Me and Dzangel

Me and Dzangel
RMC 5K 2007

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shift work and training

My training last week, or lack thereof, got me pondering  shift works pros and cons. Sometimes it works in my favor, sometimes not so much. I realize that in today's world everybody is busy, but I feel shift work adds some interesting challenges. 
This is what my normal (can you call it that?) schedule looks like. 11pm to 7am one week. The next week it's 3pm to 11pm. Then it's on to 7am to 3pm. Six days per week. One weekend off every six weeks. The quick changes between shifts from Sunday to Monday allow me maybe 4 hours sleep. 
On the plus side, it enables me to train at times when most people can't or won't. That in itself is good and bad. I've biked at 2:30 a.m. Not always by choice! I've hit the road running at 3:30 a.m. to get my miles in on the way to work. It lets me get out in the morning when I work 3pm-11pm, instead of fighting for those last few minutes of daylight during the winter months. In the summer, my bike ride back to the car at 11pm is usually the coolest time of the day to put in the miles. It lets me get in a few extra hours when I work 7am-3pm. In the winter, those extra minutes of daylight can be precious. 11pm-7am shift has benefits, believe it or not, depending on how much/when I sleep. If I want to hit the gym, early afternoon is usually quiet. The roads are usually quiet during my bike ride to work at 10pm. 
Another plus is how the training at odd hours helps my racing. At least I think it does. Since I'm used to these odd hours, getting up early for an event is no big deal. Running or biking long hours and trying to refuel is no big deal. I'm used to eating at all hours of the day and night, so stomach issues have never been a problem. If I ever move up to the really long distances, shift work has conditioned me to being awake and on my feet at all hours of the day. Quick changes have me used to getting my training in on little rest. I've actually had some of my best races on less than optimal sleep. 
Shift work makes me optimize my time, as best as I can. Some days that means my training is incorporated in to my bike ride in to work. I think the two a day workouts I get when riding or running to and from work help my body get used to recovering quickly and also being more efficient when tired. 
Ah, and now for the negatives. If it makes me optimize my time, sometimes it just doesn't supply enough time to optimize! With only one day off per week, and one weekend every six weeks, some days there just isn't enough time for everything to get done. I hate wasting that one beautiful day off doing chores/mowing lawn/running errands/etc....but that's life!
In the winter, while I'm trying to cross country ski, waxing my skis for one days conditions and then not getting out that day means I'm probably going to have the wrong wax when I do get out. I've had that happen a few times this winter. I guess I can call those extra resistance workouts!
The lack of days off and odd shifts make it hard to schedule races. Unless it falls on my day off or a week of vacation, I don't know if I get my requests for extra time off until the Thursday before the weekly schedule comes out. Sometimes that's not enough time to register. If it's a lottery or the registration needs to be in months ahead of time, I don't know if I'll have that day off until it's too late to commit or back out. 
Then there is always the chance of not having ANY day off and/or unplanned overtime. If my relief calls in sick, I can be forced to work overtime. An unplanned 16 hour shift when I've got the bike can make for an interesting ride back to my car. In the summer, a week (or three) with no day off makes for some creative training schedules. 
It makes sleep and recovery more difficult. I've been doing this for 33+ years, but sometimes my body just doesn't want sleep at 4pm before 11-7, or it doesn't want to got to bed at 9pm while it's still daylight in the summer.
Add in all the other interesting tidbits of working shift work - and some days I really feel like I've got my work cut out for me!
With all the fun and games of this crazy schedule, it's all I know and I think I've adapted pretty well. I still get in quality training and compete regularly. It makes some days harder, and some days impossible. But it's made me who I am! And I wouldn't change that!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Invincible? Maybe not.

I've been thinking again. That usually means I have too many things rattling around in my head. Time to get them out and try to make sense of them. 
I have always thought of myself as pretty bulletproof. In my 29 years of semi-serious weekend warrior athletic endeavors, I have rarely been injured. Aside from the odd twinge here and there, I don't get hurt. No major bike mishaps. No muscle tears. No broken bones. No torn ACL, MCL or any other alphabetical combination. 
This may be pure luck, good genes, or my choice, wise training. But, this situation seems to be slowly changing. 
In the last year, I've had an unusual number of injuries and aches. 
After running more miles than I ever have last spring, my right foot started acting up. I even went to the doctor (gasp!) to have it checked. Never did come up with a firm diagnosis, and it seems to be 99% better.
I took a tumble in a local 5K when I tripped over a crack in the pavement. Bloody knees and hands. And then a left knee that ached for months. It even affected my spring 50K. 
A tweaked back late summer. Sore hip and hamstring after the Fall 50. I crossed skis just last week and went down. Landed awkwardly on one hand. Something tore/popped/sprained in my thumb. Still aches and can't grip anything. 
And I've been taking more rest days. Just because (gasp again) I'm tired! That never used to happen. 
Could it be that time and age are finally catching up with me? Triple gasp!!!
It looks I need to keep training smart. Quality vs. quantity. I do realize I'm not a kid anymore. On the other hand, I'm not going to let my advancing dotage slow me anymore than I can help. 
Keep following along and see what I can hobble through this year. I have some big ideas and plans. More on that later.