I suffered from pre/post-championship depression; is there such a thing? The University of MMA 135 lb. title belt was on the line. I was to be fighting in one of California’s top amateur mixed martial arts promotions. I was literally preparing for the biggest fight of my life when this feeling of helplessness crept in. It started a week before the fight and lasted about two weeks. In fact, this is my first post since the fight because I simply couldn’t bring myself to write. Was this real, clinical depression? Was it fatigue from back-to-back fight camps or cutting weight? Or did I just need to “man-up”?
I’m a goddam fighter, I should suck it up. I told myself. I didn’t want my teammates or any other fighters to know. I now understand that this is where I messed up.
Two weeks out: I feel fantastic. My fight camp is running smoothly. My weight is on point, albeit I had to be pretty strict on diet for this fight. I’ve never been stronger, and I’m the most technically sound that I’ve ever been. Everything is clicking. My mind is clear, I know I will win.
One week out: Everything sucks. I have no desire to train for the first time in my life. I’m sticking to this stupid diet and I’m still hitting my runs at night so I can make weight, but damn does it hurt. My legs feel like lead. I was an All-State high school soccer player, I run a 5:45 minute mile, and I work out all the time, but my legs have never felt like this before. I normally continue my sprints and running routine during fight week, but I had to stop everything 6 days out. Now I’m stressed about not being able to run and cut the weight easily AND my legs felt like toast. Not good. My libido is at an all-time low and I can’t bring myself to check my emails, whether personal or business-related. What the hell is going on?
In my search for a last minute cure, I stumbled upon a podcast about overtraining featuring ultra marathoner and fitness expert Ben Greenfield. Here’s the link, it’s worth a listen. I was definitely overtraining and I may have been suffering from mild adrenal fatigue. According to Webmd.com, adrenal fatigue is a term that's used by some to say that fatigue and other symptoms are caused by a poorly working adrenal gland in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress.
There is a medical debate on whether adrenal fatigue is an actual diagnosis, but regardless of what to call it, I was suffering through the typical symptoms:
- Mild Depression
- Muscular Weakness
- Decreased motivation and enthusiasm to train
- Excessive fatigue/lethargy
- Decreased sex drive
- Disrupted sleep
- Lightheadedness when getting up from sitting or laying down position
Extreme, prolonged stress. I was working two jobs, one of which was new, and I was adjusting to a positional role change in the other. I finally quit my serving job after working there for almost 4 years (which is a good thing but still very stressful). This is on top of running 100% of my own business, Mana Sport, and my newly formed non-profit, the Mana Kids Foundation. And on top of that, I was also creating and managing a new website/blog to tie everything together here at vincecachero.com. Plus training hard in back-to-back fight camps. Maybe I was doing too much?
Nutritional Deficiencies. The cutting weight diet probably sent my numbers all over the place. Sweating profusely during those night runs probably didn’t help keep everything in check.
Stimulants. Too much caffeine! Remember when Fat Bastard from Austin Powers hit us with some real talk, “I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat”? That is my relationship with caffeine. I’d drink coffee and green tea to boost my energy, but if this is was indeed adrenal fatigue, it’s possible that excessive caffeine was killing my energy.
Whether you want to call it overtraining, or adrenal fatigue, I was suffering from extreme burnout a week out before my fight. Not the most ideal time for my body to start breaking down on me.
After the slowest week in the history of mankind, fight day finally arrived. It was my time to shine, but were my overtrained body and fatigued mind ready to do exactly what a burned-out person shouldn’t do— fight?
Continue to Fighting Depression Pt. 2.