Recovery post race and starting a new training cycle

My Winter Season commenced on Boylston Street in Boston over 2 weeks ago and ended a pretty successful season.  After any season I think it’s really important to not only look back and figure out what worked and didn't but also take some downtime for various reasons before getting back into running.  For most of us running is just a hobby we do, some more competitively than other, but we all have real jobs and real adult responsibilities we must do in between our runs and strength sessions.  But none the less our goals are as important to us to achieve as any professional athlete because they are things we set to accomplish that have meaning to us (if your goals don’t get new goals).  For that reason I’ll stress the importance of a good break and I’ll kind of walk through what I like to do when I start up a new training cycle.

After Boston I took off 13 days with one short fun run to support my favorite store the Falls Road Running Story sandwiched in there, and this was the longest break I ever took post a marathon.  For me a break is important not just for the physical benefits but also the mental benefits.  I know a lot of people start running 3-4 days post race as soon as their body feels physically ready.  Sure for me four days after Boston all my soreness went away and I could have run but to me the mental break is just as important if not more important.  A break for me means completely shutting down everything to do with running physically and completely mentally.  I don’t force cross training, I don’t force core work, I just lounge around and relax and do things I wish I could do the rest of the year when instead I am deep in training.  This is important for me as it allows me to recharge the battery mentally.  Sure if I want to go to the gym and go on the Elliptical I would do that (Editor Note: I never felt like doing that) but instead I just wanted to go out with friends and spend extra time with my wife and daughter.  The key reason I stress focusing on mental recovery is because when I start training again I do not want to get 6 weeks in and wake up not wanting to train or feeling burned out.  Many times do I see people come back and just flame out mentally weeks before their race, wasting all their specific hard training.   There is nothing you can do to trick your body to recover from a mental breakdown.  Physically when you burn out, you can sometimes come out alive if you focus on recovery but mentally your body will shut down when you need it the most.  Next time you roll through a training cycle and get through your peak race, whether you hit your goal or not remember to focus on your mental recovery too on your break.  Just because you didn’t hit your goal and feel as though you didn’t “really race” your body still needs some downtime before you ramp up again.  Trust me it’ll do wonders for your longevity with running.

So once my break is over and I am ready to start training again here’s what I do to get myself started on the right foot and lead to success months down the road.  Well aside from setting a goal (so you have something to work towards when training gets tough) I do a couple things to make sure my body is starting off on the right foot.  First thing I love to try and do is getting blood work done when I start up a new cycle (I usually only do it once a year but I try and coincide it with when I start training).  This allows me to get a picture of where body is at across all levels heading into training.  One reason this matters to me is a couple years ago I was told I had a very huge vitamin D deficiency, which I thought was crazy I am out in the sun all the time.  Well turns out lots of people are Vitamin D deficient because some people’s bodies just can’t absorb Vitamin D from the sun like others.  Whaaaaa, Science?  This also was around a time when I felt really sluggish for all my workouts on the track, tired all the time and felt worn down.  I started supplementing Vitamin D and it definitely felt like it had a positive influence on my life.  Aside from blood work I think it’s important to assess everything that went wrong with your body leading up to your last race and during it.  Don’t ignore any of the pains you had before, keep a mental note so you can see if they still exist post break.  If two weeks of break didn’t make some of these issues go away, it’s time to focus on fixing them.  Either going to see a Physical Therapist or doing it on your own (You know my choice!) but ignoring it after a break is recipe for a disaster.  You don’t want to start off your new cycle dealing with issues from the previous cycle. It's also important to assess your last training cycle for what went right/wrong.  A training log is key for this, at a minimum it should include daily mileage, workouts specifics and how you felt, so you can go back to it later and remember.  Additionally I like to focus on lifting and general strength training at the beginning of the cycle.  When my mileage is at its lowest point and I am coming back it’s easiest for me to work this in and begin to get consistent with it as I ramp up.  Just like we know all the work you do in running is cumulative  year to year, all the work you do early on in a training cycle paves the way for success as you get to your peak race.  When you are smart about recovery and have a solid plan for when you start up again you set up a foundation that allows your body to handle the workload you need when you training starts to intensify.  Lastly slowly work back your intensity, no need to rush back.

What are your thoughts?  Anything you do to help you with your breaks post running or anything you like to focus on when you start up training again?  I hope you enjoyed my blog as much I enjoyed writing it.

For my summer it’s going to be a focus back on speed and shorter distance races and probably a 50k somewhere because why not.

My goals remain the same:
PR in the 5k 15:52 – been waiting since 2002 for this one to go down
PR in the 10k 33:13 – also 2002 PR
Run a Steeplechase race again – also haven’t done that since 2002