Dave Scott Q & A: How to Avoid Hitting a Wall

When is Enough, Enough?

I'm a 49-year-old male, married with two boys and 10 years of triathlon under my belt. I'm fortunate. I live a good life, run with one son, swim with the other, do tri relays together. Yet over the past year I just don't seem to recover like I used to. My sleep, mood and outlook have been really altered. I've taken months off (up to three at a time), work with a heart rate monitor, and log everything, yet I get the same results: really bad sleep and quality of life issues. Is it time for an extended break?

Better yet, define an extended break. I've contemplated a year or more off just to see what will happen, but I really do love doing what I do and so do my boys. To stop for that kind of time is a lot to give up without input from a knowledgeable source. What can you impart to me on this subject?

Mark, your question is a broad one, and certainly your symptoms of poor sleep, mood changes and quality of life issues are complex. Let's take a look at a few areas which will hopefully get you back on track.

  1. To Combat Poor Sleep Patterns
    • Reduce your caloric intake at dinner and do not have a late night snack within 90 minutes of bedtime.
    • Take a short nap (20 to 30 minutes) if necessary, but no longer.
    • Try a short walk (15 to 30 minutes) after dinner.
    • Don't drink caffeine and limit alcohol to one drink per night.
    • Use blackout curtains in your bedroom.
    • Consider using white noise as a means to limit outside noise.
    • Write down a list of things to do for the next day one to two hours before going to bed.
    • Don't mentally review work, events, kid stuff, etc. when you put your head on the pillow.
  2. Exercise
    • Don't stop for three months! Exercise, even for 30 minutes a day, is vital for your immune system, overall health and a good night's sleep.
    • Exercise elevates the morphine-like chemical endorphins, providing a huge daily jolt of positive energy.
    • Change your exercise routine: one to two sessions per week. For example, join a Masters swim or running group, join a gym, try a different route for your bike and run sessions. Include three to eight efforts of 45 seconds to three minutes—building in length and frequency—where you are working moderately-hard to hard.
  3. Mental and Emotional Stability
    • Write down your specific goals every two weeks. Specifically, what pace, heart rate, distance, watts, perceived exertion or simply how you felt during a session. When the goals are well defined without taking the fun out of the exercise sessions, the feelings of accomplishment are much more gratifying.
    • Look at the goals on a daily basis and revise them every two weeks.

Lastly, we all go through flat spots. Continue with your exercise routine. Try to get in seven to eight hours of sleep and stay ahead of your boys!

Good luck,

Six-time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott lives in Boulder, Colo., and maintains a busy schedule running his own business as fitness and nutrition consultant, product marketing consultant and nationally recognized speaker. He also organizes or is the main keynote for fitness camps, clinics and races and is a regular columnist for many print and online sources. As an Active Expert, Dave utilizes his years of experience by offering unique and creative training plans for athletes of all abilities. Contact him at dave.scott@active.com.

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