As paradoxical as it seems, recovery can sometimes be just as hard as training.
I’m slogging my way through the middle of a recovery week, forcing my heart rate into unfamiliar zones, embracing my pull buoy, and spinning out my miles. It’s the most boring thing ever. What keeps me coming back to training is the challenge of a new day––what can I do now that I couldn’t before? What can I do again even better than last time? I can be an intense person, so the adrenaline filled, fast twitch, heart-racing action is what keeps me entertained.
But training can’t always be about going fast and I’m realizing how important it is to learn how to go slow.
After a week of hard training and long miles, Coach Jim scheduled me for a half hour recovery run. Unbeknownst to him, it was my first recovery run ever. Shocking, I know. I’ve been a runner for seven years and this is the first time that I’ve ever made a conscious effort to go slowly and focus on form and patience.
Knowing my tendency toward overexertion, Jim was very clear in his instructions. My pace was to be “barely faster than a brisk walk,” which certainly put things in perspective. I suited up and stepped out to enjoy what was shaping up to be a lovely sunset and a cool spring afternoon.
But about 6 minutes into the “run” I was wishing for hill repeats. I wanted sprint intervals. A hard brick. Anything. My pace was so slow that I could feel the little old ladies and dog-walkers lining up to pass me. Not to mention, my heart rate was already sky-high for what should have been no effort movement (I’ll write more on my hummingbird heart later). I knew that I had a few more recovery runs on the calendar and couldn’t imagine going this slowly all week. I hadn’t even moved 8 minutes and couldn’t imagine 8 miles.
But like with everything in triathlon, I found a way. I watched clouds pass overhead. I waved at neighbors out on evening walks. I listened to the soft sound of my light breathing. I thought about life. By the end I was done and didn’t feel wrecked for it. I have to admit that it was nice having some energy left over for little things like eating and washing dishes. A week ago I had been so tired that I’d laid on my bed for several hours, unwilling to move.
Because Coach Jim and Coach Gerry are constantly in cahoots (as evidenced by their monthly podcast), I’m experiencing the joys of a recovery swim week as well. The load is lighter, making expectations more manageable. For the first time I’m finding this recovery period as a nice break and a much needed mental and physical reset.
Anyone who read my LA Marathon race report, or my recap from the Rock N Roll Half Marathon will recognize that I have issues with being patient, even if it’s for the worse. But the truth is that triathlon can’t be redlined. I recently took a look through my Garmin records from the Rock N Roll Half Marathon I did in 2014, and saw that my average heart rate was WAY above recommended levels for the entire 2 hours. It was PAINFUL! And worse than that, unsustainable.
Coach Jim congratulated me on my newly developing patience and promised that learning to pace myself will make me a stronger runner. After all, how could it not? For now I’ll welcome the rest, even if it makes me antsy, and sleep easy, knowing that the work will continue soon.