One of the many overlooked parts of ultra running is recovery. For me, it is probably the hardest and my least-favorite facet of this sport. When I say that, I mean I hate recovery. I have no problem pushing myself to the limits during a race or route, but then for some reason I expect that my body will be fine after sleeping it off and I'll be ready to go out in the mountains again in a few days time. Isn't that how it's supposed to work? I think part of the blame is Strava and other social media sites and following athletes who are much better than me at this sport. It's good to look towards them for inspiration, but should never be used to compare yourself to them or to think that in between your full time job, house and apartment, and time with family and friends, you have time to turn your dad bod into an elite athlete during one training cycle.
My Recovery Story
To say I've had a few injuries running is an understatement. I have a tendency to go out for things that I'm mentally prepared for but my body isn't - it's just there for the ride. Over the years I've learned from my mistakes and learned that injuries present themselves when you put a bigger load, whether that's time or intensity, on your body than you've done during training. So if the intensity or time goes up, then one of them has to go down.
I've been experiencing minor pain from plantar fasciitis during this year, but nothing ever major enough to put me out of running for more than a day. During my most recent run on the Foothills Trail, I noticed a decent amount of pain in the middle of my foot and the hardest part of the run was at night where there was the most amount of climbing and the most technical trail sections. This just aggravated my foot more - and then bombing down the final 3 mile descent to hit that sub-24 hour was probably not the smartest thing. The week after it was really sore to walk on and after trying to run on it thinking that may stretch it out, I realized this was an injury that needed a full recovery. I made the decision that the small amount of miles I may be able to add to my 2020 yearly mileage would never be the amount of fun I would have with what I was planning to start off the new year with.
My first step was to rest up as much as I could. I started sleeping in more and due to it being around the holidays, this gave me plenty of time to watch movies with my kids. I gradually started introducing my yoga routine back in and with walking every morning and that yoga I felt like I was still getting my body to move enough to keep my sanity. This is a good place to talk about cross training. There are alot of options out there for cross training, and you need to find what works for you. I love using yoga to build core strength as well as working muscles that aren't used all the time. I know someone out there needs to hear this, but yoga is not stretching - it is very hard and if you stay with your yoga practice long enough you'll make a super strong connection with your body you didn't know was possible. Alright I'm done, back to the story...through this process was always a check-in to see if my foot was willing to do these things pain free. After these excercises I would usually massage with a tennis ball or ice roller for my foot. When I felt more confident I would go for hikes in the mountains and still always check-in with my foot and make sure that my foot was ok with me pushing the effort even harder.
What Can You Take From Recovery
I look at anytime I'm making an effort to move, it's training for the next adventure. With that, recovery is a crucial part of that. It's important to quiet the mind and body to make sure you recover correctly. Hitting a personal best in mileage or time is not more important than recovering. You just have to think to yourself, what matters more - hitting up another training run or resting up for a big adventure? For me this is always a no brainer.
It's important to realize that everything I've mentioned here is purely anecdotal. I can put out a strong recovery plan for runners experiencing overuse injuries, but it's not going to work for everyone. You need to find what works best for your body and stick with that. I hope that witht this you feel more encouraged to take recovery seriously and enjoy this part of training so that you can get back out there and enjoy the trails again.
Happy Trails Ryan
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