Preparation is the New Recovery

My coach and I have had some good back and forth about the benefits of “recovery runs”, and my recent realization about what a recovery run actually is. On my run today, I thought about it further and came up with what I think is a better way to get the idea across to thickheaded dolts like me.

As explained in a recent post, I just didn’t get what it meant to pace a recovery run. I always thought recovery runs were for recovering FROM the workout the day before, as the language alludes, and so if I went out and felt strong…I would run strong. The way I saw it, if I was feeling good and didn’t NEED to recover, since I obviously already did, then I could put down another quick run without concern. I was, unknowingly, not taking into account the accumulative effects that come with repeated harder running, but instead just responding to feeling good. If I could run a 6:00 “recovery” run after a hard workout the day before, then that would only help me right? Wrong.

After repeated aggravations (I hesitate to call them injuries), and some pretty amazing runs after a couple days off, the actual benefits of slow recovery runs really sank in. What competitive runners ultimately live for are those few hard runs we do a week, the Tuesday speed workout, the Thursday speed/strength workout and the Saturday long run. Those are the runs that turn us into the machines we hope to become and so those are the runs we hope to perform best in, the runs we need to be primed for. What I wasn’t considering with my faster “recovery” runs, was the sacrifice I was extending into my workouts. Whether by a lot or a little, I was taking away the strength and rest I needed for those hard workouts by putting in quick recovery runs, when I should have been slogging through those at a frustratingly slow pace.

Again, I thought I was supposed to be recovering FROM a run, not preparing FOR one. And that’s what clicked in my thoughts lately. It’s all about the language.

If I would have been told to go out for a “preparation run” at a slow pace, I’m pretty sure I would have made the connection sooner and kept the next run in mind, instead of feeling good about already being “recovered” and putting in another moderate effort on the current run.

And in that simple change of language I have been able to temper myself, because if you couldn’t already tell, I get carried away. I simply love to run, so to think about going out for a deliberately slow, unchallenging, dispassionate run just doesn’t entice me much. I feel like I’m sacrificing the experience of running, of working against your pounding heart, of twitching muscles and wobbly legs when all is said and done. To starve myself of those sensations and overall experience just doesn’t sit right, but that is what I have to come to terms with and my shift in internal dialogue and language has helped.

Now, when I’m out slowly plodding away through 10 or 12 miles and I’m barely putting in any effort, feeling like I’m power walking, I’m no longer thinking about the need to feel better after the previous workout, but gearing up for the next one…I’m just biding my time. I’m looking towards that next workout and knowing that with a slow pace and deliberate restriction NOW, I’m setting myself up to really maximize the effect and experience of the effort to COME. I’m not “recovering”. I’m PREPARING.

I’m preparing to kill it. To go all out. To suffer. And, ultimately, to get better. To get stronger. To get faster.

And that little switch in language has made all the difference.


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