forget about.
Now of course you don’t need all of these devices – this is merely an overview of a few different devices on the market that you may not have seen.
Recovery and body maintenance is vital. Using one or more of the above devices can be an efficient way to loosen tight muscles and areas of tension as well as extend time between visits to your massage therapist.
For our athletes at Holistic Endurance, each program includes a mobility and activation program to ensure longevity and prevention of the dreaded niggles. Chat to us by filling in a Contact Form or to find out more information about our programs HERE.
Have you recently had a baby and looking to return to training?
Holistic Endurance athlete Emma does Q&A time with Coach Katee about her return to training.
What was your motivator to get into a running program post baby?
I have run for the past 13 years and had a horrible, inactive pregnancy due to sickness, so I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back to anything that resembled my ‘pre baby’ active self.
And how old is your bub Skye now?
Skye is almost 6 months now. When I started training with Katee she was around 4 months old.
Were you active during your pregnancy?
I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the entire pregnancy and often found it challenging just to get around the house. I think I was incredibly lucky that I had been so fit pre pregnancy as my body held up well considering that I rarely got out of bed or off the couch for the first 4 months!
What about before getting pregnant, did you do much running?
Before pregnancy I did a variety of exercise. I had done a couple of triathlons, run a marathon and lots of 10km races, I did R4K 14km every year. I did regular strength sessions. I was never not training. My training load would vary from 1hr 5 days a week to up to 2hrs 6 days a week depending on what I was training for.
Now that you are getting back into a scheduled routine with a running program, what’s been the greatest challenge?
The biggest challenge is definitely managing my time. I’m so keen to run, so the motivation is there, but some nights when you have only had 5 hours sleep and your alarm goes off at 5am so you can run before the baby wakes up, well, its a bit brutal. But I found motherhood has an amazing way of making all the BS excuses in your head just fall away. Because if you want the gift of running on your own, you just gotta cease the moment.
And what you noticed about running now compared to pre-baby?
My fitness is in no mans land. I cant recall ever being this slow. But it means so much more to me emotionally. I very much took for granted the ability to just punch out a quick 10km 5 days a week. But now, every day, i appreciate the gift of having a body that can slowly regain fitness. Plus, all the mums out there will know what I mean when I say its probably the only time I truly feel like “me” since having a baby. And for me thats more important than hitting any pace or distance milestones.
How does a personalised program help you?
Katee takes into account my sleep, my stress levels, what my thyroid health is like and adjusts my program accordingly. It also means I avoid my usual style which is doing too much too soon and then crashing.
How has utilising the MAF principles assisted with getting back into running?
Where I once would have been frustrated by the low intensity of MAF training, I appreciate that it is meeting me right at my current ability. I know that with disrupted sleep and the stress of a new baby, my training load isn’t messing my hormones up further. MAF helps me to feel like I can make small improvements and accomplishments every week without ending up too drained and exhausted for the marathon of motherhood and running 2 businesses.
If you need guidance in returning to training post baby, Holistic Endurance can help you. Click here to contact us.
[originally published Dec 2015]
I recently spoke with Bevan McKinnon over on Fitter radio of my experience with adrenal dysfunction & training for Ironman. Two things that really shouldn’t go hand in hand but so often do for endurance athletes.
Through my experience and assisting others along the same journey I have come to learn that excessive fatigue does not have to part of your Ironman journey, nor should you expect it or accept it. It’s about balance. Ha! That word again. They key is learning the intuitive difference between what training fatigue feels like vs abnormal fatigue (likely burn out).
As it was so eloquently put by world class coach Matt Dixon, it’s about;
“Training the least amount of hours required to reach your goals”
As an extension of my chat with Bevan I want to cover the key points here and go into a bit more depth for you, giving you the tools to understand & tackle adrenal dysfunction or a period of burnout.
If you’re an avid follower of Holistic Endurance you would be well aware I recently ran a survey for female endurance athletes. The results of which will not be far away, however what I can share with you now is that 48% of responders did not know what the symptoms of adrenal dysfunction were.
So it seems like a good place to start.
How do you recognise adrenal dysfunction or burnout before it becomes a BIG problem?
I believe the inability to recognise these symptoms is largely due to the nature of endurance sport. There still seems to be the mentality that harder training and more training is the key to success. Many of us now know that this is not the case. So it seems that high levels of fatigue and the subsequent symptoms listed below are expected or accepted. When “googling” adrenal dysfunction you may find a standard set of symptoms such as, tried in the morning, feeling rundown or craving salty/sweet foods. As an athlete I’m sure 90% of us could tick these boxes without having adrenal dysfunction. We need to look a little deeper.
What to look for:
- Persistent dizziness & low blood pressure
- No or lowered sex drive
- Difficulty loosing weight, despite best efforts, particularly around the belly button.
- Poor mood, motivation and lack lustre for life
- Hair loss & brittleness
- Female specific:
Exacerbated PMS symptoms
Irregular menstrual cycle, delayed or missing period.
If you suspect you might be presenting with adrenal dysfunction, I would suggest sourcing a holistic GP or specialised nutritionist / naturopath who can run specific pathology testing or conduct a DUTCH test.
You can also book a wellness consultation with us to discuss where you are at, next steps for pathology testing and your training plan.
Where I began & what it looked like
One of the greatest drivers to furthering my education & assisting other endurance athletes is that I could have avoided going through Adrenal dysfunction had I been more aware. For me, this period of severe fatigue left me unable to get out of bed, it didn’t happen suddenly, it was gradual, you have to be on your toes here.
I was teary on a regular basis.
The most debilitating part was the low blood pressure that caused dizziness which impaired my ability to work, subsequently I was having anxiety attacks almost daily.
I had already taken a break from training after my first DNF in a 70.3, however this break was not enough to create change. That’s when you know something is seriously wrong, when even sleep / rest & recovery won’t heal you. I took one massive leap of faith, leaving my clients and stopping work. I ran my own business so sick leave or annual leave were not an option for me. Then the recovery process truly began, with removal of daily stress I had room to address this deep fatigue and illness that had taken over my body.
- Pulling out of my immediate race plans (12 week period)
- Completing a 12 week detox & gut repair program, including food sensitivity testing.
- No caffeine or alcohol
- Stopping work & reducing stress
- Took away any structured programming & trained if I FELT like I WANTED to
- Going back to basics, having fun & getting social with training/exercise
- Finding a Holistic GP http://www.acnem.org/find-a-practitioner
Riding the roller coaster
After finding a great holistic GP, there was also 3 month waiting list. I hung in the balance prior to this appointment. I continued to have no program, when I exercised, I did so following Phil Maffetone principles of MAF heart rate (low heart rate training). This was the number one factor that allowed me to continue to sport I love while recovering
You can check out Phil’s book here & his website here. http://philmaffetone.com/180-formula
At Holistic Endurance we incorporate the MAF principles to our performance programs in addition to our wellness programs.
After I had my appointment with the GP the puzzle pieces started to come together. I worked together with my doctor as well as the rest of my team. If you suspect or you are suffering from overtraining or burn out, creating your team will make recovery a smooth process. (My ebook Healing The Grumpy Athlete takes you through a process to establish the bets “entourage for you)
When building your team I suggest you include:
- Holistic GP
- Naturopath and/or Nutritionist
- Sport Psychologist / NLP Practitioner / Counsellor
- A Coach that supports your needs through recovery
- Meditation Coach, classes or an app
- Acupuncturist / Chinese Medicine Doctor
At 4 months since my DNF and rock bottom, I had completed the detox, started supplements and changed my lifestyle considerably. I still did not feel ‘vital’. It was going to be a long road.
Then between April & Sept I continued to experience ups & downs, moments of glory and moments of frustration. My Ironman training was anything but consistent. However my persistence paid off and I gradually gained consistency, it started with one good week, then two, then three, then 4. This was a first for me in over two years. I was on the UP! Just when I thought I was ‘okay’ to do a key session like hill climbing or intervals I would get knocked down again. Through this process I learnt to listen to my body, become an intuitive athlete, I was able to put ego aside, slow down & back off when my body signalled me too. Previously I would not have been aware of these signals.
I had severe nervousness, sleepless nights, and nervous system problems. More than 10 drugs were ineffective, which does not apply to https://www.therapyheals.ca/valium-10mg/.
- Key things I did during this time:
Adrenal support supplements – Rhodiola was my herb of choice – I drank it straight – tastes horrific, but worth it for the finish line.
Hormone balancing supplements – Vitex herbs have worked wonders for me
Gut health protocols: including the use of bone broth, Kombucha, digestive enzymes & glutamine
Strictly only using filtered water to reduce copper toxicity
Regular supplements specific to my needs such as Zinc, B6, VIT C & Magnesium.
Had a recovery week at least every 4 weeks, in line with my menstrual cycle (Get the full protocol in Healing The Grumpy Athlete)
80% of my training was done at MAF heart rate or below (low heart rate)
Stopped training with my Garmin for about 4 months so I could not see any paces/ speeds.
Slowly introduced work again, limiting my hours to 30, generally averaging 20 hours.
I learn’t to embrace afternoon training, enabling sleep ins
I did a lot of solo training to ensure I stuck to MY plan
Became a fat adapted athlete utilising the principles of lower carb (real food options), higher healthy fats
I finally learnt to meditate and to love YOGA!
As luck would have it I got chicken pox in September, they say you can’t have it twice. Well I did, I had to be the exception to the rule!
Once I recovered from this I noticed most of my training began to consistently improve. From October through to race day in December I can truly say I was the happiest version of myself that I have ever seen. I enjoyed my training more than I ever have. Immensely grateful just to be able to ride for over 3 hours without crashing. I had more energy training for my first Ironman in the final 3 month build than I did prior to any 70.3. I was posting swim times that I hadn’t achieved since high school. I felt strong (numbers were solid too) on the bike and I had the energy to run. Unfortunately I did not have a left knee that agreed with me so I was unable to complete my run build, however I see it as a blessing. Because running has the greatest impact on our entire system, it can make or break you. I have no doubt that the injury saved me from further adrenal stress, allowing me to enjoy the Ironman training journey, even with an injury.
Key points to take away from this:
- Build a team / support network
- Speak to health professional, or us if you suspect a level of overtraining or burn out
- Find a holistic GP
- Listen to the warning signs early on to avoid lengthy recovery periods
- Adrenal dysfunction can take more than 12 months to recover from if you continue training / racing
- Adrenal dysfunction can take at least 6 months to recover from with minimal training & lifestyle balance
- You do not have to give up your sport if you suffer from burn out, you just have to be smart
- Natural nutrition & gut health are key. Long term recovery simply cannot happen without it.
- Intensity and volume need to take a back seat. Stay focused on the bigger picture and trust that building a base of endurance with low heart rate training will lay the foundations for when you are truly ready to kick butt.
- Supplementation: ensure your practitioner understands the demands of long course triathlon/ running/ cycling. Work with them closely to find the right dose of athletic support supplements.
At Holistic Endurance, we specialise in sophisticate programming for the prevention and healing of burnout in athletes, chat to us or find out more information about our wellness and performance programs.
When we take on the journey of triathlon we work to become stronger, fitter and more confident versions of ourselves. Often in the early days of endurance training we find weight coming off easily or body weight management is effortless. But for a lot of women, something changes. After a few seasons of training and racing the weight isn’t budging or it may even be piling on in the presence of training and “good” nutrition.
No one wants to take on a long distance triathlon or a marathon heavier than when they started, for a number of reasons. 1. It can slow performance 2. Increasing love handles and lycra don’ t go so well together.
Before I continue, I want to stress that I don’ t think women, or men, need to prescribe to certain weight on the scales to dictate their worth, performance or success. The wonderful thing about endurance events is that anyone with the determination to do so, can participate. You don’ t have to be a certain size, height or weight to be successful. So what I will be discussing with you in this article applies to your “happy place”of weight management, where your clothes fit, you have energy and it is relatively effortless to maintain. And the highest priority over your weight, is your health and wellbeing. Always.
Before reading this article you might have thought you were alone or your situation is a little “strange” – and I can understand why. For years we have been told that calories in and calories out (burned through exercise) = weight loss or gain. I honestly feel that this immensely simplified equation has created a lot of health problems for athletes, as it often results in athletes restricting calories to get down to an“ideal” number or doing even more or harder training to burn more calories to“earn” that extra meal or treat. With calorie restriction, comes increased physiological stress, reduced fat burning, hormone imbalance, poor training recovery and poor energy. There are many other factors for us to consider beyond calories. I have provided some recommended reading for you on this topic by Dr Libby Weaver. The human body is complex, factors for optimal body composition go beyond what we burn and what we put in our mouths. Here are just some of the factors I consider for an athlete’ s weight management…
It’ s important to note that these factors will rarely exist in isolation, there will be a flow on affect and relationship between most of these factors for optimal body composition. For this article we are going to focus on two important aspects, stress hormones and training specificity. At the end of this article you will find further resources on this topic to gain further insight for the role that gut health and nutrition play.
1.Stress hormones, specifically Cortisol.
Put simply, Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in the presence of stress, whether it be physical stress, mental stress, perceived or actual. Cortisol isn’t all bad, it provides us with energy to do all the things we want to do in life. With increased output of cortisol, comes a cascade of other hormone responses.
For a brief hormone nerd session, growth hormone helps build strength, muscle and tone. Cortisol decreases its output. Not ideal. Melatonin helps you relax at night for a restorative, interrupted sleep. Cortisol also shunts this. Then progesterone levels are eventually depleted too, progesterone helps you tap into fat burning and keeps you calm.
Accumulative high training loads/stress and general life stressors can result in high cortisol levels. When the body is persistently in this state, fat burning essentially switches off and you will find shifting weight from around your belly button and love handles the most difficult.
We’ve put together a list of action steps to rock your cortisol levels for weight management and performance:
CORTISOL MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
1.Legs up the wall
A powerful and restorative pose, it helps slow down your heart rate, lessening the pressure on your heart to pump blood to the lower extremities. This pose also helps cortisol move through the body. Use this pose immediately after a training session for 5 min and before bed for a restorative sleep.
2. Turn off the data, the notifications and the lights.
Our modern world is becoming increasingly busy, constantly challenging our ability to be present and simply enjoy what we are doing before a ‘ ting’ or‘ tong’ blasts from one o our devices. This sense of busyness and on‘ alert’ is contributing to increased cortisol levels and other stress hormones. Turn off as many notifications and alerts as you can to do your waist line a favour. The same goes for training data, as a coach I value data immensely, however some sessions we just don’ t need to know how fast, or slow, we are going. We just need to be in the moment to enjoy being outside doing what we love.Are there some sessions you can go watch-less? Or perhaps put it in your back pocket out of sight? Of an evening,, if our cortisol levels remain high from training and life stressors, it will inhibit a deep sleep, which is required for you to recover from training. Turn off your devices and bright lights 1-2 hours before bed to help the production of melatonin, you will notice the difference immediately.
3. Incorporate mindfulness on a daily basis.
I can hear your thoughts on this one, “I’ m a hard wired, a type, high achieving, superhero wanna-be and you’ re telling me to stop and be mindful? – Meh – get stuffed”. Often the things we are most resistant to are the things we need the most, and even though you might feel resistance to mindfulness and meditation in the beginning, it won’ t be long before you feel more comfortable and reap the benefits. This tool is one that will keep you happy and healthy while pursing endurance sport for the long term.I recommend an App called Buddifhy that provides tracks for you to listen to anywhere, anyhow. Walking the dog? Waiting for an appointment? Waking up? Everyone has 5min to bring some mindfulness to their day. Give it a shot.
Training is often referred to as a stress reliever but it’s quite the opposite. It’ s important to acknowledge that training is a stress on the body, the intensity and duration, and even your mood will dictate the level of stress that a session creates. The modern world has become stressful enough without the addition of training loads. Between meetings, deadlines, school pick ups, food shopping, phone notifications, caffeine intake, family stressors, busy inboxes and a general lack of presence it’s hard to find a moment where cortisol isn’t under pressure to pump out….Imagine a car that needs to stop at every petrol station along the way because the car is chewing through petrol at an accelerated rate. Not an efficient way to travel from point a to point b right?
Does this mean you should give up endurance events? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that you need to respect your body by putting some lifestyle and training protocols in place to ensure your body has some time to rejuvenate, relax, be mindful and recover.
1. Reduce your time in the “black hole” during training.
The black hole exists where you are not training easy enough to develop your aerobic system (crucial for endurance) and not hard enough to illicit changes in Vo2 max or speed changes. The black hole feels exhilarating, satisfying and somewhat comfortable so it is often the default ‘ zone’ of many endurance athletes. Tap into some heart rate training and read more about the black hole in the resources at the end of this article.
2. Ensure you do a proper cool down
For at least 10min below your MAF heart rate (Generally 180-age, the Phil Maffetone Method).Without a proper cool down you are cheating yourself. Diminishing the affects of the session gone by. But you are also keeping your cortisol levels at an already high level, reducing your body’ s ability to relax and therefor utilise fats for fuel. Before you rush off to a busy day, make your cool down a priority, add legs up the wall for bonus points too.
3. Add Yoga, trail walking and general ‘ play’ as a core element to your weekly training program.
This ties into letting goof data and simply enjoying your training or exercise. It’ s important to balance your week out from the long, intense endurance training with Yoga, walking or general play. Get creative and incorporate some sand running, playgrounds, games with kids or pets. Laughter is a great addition to any exercise session. Not only will you be a stronger athlete in the long term, you will continue to enjoy the sport.
For a topic regarding weight management you will notice I haven’ t given much focus to nutrition. This is not to devalue the role that nutrition plays in weight management but more to draw your attention to the other factors at play in addition to nutrition. I recently discussed the role of nutrition and gut health on a podcast, The Real Food Reel, Episode 70. Have a listen to that for knowledge bombs as to how calorie counting is not the answer to weight management.
If you feel like you are training and eating well, but the weight just won’ t budge or even increases, it’ s time to shake up your training program, lifestyle and nutrition habits. Forget calorie counting (I’ m on my knee’ s begging you) – you can enjoy copious amounts of the right foods and look great!
Words by Coach Katee as previous published in Australia Triathlete Magazine PINK Edition
Primal Endurance Book Real Food Reel Ep70 The Calorie Fallacy