Most of us, understandably, decide that after an IM we don’t want to touch our bike for a few weeks, throw our trainers in one corner swearing not to touch them for a month and get excited by the thought that we no longer need to see the inside of a swimming pool for a 6am training session for some time.
A number of people asked me if I was "giving myself a total rest now and putting my feet up" which would be perfectly normal. My response to this question was usually something like "No" followed by "I am doing light exercise every day to keep my blood sugar at bay without compromising on giving my body time to recover".
We often don’t realised the impact exercise - and the lack of it - has on our bodies. I only know this because I experienced it hands on with my sugar levels and subsequently the management of my diabetes. In my blogs I talk about what exercise and racing does to my sugar levels and how I manage them by eating a specific amount of carbohydrates and reducing insulin but I have never explained what actually happens when I stop exercising with training volume suddenly dropping from 18-20hrs a week to 5 or even zero hours because:
- I taper before a race
- I take time to recover and rest after a hard race such as an Ironman
None of this was known to me when I started with triathlon:
After my first training camp to Fuerteventura where the total hours of training in that week were round 30, I returned to a week of easy training (ca 5-6 hours) and was also expecting increased insulin sensitivity due to my monthly cycle. This would have normally meant that I would be more prone to lower sugar levels and therefore needed less insulin. Instead, I came back to what turned out to be a blood sugar nightmare: Sugar levels were constantly elevated and I needed additional insulin to counteract this. This "phenomenon" lasted for more than a week. It took a while afterwards for me to understand that the reason for my elevated sugar levels was to do with the sudden increase and drop of training volume.
Over time with the help of my coach Andy we learnt that taper and recovery were particular phases that needed a slightly different approach than that for a "normal" person.