Adelaide here. I suffer from bipolar II. Kennett suffers from putting up with me through my mental ups and downs. One reason Be the Beast Coaching exists is to help people build their strength, resilience, and emotional health. I’m not going to fully explain bipolar disorder in this blog because it is too complex for one short blog. In the book I’m writing I’ve dedicated most of a chapter to my history with bipolar II. I do want to offer some suggestions for training through a mood disorder, trauma, or even general stress.
In a synopsis, my moods cycle faster and are more intense than most people experience. My ups, hypomania, aren’t as crippling as the lows are. However, when I’m in a depressed state my training and my outlook towards racing (and just about everything) takes a massive nose dive towards being an overeating blob on the couch. One challenging aspect of my disorder is seeing my world rationally. Another is that I don’t know any other athletes with bipolar who I can relate to or aspire to be like. I’ve had to develop my own coping mechanisms to stay active during my atypical depression. Below are some tactics I have used to train through serious injuries and bipolar II:
- Take off the Pressure: If you are struggling to get out of your sweatpants for the day then it is unrealistic to think you are going to complete a multi-hour ride with intervals. Sure, it still may be possible, but best not to expect it. Instead of feeling pressure to complete that workout, just start with the baby step of getting on the bike. Don’t beat yourself up if you only got 30 minutes at recovery pace in — at least you got out of your sweatpants. If you feel good after getting your blood flowing then you can always start those intervals.
- Make Plans: Just the other day I missed running with a friend because she wanted to run slower and I felt I should stick to my 8-minute/mile pace. You know what happened? She ran and I sat inside ruminating about why I didn’t feel better and knowing I couldn’t run 8-minute pace. Today I had a bike ride on my plan along with a 20-minute run later. However, I remembered how Sunday went. When the same friend asked if I wanted to run in the morning for an hour I jumped on it. Making plans when I’m not doing well emotionally can be more effective than a Training Peaks plan. Yes, I had to alter my schedule, but it was better to do something than nothing.
- Something is Better than Nothing: Something is always better than nothing when you are suffering from a mood disorder, stress, or trauma. That doesn’t mean that harder is always better. Respect your emotional/physical stability. If you go to hard and put yourself into an energy-deficit you may be prolonging the negative feelings. After my major bike crash in 2014 I wasn’t able to ride at all for a while, and had to do lots of walking instead. Later on, what had been a small ride before the crash was now enough to put me in the bathtub for an hour wondering how I was going to find the energy to get out, dry-off, and find food.
- Recovery from the Easiest Workouts: Whether you do a hard workout to try and benefit from some endorphins or you do an easy recovery swim, make sure you stay fueled properly and rest up. With bipolar II my brain uses way more glucose when it is hyperactive. Even when I’m depressed, my brain can be in overdrive and uses up fuel that I’d normally use for a workout.
- Have Someone to Impress: As I mentioned above, Kennett supports me through bipolar II episodes more than anyone else. Yesterday we were at the gym and I had a small kicking session in the pool to do. (I broke my elbow after hitting an unruly bump in the road on a long training ride, so I can only kick in the water. The elbow break is what triggered my most recent bipolar episode.) I almost bailed on kicking. It was going to be boring. I didn’t want to get wet. I was getting tired. Yet, I looked at Kennett in the gym and I knew he had a swim. He had written my kick session for me and I knew the best thing I could do to help his swim was to get in the lane next to him and kick. For everything he does for me, I owe him small efforts like that when I can manage them.
As coaches, Kennett and I don’t just work to provide you with quality workouts and nutritional planning. We also care about your emotional well-being through training and racing, and all the challenges that everyday life brings.