This is what I hear from so many runners post marathon or racing season:“If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.”~ Anne Lamott
Coming off a good race/season:
I can't stop NOW!
I'm in great shape!
I need to build on this!
I can't loose what's taken so long to achieve!
I want more! I must do more...
Coming off a disappointing race/season:
I didn't work very hard.
I don't deserve to rest.
I wasted all that training. I need to do something with it.
If that didn't work, I need to just work harder.
And so the usual approach looks something like this:
Following a good race/season:
For a couple days, you rest. Perhaps you go for a walk...a swim...or dust off the bike for a ride. But after a couple days, you're itching to run. You're losing fitness. You feel it oooozing from your pores. You see your legs getting soft. Sure you had a good race. But that post-race glow fades fast. Two days ago, you were ecstatic. Life was great. The world was a bright and happy place. Today you wake up unable to drag your sorry butt out from under the covers. You are depressed. You are floating in a sea of ambiguity. What now?
Following a less than stellar race/season:
For a couple days you fester and try to find some silver lining - some lesson to be learned - some positive something. You may feel tired, but that's just weakness, manifest, not real, deserved fatigue. Soon you are back out there having decided on a new goal, or trying to beat your weary body into submission. Whatever you did didn't work. The only answer is to hit it harder.
“You don't always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”~ Anne LamottAnd these generally work for about 7 days before you hit the skids (results may vary). At some time, usually during week two or three, you feel exactly zero motivation to ever run again. Every run feels like a herculean effort - physically, psychologically, and emotionally. And then you beat yourself up a little more for not wanting it more. Thus ensues a vicious circle that lasts...a week...a month...a year or more...
I've seen runners take as long as a year, or even longer than a year, to recover from their recovery! But, usually, you will eventually get past this slump, and move onto new projects. But if you still haven't really recovered (physically, psychologically, emotionally) then your new start is already compromised.
Now a lot of this depends on your goals in running. If your goal is to run a marathon every week or month, then your methods will be different. BUT if your goal is quality over quantity, then you MUST see recovery as a crucial microcycle - part of your training. Recovery IS training.
As a running coach, one who continues both pursuing educational opportunities and doing research, I experiment a LOT on myself while avoiding unreasonable experimentation with others. So, I sometimes do things that I would not recommend others do. This is why comments like: How can she be a good coach if she's injured?; or, She runs back to back hard runs so that must be a good thing to do; or, Running two marathons in 2 weeks is obviously a good idea, - is utter nonsense (as is copying anyone elses training!). And I've made some effort, recently, to keep what I do under-wraps so as not to inadvertently encourage others to do dumb ass shit!
Jean-Paul Sartre argued that our freedom (which is absolute and inescapable) entailed certain responsibilities - one being taking seriously what our actions say to others regarding what we hold to be best. He maintained that we are each responsible for ourselves and for all humans:
"I am thus responsible for myself and for all men, and I am creating a certain image of man as I would have him to be. In fashioning myself, I fashion man" Existentialism Is A HumanismWhat he is saying is that when we act we are saying to others - "This is a good way to act." Not in a moral sense, for Sartre didn't believe in that - but that when we act we do what is believe is best. What we show others says something about what we value (again for Sartre, in an amoral sense). If I don't want others to know what I'm doing, that's probably because I don't think that what I'm doing is a very good thing. So, we put ourselves out there as models of action. As free humans, it's up to us how we fashion ourselves - but it's important to be aware that our actions speak to others and we are always setting an example - so be the example you believe in.
So, where am I going with this??? Well, I'm going to make an example of myself.
I am going to do something that I want others to see. I want to make an example of myself, because if I can survive the next week, anyone can. What most runners don't seem to notice, is that really good runners take breaks. They schedule breaks into their yearly plans - most of us fly by the seat of our pants and plan our races willy-nilly. But if you want to get quality out of yourself, if you want to see what YOU can do, then you need a plan/s - short, medium and long term - and in that grand plan, you must include periods of rest.
On Sunday I'm planning to run the Colfax Marathon. This is just under 4 weeks since running Boston. I've run many marathons closer together - but please note - I do not RACE all marathons. I have been running fairly steadily for many many years. Any breaks are usually due to injury or illness.
Next week I will not run, at least until Saturday, possibly longer. BUT I am committed to taking Monday through Friday off entirely from running. I shan't run a single step. But, more importantly, I will also allow a full month for recovery.
I will do other things. I will work on my yard, which has suffered from neglect these many months - possibly years - from too much marathon running. I will swim and sit in the hot tub. I may go for a bike ride. I will go for walks. I will write more. I will get some business stuff done on my mile long 'to do' list. I will take a nap. I will read a book. I will go climbing again, and feel what real weakness is all about. I will cook.Oh, and I'm finally going to get the windshield of my car replaced because I really can't see where I'm going any longer.
And at the end...I may be more refreshed. More ready to run again. My muscles and body and mind and heart and soul may WANT it more. Time will tell.
“It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life.” ~ Anne Lamott