Body Update: OTS and the Coming Winter

Let me tell you something about Over Training Syndrome: healing from OTS is not like healing a broken bone. I don’t know how long it will take, or if I will fully recover. I don’t know what other complications might be involved. This is one of the things that makes this illness so freaking hard to deal with.

Many people have asked me, Aren’t there tests you can do to see how you’re healing?

No, and I’m not interested in wild goose chases. From the beginning, my stance has been that we know what’s wrong with me and in the absence of other symptoms there’s no reason to test for other things. I’m monitoring the same things I’ve been watching all along: energy levels, mood, appetite, heart rate at rest, training heart rate, physical response to activity, ferritin, and a couple hormones. All are directionals, pointing us toward where my body is at, but telling us nothing definitive.

The research that has been done into OTS prevention indicates that the strongest correlation between OTS and measurable responses from the athlete is…

…Self-reported mood. Which makes it pretty hard to predict the trajectory of OTS with medical tests.

This uncertainty also makes it difficult to plan for the future. Unsurprisingly, I’ve received a lot of questions about what I’ll be doing this winter. I don’t know the complete answer.

I do know that I’m going to be spending the winter in New England, not in Montana, which constitutes a change of plans and presents a minor logistical predicament. My skis, snow tires, and a bunch of other gear are in Montana. Just another hurdle in my Nomadic life. *shrug*


For the first time in a while, this winter is not primarily about training. This entire year has been a departure from that norm. It’s not the way I would have chosen, but it’s the way it is, and as such I’ve filled my time with other projects. This winter I will be coaching with one of the local Junior Development programs, and of course working one-on-one with my athletes in my personal coaching programs. I will be offering ski lessons, and workshops with local teams. My personal cooking service is still going strong. I’ve invested in my mental well-being and spirituality more deeply than ever before. I’ve expanded my writing projects.

I’ve filled in around the hole where endurance training and racing should be, but it doesn’t totally close the gap. This year has been tolerable, and I’ve grown in previously unimaginable ways. But it’s not the way I want to stay. Running and skiing, and being active in general, are essential to my Being. I connect with landscapes by training in them. I connect with my body by training it and testing it. I socialize through training. My direction, goals, and identity are informed by training and competing. All of those things exist and are possible without my sports, but nothing is as good.

And so we wait. Through one of the longest years of my life, I’ve waited, and in the meantime, I’ve learned some lessons.

If you want to find out what they are, and why I think they are important for every athlete, check back next week, or join the email list so you’ll catch the post.


  1. […] needed rest above all else, it gave me very clear signs. I ignored them for too long, and I paid a very heavy price. I learned something from that. This year, I went from an initial medical inquiry in June to an […]


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