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Rest. Recovery. Two little words that are hard for so many athletes to follow.
Over the last 6 weeks I’ve experienced the gamut of ailments: Turf toe, ankle sprains, a cold that lasted 4 weeks and a bad autoimmune flare up. If I had only taken those 2 little words to heart, I may have prevented some of these incidents that have put such a damper on my training.
It is disappointing to have a training setback, however, sometimes what your body needs most to get fitter and stronger is not to train more but to take a break from the grind.
Take our contributor Dr. Kelly, for example. If you’ve been following along on our posts she was out of commission for 5 weeks due to an infection in her leg that went septic. When she began running again a couple of weeks ago she called me “Lauren, I just PR’d the bluff’s loop!” This is a 3 mile loop out here in Colorado that has some pretty good climbs. Sure, she isn’t back to the long 15 mile runs she was at before the infection but her body apparently liked and needed the rest. She is now running faster than ever!
After contemplating this for a bit I came to the realization that I am only going to prolong my recovery on both fronts by continuing to push myself. I need to take a step back and do some of the basics that will make my body strong and hopefully help to prevent further injury.
So although I did get some good mileage in these weeks (15-20 miles on average + cross training), I also spent some time working on some basic “pre-hab” exercise routines. Sure, these are tedious but they work! I didn’t document my training as usual for the 3 weeks but here are some highlights and also some video Kelly and I created of our pre-hab hip and ankle exercise routines:
Full moon trail run:
I found a local trail running group on meetup.com that was doing a 5.5 full moon trail run. Even though I wasn’t feeling too hot, I couldn’t pass up this kind of adventure! I pulled out my rarely used headlamp and meet the group just after sundown. The run went to the top of North Table mountain in Golden, Colorado where we had an epic view of the city, stars and moon of course!
I got some quality stroller training miles in:
I did a 2 mile stroller hike (where the boys jumped out and ran over a mile on their own) and did a 5k the following day, my 4 year old ran about half of the course with me.
I learned NOT to wear yoga leggings on a long trail run:
It was a little chilly out and I was feeling whimpy so I wore my yoga leggings instead of the planned running shorts. BAD mistake. The leggings kept falling down and by mile 6 I had to constantly kick my legs out to get the fabric to rise up a little bit. It was during one of these kicks that I landed on the side of my foot and rolled my ankle. Not a bad sprain but enough to swell up a bit that evening, nothing that a little 20 minute foot ice bath couldn’t fix.
My first competitive obstacle course race is coming up fast, in less than 2 months!! I haven’t been doing much training so I spent a couple of hours each week doing some exercises on the playground. Monkey bars, rows on the swings and pull-ups, working on my upper body and grip strength.
This past week I had a pretty bad autoimmune flare up. I had planned an 8 mile trail run but after starting out was feeling pretty crappy. Old Lauren would have just pushed through but I stopped and turned around, walking most of the way back. I was grateful I did because by the weekend, I was recovered enough to fit in some long back to back trail runs (8 miles Sat, 10.7 Sunday).
I thought about it:
One piece of advice I have for anyone out there questioning if they need to take a break from training entirely or cut a workout short, ask yourself: Are you just feeling tired in the moment or are you dealing with a situation where you really need to recover?
Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether or not you really need to take a break. When you are training for something as demanding as an ultramarathon, you are taxing all of your body’s systems. You will feel tired and sore, a lot.
Which is why the back to back long runs are such an important part of a training plan, you need to train your body (and mind) to be able to push through when you are tired and sore and want to give up.
However, if you have been experiencing lingering pain, had a recent injury or sickness and you just aren’t seeming to get better, maybe that is a sign to take a step back, thing about the long term and take the time your body needs to repair, rebuild and recover.
I hope post this finds everyone well and happy training!