You haven’t gotten up off the couch in a few days and you’re eating everything in sight. This is the life of an endurance athlete following a race. The guilt of perceived laziness and over indulging starts to creep in. You feel the need to get back out there pounding the pavement or turning the pedals over.
You end up convincing yourself to get a workout in and it goes exactly how you might think. Horribly.
This was me following my 31 mile run seven days ago. Monday I felt like a truck had hit me. Drinking too much alcohol at the post-run birthday celebration didn’t help for recovery. My calves and quads felt much better on Tuesday, but my joints were still creaking. With the muscles feeling better the thoughts I mentioned above started to creep into my head. I needed to get back out there and do something. Run, cycle, swim, SOMETHING!
Wednesday is typically track workouts with my SENS Fitness triathletes. So I got out there and gave it go. It wasn’t pretty. I had to throw in the towel less than 2 miles in. My muscles felt recovered but they most certainly weren’t. My ankles and knees were screaming for me to stop as well.
I forced the issue, despite knowing how best to handle a recovery week following a long, arduous event. I disobeyed one of the cardinal rules of endurance, and life in general: Patience.
Consistency will lead to improvement, but patience will yield the best results. Here’s how the week post-31 miler should have played out.
Full rest. I earned a complete day off.
Here’s where I went wrong. I should have gone to the pool for an easy swim. It’s easy on the joints, which were bothering me most. This would be a short swim, 1,000-1,200 yards tops with a pull buoy to avoid any lower bodywork.
I said to hell with patience and went for a run! That wasn’t the smartest idea. Instead, an easy recovery ride of about 60-90 minutes would have been a better option. A ride on a flat course with a comfortable cadence would suffice and as soon as it started to feel difficult, I could have stopped.
The tail end of the week comes with options. And I did this right by electing to get a strength workout in without lifting a single weight. All body weight exercises to stretch my glutes and hamstrings, along with core and upper body movements. This limits the impact on your legs as they still work to repair themselves.
This is when I should have gone out for my first run post-ultra marathon. Instead, I rushed this up to Wednesday. My second error was trying to do speed work mid-week. I did run Friday and it was a solid two miles. I was pressed for time, but ideally this would have been an easy 30-minute run focusing on form rather than speed.
Another day back in the pool! Same as Tuesday using a pull buoy and limiting the movement of my lower half. Again, this doesn’t need to be long as 1,000 yards or so would be plenty.
A final ride to round out the week along a flat route at a comfortable cadence. I’ll push this up to 90 minutes at a minimum unless it starts to feel really difficult. By now the legs were feeling nearly 100% so it’s time to get back into the normal training routine come tomorrow.
This post-event recovery week will work for marathons, triathlons, or century rides. The most important aspect is to be patient. Don’t talk yourself into forcing the issue and rushing back to full activity. It’s OK to take it easy for a few days and its far easier to do when you have patience.