The Art Of Recovery

AJW's TaproomI’ve spent considerable time over the last year and a half in recovery. First, I had the daunting task of recovering from major hip surgery during the winter and spring of 2016. Then, after getting through that, I had to pull myself up off the mat after an excruciatingly difficult run at Hardrock last July. And recently, after brashly overdoing it by running four races on four consecutive weekends in March and April, I have been in that place where I know I am on a bit of an edge and just don’t know how steep a drop-off it is from that edge. Even after all these years, I am still figuring stuff out.

What I’ve learned from these three recovery experiences is that as much as we like to have science tell us how and when we’re recovered, the truth is recovery is an art. Requiring a strong dose of patience and the ability to listen well, recovery is a delicate balance. Whether physical, emotional, or mental, the ability to recover well and completely is not easy. And often striving for the recovered end takes disparate and occasionally conflicting means. It is in the sweet spot between the ends and the means that we eventually find the space between, the space to eventually and successfully come back.

After my hip surgery, my needs were purely physical. First I had to learn how to walk again, then live normally, and then, finally, to run. As I began to run, I needed to learn to adjust to my new reality and my new body. At the same time, I had to hold back on my desire, which for decades has been my biggest challenge, wanting to do more, faster and harder. Holding back from what you want to take care of what you need is the first great challenge of recovery. And keeping desire at bay can be downright overwhelming, and, to be frank, I am not very good at it.

Then, after Hardrock, I was stripped raw. Open, vulnerable, sore, and vacant. That recovery bout was purely emotional. I wanted desperately to accept what was but I couldn’t help but dwell on what could have been. And in that process, I became lonely, maudlin, and perhaps even a bit depressed. I got out of it, eventually, but recovery in those times seems more like a war than a battle and it was only through focused acceptance of what I could and could not control that I made it out the other side, a side I am still slowly crawling out of.

Which brings me to my current recovery challenge, coming back from a simple bout of overdoing it. In this life, the truth is, saying yes is way easier than saying no and I am an unapologetic ‘yes man.’ Yet, I should know better after 25 years in this game but, alas, I don’t. Those same personal qualities that wore out my hip and sent me sideways at Hardrock have now led me to a place where I am teetering on the edge of burnout. I think I’ve caught it in time but experience suggests only time will tell. In the meantime, I need to shore up my mettle and wait it out. Which is hard, to say the least, especially when it comes to something I love so much.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Tropical TorpedoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. These guys have been doing lots of interesting things over the past couple years but none as interesting as the recently released Tropical Torpedo, a Tropical IPA-style beer. This beer, a seemingly simple blend of their Torpedo IPA with a tropical twist is as comforting as a Tim McGraw song on a hot summer night. Check it out. It may just be the beer of the summer, even for beer snobs!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you have examples from your time in trail and ultrarunning where you got your recovery ‘right?’ And how about times when you didn’t give your body and/or mind the recovery it needed?
  • Do you find that the recovery you need changes through time and from one training bout to another?

There are 7 comments

  1. Steve Pero

    Ah, recovery….something I’ve been battling since I turned 60 (now 65). Back in my 50’s, I was regularly able to get out for at least 50 mpw. In 2001 I ran a Barkley fun run, MMT100 and Hardrock and bounced right back. Now I struggle to recover from a hill workout, trying different training routines….every other day, Maffetone, short sprints, tempo runs. i think I’ve settled in on just doing one long run, one speed day and a short sprint day, everything else is a walk (good for ultrarunning) or a real easy Maffetone day. Planning on Grindstone in the Fall and a hopeful return to Hardrock next year, but for now it’s 5K’s and training. One change I made in 2012 that has helped is a plant based diet after reading Scott Jurek’s book and I am pretty sure it’s helped. Going on 41 years running and still trying to figure it out.
    Good luck with the recovery after training and racing!

    1. Miss Tenacity

      Steve, do you think the beneficial dietary changes have been in shifting to more “real food” or in limiting or eliminating animals? I think you know where I fall on this, but curious to hear your take.

  2. Granitrunner

    I think sometimes we love our running and hill climbing a bit too much….
    Fo me every or every twice year has its time when my head wants to run but my body says NO. And thats always the hardest part in the running year. In these days I switch to swim, but I recognized that you also can swim yourself into the ground…(marathon swimming). So if you swim too much it does not have anything to do with recovery.
    All the best for you and your recovery!!!

  3. Chris the Kiwi

    As a physiotherapist and a runner I’ve been on both sides of the equations many times – the one being told to take it easy, and the one doing the telling. Recovery is definitely an art, but in many ways it is also a skill and therefore to some extent can be learnt and improved upon.
    In most cases inflammatory pain can be differentiated from mechanical pain, pain in different areas suggest a more or less severe outcomes as do other concurrent signs and symptoms (catching/giving way, grinding etc.) – all of this knowledge allows early intensive recovery strategies to be used where appropriate. That’s my biggest piece of advice; learn about your body, knowledge is power!

    1. Chris the Kiwi

      A question that I’ve pondered for a while is: does the ability to ignore the warning messages from the body make a better endurance athlete? If so, it’s no surprise Andy that you’re a ‘yes man’, you’ve had 25 years of putting your body in a situation where it says no, and usually doing it anyway

  4. Steve Pero

    Andrea…good to hear from an old friend!

    I do think it’s more eating a whole foods diet that is mostly plant based…Deb and I are not vegans and do eat meat on occasion (She’s a Texan, how could we not?), but i think anything that you can do to reduce inflammation will help your recovery. That and proper rest ;-)

    Congrats on the San Diego 100, BTW!

    1. Miss Tenacity

      Thanks, Steve!!! Yeah, I think a mostly-plant, all-real, some animals diet is the best one. It’s usually the sugar that kills me on the inflammation front. :-/

      The art of recovery is so important for we ‘old timers’, especially sleep.

Post Your Thoughts