ATHLETES' PATH TO BRING BODY PERCEPTION
CLOSE TO PERFECTION

For me self-perception seems one of the keys to success. I am sure that all of you who do some sports and especially those among you who train and race regularly have put themselves together a tool kit that helps to find out about the current state of fitness and wellbeing.

On this page we present the experiences of some brilliant and ambitious athletes. BIESTMILCH is improving your self-perception.

I NEED TO LEARN TO INTERPRET THE SIGNALS OF MY BODY 

»I had to learn that my body perception is...let's call it "bad". This might be due to my change into a new sport and/or the fact that a lot of basic life structures changed over the past 2 years. It recently lead to a one week holiday in the local hospital after I collapsed after just 20 minutes on the bike.

I thought that I'm just a bit tired. It turned out to be more than that. But I didn't learn my lesson from this incident at first place. Now finding myself in a situation where I have to put training aside for a while and giving me time to fully recover.

Learning now to listen to my body and actually reading the indicators it's giving me is the task for the next months. Some people might do this subconsciously. I don't. So it's as basic as the daily swim, bike and run.«

Andreas Pleines, ex professional rower, just started with triathlon

ONE LESSON I HAVE LEARNT IS THAT
MORE, MORE, MORE IS NOT BEST

Sleep

During heavy training I have learnt that if I can't sleep for 2 or 3 nights in a row despite feeling really tired when I go to bed it is time for a lighter day of training (or maybe even 2). I recognise the feeling of my mind and body "buzzing", that is indicative of my having high cortisol levels as a result of the training stress. Blood tests I have had whilst experiencing this show that this feeling is indeed caused by high cortisol levels. 

Mood

Generally I am a pretty cheery person and quite emotionally steady. This definitely changes if I am over reaching for a sustained period in training. I become more emotional, my motivation isn't as good as normal and I kind of cease to be objective about how I am feeling.
This is when it is good to have third parties to recognise the signs: my partner Brett will remind me that I feel like this when it is time to back off a little in training, as does my coach and some close training partners.

 

Rachel Joyce, triathlete, 2nd world championships, Kona, Hawaii 2013

Muscle soreness

When my fitness is good I can feel it. I can put together several weeks of hard training and my muscles absorb the load, I recover well between sessions and I can reproduce hard sessions. I am not always like this. I now recognise that as I am returning to training after the off season I need to build up to be able to do this.

Also after an Ironman my recovery is 2 - 3 weeks before I can get back into proper training with intensity. When my fitness is good I can feel it. I can put together several weeks of hard training and my muscles absorb the load, I recover well between sessions and I can reproduce hard sessions.
I am not always like this. I now recognise that as I am returning to training after the off season I need to build up to be able to do this. Also after an Ironman my recovery is 2 - 3 weeks before I can get back into proper training with intensity.

Last year of racing Ironman Texas my motivation was very high to get back to training. My enthusiasm to "get back to it" meant I didn't want to read the signs that my body was giving me.
I tried to launch myself back into full training: my muscles felt heavy and ached during the session and even more after the session. I didn't feel stronger fitter after training: just more tired and more achey and my sleep patterns were terrible.
Thankfully I had a blood test to just check everything was okay and the results showed that I was in no way recovered from Texas. The blood test was an objective result that told me and my coach I needed more time so I had another week of very light, recovery sessions. When I did return to training I was fresh and my enthusiasm was sustainable!

Since taking up triathlon in 2005 I have gotten much better at reading these signs and I will listen to my body usually....not always but more often than I did. One lesson I have learnt is that more, more, more is not best.
Your body can over reach in training for a period (and needs to, to get fitter and stronger) but at some point you have to take your foot off the gas so muscles can repair so you are ready to go again.

NOT FEELING GUILTY WHEN FOLLOWING YOUR BODY FEELING, EVEN IF IT TELLS YOU
TO SLEEP UNTIL 8:30AM

I think first you need to find patterns. Things you do every day so you can compare the "body feeling" on a day to day or week to week basis. For me my pattern is the getting out of bed. Every day after getting out of bed and having my first coffee or sometimes Biest Booster I observe myself. How sore do my legs feel, how is my mood, how is my overall mental state and do I feel healthy?

Of course my physical well-being depends on the training I did the day before. But only being sore muscularly does not mean I will take an easy day. For me it's a mix of mood, mental feeling and physical feeling (two types: healthy-wise like sore throat and soreness because of training). Upon that I decide if its better to back off or keep pushing.
A big factor in making sure that my recovery is appropriate is sleep! This is crucial for me as I need up to 10 hours sometimes. If I had a restful night I feel this right away when I am getting out of bed. Even if I slept like an angel I am still not a morning person at all. I can't train properly just after getting out of bed.

Mostly my muscles are still tight when swimming hard or running intervals.

People told me you just have to get used to it but I am also kind of a night person and I can't really sleep before 10.30pm. So for me I found out, to skip these early workouts or just do them as a warm up (like a 30 - 40 minutes run before breakfast or swimming 45 minutes by just cruising).

I had been trying for a long time to squeeze in those 6:00am swims but it just did not work for me. Since accepting this and not feeling guilty to sleep until 8:30am I am doing my swims at 10:00am. It feels day and night, if I compare the quality improvement of these training sessions.

But still my best training I am doing between 10:00am - 1:00pm. This is my sweet spot. In the end it is all about balance. Our wish is to feel vital all the time but this is not possible for us athletes. To feel "bad" is part of it and I think it's important to respect your body and treat it with appropriate mental and physical rest. Just laying in bed doing nothing but thinking what kind of interval you will do tomorrow is not recovering in my eyes.

Get your mind off triathlon and just enjoy the moment... because the next session is coming anyway.

 
Ronnie Schildknecht, triathlete, 7 times IRONMAN Switzerland winner

I AM A GUY WHO LOVES MACHINES AND HAS IN SOMEHOW A HUMANOID RELATION WITH THEM

As humans we are used to trust in machines. Often we don't even know how they work but we entrust them our lives. Triathlon was a very technical sport from the beginning on. Some triathletes seem to pray to their bikes and trust in oval chainrings, believe in their Garmin more than their feel and so on. Yes, I have to admit that I started triathlon because I was more fascinated by the bikes than by the athletes on the bike. And you still today could call me a bike geek.
I more often google for new bike stuff than for training tipps, mental advice or presents for my girl friend. Partly because I'm still fascinated by it, partly because I'm looking for an advantage another might not yet have. In long course triathlon you will never be able to control everything. So you try to find something you are believing in. It helps me and gives me confidence to have the feeling that I have the fastest bike, the best shoes etc., it's almost like a religion.
It helps to overcome uncertainty. But it also can be the other way round, if you totally trust in your equipment and if then doubts arise, you can really get into troubles. I could tell you stories about MTB races were I could not sleep the night before the race because I could not decide between two tires...

With the years I found a way to get a good balance between my know-how about drag, stiffness, rolling resistance, figures... and not to overdo it with that. I realized that I was becoming one of the guys who could talk about titan screws for an hour but not about how nice the ride was on that day. Now I tend to trust other people more when it comes to make decisions about the material. But I still get very excited about a new bike or a new wetsuit.

For me it is often very simple, if I have no fun during my training sessions I know that I have to make a break soon. It sounds pretty simple, but it is not, it requires a lot of courage not to fight against that feeling, usually you try to be tough also against yourself. I found out that this is not always the best way.

But you have to find out whether you don't like to train because you are tired or just because it is raining outside. If it is because it is raining, you have to kick yourself and go ... ;-)

 

Sebastian Kienle, 2 times 70.3 IRONMAN World Champion
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