Why lis­ten­ing to your body is triathlon’s fifth dis­ci­pline, says age-grouper Amy Kilpin

Triathlon Plus - - Contents -

Colum­nist Amy Kilpin ex­plains why lis­ten­ing to your body is im­por­tant.

Ihad that com­mon af­flic­tion re­cently: that mo­ment when you sud­denly re­alise your throat is sore, the on­set of sneez­ing be­gins, and sud­denly you feel your train­ing pro­gramme is in jeop­ardy. Be­fore you know it, a whole week of train­ing has been missed and it can feel like the end of the world.

How­ever, for the first time in as long as I can re­mem­ber, I was quite re­laxed about this. My coach en­forced this lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude with: “There’s noth­ing you can do about it. Just rest and get some work done.”

Sure, for us day-job­bers it’s ac­tu­ally quite a re­lief to have some­thing else to oc­cupy you when you’re laid off from train­ing. I can’t imag­ine how tough it would be as a pro­fes­sional ath­lete, un­able to train and with noth­ing to do. But, then again, I am the type of per­son who needs to be pro­duc­tive nearly all the time. Soon my cold was bet­ter and I was back in train­ing. The only prob­lem was, it didn’t feel right. I was still not do­ing much and then a mid-week fam­ily wed­ding scup­pered even more of my train­ing plans.

In re­al­ity it was ac­tu­ally quite re­fresh­ing to have a few days off and a cou­ple of weeks of very lit­tle train­ing. Be­cause my sea­son has been split into two halves this year, my coach and I just put it down as a lit­tle mid-sea­son mini-break; it wasn’t like I had any races com­ing up so it ac­tu­ally worked out quite well. Some­times, you’ve just got to ac­cept things that you can’t con­trol, be­cause re­ally, it’s not the end of the world.

Shortly af­ter­wards, I was up in York­shire for a week. Right then: hills, ev­ery­where. This will help get my legs back, I thought. Ap­par­ently not. The same thing hap­pened; I just didn’t feel right.

We played it rel­a­tively safe that week un­til I felt “nor­mal” again. The tough part of all this was that there were no dis­cernible symp­toms. Just a vague sense of “not feel­ing right”. I also know things are wrong when I lack mo­ti­va­tion. I’d have one pretty good ses­sion and feel pleased that I was get­ting my form back – then it would be nul­li­fied by an­other rub­bish ses­sion. In­con­sis­tency and a bit of lost mojo – it’s not a great feel­ing.

I was try­ing to avoid sound­ing pa­thetic when I told my coach that my train­ing ses­sions “felt hard”. Well yes, ob­vi­ously. Aren’t they sup­posed to be? But it ran deeper than just a tough ses­sion. You know when you’re not on point. Or, as one of my Twit­ter pals pointed out quite pro­foundly, “When you know, you just know.”

So what do you do? Well you’ve got to ride it out and just be at­tuned to what your body is telling you. In the past, I’ve ig­nored stuff like this and pushed through, but it re­ally doesn’t do you any favours in the long term. Car­ry­ing on in spite of fa­tigue, a sup­pressed im­mune sys­tem, or even a nig­gle will only have deeper reper­cus­sions later on. But it takes a cer­tain level of ma­tu­rity as an ath­lete to look at things that way. It’s all too easy to make knee-jerk re­ac­tions.

This, I have dis­cov­ered, is all part of the learn­ing curve in triathlon. It’s not the first time I have men­tioned the men­tal as­pect to train­ing and rac­ing, but this is from a whole dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

Let’s face it – in­juries and ill­nesses suck. But they hap­pen to all of us and ac­tu­ally, it’s your cop­ing strat­egy and your per­spec­tive that will get you through in the end.

Learn­ing about your body and know­ing when to back off, recog­nis­ing when you’re not feel­ing on form, and deal­ing with it by ap­pro­pri­ately ad­just­ing your train­ing and care­fully mon­i­tor­ing how you feel are all essen­tial com­po­nents of this sport. Be­ing able to cope with set­backs and come back even stronger is part and par­cel of this game. Af­ter all, our health is the most im­por­tant thing.

I’m hop­ing that some kind of re­verse logic is at play here and this set­back will have ben­e­fit­ted me more than if I had been healthy and car­ried on train­ing nor­mally. In the­ory, I could come back to tackle the sec­ond half of my sea­son much fresher – in body and in mind. Some­times the body is just telling you to re­cover and take a step back, and be­lieve me, it’s worth lis­ten­ing to.

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