Jumping off the ground

Rediscovering your resting heart rate.

Dear 25 year old me,

It’s been four weeks since Mixin, one of the most exciting, rewarding, but also intense adventures of your life. After almost two weeks in Sydney and a week in Melbourne so far, the heart rate is finally coming back down to normal and you’re starting to feel like yourself again.

This pace, at your resting heart rate, is just what you needed to rediscover.

Coincidentally, I’m quite interested in fitness, so when reflecting on my past few months of my life, what I (we) recently went through actually made quite a lot of sense when using this heart rate analogy.

In fitness terminology, your “normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.” (Mayo Clinic).

When athletes train, their heart rate goes up as the intensity of work increases. Think, the difference between going from a walk to a jog to a sprint.

There aren’t a lot of times where my heart rate has been in resting mode. In fact, it’s probably always at the max; sprint pace. Even the very term, sprint, is used in my day-to-day; design sprints, agile sprints, productivity sprints… it’s the time we’re in.

This cycling fitness website outlined a few myths with heart rate training, which interestingly, apply in more ways than one;

Myth: “If I’m Not Working at My Max Heart Rate, I’m Not Working Hard Enough”
Truth: “Here’s your license to chill. Max heart-rate workouts should be done sparingly, says Miner, since the ultra-high intensity can lead to injuries, extreme fatigue, and other symptoms of overtraining.”“If you only have two speeds — hard and OMG hard — you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

Sounding familiar? Overtraining = overworked?

The more I read about, the more I was nodding along even more to the similarities that came up. Turns out, Overtraining Syndrome (often abbreviated as OTS), is actually a thing. Bicycling.com has a great description of OTS:

OTS is marked by many subtle biological signs, and one big, fat, bummer of a symptom: an exasperating reduction in performance. Of course, for many riders, noticing slippage in speed or endurance just encourages us to — you guessed it — double down and work harder.

Of course, this isn’t an excuse to stop pushing yourself. Hunter Allen, a Bedford, Virginia-based cycling coach, says that “functional overreaching” is one of the most important tenets of training. “It’s desirable; we want to push ourselves hard and dig deep. That’s what makes us better,” he says. But “non-functional overreaching” (a term often interchanged with OTS) is different. “You get to this place where you’re tired and fatigued all the time, and that is when you have to really rest,” Allen says.

Replace riders with people, and it all begins to make sense, right?

The fact is, we’re no different to athletes, physicalities aside — always striving to be better, to push our limits, be the best we can be. Our obstacles are not that dissimilar and mental strength is needed to get us through.

But… when does it end? Where’s the finish line?

It’s truly amazing what clarity you can get by literally hopping on a plane and stepping away from your day-to-day life. These past few weeks, although certainly packed with many activities, has given me a chance to look back into my world with a new perspective. Not being in the thick of it has meant that I could zoom out, and it’s been so refreshing — words can’t begin to describe.

I was going 100% at everything I was doing.

Co-running a digital agency and looking after clients. 100%.
Co-organising a conference and hosting speakers. 100%.
Running a meetup and hosting a brand new community event. 100%.

Add to that, the daily amount of emails, tasks and responsibilities that pile up on me constantly just never cease to end, and the hard truth is, they never will. If each email or task was a drop of water going into my glass that I had to continuously keep sipping away at so that it wouldn’t overflow, no surprises that sooner or later, I’d reach my limit.

In every literal sense, I was drowning.

It’s taken weeks, but my heart rate is finally back to normal (actually!). I know that this recovery has taken a little longer than usual because my heart rate was spiking at sprint mode the whole time, and I was close to injuring myself from the burnout. Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough to have been able to take this time off to reset. I’ve written about this before — burning bright but not burning out — but sometimes it’s just too easy to get carried away with self-imposed responsibilities.

While I was able to handle it all and have grown and gotten stronger from the experience, I’ve made a promise to myself that I would be more mindful to not be in sprint mode all the time.

I continued reading these articles (not on my reading list at all, either — that’s another thing I’m chipping away at), and came across this interesting statement;

“Heart rate is a reaction to work being done, not a measurement of actual work.”

Reactions. We can control those, right?

So, dearest 25 year old me, in this next chapter of life we’re going to add some variety to the pace.

Let’s add some control; slow some of the things down and tackle one task at a time with a clear, open mind.

Let’s still strive for great things and be the best version of ourselves that we can be, but let’s also live well and make some more decisions while we’re at our resting heart rate. I promise that you’ll make better decisions that way.

Until next time, kiddo.

Patima x