There is a selfish luxury to being able to train hard. I used to envy the lives of elite athletes who could justify planning their days and lives around their workouts and recovery. Although now that I look back through the lense of age, I can see that I used to live a life not too far off theirs. At least intermittently (I wasn’t always the most consistent trainer). However, there were times when I would look forward to going to bed early and eating a good dinner in preparation for a long, hard workout the next day. I’d wake up and ease into it, fueling with coffee, breakfast and the newspaper. Then, mentally and physically ready, I would hit the road and really give everything I had to my workout. I would leave nothing behind, and come back home exhausted and content, and in much need of a day filled with napping, refueling, and generally recovering. I recall specifically when I was training for the Ironman in 2004 I had some weekend morning workouts consisting of a 2 hour indoor training ride of hard intervals, followed by a 9 mile run with 3 x 10 minutes at tempo pace. I would finish those workouts so depleted that I’d spend the rest of the day on the couch. Reading and napping was all I had energy for.
These days I may have the mental and physical energy to complete a tough workout like that, but the recovery piece is glaringly absent. As soon as I get in the door from a run, I am in demand. I’m lucky if I can grab a quick shower and snack before dealing with kids’ needs, although often I start cleaning up a mess and making food for people before I have a chance to strip off my wet clothes. And then our day begins with various adventures on bikes, in pools, to museums or zoos. I can do these things (and even enjoy them) with a smile on my face if I’m a little tired. But I can’t manage it if I’m in the pit of exhaustion that extremely hard workouts induce. When I’m in that state, if one thing other than a nap is requested of me I turn into a bear and snap and rage, and no amount of coffee can make me human. My kids who are often faced with a happily endorphined mom who probably lets more slide than she should, are suddenly faced with the opposite extreme as I come close to tears when requested to fix a “bumpy sock” for the tenth time, and lose it when someone spills juice on the floor. I just don’t have the energy to deal.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. I signed up for this parent gig and I love it. I just have to be mindful of my post-workout energy reserves these days, and make sure there is enough leftover after a workout. I’m careful not to go over the edge because the consequences if I do are way too hard on me and my family. Do I miss the feeling of working out that hard? Maybe a bit. But I’d never trade it for the feeling of sharing laughs and adventures with my family.