Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Importance of Recovery-Ryan Hall

ASICS America Blog | The Importance of Recovery
Last week was a good week. In terms of training it was the most defining week of my buildup for The ING NYC Marathon. Coming off a very difficult Sunday marathon simulation I was expecting to feel a little sluggish with only one day rest before my 1000 meter repeat session on Tuesday. It was one of those good surprises when I got part way into my workout and realized there was a freshness to my legs that hadn’t been there since I began my heavy marathon training. I knew the rest of the week was going to be special, and it had to be, since I had my hardest runs I would be doing leading up to NYC on Friday and Sunday.

As we were finishing our repeats on Tuesday it began to snow, and snow, and snow. We ended up getting so much snow that the ski resort reported a 30” dump and that they had enough to open a month earlier than expected. On Tuesday night I went over to my training partners house, Josh Cox, for a pre-birthday healthy homemade pizza dinner. Driving home I felt lucky to be in my four-wheel drive equipped Titan because there was no way I was getting home any other way.

I turned 27 years old on Wednesday. Birthdays have definitely changed over the years and especially since I began marathoning. I used to have stay up all-night parties with my buddies in grade school. Now I am eating Splenda pumpkin pie, which is really good, and enjoying low-key moments with teammates and friends. This year Sara wanted to throw a big party for me but when I am in the middle of heavy training it is hard to find extra energy for even fun things like parties.

Friday was my biggest workout of the week, an 18-mile tempo run. I had already done an 18-mile tempo two weeks prior and it had gone well but with how good my body was feeling I knew I could run much faster this time around. Luckily the snow had subsided and it was almost a no-shirt day (a runners way of relating temperature). I ended up running two minutes faster than I had previously run. When I finished that run I knew, with all certainty that I was ready. It was not that I didn’t know before but there are those moments when you no longer have to talk yourself into the fact that you are ready you just know because the evidence is undeniable.

I was expecting to feel pretty trashed on Saturday but I was surprised, once again, when I felt unusually bouncy on my training runs. Another good sign. Running good workouts is important but how you come off them is almost equally important. In training, no single run should ever be looked at in isolation. It’s about the whole block of training. This is why some people can hop in someone else’s workout, run it and apparently be in the same shape but then finish minutes behind on race day. It isn’t totally about what has been done on just one day, it is about what has been done over the weeks and months leading up to the event. Coming off the workout well is just as important as doing the workout. Here is how I come off workouts well.

The first thing I do after a workout is eat. Recovery begins with nutrition. I have Cytomax protein and a banana right away, and then I go home and stretch and eat lunch soon thereafter. After lunch I go straight into a 90-minute massage. I know massage might not be accessible to everyone, which is why when I don’t have access to a massage I use various balls, rollers, Normatec MVP, etc to workout any knots or tight spots I may have acquired from the workout. After the massage I go straight into my Icool for an ice bath. After relaxing for a couple of hours, it is time to go to the gym for some light leg weights (quad extensions, pulley exercises, etc…the key here is to strengthen the muscles that tend to be weak on you specifically), a kick in the pool for hydro-therapy and a brief (10 minutes tops, followed by lots of water) stretch in the hot tub. These are the keys I have found helpful in coming off workouts well but you are going to have to experiment to find what works well for you.

Sunday marked two weeks till race day. It was my last long run. I ran 2 ½ hours and covered well over 20 miles feeling very controlled the whole way. It is at about two weeks before the race that I make sure to really monitor my effort level. I still do some hard running but there are no tests until the marathon. I did my usual recovery routine in the afternoon and finished the day with a night service at church.

Today I woke up and had that unusual pop in my legs once again. I was thinking about how I only had a couple weeks left to enjoy the fitness that I have gained over the last four months, and then it will be time to stop running and let my body recover. People are always surprised when I tell them I let myself get out of shape over a two-week complete no-run recovery period after all my marathons. I have come to see it as a very necessary part of marathon training. I have tried only taking a modified break and found that I came back in very good shape but then as I began my training my body goes stale, begins to breakdown in the form of injuries, and I see very little improvement. Recovery is a necessary part of the cycle of a marathon runner. Plus, if you never let yourself get out of shape its harder to appreciate being in shape.

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