Soooooo.. because I always choose to learn things the HARD way, I wanted to write a post on Recovery. Recovery, as I have come to realize- is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF TRAINING. Could it be even more important than the training itself?! Maybe! Haha.
When I was training for Boston, I got up to 80 miles a week for 5 weeks in a row. This was on basically no sleep- and with ZERO regard to how my body was handling the work. No matter how I felt, I did what my workout was supposed to be. I overrode every single fatigue red flag- blazed full force ahead, delusionally thought that my hard work could somehow come together (even though I was barely hitting my MP runs on a downhill road with taking breaks- UGHHH!), and was the most surprised person in the world when Boston ended up being a complete and emotionally tragic DISASTER.
Luckily, I'm emotionally and physically removed from the carnage of that race and training leading up to it. Having a more objective perspective and the time between it made me realize some VERY important things:
1. If you're not recovering, YOU'RE NOT IMPROVING. It's really as simple as that, folks. Forget all those fancy, hard workouts. If you're not taking the time after them to recover- they are literally meaningless. (Or for me, post-Boston- worse than meaningless, they set me back hardcore.) Have the desire to improve- but just as greatly as you desire to improve, FACILITATE recovery. Make your hard work actually count for something. A warning sign that your body is not assimilating the work is that you're regressing. Your body talks to you in training. If you are feeling slow or flat or more fatigued than normal, PLEASE LISTEN TO IT. The goal is to work WITH your body, not against it. The whole mantra of "sleep when I'm dead" and the most successful people don't sleep is a dead ideology. We need rest and recovery.
2. Always be willing to reassess your current training. Gosh- there are SO many stressors and outside variables that can impact training. One too many of those variables (e.g. lack of sleep, emotional stress, work stress, etc)- and you're overloaded and not responding well to your training. It's so important to take note of them- to realize when your body is overloaded- and either ease up on training, or eliminate that stressor. Your body and your performance is affected by not only your training- but by the 23 other hours in your day that affect it. Remember that. Don't try to tough things out- or not connect the dots. Your training and performance is not buffered from the remainder of your life (unfortunately, right).
3. It's ok to do LESS. I come from a "more is more" type of mentality. Everything I do is a LITTLE extreme, a LITTLE too much. It doesn't help that my hard work ethic was bred in academics- where for the Bar exam you REALLY couldn't study enough for it. It's almost impossible to study too much. So apply that to running?? My thought was- the more miles, the better. Sign of a green runner- they run too much and are foolishly optimistic that they won't fall apart or succumb to injury or fatigue. After Boston, I was shocked into realizing 1. I wasn't invincible, 2. Fatigue is real and should be avoided at all costs. I was so worried about recovering quickly from the fatigue hole I got myself into and also safeguarding it from happening again. Instead of running everyday with doubles most days, I held back the reins and limited my running to 5 days a week- a restriction still implemented almost 2 years later. Hard work and lots of miles is AWESOME if you 1. are ready for it - i.e. your training history has made the new level of training a natural consistent progression for you and 2. if you have the proper recovery techniques in place to help that training count.
4. You don't have to do ALL THE WORKOUTS to improve. The workouts are what get you faster. It's really hard to get faster without the workouts (like speed or tempo) to get you there. With my 5 runs a week, I have 2 workouts (speed & tempo) in there. That being said, when I'm feeling overloaded with fatigued, I'll drop back to just one workout per week. You can improve on just ONE workout a week- maybe more workouts is preferred/or ideal for you- but if you are noticing you aren't feeling like yourself/or feeling flat, try cutting back on one of your hard workouts and replace it with another easy run or an extra rest day. This is why it's so important to pay attention to how your body is responding to workouts and be flexible enough to change things around to allow your body the recovery it needs to get back on track.
So how to recover best??!
1. SLEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could probably end this category with that one. Sleep is the NUMBER ONE MORE IMPORTANT KEY TO RECOVERY. Do not underestimate it. Don't put it on the backburner. Don't think that you can fake it with your running on poor sleep. I mean, you may be able to for a short time, but sleep is a pied piper, and you will pay. The lack of sleep WILL catch up to you and your performance. I was sleeping like 4-5 hours a night when I was Boston Training (aka drunk in love newly dating Tyler) and that on top of the most mileage I have ever done was an epic recipe for a complete disaster. Now, more than ever, I'm convinced that Sleep is the secret factor to take your running to the next level. Prioritize sleep- the new iphones have the feature to set a reminder on your phone when to head to bed. Put things in place, like that, that can enable you to meet those sleep & recovery goals.
2. Nutrition. Isn't it great that you literally can eat in a way that helps your body to heal/recover better? I focus on clean eating and anti-inflammatory foods. First thing after my run, I make a huge shake of protein, tons of veggies, and cinnamon & turmeric. It may not look or taste like the most amazing thing - but I know how good it is for me- and it helps me hit my goals of getting more veggies in. Plus those veggies fill me up so I'm not looking for some poorer quality filler foods after I'm starving after a run. ;-)
3. Rolling out/Stretching/Yoga/Sauna. There are so many ways to aid in recovery- these are all some of my favorite methods. After a workout, I'll hop in the sauna and help my body detox (and bonus- it keeps your heart rate high post run so it conditions your heart aerobically while you're just sitting there and sweating!). I try to be proactive about rolling out - especially after a hard workout. I'm honestly not PERFECT at this and I can be a lot more diligent and religious about rolling- but that's something I am starting to work on. Yoga and stretching are excellent ways to keep your muscles feeling good and not neglect any areas that may need some extra attention.
I hope when you recognize that you may be in need of some extra recovery- that you are secure/confident enough in your running- and in the importance and benefits of recovery- that you can pull the reins back, and let your body get back to its baseline so you can keep on improving. While it has been the HARDEST/most emotional lesson I have learned- and a lesson paid at a high price (basically 2 years of poor running/no improvement), at least I learned it right. And it has made me a LOT more cautious and focused on recovery than if I hadn't have been burned by overtraining. RECOVERY IS EVERYTHINGGGGG.
So speaking of Recovery- that's basically what I'm doing now on the couch on Saturday- post-workout, watching the Tokyo Marathon- that I did last year (sadly still coming back from overtraining so it was nothing to write home about). I had my best tempo workout and am feeling SO positive about getting to do 2 more workouts before SD Half. I want to see if I can gain any more ground to try and PR at SD Half. 2 weeks, baby!!!!
We set out to do 5 miles at 6:57 pace. And first mile Christine took off and I hit the first mile at 6:35 (eek). I was like oh gosh- I cannot make this a 2 mile tempo workout instead of 5- I need to hang back a bit. I think seeing the average pace we were hitting on my watch stressed me out/scared me- and I was worried I was going to blow up. But I kept pep talking myself- I WAS fine - I wasn't blowing up- I wasn't THAT fatigued- so I made myself keep going and try to stay relaxed into it. Sham and I did a 5 mile tempo at 7:05 2 weeks ago and I was pushing hard at the end- but today felt a ton more relaxed during most of the tempo- and only felt hard towards the end/hard part of the loop. It's so crazy how your mind can tell you, you probably can't do something- and it makes you want to give up. But when I checked in with how I was physically doing- I wasn't really hurting- I honestly just didn't want to do it- because it was hard work- but that's definitely not reason enough to cut my tempo short. I did 5 miles at 6:51 avg pace - my current 10k pace is 6:50- so I'm just so surprised and thankful to have had a good workout- and there is clearly some fitness there that I need to be pushing myself to. Now I'm going to make myself a veggie smoothie and stay on my recovery ;-)
Hope you get out and get a good run!