I Still Suck at Recovery

Mike with Mattie during recovery

I’ve done 7 Ironmans in 7 years and I have yet to truly get a handle on the importance of recovery. 

Sure, I’ll take naps and over-sleep and skip workouts, but the real problem comes back to one nuance: I don’t know how to pull back the reigns.

The Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge with a recovery day or week is: we can tend to feel fresh and strong. “Oh, Mike, but how is that a problem?” For me it boils down to…. “Hmm, could probably push this a little harder or longer and catch up on some fitness I gained when I skipped January.” 

Yes, that’s the thought process and I believe it may be our biggest challenge in training. 

Just Do It

We grow up with this “crush it” or “just do it” mentality and those habits are hard to break. We always strive to get better, but how can taking it easy make us stronger? Maybe it makes sense to term things “sleep workouts” instead of “recovery workouts.”

Sleep Workouts

We all know these things innately, but it’s good to be reminded. When we sleep well, we give the body rest and ability to rebuild, ie… recover from the day before. So, that is what I’m suggesting. Go sleep your way through a workout. Make it embarrassingly lame. 

I also think about the concept of “training to heal” a lot. We all know that boundary and it’s especially valuable in recovery workouts. Get in the mindset of “this feels like I’m doing nothing.”

The Catch Up Game

Twice this past week I played the “catch up game.”

For one, I haven’t been running much because of plantar fasciitis, but decided it was time to push the envelope. This is always a slippery slope, but in the moment it felt right. 

So, despite the flack I catch for roller blading, I upped the ante with three straight days of hour-plus skates followed by a short 20-30 minute run. My own experience tells me blading is about half the effort of running, so in this example I essentially ran 8-9 miles a day three days in a row. 

Now, the caveat is in the less pounding nature and honestly it felt good at the time. Until day 3. 

I actually felt okay until the last mile of that day 3 run. That’s when it hit me like a brick. The sun, the heat, the fatigue. That sort of deep experience that tells you, it’s time to stop despite all your desires. 

I did my best with a solid recovery meal, then went straight for an exhaustion nap. I woke up with this, “why am I doing this to myself” feeling.

“Seize the Day” in Moderation

That was Sunday, so Monday, despite not riding much at all lately, I decided it would be a good idea to take my bike outside for the first time of the year. I was a little fatigued, but Carpe Diem! 

I honestly felt pretty great. The blading is a perfect cross-train for cycling, but that is also the problem! Suddenly I thought it was a good idea to blast my quads for four straight days out of nowhere. It crossed my mind to ride for a couple hours, but I settled for one. It didn’t seem like I was pushing too hard, but a subsequent nap and post-exhaustion feeling proved I was indeed out of my zone. 

That was Monday and this entire week has been a bit of a shit-show. Low energy, low desire, low everything. 

“Stop Short”

But now it’s Thursday (after a couple rest days) and I’m feeling good. And guess what I am fighting the urge to do?

You guessed it, I’m back and ready to rock this thing!

It’s crazy to me but makes sense because it’s that natural tendency we have as humans. One or two cookies is probably fine, but three is too much. It’s a constant struggle to appreciate that your body is willing to bend, and certainly recover if you break it, but life is so much easier and more rewarding if we just respect the limits and realize (in the immortal words of Frank Costansa) it’s okay if we just stop short. 

On that note, I think I’ll go mow half my lawn.

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