Friday, January 16, 2015

Rest, Recovery, Sleep

Roughly a month ago, I was going down the stairs, and I felt a jabbing pain in my knee. I was unable to full extend my knee or bend it.

This was 100% my fault.

I thought this incident would make a worthy post because there are probably other people like me out there.

I mentioned yesterday on FB that I've been racing for 31 years. That's 100% true with a couple of short breaks thrown in there. With my pregnancies, I was a step away from bed rest. I started running track in high school (at which I completely sucked), but it started me running and competing.

Being active for that long has it's good and bad points. The good is that I don't know life without some type of strenuous activity.

The bad:
1.) Some athletes keep trying to get back to their former glory as they age. (This isn't me. I can hardly call a 10:00 pace "former glory")
2.) (And this one is DEFINITELY me) We form bad habits with recovery and don't adapt as we get older.

First, let me tell you how I define these things from my own experience:

REST. Exactly that. Days off from training. True rest days mean we are off our feet as much as possible. We shouldn't be running around doing errands that we can't get done the rest of the week. REST. SIT YO' ASS DOWN AND EAT A SANDWICH.

In the past, I was one of those people who tried to cram in everything on my rest days. Now that I'm older, I appreciate the day a lot more. I get about one rest day every 3 weeks. I take advantage of it. I eat. I don't cut my calories simply because I'm sitting on my butt all day. My body needs those calories in order repair the damage that I've done.

Recovery comes in a couple of different types. (There might even be more).
1.) Active Recovery. Recovery workouts. These are workouts that are done at a significantly lower effort. I have several of these a week. Recovery workouts can often feel more difficult than a high intensity workout. These are the days where my legs feel like lead or where I feel like I'm hobbling more than running. Coach will tell me to run no higher than zone 2 and sometimes no higher than zone 1. Because it's a recovery, my running paces can sometimes be at the 12 min pace. IT'S THAT HARD, but recovery workouts are critical.

2.) Recovery: compression socks, using a roller, using a stick using a lacrosse ball, getting massages. WHATEVER your own personal tool of torture is.

These are my personal favorites.

Back to the knee story. I have an MS in Exercise Physiology. As soon as I felt the stabbing, I thought, "F*CK". I knew it happened because I hadn't been giving any real time to recovery. Sure, I'd roll once, maybe twice a week and call it good. 

I told Coach what happened. I hung my head low and said, "I made a mistake." She said, "You need to do this every day." (That's not a direct quote, but that was the gist of the conversation). Of course, I knew she was right. 

Like many people (I'm sure....I can't be the ONLY one), recovery isn't fun. It isn't something to get excited about like running 400m repeats. There's no WHOOPING IT UP. 

But, it's the MOST important part. Without recovery, there are injuries. Without recovery, there are no PRs. Without recovery, there are no 400m repeats.

Right then, I started on my recovery workouts. I do them every single night. Mr. Tea watches tv in the evenings, and I take 30minutes and an hour. I alternate lighter recovery and heavy duty days. 

When I finish a hard workout, I go right into my compression tights. In the evenings, I start with the rumble roller. Then for REALLY intense pain, I use the lacrosse ball. The lacross ball is great for small areas (like rhomboids) and it's great for getting in there nice and deep like in the glutes. Once I have most of that worked out, I move into stretching. Doing the roller is really important before stretching because it relaxes those super tight areas. 

I committed to doing that. Really, it hasn't been the time-suck that I always used to think. Honestly, I know I need to do it, and I feel SO much better now that I AM doing it daily.

A few years back, I read an article that said to take 10% of your weekly training volume, and that's how much sleep athletes need. I thought that was brilliant. It's a great guideline.

If you train for 10 hours a week, you need an extra 1 hour of sleep per night. (I'm not here to argue the point. I'm talking about what works for me).

Back in the day, I used to wake up to an alarm clock. This little formula was really helpful to remind me to get the sleep I need. Nowadays (with adult children), I don't use an alarm clock. If I have an early meeting or a race or some morning time commitment, I set a back up alarm. Typically, I don't need it. I wake up at the same time every morning on my own.

The other piece to this is that I used to think that I needed a lot of sleep....more than the average person. And sure, I certainly DID need more than the average coach potato., but I've never been a coach potato. Since then, I've read many articles about top world class athletes who will sleep for 10 hours a night and then also take naps. I realized that "Hey....there MUST be something to that little 10% formula."

In the evenings, I usually go to bed at the same time every night, but I don't hesitate to go to bed early when I'm last night. I was out cold by 8:30.

For me, it's about listening to my body. If I need the sleep, I'm going to get it. Intense training needs equally restful sleep.


There will be people who will say, "Of course you can do that. You don't have small kids. You don't have this. Your life is easy."

To that I say, "Don't judge a man (sorry for the sexism) until you walk a mile in his shoes."

We all have our own challenges or problems that we deal with on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

It's a matter of how you choose to prioritize your own health.