• April Zilg

Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome UPDATE: How I Dug Out of the Hole Again


It Was a Deeper Hole Than I Originally Thought

I can honestly say that I may have never gotten out of my aerobic deficiency hole if Covid hadn’t hit. I was in a vicious cycle of overtraining for too many events. Although I had pinpointed the issue and how to fix it, I’m not sure I had the discipline to do it. Even though I was working very hard to build my aerobic system so I could be a healthier and more successful paddler, every time I saw mention of a race I instantly wanted to sign up... even though I knew that pushing and going anaerobic just once in a race could derail weeks of aerobic work in someone that had dug themselves into a training hole as deep as mine.


I was never one to say “NO” to a paddle event. This was to my detriment, and greatly contributed to my Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome. Even when I was starting to work on improving my aerobic capacity (alongside improving my calorie intake and recovery strategies to support my high volumes), I kept signing up for shiny new events. Almost compulsively, like I couldn’t help myself.

I Come From a Long Line of Addicts

It really hurts deep when I see someone, more so someone I love, unable to take charge of their own lives and make good life choices. I don’t like that certain family members can’t say, “No” to a drink or go even one day without one. I don’t like how it impairs their ability to experience joy, think clearly, or live an autonomous life. It seems like a person addicted is in a current state of compulsion. It’s uncomfortable to watch them sit without a drink or a smoke for more than 5 minutes because they get twitchy. They’re unable to sit and be silent with themselves. They are unable to sit in discomfort and wait for the compulsion to pass. I see where their life is filled with suffering.

Wait, Was I Addicted to Training and Racing?

They say that the things we don’t like about others are reflections of what we don’t like about ourselves. Although paddling literally saved me, somewhere along the way it became just as addicting as any other substance or activity. I was clinging to it, and I needed events filling my calendar so I always had something to stay focused on and work towards. It kept me distracted… even though when I finally realized this, I didn’t know what it was distracting me from. I remember times when if I didn’t get in some sort of physical activity I would get twitchy, and if I couldn’t stick to my training schedule I would get downright angry and lash out at people.

Enter the Forced Down Time With No Racing

I’ve been keeping a journal for self-reflection for about 5 years now, and there were a few times when I started to suspect that I was training compulsively. It wasn’t until the peak of my Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome that I was convinced. Even then I relapsed, as do many addicts. (For anyone working towards goals, starting good habits, or stopping old ones - please remember it doesn't matter how many times you have to "start over.")


When Covid hit, I had a lot of things to distract me. A cross-country move, a new business, and a few side-projects kept me busy for awhile. But once that all slowed down, and there wasn’t anything major to train for, there was a distinct hole. I finally had time to do nothing but work on my aerobic system. At first, I found this incredibly challenging and boring. No HIIT endorphins were released and the work was really long… and quiet. It's interesting when you're out there for hours with nothing but your thoughts… without distraction.

You Can’t Train for Success From a Place of Fear

I had a lot of time to think. Why was I always training so intensely, compulsively, in a hurry to improve for the next event?

It was fear of failure, fear of getting older and running out of time, fear of working towards something for years and having nothing to show for it.

When you train from a place of fear, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, almost guaranteeing failure. Even when I started trying to train to fix my ADS, I was obsessed with my weekly mileage.

Why Do You Even Train?

Seriously, I needed to chill out so I switched it up. I started paddling for me, and I will continue paddling FOR ME. Winning has never been that important to me, but it was easy to get caught up in it and strive with the best of them. When you attach your joy and success to winning, then your joy and success is based on all the other competitors’ losses. That never sits right with me.


Now I train because I want to be a fitter, happier, healthier version of me.


There's no doubt that on race day, there will always be a winner, but no matter your position in the race, you should be able to detach yourself from the result. Win or lose, did you improve? Win or lose, you are still a complete human being and so much more than a race result that no one will remember or care about in a little over a week.


I started paddling because I couldn’t run one mile without stopping, I was overweight, I was unhappy, and I wanted something that improved the way my brain and body functioned. To continue progressing as a paddler, I had to continue progressing in other aspects of my life. Every time I would hit a plateau, I had to improve my game, either mental, nutrition, recovery, or skills. Every step of the journey taught me something new and exciting that crossed over into taking better care of myself! If the original goal was to live a long and healthy life and be a kind and supportive human in society, then my addiction to training and racing was a train off the tracks... not to mention the source of my ADS.

Back on Track

I know a lot of people that did tons of self-improvement work during Covid. From meditation with singing bowls to improving their aerobic capacity. Truth be told, it doesn’t matter what you work on as long as you are enjoying it, and better yet, no one needs to know about it! I’m back on my original track, and I love paddling for the same reasons I originally loved paddling.


It makes me feel great!

When I get off the water, my spirit is refreshed from a little alone time with nature. My mind is buzzing with new and unique ideas to write down thanks to the increased oxygen flow. My muscles feel loose and warm, my body feels aligned, and I feel light and strong all day. This is NOT how I felt when I trained from a place of fear, from a place of “I don’t want to lose.”


The How

I train now with a mind of improvement in self and for self. I train mindfully, increasing my aerobic mileage systematically and I keep a close eye on my subjective and objective measures. My mood and motivation is taken into account before every paddle, and I keep tabs on my HRV, sleep, and nutrition daily. I listen to my body to dictate my training, and I change on the fly when needed.


What is most important, and what is most different about my new method of training is that it isn’t compulsive. It isn’t, “I have this written down, so I must do it as written.” It is mindful, where I do my best to stick to the plan I’ve written for myself, but if my body is telling me otherwise, I listen.

Is It Working?

Well, we’ll see when racing returns to the world. Subjectively, I feel incredible. My BMI is good, my hormones are steady and I’m on a regular lady-cycle for the first time in my life. My HRV fluctuates with training and life-stress, but is good, and I’m still strong in the gym with better coordination.


The other day, I went for a relaxing zone 1-2 paddle and realized in the first three miles that I was on pace to set a PR in a "maximum aerobic function" 10k. The remaining 3 miles I let my heart rate steadily climb into zone three. I kept my heart rate and breathing in control, just breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. It felt easy. This outrigger paddle session wasn’t on the schedule, but it felt like my body wanted it. I wasn’t going hard out of compulsion. I was training by my intuition. My intuition said to go for it. I finished my fastest maximum aerobic 10k to date in 59:20.







Do You Want Help Improving Your Aerobic System, Training by Feel, and Becoming More of a "Natural Athlete?"

I've been putting together a new "Intuitive Training" course that I will open up to select paddlers after an application process. To be notified when it opens up, be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER.

In this close-knit focus group, you can expect to develop your ability to train by feel. After a certain point, off-the-shelf training plans lose their luster. You develop to a point where the cookie cutter programs don't yield the results you know you have inside yourself!


To reach the next level, you'll need a fresh set of eyes and a full customized approach. The only problem with that is that good coaches cost more than a car payment! Even then, the difference between being at the top of your game and being in the middle of the pack could be from a few workouts that you should've backed off when you got pushed, or when you were told to rest but your body needed to GO.

No one knows you the way you do. Only you can listen to your innermost self, train by deep internal feeling, and realize the potential that lies within you. I'm going to help you unlock your inner coach and athlete so STAY TUNED!


If you want to get a head start on building up your Aerobic Capacity - head over to Paddle Ninja, subscribe, and follow the "10k Improvement Plan"

78 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All