How Do You Feel?
“All my efforts to get better…were completely backfiring on me.”-Charlie
At the end of September I was lucky enough to get to go on a short trip to Hawaii. It turned out a couple days off of work and high intensity training was something my body really needed. The days before leaving were jam packed with practices, workouts, trying to finish moving; I hadn’t been getting much sleep. The flight to Hawaii was terrible. I was so tired and everything hurt. I couldn’t get comfortable. None of the movies were good. Someone was throwing up. Everything sucked. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t feel great. I didn’t want to eat. I felt bad.
Five days later on the trip home, I was such a happy camper. I watched all kinds of great movies; I was perfectly comfortable and content drinking some water and munching snacks. Even though a kid across the isle barfed on this flight too. All the sudden I realized nothing really hurt. My body felt great. My mind was alert. I felt good.
I often get distracted by my goals and the day-to-day diligence to doing work that I don’t think about how I’m actually feeling. And how that could be affecting my performance.
This summer I played for two different ultimate frisbee organizations. In February tryouts started for a new semi-pro team in Seattle, The Seattle Cascades; I played on their Open (men’s), Women’s, and Mixed rosters. I added this to playing for my longtime team, Seattle Riot, an amateur women’s club team that has been at the top of the world of Ultimate for the last 15+ years. I was practicing, playing games, running track workouts, multiple times a week and sometimes twice a day. Plus you all know I love throwin’ down some workouts here at the gym. I just love getting all sweaty and breathing hard. I love competing for the disc floating in the air and for the last few reps. Back in February I wasn’t sure how my body (now 30!) would hold up playing on both teams. These concerns were significantly overshadowed by the thoughts of “MORE frisbee!” and “MORE reps!” “I’m going to get so much better.” I couldn’t turn down a potential chance to play regularly with top competitors and the idea that maybe some of their skills will rub off on me.
It was all starting to add up, by the end of September my body had been really taking a toll. My hamstrings, calves, and hips specifically had me less confident in my ability to keep up with my match ups. And in my ability to get out of my car. All my efforts to get better, be in better shape, and to be a better player were completely backfiring on me. I didn’t know it, but I was overworked and I need a reset, some serious rest and recovery.
While resting in Hawaii, I was able to keep moving a lot. We did some walking; and I had a lot of fun swimming around. We even did a running/body-weight workout on the sand. We ate decent food and got some groceries for making breakfasts. I didn’t feel like I was letting go of my goals and in hind sight I can see how this recovery period actually helped my body to feel great for our National Championship tournament last weekend.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that taking these rest periods are critical to my overall performance. Instead of being distracted by bigger and better workouts right in front of me I’ve started asking myself, “how do you feel?” I think about the big picture of wanting to be able to win a 1-on-1 match up in two weeks AND get out of my car tomorrow, the next day, and in 50 years. Achieving my short and long term goals becomes MORE possible with the right rest here and there. Once my body was rested I could get back to smashing my training with new rigor. Rather than hobbling through, or barely finishing, in pain I was getting faster each set. I got much more out of those training sessions than the many I did feeling like trash.
Hands down, the biggest factor that contributed to my body’s healing on this trip was the sleep. Sleep is when your body actually rebuilds and restores your muscles, joints, and ligaments from all the hard work that you’ve been doing. And it had been a while since I had gotten a few nights of good restorative sleep. It seems silly to me that I had to go all the way to Hawaii to get just a few nights in a row of 8 (+!) hours of decent sleep. So I am looking in to making some small changes to my habits here at home so that I can do more recovering while I sleep. I’m investing in some blackout curtains (so much cheaper than I thought!). I got an eye mask for when I travel. I’ve been trying to turn off my phone well before bed, and make sure my notifications are turned off at night. I’ve been looking into some techniques for relaxing my body and mind. 10 minutes of meditation, stretching, journaling, etc.. can help those of us with busy minds at night relax a bit and start to turn the brain off for bedtime. In the past I’ve made to-do lists just before bed which has worked to help me relax my mind.
I hope you all have a chance to check in with your body and ask yourself, “how do you feel?” Are you always sore and tired? Do you train to feel good? Do you struggle to get comfortable and sleep? Try allowing yourself a little rest. See if you can’t make a small adjustment or two at bedtime to help your body’s recovery while you sleep. Make sure you are noting the intention of the day’s class workout. We balance the days here when you will be going at 100% and pushing your body to it’s limits. And there are the days that we move and breathe, get our blood flow going and sweat a bit without the intensity. Take note about how you feel and how it effects your performance. And pay attention to what makes you say, “hey, I feel great!”