The art of recovery: patience

    Recovery Isn’t Easy

Henry Coe: Courtesy of Cynthia Leeder Photography
Henry Coe: Courtesy of Cynthia Leeder Photography

Endurance athletes are hard core by definition.  So when we are hurt, it is hard to take the time to allow our bodies to heal. When we have races we have paid for and trained for, it’s even harder.

There is of course a science to recovery, but what I am talking about here is the art. It requires patience, something we often lack.

I made a decision after AR50 to recover.  I ran very little the first week.  A little bit more the second.  Added a long run the third.

Today was my first 3 hour run since April 4th.  If you recall, before AR50 I was down for the count with an injured psoas. So really, I’ve been in recovery for two months, with a little 50-miler in the middle.

I am learning about patience and relaxing. I am not good at it in any part of my life.  I constantly move.  I watch almost no TV because there is too much else to do.  If I am not running or working or doing family things, I am gardening, cleaning and baking. The only time I sit still is to write or read.  I often do three or four things at time.  I might be making dinner, checking work e-mail, and helping my boys with homework, all while stretching my plantar and calves.

I have recently decided that this is a stupid way to live.  When you are doing three things at once, I have come to believe you don’t fully realize each activity.  My kids have taught me this lesson.  I think the words, “Mom, you aren’t even paying attention. You are just nodding,”  finally made me realize they were right.

Learning how to relax and enjoy each moment in its own right is something I am applying to recovery.  Endurance training is by nature an effort to constantly go farther or harder.  It’s hard to stop.  It’s hard to thank your knees for all their hard work and allow them a month to rest.  You want to keep pushing those legs.  Why slow down now?  You might jeopardize all your recent training.

There is a reason to stop and rest and regroup.  Your body deserves it.  It works hard. We each ask a lot of our bodies and we should occasionally allow them to heal. The world won’t end if we decrease miles for a while.  We freak out that we may never run again.  But in most cases, we will.

Enjoy the recovery.  Use it to sleep late and take up swimming.  That’s what I did for the months of March and April.  

Today was the first real training run I’ve done in a month.  With my friends Craig, Kevin and Allison, I ran for 3 hours at Henry Coe State Park.  We were running over hills, under rain, and across creeks.  I was soaked at the end; actually, I was soaked by mile two.  My legs are sore and it was hard. But I loved it!  And I don’t hurt.  My psoas is fine.  My body is rested.  I am relaxed.  

My patience paid off and I am chomping at the bit to train and run hard at the Ohlone 50K.  My body has said, “I feel better. Thank you for your patience, for sleeping and swimming.  You may now run hard again, but do check in with us later in the year.”


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Paige T. says:

    Aha, patience! That’s what I’ve been missing! I know what you mean about when it gets harder to ease up when you have a pricey race fee you’ve already fronted for a big race you’ve trained your butt off for looming overhead. That’s so frustrating! I’m trying to learn to take it all in stride, but that’s so much easier said than done. There is so much I want to do this year while I have the time to do it but I know it shouldn’t come at the price of my knees and health. I need to pick up some patience 🙂

  2. Cynthia says:

    Sounds very zen. I’m sure your kids will appreciate your undivided attention more often, but I know what you mean by pressure to get multiple things done at once. Probably you’re moving in a better direction now.

    You’re very smart to be patient. Even the big dogs take time for recovery now and then. It’s one of the things they do that helps them be so good. Not sure if that works for me- I seem to lose conditioning so quickly, but lower mileage is a reasonable compromise.

    Have fun training for Ohlone. Sounds like a great race. Wish I could be there.

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