I had a great conversation with an athlete I coach this past week. Our discussion start with him expressing concern about a lack of progress in his training and his fitness. We talked about specifics of the workouts, where he is in his season, and what we were hoping for a few months back in terms of progress that we are seeing today. It was clear that he (we) were falling a bit short of expectations.
Then he complained about all the things that were happening in his life that were causing stress, which were not at all bad things, but still stressful none-the-less. A new job. A sub-par diet for the past months. He and his wife are adopting a child. His wife had been hit with the flu. Then his daughters caught the bug. We joked that he was probably next. He basically answered his own questions. He realized that life, this thing we do when we aren’t training, was getting in the way of his triathlon training.
As athletes, we are all part of a subculture of humans. It sounds nerdy to say it that way, but it’s true. We have lives that need attending to constantly, and even if the stress of everyday life is a good stress, it’s still stress. If we pile more stress onto that (i.e. triathlon training for 10 to 12 hours per week), at some point, something will give.
And this was what this athlete was experiencing. He was knocking out the miles, but not really seeing any improvement. We looked at ways he could try to reduce some stress, but let’s face it, it’s not always possible. For athletes in this position, it is sometimes best to just accept that at this time, simply doing the work is the best you can do.
Making any sort of serious gains in ones fitness is just not possible until a time comes when life stress is lower. If it’s even possible to maintain a base level of training, once the stress that’s holding you back from making the progress you’d like to see lifts, you’ll have at least laid a foundation for pushing to the next level.