The despair of post-skiing fitness
I never thought I’d write this, but last week I found myself despairing at my post-skiing holiday fitness. We had an amazing trip to Utah, Idaho and Wyoming and skied every day for 14 days in a row. It was challenging and I thought it would be great for my general fitness.
Each day I put my legs through a lot of skiing, both downhill and back country. The ski touring was also a tough work out for my upper body.
I was sure that, despite eating hearty meals and snacks, I would have lost weight and generally boosted my cardiovascular fitness and muscles strength. We were at high altitude for the whole trip and I imagined this would boost my fitness, too.
Yet, last week, post-holiday, I felt like I’d lost almost all of my fitness. In addition, my annoying lower back pain returned. It had niggled at points during the trip but after sitting on planes for almost 24 hours, my back started screaming at me.
Jetlag also didn’t help. I awoke on Thursday morning with the thought: “Wow, I don’t feel any ill-effects of jetlag.” By Thursday at 1pm I could hardly string a sentence together and my brain had turned to treacle. The same happened the next day, and the next.
My first short exercise session came on Friday evening. I plodded out a three-mile jog on flat terrain. I felt out of sorts and slow. By the end of the run my calves were tight and sore.
The next day I joined the triathlon club for a rugged run. It was just 10k (before the holiday I was happily running more than 10 miles) and it wasn’t fast. Mid-way through the run both calves started to tighten. By the end of the run I felt like I’d run a hilly half-marathon.
By Saturday evening I was in full despair about my fitness. Sunday morning I awoke with tight calves and I felt very disagreeable. I had slept in and I “needed” to do some exercise before meeting friends mid-afternoon.
I decided to do a mountain bike outing. Again, I felt sluggish and slow. While my thighs seemed strong my calves ached and my fitness seemed hopeless. I took far longer to do my usual 75-minute circuit.
On Monday, my sore back sent me to the chiropractor. I had been receiving treatment from Gill Fraser in Balfron prior to the ski trip. I felt it had helped but post-holiday I was back where I started (or so I thought!).
I also complained to Gill about my sore calves. She didn’t seem surprised that my calves were sore after the stresses of skiing, especially for so many days in a row.
Gill went to work on my back and also used massage cups on my calves. I have seen these (usually the ones that are heated with a candle) but I had not had the new non-candle ones used on me before. The sensation was not pleasant as the cups were moved over my tight muscles but when got off the massage table I felt my calves were suddenly much better.
I swam on Monday night and while my back niggled a bit my legs felt sort of okay. I would normally end up with cramp in my calves but I swam 80 lengths with no real issues. I left the pool feeling a little more hopeful about my general fitness.
Tuesday evening I usually run and then swim with the triathlon club. I wasn’t hopeful of how I’d fare but I kept the 30-minute run steady and although I could feel my calves starting to tighten they were not as bad as the previous week. I did a lot of stretching afterwards. My lungs, thighs and back felt fine, even if my calves were grumbling.
Then came the swim. I completely surprised myself by swimming well. (This is “well” for me!) Swimming is not my forte and the technique side of things has long baffled me but I felt as though I was swimming quite strongly. By the end of the session I started to tire and I did suffer a few cramps (this is normal for me after a run then a swim) however my general swimming strength and fitness felt good.
At last I am starting to feel more like myself. The jetlag is still keeping me awake until quite late at night and I am struggling to be awake before 8am but I have woken up today feeling a bit more positive. My back is settling down and my calves are not tight this morning.
What has surprised me is that while I thought two weeks of solid exercise would leave me in great shape it hasn’t really. I am in good shape for more skiing but not my other sports. It’s a good reminder that if you want to be fit for a sport you need to train in that sport.
I have entered a few triathlon races this year and so I need to focus more on the three sports of swimming, cycling and running. I shouldn’t complain about such an amazing skiing trip but I now wish I’d swapped a few hours of skiing for running and fat biking. This is a good lesson learned.