It’s been a few days since we’ve been home from vacation. I am back at work now as well. It’s like the start of a new school year (which comes in a few short weeks) where you feel like everything in your body creaks and you are inundated with stimulus as you try to get up on time again and be alert for 90% of the day. Why is actually paying attention so much more tiring than reading on the beach?
It’s not like I was sleeping so much more on vacation. If I slept in even two hours this means I was getting up, at the latest, by 7am. Really, it’s not that late. But the biggest difference is that I didn’t have to do anything all day. I could lie in bed and read, or eat breakfast really slowly, or really late. Now I am back to getting up at 5am to exercise and then go to work. I’m also back to my full schedule of workouts and the adjustment is tiring.
After I finished our 32km (20 mile) long run on Sunday I was tired. My body felt pretty good, but mostly I just wanted to sleep. I did feel like a bit of zombie. Granted, so did my husband and kids and they all slept in that morning. I think we were all coming down with vacation hangover.
I swam on Monday morning but could not muster up the energy for a run in the evening. I’d also gone to see my physiotherapist that day and sometimes the treatments do end up a bit intense. (I go for IMS needling — it works great but can sometimes flood the parasympathetic nervous system). Instead I decided to lay low for the evening. Turns out the kids were all wound up and exhausted and would not get to bed, resulting in a later than ideal bedtime for me.
Tuesday was strength day. I did an upper body/core workout at the gym and then off to work. I left before the kids were even up, with a coffee cup in my hand. After I got home I had a quick cat nap and then was out the door for a short, easy 30-40 min run. It was painful to get going – my legs were a bit leaden and my mind was elsewhere. I told myself I just needed to go and do it; I knew I would feel better for it after.
As I ran along, finally feeling better as the lactic acid and some niggling pain worked itself out, I reminded myself that this was my recovery run for the week. Just time on my legs when they are tired and teaching my body how to keep going and rest up along the way. Running at an easy pace can actually speed recovery when compared to just sitting around your house “resting.” There is blood flow being directed to your legs, and motion and energy gently massaging the muscles that need it.
I often wondered what kind of runs people training for longer distances ran and how they could sustain it week over week. Now I know that not every run is a “hard” run, nor is it at a faster pace or a longer distance. Sometimes just getting out and stretching rusty legs is all it is. Sometimes it is just about recovery and if we can teach our bodies to recover as we run, we’ll be that much stronger and faster on the days where we do our harder workouts.
It’s also about allowing your mind to recover. I realized today I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about the same route that I always run. It only has a few slight hills in it, making it nice and easy for recovery, but my mind knows the route too well. I know where I feel tired and anticipating that was making me weary before I set out. I managed, but in the future I may need to start mapping out other options just to keep my mind a little fresher for when it needs that recovery as well.
A recovery run is like giving yourself a little cheer. You can talk to yourself about all the workouts you completed that week: how tough the hills felt but how you are getting stronger, how far you’ve run, how dedicated you’ve become. If you aren’t doing various workouts during the week and are just getting out to run that deserves some recognition. And if you aren’t getting out to run (as often as you’d like or just aren’t getting it done) you are probably thinking about it. And that deserves acknowledgement as well. Having a sense of intention is the first step to getting those laces tied, and I think we all deserve a pat on the back during a recovery run for what we *have* accomplished. Think of it as a chance to show off in your one-person cheering section. You may surprise yourself how good you feel about the next week’s runs.
*It is said that endurance running is 80% mental and 20% physical. How do you rejuvenate your mind on a recovery ‘run’ (literal or otherwise)?