Why Is “Lazy” Better than “Tired”?

This week’s long workout was an 11-mile run. I decided to do it yesterday (Friday) to free up all of Saturday. (My mother-in-law is visiting, and I figured we’d be doing an auto tour on Saturday.) I mapped out a new, longer route on Badger Mountain. As usual, the first mile sucked. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been skipping some workouts, and sandbagging the ones I did. I’ve been wondering if I’m still recovering from screwing up my sleep schedule around Easter. Either way, this past few weeks played into one of my challenges as I’m considering running the Badger Mountain 50K trail run: can I reliably determine if I’m over-training?

Last summer, about a week before my first race of the season, my coach recognized I was over-training. She dialed back my training schedule, but it was too late: the over-training, combined with some poor food choices in the day before the race, gave me my worst race ever. I got nauseous during the swim, I couldn’t find my “happy place” on the bike – and I LOVE the bike! – and I was so discouraged I gave up and walked almost the entire run.

I’ve read a lot about over-training symptoms. The ironic thing about over-training is that most athletes see the symptoms and come to the opposite conclusion — they think they’re not working hard enough. Part of that is the personality of an endurance athlete. I treasure rest days, but I also get antsy during recovery weeks when the workouts are easy. I feel like I’m not doing enough. If I have to cut a long workout short – say, I did 9 miles instead of 11 – I fight the urge to make up those two miles the next day. It’s stupid and counterproductive, but I challenge you to find an endurance athlete who doesn’t feel that way.

The Badger run gave me a lot to think about. I was slow, but I felt good throughout, despite not being as fast as I usually I am. (I’ve also never run this far on Badger.) As I was thinking about how I felt in the week prior to CC (my coach last summer) advising me I was overtraining, I remember how those workouts went: my heart rate wasn’t too high, but my body simply could not produce. I couldn’t go any faster. If you’d put a gun to my head, sure, I’d have run faster, but not for long. I kept describing how crappy the workouts felt, but I kept describing myself as “lazy.”

And that’s when this thought hit me: Why is it easier to say “I’m lazy” than it is to say, “I’m tired”? Socially, I think we’re programed to believe that the need for rest and recovery is a weakness. It’s more acceptable to describe that as laziness – a personal flaw – than it is to describe it as tiredness – a biological reaction to insufficient rest.

I am not denying my own laziness. I can’t speak Spanish because I don’t find the time to practice it. Our home and garden is in a state of near chaos because I’d rather sit on my butt and cruise around Facebook than do chores. That’s lazy. But my body’s need for rest to recover? That’s not lazy, that’s biology.

So, here’s my pledge to my body: I will stop calling you lazy. I will honor your need for rest and recovery. I will fuel you, and give you what you need to carry me through my life and the occasional brutal endurance event. You are not lazy, dear friend. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are amazing.

And if you need me, I’ll be sitting on the futon, cruising around Facebook.

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