As an alcoholic in recovery, I’m familiar with the concept of being kinder to yourself to heal. I spent a lifetime trying to escape pain and mentally beating myself up. I’ve had to work hard to strip myself back to the bones and build a healthier me. I wouldn’t hold myself up as an example of how to do this well. I feel blind and guideless most of the time. There’s an urge to “just get over it already,” which usually is counterproductive and acts as a weak bandaid in recovery.
Recovery is also crucial to athletic training. I’m getting used to being a little sore on a daily basis. I’ve also noticed that sometimes I may not hurt, but my muscles are just plain tired. As in, they don’t want to listen to me. I experienced this on Tuesday during my morning run. I’d planned on trying a 4 mile slow run with no walk breaks. I only made it a mile before my quads pooped out. I walked for a minute, then ran another half mile. I landed a little funny on my right foot — again my quads not quite in the game. I ran and walked the rest of the route, doing only 3.3 miles, running the final half mile. I completed the run in 35:36. I wasn’t too happy.
Off I went to yoga class. This one has a lot of stretching. I tried to ease up on my quads during the warrior poses. I felt stronger after yoga class, so I hopped on the treadmill, planning to do about 15 minutes of speed drills. I stayed on for 22 minutes and my end sprints felt really good (and fast for me — 6.67 minutes per mile). So good that I considered staying on the treadmill.
Which would’ve been a mistake. The last thing I want to do is injure myself by misstepping due to exhausted muscles. However, I’m glad I did this exercise to turnaround my bad feelings about the morning. So much of running is mental, and a positive attitude can literally take you far.
Yesterday I had my trainer session, which whipped me as usual. It was fun though. I can do stuff now that I couldn’t imagine being able to do even 3 weeks ago. My balance and strength have hugely improved. And I’m not so unequal on my left and right sides.
I woke up sore this morning, but not terrible. Off to one of my harder yoga classes. I expected to have to take child’s pose a bunch, but I had a good session. I even held the wheel pose for five slow breaths. I couldn’t get up into that pose two weeks ago.
I plan a slow run later today. But I’m easing off in preparation for my race Sunday. I consider the race a training run, so I’m not really tapering my schedule per se. More testing out the effects of what I do all week on my performance. I would like to beat my time from last week, but my eye is on the half marathon in September.
It’s hard to step back from training to give my muscles time to recover, but it’s the best way to teach my body how to improve.
I have a tendency to feel like skipping a day of something means I’m being lazy. I’m retraining my brain to understand differently. It helps if I make a plan, one that is reasonable, and stick to that rather than some fictional ideal of how I should be training. I’d run myself into an early grave if I did what my nasty inner voice expected of me.
One thing I’ve learned from my reading on running is that it is not a sign of weakness to take a rest day while training. It actually exhibits mental toughness — the belief that everything I’ve done will not disappear in one day of recovery. It’s this faith in my growing ability I need to work on. For instance, I’ve noticed that my speed lags mid race, with the beginning and ending posting much better times. It’s me holding back a bit too much because I haven’t achieved the confidence that I can finish the race despite that I already have several times. It’s irrational fear.
To grow, sometimes we have to break things apart to let them rebuild stronger. And it takes time to build things right. I’ve found that as I’ve stumbled through my sobriety and it’s true as I learn to be a better runner. Quick fixes and rigidity don’t work. Progress takes time and patience and changing negative thought patterns. A dedication to self. All things I’m not especially good at.
I’m game to keep trying. Because life is a marathon, not a sprint.