After running the forty-mile Mount Mitchell Challenge ten days ago, up and down the highest peak in the eastern United States, I’m in recovery mode. And it’s very tough! As author of The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery, I know just what I ought to be doing, but I’m finding it very tough to be patient with my body, which is ready to get back into the swing of swimming and riding—if not yet running. Here are some ways I’m approaching recovery.
EATING AND SLEEPING
|Proper recovery technique: sitting on the couch
Vivi (standing), Lily, Kathleen, and Tara, post–40 miler
To hasten recovery, I ate well before, during, and after the race (hush puppies, anyone?). Just after my postrace shower, I put on my 2XU recovery compression tights and propped my feet up on the back of the couch. Two days after the race, I got a postrace massage, even though delayed onset muscle soreness was peaking—my quads were incredibly sore to the touch after all the downhill miles. I’ve allotted extra time for sleeping and even returned to bed last Monday morning after getting up and seeing my children off to school. They came home the next day, in fact, to find me asleep on the couch, which was a little alarming to them as I rarely nap.
RETURNING TO TRAINING SLOWLY
Figuring I was ready for some low-impact movement, I put my pool bag in the car Thursday, intending to knock out an easy thousand yards after teaching yoga. But when, in the course of my private lesson, I realized I was still more sore and tired than I realized, I came home instead, thinking, “I’ll walk the dog.” Turned out I was too tired for that, too. Then I was too tired for my usual power flow yoga class, and instead enjoyed some restorative poses. (I got an unintended workout when my scooter battery died, and I had to walk home two miles with my groceries. Happily, it was a lovely spring day in the upper 70s.)
Friday I managed a half-hour easy spin on the trainer, barely breaking a sweat. I wasn’t up for riding on the road, worried that I’d discover too late that I didn’t have the juice to make it over hills. Saturday, my husband and I walked 5K with run breaks (I refused to run on the uphills or downhills, and our last half-mile was on the middle school track). Sunday, I spent a little longer on the trainer.
By this Monday, I was up for a track workout—run/walking with a six-months-pregnant friend. And yesterday, I swam for the first time in months. It left my arms limp like noodles, but it felt great.
You’d think not training would be the easiest thing to do, but it isn’t. It’s tough to lose the stress release, the social experience, the ritual. But I’ve got to listen to my body’s cues and take the time to allow for deep cellular recovery. While the soreness is almost gone, there’s still a lot of healing that has to happen. As I feel stronger, I can add intensity in the water, then on the bike; eventually, I’ll be back to my normal running.
Do the same as you return to training after your peak race. It takes faith and patience, but allowing for complete recovery sets you up for success in the next training cycle.