Coaching using Micro-energy Management

Written by Kath Finn and Jane Senior, who speak from bitter experience. They have both spent many months ill and have finally and successfully taken the slow road to recovery. They would like to support others to make this journey a little faster than they did. They are Triathlon coaches and coaches with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and Association of Coaching.

 Coaching for recovery from illness … and getting back to training

Simple, we just get better and return to normal training, right?

Not quite, it pays to build up slowly. One of the flexible rules of training is to have as many days building back up as you have had off exercise due to illness. So five days off sick means five days gradually building back up to the level of exercise you were doing before. Feeling great and then rushing off to ride your favourite long route in celebration tends to lead to a yo-yoing return to exercise. People either become very tired, needing long recovery times, or become ill again.

Training before you are fully well can lead to long term problems of various kinds. It has been linked to a higher possibility of chronic fatigue syndrome and increased ongoing respiratory difficulties.  Training with a virus can cause heart inflammation which causes serious issues. So patience is a virtue. One many of us haven’t got.

The process outlined above usually results in people getting back to doing their regular amount of exercise quickly. Sometimes that doesn’t work. On occasion we don’t respond as we expect during a gradual recovery, then a new a new softly, softly approach is required. People who don’t recover as expected often experience a huge amount of frustration and are likely to try the yo-yo approach for a while, unable to believe that the paltry amount of exercise they are doing is too much. Eventually some re-framing has to come into play.

Recovery through micro energy management

When we are struggling to recover from something we are already in a personal energy crisis and we need to take charge to move ourselves out of this crisis. We have to re-frame the way we think about our energy use.

Our energy comes in different forms – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. All strands of energy need to run at a reasonably high level over time for us to function and train effectively. People’s energy is finite and sometimes, like a car, we dip near the bottom of our reserve energy tank. Like a car, we tend not to function perfectly until this energy tank is topped up again.  When our energy reserve tank is very low it is likely that all types of energy are low, possibly due to illness or life stresses, and all types need to be rebuilt. Lets consider the different types and some ideas for measuring them.

Physical 

Physical energy forms the platform that our other energies are based on and this is the one that we are often most familiar with.  The ‘more is better’, ‘no pain, no gain’ approach to training is currently unfortunately popular. However this is not sustainable, we are designed to need a recovery phase to ensure that we have the energy required to push again, both in training and in life.   Recovery is not a luxury, it is essential to improve and sustain our performance. This is true when both training and recovering from illness.  People find their own way of scoring things but a 9/10 here is ready to go out and race or ride your favourite long route, feeling on top of the world, fit and strong.  A score of one might be able to walk slowly up the stairs but not much more. 0 and you are in bed….all day.

Mental 

This type is about the focus of your energy. It is about the commitment you bring to something.  How much attention do we have for a subject or relationship.  We might score 9 or 10 if we feel able to take on whole new projects or challenges such as learning to design a website. Scores might be 1 when we can’t write a shopping list for basic essentials or even be bothered to find the TV remote, never mind work it.  Currently we are using a lot of mental energy in our day to day lives as we are being asked to do things differently. We have new systems to enable us to work from home, educate our children, stay in touch with our parents, go shopping or go to our work-place. We have to find mental energy to motivate ourselves and our families to do things in a different way. We will be using more mental energy than we were before lockdown.

Emotional 

This is about the quality of your energy, the extent to which you are present enough to meet someone or to deal with a specific situation.  We often use emotional energy without being aware of it.  Our confidence levels will have an impact on our emotional energy and when we are ill, and not recovering, confidence can often take a dip. Our self image changes, our world shifts and our ability to manage emotion often reduces.  At the moment many of us will be managing higher levels of emotion than we were before, e.g. anxiety, guilt, anticipation, shock, grief, surprise or optimism. This takes energy, if we are a front line worker we are likely to be worried about our health, if we are furloughed we may be worried about our future, if we are financially secure and able to stay at home we may feel guilty for enjoying the space, and so on.

Spiritual

‘Renewing the spiritual dimension provides leadership to your life. The spiritual dimension is your core, your centre, your commitment to your value system. It’s a very private area of life and a supremely important one. It draws upon the sources that inspire and uplift you and tie you to the timeless truths of all humanity.’ Covey

We need to work out what works for us, what is important to nourish and sustain us? And people do it very, very differently. Some may need music, some pray, some to walk amongst nature. We need to honour our belief system as we move through life and find ways to satisfy our core purpose. However these steps perhaps come after having topped up our spiritual system sufficiently to function normally.  This is a foundation to successfully supporting the other three types of energy, but is the least known and considered. When the score is reasonable life feels ok, even if you recognise that you are emotionally a bit fragile. When the score is low here everything is bad, life feels hard and it feels like nothing is going right.  It’s almost like topping up a happiness bucket. Yours may be topped up by some time with family, being outside, moving, looking at nature, walking barefoot, riding your bike, time on your own, a quiet brew, music, a bath. In the wider picture your sense of purpose may be fed for instance by supporting people, by managing a budget, by composing a song. Everyone is different and it can take years to work out our own sense of purpose, what drives and fulfils us.

Low scores at certain times are normal and necessary. Think of your scores in the first stages of the grief of bereavement, no-one should be expected to function well in that situation. If scores continue to be low for longer than one would consider reasonable we need to work at increasing those scores to bring us back to being holistically well enough to function effectively in our day to day lives.

Energy Management Mindset

If we are in a position where we are not recovering the necessary re-framing demands that we develop an energy management mindset.  At this point we don’t have much energy and therefore we have to learn how to hoard it and then grow it.  With an energy management mindset we will start to make conscious decisions about how to deploy our energy.  What is the best return on the investment of our energy and where do we get most value from the energy we use?  Now we can start to train smarter.

We can start to manage our effort so that we can regain energy whilst doing some activities (active recovery) and keep energy in the tank until we need it for the critical activities and relationships.  If we find all our energies very low even walking round the garden may be an effort, afternoon naps are necessary and you either burst into tears if someone asks if you are ok, or bite their head off….recognise yourself? Usually this passes in a couple of days but if you are struggling to get past this point it might take a recovery plan, instead of a training plan, to get you back on track.

There are a couple of suggested diaries below – noting the state of your energies gives you a way to measure progress and re-plan to keep going forward, this is far more positive than sitting around feeling stuck.

When you are asked to score energy out of ten ideally everything will, in time, average about 7/8. Obviously there are days when one will dip below this, that’s normal, but it’s not sustainable to have very low scores over the long term.  Measuring heart rate every morning on waking gives us a warning signal, if it’s higher than normal that is a sign to rest, something has stressed your system even if you feel great.

Exercise initially in this period may be things like fifteen minutes on the turbo at an easy pace so you can get off if you need to. Gentle yoga, a short walk of, perhaps, ten minutes. We know, that redefines a short walk. Measure, recalibrate, move forwards an inch at a time. This allows us to reframe our thoughts around exercise and our goals – eg I want my physical energy to increase so I will watch two afternoon films instead of trying to walk. Aims may include, for instance; I will read an article about base training or I will change my cleats, I will try fifteen minutes of yoga.  Setting small goals to achieve will help raise our spiritual and emotional states and move us forward. Giving ourselves praise for valuable changes which move us forward is so much more positive than giving ourselves a hard time for not being back out there doing what we want.

When returning from illness however mild or severe, and of whatever type, walk gently – be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, reward yourself for travelling slowly and celebrate your forward gains no matter what form they take.

Contact:

Kath Finn – please use contact tab   Jane Senior jane@sustainablefitness.co.uk

Table One – Measuring energy daily

  HR am Energy Score out of ten at the end of day Activity

Think about your energy scores before and after activities 

Comments  –

Anything notable? e.g. no afternoon nap,

What impact did it have?e.g. Increased energy later in day

Mon  

 

 
Tues    

 

 
Wed    

 

 
Thurs  

 

 
Fri    

 

Sat    

 

 
Sun    

 

 

 

Table Two – this gives a more detailed breakdown.

  HR

am

Energy

Score  out of 10 in the morning

Activity

Think about your energy scores before and after activities 

Comments  –

Anything notable?

What impact did it have?

Energy

Score  out of 10

at end of day

Mon   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

Tues   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

Wed   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

Thurs   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

Fri   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

Sat   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

Sun   Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

 

 

  Physical

Mental

Emotional

Spiritual

 

Bibliography

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Orjana Velikonjaa, Katarina ˇCuri´ca, Ana Oˇzurab, Saˇsa ˇSega Jazbecb,∗  (2010)

Influence of sports climbing and yoga on spasticity, cognitive function, mood and fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis

Rath, T.  Are you Fully Charged? The Three Keys to Energize your Work and Life ISBN 978193971403

Schwarz, T.  Manage our Energy not Time   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smrMWv5rcCo&t=113s

Wilson, C. Could the Coronavirus trigger post-viral fatigue syndromes?   Magazine issue 3278 , published 18 April 2020
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632783-400-could-the-coronavirus-trigger-post-viral-fatigue-syndromes/#ixzz6LlOb84xm

Yves Jammes, Chloé Stavris, Caroline Charpin, Stanislas Rebaudet, Gerard Lagrange, Chloé Stavris, Frederique Retornaz, Maximal handgrip strength can predict maximal physical performance in patients with chronic fatigue Jan 2020

 

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