The last week and a half was rough. Last Tuesday, I was up early in the morning for a 90' easy row, followed by a long day of work in Sa...

Battling Exhaustion

The last week and a half was rough. Last Tuesday, I was up early in the morning for a 90' easy row, followed by a long day of work in San Francisco and another, harder 60' erg workout in the afternoon.

Wednesday started early again, with a hard 2x50' workout on the water that left me absolutely drained. Things went downhill quickly from there. After spending another 5 hours in San Francisco fighting to stay awake and focused, I headed back home and pushed myself through yet another workout.

By Saturday morning, I was fried. A 2000m test left me shaking and crying on the locker room floor. I was so tired I thought I might never have energy again. Scary.

Fortunately, I talked to my coach about it, and we adjusted my workout plan.

I took almost two full days off, doing an easy walk and 30' light elliptical workout at the end of the second day. (That left me exhausted.) I'm still easing back into full-length workouts; I've been sitting at one workout a day and 9+ hours of sleep.

Only yesterday did I start to feel like I might really be untired again, and the shorter workouts are still leaving me more exhausted than I would like.

The moral of the story: Don't be afraid of exhaustion--respect it.

I've read a lot of quotes about pushing through fatigue and exhaustion--that you can have your excuses or your glory, but not both. And I've taken to heart messages from numerous coaches about going when your body tells you to stop.

Specifically, I remember coming out of a 3-hour upper division math final exam--one of my hardest classes at Princeton--and heading immediately to the boathouse for a grueling 6x7' erg workout. I couldn't bear to do it, so I got on the bike for a solid sweat session. One of the national team rowers, who was leading our winter training, came up to me and told me that wasn't good enough. She told me that if I wanted to be a real athlete, I needed to do the workout, no matter how exhausted.

I took that message to heart, and it's one of the worst things I could have done. I ended up quitting rowing at the end of that year, too terrified to pull a 5k test upon returning to campus; I was too bone tired to work hard. It took a full year of healing to recover from that season.

This time, I caught it. Next time, hopefully I'll catch it sooner. And after that? Well, maybe I'll prevent it. But in the meantime, I'm going to trust my body, and you should, too. Any good coach understands that you know your body better than they do.

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