The Natural Cycles Of Birth, Death And Endurance Training


Hi folks,

Moss living on the remains of the remains of an old tree.

Bright green moss living on the remains of an old tree.

I was sitting in our screened-in porch the other day, quietly reflecting on something or other, when I heard a cracking sound, and looking up I espied a large, dead tree crashing to the ground. After many years of walking in the woods, this was the first time that I had witnessed such an event. Trees are being born and are dying all the time, at effectively the same rate, though most never make it to full adulthood to come tumbling to earth from a great height at some later date. I was witnessing the natural cycle of all things living.

One organism’s death is often associated with life for one or more others, or the contrary. Think of the numbers of plankton consumed by a single ‘gulp’ of a humpback whale, for instance (>2 metric tons of tiny creatures and fish a day). One dead deer can probably feed over 100,000 fly larvae. Annually, many creatures die off in the fall, only to be ‘resurrected’ the following spring, all living on each other’s bodies one way or another. This is also true of the plant world. Take the picture above, for instance, that shows a ring of soft, velvety green moss (a plant for which I have a certain fondness) flourishing on the remains of the stump of a long-deceased tree. This process ebbs and flows with the years, centuries and millenia.

I continually encounter evidence of these biological cycles of life and death during my endurance training workouts on trails through local woods.  In fact, each Ironman age group is born from of the attrition of the previous one. Furthermore, my training also ebbs and flows on a daily, monthly and yearly basis, as my energy levels fluctuate. If you want to optimize your training it is critical to respect your personal biological rhythms. For instance, I am very much a ‘morning person,’ whilst my energy levels fall off dramatically in the evening. As a result of this awareness, I always try to complete my workouts before the early to mid-afternoon. Furthermore, my energy levels ebb and flow from week to week and month to month. We all differ in this respect, so tell your coach if this fluctuation needs to be considered in your annual training strategy.

I find that the end of the race season is like a ‘little death,’ but then comes strength training when I go back in the weight room. I also get to focus on improved technique, which I really enjoy. The winter is the time for recovery, building strength, reflecting on lessons learned, exploring new approaches, and preparing for the excitement of next year’s race season.

Respect your natural rhythms and all will be well.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. You know what Shakespeare meant by “little death” right?

    • Hi Stacy,
      I do, and it comes from whence I first encountered it, ‘la petite mort.’ Trust you to get the joke. Just like race season, you can’t wait for the next one.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.