Your brain on training

We’ve entered the heat of the summer, the dead center, where the hours ramp up as fast as the temperature. For most, July presents the first opportunity for big training hours as the building blocks of May and June have solidified enough to allow for volume absorption. These hours are conveniently placed at the point of post-school mental deterioration (8-10 weeks after the end of a semester, my sources tell me).

I’ll admit, the intersection of the two has left me suffering.

Forgetfulness, clumsiness and spaciness have filled my non training hours as of late (as evidenced by the sheer amount of time it took me to come up with the word ‘spaciness’ just now). Turning off the oven, remembering my laundry and carrying pretty much anything has proven to be quite the challenge, in addition to differentiating between the major continents of the world (South Africa? Go Brazil!)

What? I'm not tired.
What? I’m not tired.

However, my mind has encountered another trend during these big weeks of training: huge elevation during exercise. My coach and I talked about the effects of caffeine on your body, how it doesn’t replace sleepiness, it simply delays it-it takes a day’s worth of energy and packs it into a smaller window, causing an upward pulse and, later, a severe crash. It seems, to my mental vitality during hard weeks, training is my caffeine. In a matter of minutes, my brain can jump from mediocrity to bright, brief, flashes of brilliance, only to crash back downwards once my watch has stopped.

It makes sense, an increased heart rate sends more oxygen to the brain, ups the feel good hormones and dashes the feel bad hormones, allowing more cells to grow. On the flip side, functioning with low energy sources (over caffed…under slept…nordic skiing) cause you to have mood swings and the cognitive and physical ability of a drunkard. As the saying goes: if a girl is crying at practice, it’s time for an off day (that’s a saying, right?).

In a nutshell, mentally, a hard week of training is something akin to a big week of partying: the highs may be high but boy are those lows low. The only (minor, insignificant detail) difference is, as opposed to a festival week, training weeks will make you fast come winter. Usually, I pride myself on my intricate planning, logical thinking and (7 times out of 10) quick thinking, which is why I dread the sluggish, sleepy effects hard weeks have on my brain.

Then again, there is something poetic about the inspiration that comes from a couple of hours on the trail. The clarity I feel in the middle of a long rollerski. The crispness of my thoughts at the height of an interval. For me, a full time athlete, to only feel completely whole while actively pursuing what I love–that’s why I’m here. From my point of view, those highs are more than worth the lows.

Enough of this writing business. If you need me, I’ll be taking a nap.

I'll just go "read" for a little bit.
I’ll just go “read” for a little bit.

AP

One thought on “Your brain on training

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