The Rest is (not always) Easy

It's a rest week:  This happened.  Greetings from sweltering RVA - where the "feels like" temperature topped triple digits this weekend!  (Whew) It's made for some super sweaty runs, that's for sure.  But enough about the weather - let's get to the training.

This week was a recovery week for me.  When crafting my schedule I had slotted this week to fall 9 weeks out from Erie.  Like any recovery week, its goal was to give my body some time to absorb the last few weeks of hard training (70, 79, 86 miles each week, respectively), and to recharge my batteries a bit before plunging into the last big block of work before taper.   I had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this week:  I'd sleep in!!  I wouldn't have to do any doubles!!  I had a "short" long run of only 16 miles - what would I do with all that extra time!?!?!

Well, the week finally arrived and while it was nice to sleep in a bit and not have to do any doubles, the week was surprisingly difficult and left me feeling kind of...flat.   This has happened to me in past seasons as well.  I often do not feel as well on recovery weeks as I do during heavy training.  Not sure if it's just my body being jolted a bit out of its regular daily-grind rhythm, or if the sluggishness comes from the body absorbing the gains and making adaptations.  In either case, rest weeks have proven to be not so easy - both mentally and physically - and I have to remind myself constantly that my fitness has not disappeared when I'm dragging my tired legs up a hill in an "easy" 8-miler.   We all know that rest is where the magic happens, where we make our gains from the training.  But it can be so hard to take that much needed rest when it can leave you feeling more tired than you felt before!    I know that it's just a phase, that my body will adapt and I'll feel better once I get the next week going.  We'll get to that in a second, but here's how this past week shook out:

Monday - 9.7 miles (8:09 avg. pace)  Ran this with a friend and I was dragging.  I'd done pace miles (6 of them, 6:47 avg) on Saturday's run and they went terribly.  My legs were still very fatigued on Monday so this run was not great.

Tuesday - 7.5 miles (8:21 avg)  Ran a friend's tempo with him and felt surprisingly good.  Most likely because it was not MY tempo!  I love running other peoples' workouts with them - it's much more fun than running my own. :-)

This also happened.  I make no apologies. :)

Wednesday - REST.  Ahhhh.  I did my core work class at the gym in the morning but it was nice to sleep in and not have to get up at the crack of dawn for a run...though I felt oddly bereft to not have done my early morning wake-up-and-run routine.  I taught BodyPump later in the evening.

Thursday - 10.1 miles (7:10 avg)  Tempo time!  Ran with two of my speedy guy friends from a new location!  It was awesome to run somewhere different where I didn't know the route. It gave my mind a break and didn't give it a chance to anticipate (and dread) the hills. It was a cool(er) morning in the upper 60s with limited humidity so that was awesome, but unfortunately I was feeling the effects of the rest week and still felt sluggish.   Though I was sucking wind big time on the run, I was happy to have a decent 4-mile tempo with splits of 6:21, 6:20, 6:32, 6:26.

Friday - 8.7 miles (8:34 avg)  Recovery run.  I had an opportunity to run the first few with my father and I jumped at the chance.  I haven't been able to run with him that often since I do most of my training in the super-early-morning hours.   It was nice to catch up with him and run easy while enjoying the relatively low humidity.  Still feeling sluggish so my legs were grateful that I kept it easy. Taught BodyPump again later in the morning.

This is my post-run "I finally made it to back to my car" photo.  I had one of those flavored sparkling waters after a super hot run last week and now I am addicted.

Saturday - 16.3 miles (7:35 avg)  Long run with my group.  I was expecting to feel pretty awesome on this run (It's a rest week!  I had a recovery run yesterday!  I'm hydrated and fueled up!), but instead I felt like death from the start.  It was definitely not a confidence building run.  I kept having to reassure myself that yes, everyone has a run/several runs/a week of runs that don't feel great and don't go quite to plan.  I know that my fitness is there, but it sure seemed to be hiding on Saturday.  I struggled through this run but got it done.

Sunday - 8.0 miles (8:25 avg)  Recovery run.  Legs still felt sluggish so I decided to run to the track and do some laps since it was a) flat and b) had no cars to worry about and c) had a water fountain.  It was back to humid and HOT so I was grateful for the proximity to water!  I used the time to listen to my BodyPump track list and practice cueing - had anyone been at the track they would have gotten a kick out of hearing me shouting out loud while I pretended to coach my class!  All while running laps, of course :)  But, hey - it was a good time to rehearse!   Later in the day I taught my BodyPump class at noon and then competed in some parent swim relays for my stepdaughter's swim team.  (P.S. - if you want your Oiselle shorts to double as a bathing suit bottom make sure to double-knot the drawstring. :-) I remained decent, but lost valuable relay time due to shorts adjustment!!)

Total:  60 miles 

So with this (not so easy) rest week behind me, I am looking onward and upward to this week when I get back to some heavy training.  I've got 86 miles on the schedule and two workouts:  a fartlek-style workout and a shorter tempo.  I'm looking forward to getting back in the groove during these next few weeks - but I know that sub-3 won't come easy.    It's time to buckle down and get to work, folks!!

Anyone else out there feel worse during a recovery week?   Give me your favorite mantra/saying for getting through the last tough weeks of marathon training before taper!  

Post Marathon Recovery

Today's workout:  

Note the sad little treadmill in the background

Thank you all for your congratulations and your awesome advice in the comments on my last post.  I am taking the advice to heart and plan to run a similar buildup for my next marathon, but work on increasing the paces slightly and perhaps doing a few more miles at marathon pace.  I haven't yet picked my fall marathon, but I'm hoping to aim to do one in mid-to-late September.

As I look back on Tobacco Road, I feel very blessed and thankful that I was able to get to that starting line healthy and ready to race.  I am also so thankful that I was able to come back strong from my stress fracture and not only race at my pre-injury level, but go beyond that and set a PR.  I truly believe now that taking my time to come back slowly post-fracture was the best thing I did.  Between that and the strength work/PT exercises I did along the way I think I gave myself the best shot for a strong season.  So if you are suffering from a serious injury now, don't lose hope!  It's definitely possible to come back as strong (or stronger!) than you were prior to injury.  Just be smart about your comeback and you'll be set.

As you can tell from my picture, this week has been all about recovery and enjoying my post-marathon downtime.  I've been sleeping in (well, as much as one can sleep in with a just-turned-3 year old)  and enjoying getting dressed in normal-people clothes.  (while realizing that I think I own more gym clothes than I do regular clothes.  Oops.)  I've not run single step this past week.  Instead I've hung out with my family, celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday, eaten foods that I'd normally limit (chips and dip for lunch!! Yum!!)  and just CHILLED OUT.  It's been really nice!  But....I'm actually itching to get back to my normal running schedule.  I feel best when I'm training and fueling my body with higher quality foods.  It's been fun this week to relax the diet and not worry too much about what I'm eating - that's definitely been a great mental break - but I can definitely tell that I've been eating more processed/sugary foods than normal!

No real workouts last week for me, though I did do half of a core work class and half of a BodyPump class to ease back into it.  I'll be teaching BodyPump this week so I figure I'd better get my muscles back in shape at some point!   With a little extra time on my hands since I'm not running, I've been working on learning the new release - BodyPump 93!  It's a great workout and I'm excited to teach it.  I've had to practice with very light weights though as my legs still have some lingering fatigue from the race.

There's also been some baking....

And some wine drinking!












This week it's back on the healthy food bandwagon, and adding back in BodyPump and core work.  I'm taking at least one more week off running, but will likely add in some elliptical or cycling this week to get the legs moving again without the impact.   I can still feel a bit of tendonitis in my foot so I want to make sure I give it another week or so before I hit the roads again.  I'm itching to get back out there now that the weather has improved, but I know that taking the time off now will pay dividends later.

Hope everyone had a great week!

What's your favorite post-marathon indulgence?  

How long do you take off before resuming training?  (I usually go with 2-4 weeks of no running) 

4 Ways to Maximize Your Running Recovery

Today's workout:  8 miles at recovery pace (today that was avg. pace of 9:19), Body Pump class later on at the gym

Between the speedwork on Wednesday and yesterday’s hilly, hot and humid long run, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that my legs were feeling decidedly less than peppy today.   We’ve all had it happen: You roll out of bed on Sunday morning and instead of feeling ready to go, your legs feel like someone has attacked them with hammers while you slept. The 8-mile run you have planned does not sound the least bit appealing. You know the long-run you had the day before took a lot out of you, but you thought you’d be fine by the morning. What happened? Recovery, or in this case the lack thereof, is the issue.

Throughout our training as distance runners, our bodies are in a constant state of remodeling. We break down our muscles with grueling workouts and place stress on our skeletal system every time we lace up our shoes and head out the door. But the key to getting stronger over time can be summed up in one word: RECOVERY.   Recovery is where the magic happens. It’s where the body adapts and sends the signal to cells to rebuild those muscles and bones into stronger, better versions of themselves. Without proper recovery, you don’t improve – you don’t get faster.

So if we want to be better runners, we need to ask how can we maximize our recovery and give our bodies the best chance they have to repair and rebuild those muscles and bones.   It’s a great idea to practice these recovery tips after every run – but it becomes increasingly important after especially hard workouts, or especially long runs. That’s the time when your body needs the most TLC and you’ll get the greatest recovery “bang for your buck”.

The 4 Keys to Recovery

  1. Refuel:   This is a multi-step process. Hopefully you’ve been properly hydrated and fueled during the run through a mixture of water and possibly a carbohydrate replacement (i.e. Gatorade or gels).   Once you finish the run, it’s time to get serious about refueling.15-30 minutes post-run: Aim to take in some food or drink with both carbohydrates and protein (a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein is ideal). If your stomach can’t handle food directly after your run, try chocolate milk or a protein/recovery drink. I’m a big chocolate milk fan, but also like Picky Bars on the days my stomach seems to be more accepting of solid foods. The key is to get this down right away after your long run or workout. Refueling within that 30-minute window allows your body to replenish glycogen stores at a 50% faster rate.  Which translates into muscles that are less sore and stiff the next day, allowing you to be ready to train again.   Make sure to pack your post-run fuel in a bag or cooler so that you’ll have it ready and waiting for you once you finish your run.2-4 hours post-run: Try to eat a healthy meal to help fully replenish your fuel stores and prime your body for additional recovery.   A good mix of carbs and protein with some healthy fat is ideal. Your body will continue to use those nutrients throughout the rest of the day to rebuild your tired muscles.
  2. Hydrate: Raise your hand if you are tired of hearing “Drink more water!”. Yes, me too. But in the hours after your run it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. Staying hydrated will help keep your muscles bathed in fluid – reducing friction (and therefore soreness).   Experts suggest drinking 20-24oz. of fluid for every pound lost during exercise. If you don't feel like weighing yourself before and after your run, an easier rule of thumb is to continue to hydrate until your urine is a pale lemonade color.
  3. Foam Roll/Massage: The foam roller might be my favorite tool in the recovery arsenal. Formally titled “self-myofascial release”, rolling out your muscles with the foam roller helps break up trigger points and helps coax the knotted, bunched up muscle fibers back into a smoother orientation. Foam rolling all muscle groups helps restore range of motion and keeps you the muscles moving smoothly. It’s definitely a “hurts so good” feeling at times (especially when you hit that IT band!) but it does wonders for returning some pep to your muscles and keeping you injury free. I aim for 10 minutes directly post-run and 10 minutes or so at night before sleep.   Don’t have a foam roller? Time to invest. Good news - they're fairly cheap! Here’s the one I have, but there are a ton of variations (see here, here and here).
  4. Sleep - As athletes, not getting enough sleep has a much bigger impact than simply making us cranky. It decreases our energy, slows our reflexes, and messes with our hormones (specifically the growth hormone responsible for repairing our tired bodies).   It’s crucial that we give our body the amount sleep it needs.   For athletic adults, that’s a recommended 8-10 hours a night. While it may be a challenge for most of us to get to bed early enough to hit that amount (um, yes), it’s a goal worth pursuing. If your schedule allows, you can also take a cue from professional runners and try to nap during the day to give yourself an extra recovery boost.

Sometimes, even though you’ve been a good little runner and done all the steps above, a workout will leave your legs feeling like toast for a few days.   If I’ve followed the steps above and I’m still sore for a day or two after, I’ll reach for my extra special super recovery tips below:

Bonus Recovery Tips – a.k.a. Time to Bring Out the Big Guns

  • Compression socks (or compression shorts/tights) – If my legs are feeling especially beat up post-run I’ll throw these babies on and wear them for an hour or two. The verdict is still out on whether or not these provide a benefit during the run, but research supports that they help speed recovery afterwards.
  • Epsom salt bath – A good friend of mine (and super-fast Olympic trials qualifier) gave me this tip. Buy some Epsom salt (aka magnesium sulfate) from the drugstore and add several cups to a hot bath. Get in and soak for about 15 minutes or so. Your body absorbs the magnesium and sulfates through the skin, and research supports that an increase in magnesium levels helps improve circulation, ease muscle pain and flush out toxins from cells.
  • Hydrotherapy – Have access to a pool? Take the kids or go on your own and get in the water. Active recovery (gentle swimming/walking) in water has been shown to be effective in both reducing muscle soreness and helping to speed the return of the muscles to full strength.   I’m always surprised at how much this method really seems to work.

Trying to improve your running and stay injury free means working all the angles – and proper recovery is a big one. It’s an easier one to neglect since let’s face it – after running for more an hour on any given morning we may not always want to take extra time out of the day to do more running-related stuff. But if you can find a few minutes to foam roll, refuel and hydrate post-run, it’ll make a big difference.   As for me, I’ll be over here drinking my post-run smoothie, foam rolling, hanging out with my trusty water bottle and trying to convince my little daughters to go to bed early so I get just a few more zzzz’s.   Fingers crossed for peppy legs in the morning.

What are your favorite ways to recover post-run?