Sunday, February 13, 2011

When Your Body Demands a Break

When you don't let your body take a break every now and again, it will demand a break from you. The body can do this via injury, like a pulled or strained muscle, or it can do it via fatigue.

Fatigue was the case during my run this morning. I had planned to do close to 25 miles but ended up doing about 20, with significant walking breaks.

The sun rising over Los Angles two hours into my run

When starting my run that morning, I found I lacked my normal sense of quiet focus. My mind kept wandering (not in a good way), and I was consistently challenged to keep up my pace. Often, I didn't even try to keep pace, and found myself walking more frequently and on sections that were not even challenging. After about 2 hours, I felt like throwing in the towel and going off to get a cup of coffee somewhere.

But, I stuck with it - to some degree, anyway. By slowing my pace and taking more walking breaks I lowered my overall mileage and intensity, but I hung in there for the full allotted time. Additionally, I decided that if I couldn't run the whole course at a good pace, I'd focus on certain sections of the trail to run hard (ok fine, medium-hard), with slower running in between.

And while all that was going on, I was considering why I was feeling so crappy.

Looking back over the last few weeks, it's not all that surprising. Recently I've been making a special effort to train more consistently, which essentially means the following:
 - running hills with nearly every workout
 - running at a faster pace through every workout
 - more frequent workouts during the week

In addition to that, I had pumped up my mileage in the last week and it was over 5 weeks since the last time I had taken a break from my weekend long run.

To sum it all up, I was pooped.

I contemplated this during my run-walk-run-walk-amble-run. I had already decided to take it easier than I intended - it was just too hard to do otherwise - but I was feeling guilty about it. I wasn't sure that "taking it easy" was justified. I wasn't sure if I should be pushing through the resistance or listening to my body.

Winners don't "take it easy" - do they?
Road up to Griffith Park Observatory
Sure, it's not always easy, I told myself sternly, but it won't be easy during the 2nd half of that 50 or 100 miler either. You'll feel a LOT like walking then. Are you just going to give up then, too? Ease up on the pace? Walk the whole thing? Decide to go home mid-way?

But... I'm tired, a small voice in my head said. My stern inner voice was silent at this, but I swear I could hear it rolling it's eyes.

As already noted, I ended up listening to my body - or in other words, I took the easy way out. Still feel like a wuss about that one. Still kinda don't care though, in light of all the other training I've been doing. Still feeling a little tired.

All this debate and self-berating can be avoided, however, with one simple solution: by scheduling breaks into training in the form of "recovery weeks". I don't typically do this very well (or at all), but recovery weeks are an essential part of training, as told by coaches and runners with far more experience than me.

By giving myself "easy" weeks every 4-5 weeks and allowing my body and mind some time to recover, I can better avoid injury and burnout while also avoiding the feeling of "slacking  off" during training when my body just shuts down.

More of the trails at Griffith Park
I'll try this from now on... and continue to make note of how my mind and body is feeling with each workout. I'd like to keep on pushing in training but I want to be sure I'm not pushing too hard... when your only coach is yourself, it can be so hard to know how well you are walking that line.

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