Recovery seems like it would be something a runner looks forward to. A day off, an easy run, a chance to rest. Yet for me and my obsessive personality, recovery is something I tend to sneakily avoid. I think I’m not alone here. I run a little too fast on my easy days. I postpone my long runs and try to play catch up. I overcommit to races or other big events, leaving no time for rest and properly timed training cycles. Something about recovery feels like slacking. I want recovery to feel like an old friend I enjoy visiting, but it feels more like a new acquaintance whom I don’t quite know or trust.
At times I think it’s good to stretch your limits to achieve big things. However, short-term sacrifices can lead to longer term setbacks if you don’t keep the big picture in mind. I’ll share a story of how I’ve made this mistake yet again, and how I’ve taken steps to get back on track. My recent trip to cycling camp in France this past July was a physical stretch for me. I was also planning to run the Richmond Marathon in November, so much of the spring and summer period I would have spent building a strong base of running was substituted with cycling training. I threw an August sprint triathlon into my race calendar just for fun. Three events seemed minimal to me, and yet I managed to dig myself into a hole physically.
I was tired after France, and sleep deprived from jet lag. No time for recovery…I decided to use my insomnia to add in some early morning swim workouts. I crammed in a few track sessions I had missed during my travel, but postponed several long runs so I could taper a bit leading up to the sprint tri. No worries, I would just make up my 16 mile long run the day after the triathlon. I got it done. In fact, many of my other runs got too long too quickly, as I worried about my overall running volume. Can you guess what happened next? Crash and burn. Or in my case, shin splints, sleep issues, and that zombie feeling that won’t go away.
Fortunately, I was humble this time around, and quickly admitted to myself that I was overdoing it. I focused on getting a good sleep. I stopped running for almost 2 weeks. Yes, this setback changes things for my marathon training. There will likely be less speed work and lower run volume overall, but my legs and body are now feeling human again, and I still expect to be able to run my big race. I may actually get a little more race for my money (slower finish time, better value per mile, right?)
Guess what I have scheduled right after the marathon? Nothing for now. I’m trying to keep myself focused and tackle one race at a time. I know I’ll eventually put something else on the calendar to keep myself motivated, but clearly my personality predisposes me to training overkill. Right now I’m focusing on being a runner again, and the simplicity of that feels good. I need to focus on being smart before I can be fast, and make friends with recovery.