Recovery Thoughts III
|February 28, 2014||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
It’s been six days.
Recovery. It does the body good.
Six days post race and I’ve tried to run once. It was an absolute, miserable failure.
Muscles? Calves are still the tiniest bit tight but it’s so minor I really didn’t think it was a problem. Neuro/central fatigue component? I can’t even begin to describe how flat and dull I felt on the run. It didn’t hurt but I sorta plodded along. And then walked. The day after I tried to do that easy run I noticed some extensor tendonitis over the top of my right foot, the ball of my right foot felt a little more bruised, and my diaphragm feels crampy and grumpy – issues that weren’t present early in the recovery period BEFORE I tried going for that little easy run.
Mentally I feel fine. Stress-wise I feel fine. But I’m definiately NOT recovered even though I’m walking normally, powering up and down stairs in my daily routine and planning my next ultramarathon.
Recovery is HARD. At least as hard as the actual conditioning. Mostly because it seems like the 4 “categories” of recovery don’t recover at equal rates and so I can mentally REALLY feel like a run…but physically can’t. Or physically I feel really bouncy and ready to go…but the emotional readiness isn’t there.
If the training/racing/endurance ride is a war between your brain saying one thing and your body saying another – recovery can be EXACTLY the same thing.
Today is the wrap up of some of concepts I’ve been reading about in Magness’s book “Science of Running” book. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the subject both here and in his book. The science behind Fatigue and Recovery has turned out to be so much more fascinating and nuanced than I thought, and I’m considering doing more research on both the human and horse side for this year’s 2014 Ride and Tie Scholarship. (the article that I wrote for the 2013 essay on Heat Conditioning still hasn’t published online – but I keep checking and will link it to the blog when it’s up!).
Practical approaches to recovery
The first lesson I’m (slowly) learning is that I have to actually recover.
The Monday after the 35K (2 days post race) I was still laughably lame – as to be expected considering the time frame of DOMS. I had made the commitment to take elevators that day but I was angonizing over whether the $8 I paid for parking so I only had to walk a quarter mile instead of a mile to class had to come out of my piddling weekly allowance or if I could count that as a necessary expense associated with the race.
One of my friends looked at me and said: “Melinda. You are not good at taking care of yourself. Therefore if you are doing something that counts as taking care of yourself, you should reward yourself – not punish yourself”.
Truer words never spoken.
Yesterday I woke up with a pinched nerve or muscle spasm or SOMETHING on the right side of my neck. Is it related to the other nagging issues that showed up after I tried to running this week? I’m not sure. But I do know that I’m in PAIN and it’s certainly contributing to possibly delaying my ongoing recovery from the run.
I decided schedule a massage at the student health center. I’ve never had a massage, but since I don’t have a good chiropractor at the moment, maybe massage would help! Turns out their soonest opening is NEXT Wednesday – which by then I’ll feel fine – but I’m keeping the appointment because if I like it…I’ll preschedule a post-race/ride massage for my next events. The Science of Running book lists massage as an adaption amplifier (amplifiers are things that help support adaptation to the stimulus), while conceding that it’s not scientifically backed and we are unsure how/why it might work.
$30 for a massage is a luxury in my life – and one that in the past I would have poo-pooed as not worth my time or money. But it’s time for me to take all the aspects of recovery more seriously and if I find that it supports recovery in one of the four categories – especially mental – then I need to recognize it as a valid expense part of my conditioning.
My advice? Figure out which parts of recovery you have the most problems with and develop some plans and assessment methods that will keep you honest. It may not be as exciting as watching the miles pile up, but the time you spend in quality recovery is just as important as the quality miles logged out on the trail.
We’ve all been hammered over and over and over with the concept of refueling after runs with a combination of both protein and carbs. Because I love food, and fueling up during endurance events is essential we talk about food a LOT. In fact, I was categorizing old posts and came across some of my old 100 mile race reports and I think every single one of them devotes at least 500 words to what I ate, what worked and what didn’t.
I think we can all agree that replacing the fuel deficits that occur during rides and runs is important, and a combination of proteins and carbs is important for both human and horse. In fact, even if you don’t regularly feed alfalfa to your horses, in addition to considering it during a ride because of it’s electrolyte and other nutrients – the equine nutritionist that lectured to me during my 2nd year of vet school recommended feeding alfalfa after rides because it has a more complete amino acid profile – which aids in helping muscles to recovery etc.
One thing I did NOT realize is that the timing of protein boluses during recovery can matter. Magness says in Science of Running that a protein bolus before bed can amplify adaptation because much of the muscle repair and adaptation occurs while we SLEEP. Which makes sense to me – that’s 8 hours that we aren’t moving around and making our brains work hard and using up energy so WHAT ELSE does the body have to do except for heal and repair (and reorganize random vet thoughts into coherent thought patterns), and having amino acids available so that the muscles can do their thing is probably important.
Using recovery to our advantage – it’s link to training
I’ve talked a lot about recovery and assessing recovery and assisting recovery.
Do you always want to fully recover before your next work out?
Just like being able to recognize when you are fully recovered, it’s just as valuable to strategically use the degree of recovery to address specific types of challanges that are faced in competition – but that are difficult to mimic in training.
I am probably the world’s laziest endurance athlete. (I cringe when I use the word athlete to describe myself, but as it was recently pointed out that I have a large imposter syndrome thing going on – I’m going to try and believe that my horse and I are BOTH endurance athletes).
I don’t particularly want to run a bunch of 20 mile long runs at home preparing for an *ultra if I can avoid it. I don’t particularly want to spend 5 hours in the saddle preparing for a 50.
*ultra = it came to my attention that some people may not understand the terminology of ultra or ultramarathon. Ultras are races over a marathon length which is 26.2 miles. A typical ultra distance is 50k, 50mi, 100mi.
I don’t want the injury risk, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the energy.
But I still need to work on the challenges that come at the 10 mile, 20 mile and beyond mark in a competition.
One way to do this is to break down the components or challenges that occur during an event – and work on them separately in training.
Running or riding 50 miles is at it’s very simplest covering a distance of 50 miles.
Going back to the very first post on recovery, running or riding 50 miles will cause 3 things.
1. Muscle damage (we could use the euphanism of “muscle strengthening” but that just sounds like a lot of DOMS to me!)
2. Fuel Depeletion
3. Psychological stress (dig deep!)
We need to increase the reserve of all 3 in order to successfully complete our endurance event. (BTW – you might have noticed that I have a hard time keeping my ride/run terminology straight! Sorry – let me know if it’s unclear and I’ll go back and edit).
Building stronger muscles is all about increasing the amount of recruitment in the muscle. If you can recruit more fibers to do a task – you can do that task “better” (generate more power, left heavier, go faster etc.). It turns out that endurance exercise also depends on being able to recruit fibers in order to go longer (there was some sort of cool mechanism where some fibers were resting while others were doing the work etc that we don’t have time to discuss right now).
Strength training is the classical way to get your brain/muscle control system to recruit more fibers for a task. I’ve read the most specific strength training that a runner can do is sprinting. If you don’t believe that running can also be strength training, you haven’t been doing your HIIT intervals hard enough. Hill training is another way to teach the body to recruit more fibers.
Now, obviously you need to do some specific training for endurance and you can’t do ALL sprint training and expect to go out for a 50 mile run/ride and succeed…..but doing some sort of specific strength training (sprints, hills, other) can be a way of recruiting lots of muscle fibers over a short amount of time without having to go out and run slower for 20 miles.
Another options is “pre fatiguing”. I had completely forgotten about this concept until read it in the Science of Running book. When I was first building my endurance running base I used this concept all the time. Instead of one really long run on the weekend, when I was trying to bump up my long run mileage, I would run 2 medium length runs back to back. For example – if my longest run was a 10 miles and I wanted to build to 15, I would run a 5 mile one day and a 7 or 8 the next day. The back to back workouts can be in the same day too! An am workout and a pm workout. Perhaps a morning sprint workout, with a pm tempo to simulate end of race conditions.
We pre-fatigue our horses too. Doing back to back 50’s on a multi day before doing a 100 is a good example.
Like all of the techniques described for the remainder of the post, I think of per-fatiguing (whether muscle, pyschy, or fuel) as fast forwarding our muscles to a later point in our goal race distance without having to do the actual mileage and time.
All of our different types of workouts have a different psychological component. Long run are very psychological, as are HIIT, tempos, and hills. Going out tired and stressed deliberately and having to work through a mental block on a shorter run could help. Fatigue is largely related to mental fatigue and stress. Think about tasks that require Concentration. That is going to contribute to fatigue.
One idea is to forcing yourself to do arithmetic equations as you run. This could be a way of bringing yourself to a “tired” mind point that normally you would only reach later in the game. For me, doing squares (1×1, 2×2, 3×3 etc. in my head is a good way) is very effective to forcing me to concentrate. Running on a technical trail that requires me to constantly adjust and think about foot placement also takes a great deal of concentration. The most painful psychological run I can think of for myself, that would absolutely mimic my mental state at the end of a 4+ hour long run or ride would be a 30min tempo run while trying to do math in my head without music. :).
These posts sparked some conversation over on the new100milers yahoo email list about how we could duplicate and help our horses through the mental wall that can occur in endurance. One thing that immediately sprang to mind for Farley was making some of our conditioning rides about multiple loops. Nothing that horse hates more than multiple loops past the trailer! Another “task” that requires the horse to think more and concentrate is frequent gait changes. Another psychological stressor for Farley would be tack with long straps that bumped against her rythymically or using a piece of gear that squeaks (Like my D-snaffle bits. LOL – the creak creak creak of metal drives her just as insane as me).
Of course it’s easy to overdo the psychological training – just like it’s easy to overtrain the physical components. Be sure you are evaluating you and your horse as individuals and applying stressors in a smart way.
I’ve mentioned before that the psychological element of endurance riding is by FAR the weakest link for me. I’m finding that one of the biggest ways to specifically increase my psychological reserves for endurance is to run long distances. I haven’t quite elucidated the link between the comfort I get from completing something like the 35k on foot and the calmness it brings when I think about doing a 50 miler on horse back…but the link is there. It might be related to the 2 sports being very similar – with the running version requiring the same fuel/physical/psychological reserves – but without the added stress/psychological component of a horse and taking care of the horse. I can work on increasing my reserves without the horse, and then adding the horse back in isn’t that bad?
Doing runs in a fuel depleted state because of deliberate fasting or doing consecutive workouts (pre fatigue) could help mimic the metabolism demands late in a race. Normally I refuel with my custom “goop” for runs that will last over 90 min. However, I could deliberately go out for a 2 hour run without the goop (I’ve fasted for some of my HIIT runs but they are so short I don’t think it has the same effect). Deliberately working through a fuel depleted state could also help me recognize the signs of fuel depletion faster – something I struggle with during endurance (but not necessarily running).
Now for a quick housekeeping reminder
You may have seen my “announcement” yesterday on the addition of a “featured” section/page to this blog. Sometimes I read a post that is so meaningful, so powerful that I feel like it deserves wider distribution and not to be buried in that author’s blog after the initial publishing.
In my opinion, Funder’s 100 mile completion at 20MT this year is one of those posts. Aurora’s post on her metabolic LD pull is another.
I’m sure we can all think of a certain post that was especially inspiring or informative. Maybe they broke down a complicated process, or they took the time to post a comprehensive “how to” related to endurance. Maybe it’s the best collection of advice you’ve ever seen on how to ride or train for a 100. Or maybe it was a gut wrenching honest account of where they went wrong – or maybe they perfectly capture the spirit of endurance riding.
If you have a link for one of these “best of the best” types of posts (even if it’s your own!) please submit the link! I won’t publish the whole thing – just a preview with a link so that people can go visit the original site. Don’t be shy – I know we all have posts that we are especially proud of. It doesn’t have to be a ride story – maybe it’s how to be the best crew ever? (or how to avoid making the worst crew mistakes). Maybe it’s a post or a website resource that you went back to over and over in your first couple of years as an endurance rider.
After I publish a new feature, I’ll put the feature information and link on the endurance section of my website, so that we always know where we can find the right endurance story if we need to be inspired, need a laugh, or need the perfect “how to”.