Again and again, I’ve fallen victim to the trap of training too hard and recovering too little. As a result, I’ve succumbed to multiple injuries over the years. I’ve experienced the consequences of neglecting rest and recovery, but until today, I hadn’t truly experienced the benefits from prioritizing it. 

A couple of weeks ago, my long run was a 16-miler. It was nothing to write home about, but it went well. I came home, stretched, had a bagel and chocolate milk, then hopped in the shower. Up until that point, I’d done the right things, after that, I threw recovery out the window. I headed out of town for the night with nothing but a pair of heeled booties, I didn’t eat again until dinner, and I greatly neglected my hydration. The next day I was tired and sore. That morning, I headed out for my easy run, that wasn’t all that easy and later, some unseasonably warm weather and a Monday off led to a few too many glasses of sangria. On Monday, I repeated Sunday’s mistake and ran even harder. By the time the week’s first real workout rolled around on Tuesday, my body felt like garbage.

I felt like crap the whole week; heavy legs and aching joints. When I got to Saturday’s long run of 12.5 miles, far less than the week before, my body was begging for a break, but I pressed on and ran what turned out to be 12 of the most miserable miles of my life. The run was so rough by mile 9 that I walk-ran the last three miles, something I’ve never had to do. At that point, I began to recall the past week and pinpoint why I felt so bad; it quickly became apparent. I didn’t take care of myself in the hours and days after my long run, and I was paying for it. Right then, I vowed to focus the coming week’s energy on rest and recovery, so I’d be ready for today’s 18-miler.

This past week I’ve hydrated and I’ve eaten. I’ve had no more than one alcoholic drink in a sitting and I’ve foam-rolled daily. I ran Friday morning rather than Friday afternoon to increase recovery time before my morning long run. I made little choices every day in hope of maximizing my recovery and waking up with fresh legs.

I didn’t sleep well last night and I crawled out of bed this morning hesitant, worried about how the run would play out. As I began running towards Meridian Hill, where my running buddies would be waiting,  I immediately noticed that my legs felt fresh. I expected to feel this way until mile 8 or 9, but with each mile, I continued to evade the fatigue. Mile by mile flew by and I continued to feel like I’d just started. Finally, at mile 15 I said by to my running partner and headed towards my car. I feared I’d get tired, running alone the last few miles, but I put in my headphones and focused on relaxing. Those last 3 miles flew by and without realizing, my pace dropping significantly. When I was alerted by my phone I’d reached mile 18, I was actually disappointed. I felt great and I wasn’t ready to be done. Runner’s high. 

Last weekend was one of the worst long runs of my life and today, despite running 6 miles further, was one of the best. The difference between the runs was not fitness, motivation, shoes, or running partners, the difference was recovery. Today I was able to experience, for the first time, the tangible benefits of recovery and now, I’m convinced.  I’ve always had an “I’ll believe when I see it attitude” about recovery. Now, I’ve seen it and boy do I believe it. I wish I had this moment sooner, but from this day forward, my perspective on recovery is changed.

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