The Rewards Of Rest Days

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as an athlete is the importance of rest and recovery times.

You’d think it should be easy, right? It should be easy to just take a day off and not train. It should be easy to come off of months of heavy training for an event and greatly reduce my training volume and just enjoy some easier workouts.

There’s a couple factors that can come into play here, well, at least for me. Once I’m disciplined to something it’s very hard for me to not do it. I can be rather driven with whatever I’m focused on.  Mentally as well, it’s hard to not do it although I intellectually grasp the importance of focused rest. My body and mind thrive on it, that structured often intense training.

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When I work this hard, rest days are essential.

 

My mind and body need the work but they also need the rest.

I’ve also learned active rest doesn’t involve laying on the sofa eating crappy food and being lazy.

Well what is involved with recovery?

Recovery times are designed to let our muscles heal and recover from all we put them through in training. It allows the body to repair and strengthen itself between workouts.

In a crazy way, when we exert stress on our muscles, it damages the muscles fibers causing them to break apart.  During recovery these fibers heal stronger than before, which in turn makes your muscles stronger.

When we rest and eat good foods, our body heals, recovers and builds new tissue.

Active rest for athletes can mean anything from a brisk walk ( what I’ve used when I recover from running a marathon for a couple weeks after) to short easy runs, cycling or anything that doesn’t stress the body.

For me in the past year, yoga has been a good form of not just active recovery but  it’s also a wonderful, different form of strength training. Not only that, it also stretches and works those areas that tend to get tight from my running, cycling and strength training.

I’ve come to embrace so many of the moves that although sometimes at the start are a bit stretching, lead to feeling so good. It gives me some looseness and I feel better with it.

And although it helps with recovery, I think it’s also a wonderful strength tool as well.

I did a couple articles on my yoga shenanigans, find them here….

https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2017/08/29/yoga-again/

https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2016/04/15/athlete-meets-yoga/

Stretching, bending, flexing and whatnot

Ok I’ll admit. For years I was awful, totally awful, about taking time to do some dynamic warm ups before running or anything else athletic.

I just wanted to get at it.

I was a wee bit better when I finished, but after always feels so good and my body has earned it after working hard.

Since then I’ve learned more importance in taking that time to do activities to  help keep me loosened up and prepared for what I love to do.

…..although… I can still be bad about short changing myself on it….. you have permission to give me a hard time if I don’t.

Tools of the trade

There are other things I’ve been schooled on my road to being a ordinary, middle aged female athlete.

It took me a few years to get through this  “school” but now I know how important some things are.

For instance a foam roller. I would’ve never believed how amazing a cylinder of hard foam could feel on my body.

Foam rollers if you don’t know, are a method of self massage that lets you really key in on areas that are tight and achy. They also can help promote blood flow to recovering areas and break up knots and tension in muscles.

Then I went to Airosti for some treatments a couple years ago and the therapist told me I should be using a pvc pipe to roll on ’cause my muscles would adjust to foam.

I laughed. I told her she was crazy.

A hard pipe??? to roll my body on?

Ah well, laughing isn’t what I do with it now days as it’s my favorite device of torture… I mean… recovery haha

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She was right. The pipe presses into muscles in a different way and doesn’t give as foam will. I use it on my back and roll up to my shoulders.

My quads seriously have a love/hate relationship with it. It kills my calves in a good way.

The pipe wasn’t the only thing I was schooled on.

A lacrosse ball became really good friends with me too. It’s perfect for working into arches of my feet into those muscles and tendons that need released. It also becomes a device of torture when you lay on the floor and position it in a tight muscle in your shoulder and press into it.

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A solid ball of torture

 

Sweet mother of heaven. It puts me somewhere near death and blissful relief, I’m not sure which.

Another acquisition I got for Christmas is a roller with knobs all over it.

Are you seeing a weird pattern here? Devices that hurt, yet weirdly help haha

it looks something like this…..

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and it’s perfect to get areas that are knotted or tight.

All of these are wonderful tools for recovery to help tight muscles, to increase blood flow, and promote healing.

And of course, let’s not forget ice and heat which not only help recovery, but gosh, they can feel so good too.

Of course other factors like staying well hydrated and eating good whole foods also contribute to a good rest/recovery day or days.

Learning to embrace days of rest and recovery goes with the athletic process, I’ve learned. slowly but surely. You too should learn to embrace those days as times of healing and restoration for not only your body, but your mind too.

Tell me, if you train or workout, do you allow or take rest and recovery days? Is that hard to do? What are some methods you use for recovery?

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Running And The Art Of Surrender

surrender

 

“Hey, how’s the running going?!” a friend inquired of me…..

I wanted to blab something like… “I’m training for a 100 miler next” or “I’ve got a couple marathons on the books”… heck I wanted to say I was doing the local 5K Bubblegum run… anything…something.

Instead my response was…. “it isn’t” and my blah, blah, blah that I’m still tethered by an ugly injury.

I shared with you, my lovely readers, in a post a few weeks back that my sports doctor told me ( again) it’s insertional Achilles tendonitis. I had been doing some (light) running and it got no better and no worse, and so like many runners  I had this ( stubborn) mentality, “if it’s not gonna get better, flip it, I’m running.”

But after seeing sports doc and his “no running” at the top of the list…

I had to take a hard look at some things. If I wanted to get old with running I had to surrender.

It’s funny, in the beginning, when one starts running, there is a surrender. You surrender to a call, a pull, to be on the road. You feel the desire to go longer and farther. The surrender of your body to push more…to reach deeper in yourself… in that surrender… you find yourself out there on the road.

In the dark early mornings. In the sunset runs. In the hot and cold. In joy and sorrow.

If you’re a runner, you know what I mean. It’s a surrender to yourself..an abandonment.

I guess I had an epiphany the other night.

Let’s call it the other side of surrender.  The “ok, I give in. I yield. I will do what I have to do. I surrender my plans, goals and visions…for now”.

I surrender.

Because if I want to grow old with running, and if I want to get out there and have another shot at a 50K, or train for another marathon, or work on kicking my speed up to drop my 5k time, I have to surrender to the time it takes to heal my body properly. I surrender to the fact it could be a long time until I can run again without the injury being an issue.

And with all that in mind… I will do what I need to do.. and I am. In fact, on some levels I can feel a difference already. And even though my heart longs to run, my body is being kept busy doing other things.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my bike which gives me the miles and exhilaration I crave. That’s not a bad thing ’cause I want to do a duathlon someday ( a run, bike, run event).

I’m doing a lot more strength training and being careful to stay away from any activities that will irritate or cause it further stress. I’m icing, stretching, rolling my legs and feet a lot more.

Andddddd I’m super excited over my new cardio activity that’s coming to me….

I got a rowing machine (thank you amazing hubby who supports my athletic endeavors 🙂 rowing is a kick butt intense cardio workout that will fill in the gaps for me while I’m not running. It’s also non-impact/ stress on the tendons and joints so it will be perfect for me while I’m healing. I intend to spend some serious time on it.

When I get back on the road, my body will be strong for the task. Yes, I’ve already faced the frustration that it will almost be like starting over, but, if I’m at the point I can run, I will happily start building myself up again.

I did it once. I can do it again.

So for now, as hard as it is, I surrender to the process believing in the long run ( pun? 😉 it will all be worth it.

What about you happy reader? Have you ever had to come to a point of surrender in your life ? Was it worth it ?

embrace

 

Running, Tattoos, And Muscles

Yesterday I made a trip back to see my sports doctor. I haven’t seen him since last summer when I was in for my running injury.

I bit the bullet ’cause the crazy thing has never gone away.  After seeing him, then my visits to do Airrosti in December, it was still hanging around.

And being a runner my stubborn thought was…. “well, if it’s gonna be there and bother me whether I’m running or not, I might as well run. If it doesn’t get any worse…. go.”

Injured-runner1

 

 

Did I say I was stubborn ? Head strong? Willful ? Why do I hear my mother in my head ? haha

Realistically, I know it needs to be fixed so I can really get back out there and run like I want to run.

So… it was back to see him… to see what was going on.

The first thing he says,  grabbing my arm, “that’s cool… you got a new tattoo!”

Seriously? A doctor that remembers what ink you have on your arm ? And that you got a new piece ?

I did get new ink a few weeks ago… and it looks like this… I totally love it.

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Did I mention he’s cool ?  He’s also an athlete so he understands you not just from a medical perspective but an athletic one as well. He asks about goals and plans you have.

A quick assessment put me right into the (still) diagnosis of insertional Achilles tendonitis.  Ugh.

Soooo I will be icing…lots of icing it several times a day … using a topical ointment…. and…. rest from running…. as in….none.

Whatever.

So that puts me more into being confined and focusing on strength training… as in lifting heavy things and working on building those muscles while my feet recover.  I will also incorporate boxing into it ( great cardio) and I can still be out on my bike as long as it doesn’t cause any pain. That at least lets me get the miles under me that I  crave. I really wanna get a rowing machine since that is the perfect all over body work ( in my opinion) and it’s something else to add to what I do.

Actually, since my miles have been so reduced these past months, I have added more muscle ( ha… not burning it off)  😛 I don’t mind having the muscle… I just need to adapt with my jeans =)

Adapt.

Sometimes I embrace that word, other times, I loathe it.

The definition says to make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify. To change so it functions better. Interestingly, it’s a verb.

Adaptation and adapting are active processes.

My body ( yours too) and the activities we put them through can definitely be an adapting process.

Weight loss, weight gain, building muscle, getting older, exercise, strength training.. so many things make our bodies change… aren’t they amazing things?

But then there are these times I have to adapt to what is going on with my body.

Recovery is not a patient place for me. Therefore, I am learning to adapt even more.

No running means using other activities to get in my cardio. It also means spending more time in strength training… and this activity will change my body differently from running.

I’ve learned these past few years as an athlete that my body can change a lot depending on what I’m doing to it.

I loved how I looked at the peak of my marathon/50K training last year. Lean and chiseled running 55-65 miles a week, I was burning off way more than I was taking in… and truthfully…sitting in the very low end of my weight range.

The reality is, I can’t stay in that top “peak” of training all the time. Our bodies aren’t designed for it. I’ve learned my body will change a bit in off season.

I’ve learned to adapt to that reality.

Now I’m adapting to the constraints of injury.

Adapt. Change. Transform.

It’s a big part of life isn’t it ?

What about you? Have you learned this process, whether in life, or in the way you have to handle your body ? Do you fight against it or embrace the change it brings ? What has adapting taught you ?

 

 

 

 

 

Running, Recovery, And Rebellion

Hello World =)

Ok so I really want to write fun, happy, feel good Christmasy stuff for you… and I will…. ’cause it’s the most wonderful time of year 😉  but I’m gonna share a little more about running and specifically my struggles these past few months about getting back on the road again.. and my recent stint doing some Airrosti treatments.

Perhaps my sharing might encourage some of you who are battling a sports injury and struggling or maybe I can  offer some helpful recovery ideas for you crazy athlete people out there.

I think the frustrating thing these past few months has been trying to nail down exactly what the issue is that’s plaguing me. Going to an Airrosti sports therapy place was kinda like my last ditch effort to see if I could miraculously get fixed.

I mean come on… they promise to help you be better in a couple treatments… it was hard to pass on trying it.

One thing I had heard before I walked in the door from people who had gone were that you could expect pain. Ok whatever… if it helps let’s do it.

After getting my history I was on the table with the nice sports doctor doing some crazy things to my feet and calves… and yes… there were moments of total pain that I honestly stopped talking and reverted to using breathing that I did during childbirth.

Yes. There were moments of pain that intense.

Fortunately, it was short lived 😛 After my time with the nice doctor I was ushered over to a sweet young lady who worked with me on stretching, foam rolling, and other foot and ankle exercises.

I’m a runner. I know the benefits of foam rolling. They just were taking me to different places with the whole rolling thing.  I was finding out about all these places in my body that need stretched and worked ( toe exercises???)

In the past few weeks I’ve learned more about the inner workings of my body ( muscles, fascia, tendons etc) than I ever knew. Y0ur muscles are all sorta wrapped up in this fascia stuff and it can get knotty and tight and bind to your muscles…. that’s the fun stuff they were working out… and teaching me how to really work, stretch and manipulate it at home.

I’ve never thought much about my feet running. I know they take a pounding and I put them through a lot but until I got injured, I honestly never thought about it.

Ahhh…. what you learn to appreciate.

Anyway, after they finished working on me, I got taped up, and actually it felt pretty amazing. The tape acts as a gentle support to the joints while allowing for freedom of movement. Not nearly as constricting as an ace bandage 😉

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KT tape is like a constant soft hug. Can I have someone always do it for me ?

 

I got some great tips….

For example, instead of the bag of peas I was using for icing, they told me about ice cups. Literally, little Styrofoam cups you fill and freeze,  then cut the bottom half of cup off after frozen ( the upper part you leave on and as your insulation 😉 I then rub this on my feet, heels wherever I need iced. It’s a little messy but feels amazing.

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Peas.. aren’t just for eating anymore 😉

 

of course other things to get in those tight places… a lacrosse ball can really be worked into the arches of your feet. I use it while I’m getting ready in the morning just rolling my feet out on it.  And a rolling pin isn’t just for making cookies baby… you can roll out areas that are harder to get to with a traditional roller.

A resistance band is great for small movement exercises. Ahhh it’s way harder working small little muscles than things like your glutes or quads!

Yet, as mentioned I’ve learned a lot about key roles these muscles play in my running and they need specific strength training too.

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Some simple tools to work small tight areas on your body

 

Now rolling…. specifically foam rolling. Nothing feels better on tight muscles. I was quickly informed that they would be getting me off foam and onto a pvc pipe for rolling… that my muscles would adapt to foam and not the get benefits they need from rolling. I laughed and informed them that was gonna hurt.

That’s pipe people! No give to it at all….

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Top: my standard foam roller. Bottom: my new roller. Yes, it’s PVC pipe.

 

 

I was informed when you play hard, you gotta work at keeping everything maintained well. Intellectually, I know that, but like I said this was such an education for me to the inner workings of my body beyond what I knew. She tells me, “you know, like your car? How you maintain and do stuff to it to keep it running well?” as an athlete you need to remember you need to do these things to your body to keep doing what you’re doing”

Just when you think you knew a lot… and were doing all the things you were supposed to… you learn more!

Ah… yes… I understand… but I just wanna be over and done with this.

At one session when the doctor was working on me and we were talking all things running and he was asking me about what got me into distance running and I was sharing a bit of my story and then I told him….

“well, I ran a marathon, two half marathons, and a 50K within three months the first part of this year. I’d rather know I accomplished that and invested myself into the discipline of training and running them than doing nothing and wondering if I could. I’d much rather take some knocks from hitting goals than sitting around doing nothing.”

He agreed.  When you play hard, it’s almost inevitable at some point you’ll get whacked with an injury.

I guess that’s where the rebellion comes in . I want to be back out there. I want to be pushing distances again and intentionally training for races. I’m not patient when it comes to this thing called a recovery process.

The treatments helped, yes. I learned a lot to use in the future for specific running recovery.

Am I over my issue? No. It antagonizes me, flaring up and then settling down again.

It makes me feel rebellious. It makes me want to fight back even more, to get stronger, to be able to do more.

Determined and head strong aren’t bad things when they motivate you to do what needs to be done to get back doing what you love full speed.

I’ve slowly and carefully worked myself up to 5.50 miles with my next goal being over 10K.

Close so close.  From there I will set another small goal.

I’m learning I can’t just sail in from my run, do a  little stretching and scamper off, but to take time to stretch my muscles  really well from the workout they just went through. I’m learning to set aside time to ice my heels ( they kept stressing over and over how good icing is for injuries)

I have my sights set on a spring half marathon….I’m hopeful…. =)

Tell me… in the ways of treatment do you get frequent sports massages? Have you tried Airrosti before ? What things do you to stay sane and get through a total recovery process ?

Running Recovery

Running recovery. Those words seem to almost stand in stark contrast to one another.

Do you know that goofy, excited feeling you get when you figure something out ? Like you somehow wander into that “ah ha” moment and you’re on your way to solving and fixing a problem ? It makes you feel like Einstein sometimes 😉

I had one of those moments this past weekend.

If you have been following my poor tales and woes of not really being able to run #notrunningsucks  then you know I’ve been an unhappy runner.

Note please the difference, not unhappy, unhappy runner.

I mean well seriously, if you run and get injured, what runner IS happy about that ???

This is what it’s like:

You see someone running down the road and you are flat out envious that they are running. Double jealousy if they’ve got a serious sweat going on 😉

You don’t want to see your Facebook posts from running pages about everyones races and training. You feel a little bit like  Scrooge… “Bah Humbug!” …..

You DO pay attention to the wounded running warriors to see if they have an tips or suggestions that might help what you’re going through. You are game to doing anything even if it means a boiling pot with spiders and hairs of an exotic cat to heal you.

The idea of having no races in your immediate future causes a pain in your chest.

You don’t want anyone to ask you how your running is going.

You think maybe pain isn’t so bad and flip this… you’re going for a run…

You think about the new gear you’re going to get once you’re back out there again…being a real runner.

You fantasize about long runs and even convince yourself they aren’t so bad after all haha

Yeah, there are lots of things that go through your head when you’re sidelined. I guess in ways I’m just frustrated ’cause this is really the first injury that’s knocked me out of the game.

( I don’t count the incident when I was brutally attacked by a can of chicken broth sailing off the counter to directly slam my big toe, dead on in the middle of the nail, not once, but twice, leaving me limping for days unable to wear a shoe and definitely not run… WHAT are the odds of that ??? )

After meeting with a sports doctor in the summer and getting an Achilles tendonitis diagnosis I have limped along but not seemingly gotten to that 100% zone. I’ve been doing the prescribed things but not feeling like I should be running.

So last weekend I was using my rolling pin I had purchased to roll my calves and hammies. Seriously, foam rollers work great, but that rolling pin gets into those muscles in a good, yet painful way.

I started rolling the arches of my feet when it hit me… that “OMG this is killing me yet feels amazing” all at one time. I was brutal about my use of that rolling pin on my feet. Something was working ’cause I felt better that evening. I’ve kept at it … rolling the heck out of my arches, calves and Achilles.

Yesterday, I went out for 4 miles. I decided if I was going to get back on the road I needed to get my body going through the motions ( cycling just isn’t the same) I kept the brakes on and went easy and did a lot of walk/run… short run… but oh my it felt good. Today, I did it again. This was the first back to back “run” I’ve done in months. Again, I kept distance short, and held myself in to walk and short spurts of running. I kinda felt like my newbie runner days… but the idea of course is to not overly work my body as it gets better.

The tell tale sign? that I feel good hours after my workout… not worsening pain.

I’m so encouraged.

I’ve already got a 5K distance down, well more than that. My next goal is to work up to 10K distance. I need new running goals right now!

I think there’s a strong possibility of  lovely plantar fasciitis going on… but I’m getting strong and aggressive with it…. and glad to have something figured out.  For the first time in months I feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Yay for light bulb moments in our lives!

Here’s some other things I’m doing to help my healing….

Ice of course. Or in my case, bagged peas have become my best friend =) They mold nicely around the hurt areas.

Deep stretching. I’ve been stretching my calves, legs and feet more, but also doing some yoga moves to loosen me up.

That rolling pin. Seriously, I work that thing into my foot till everything has released. It’s also awesome for working out your calves and those areas that are trickier with a foam roller.

I stretch before I get up in the morning to loosen things up.

I’m not big on taking meds, but some Ibuprofen helps with inflammation.

And something I just got today, but am going to be trying soon is KT Tape. It’s supposed to be great support to help healing. I’ll tape and wrap my feet before I take off for a run.  Of course, I had to get the hot pink 😛 I promise to do a review on this after I’ve used it for awhile.

And finally, just getting back on the road doing some strong power walking with short runs segments to get my body in motion again. Mentally I have to keep myself reined in ’cause it feels so natural to be running. I am also trying to be smart and not over do it even though I know I can run for longer periods of time (that’s a good sign).

And you, my lovely readers, maybe one of you are struggling through an injury issue or know someone who is. Continue to be aggressive about how to treat yourself and get better. Don’t get discouraged but keep looking for ways to stay fit while you get over the injury.

Be patient ( I am the worst!) stay hopeful ( I have definitely had moments of feeling sorry for myself with this) and set goals for yourself so when you are back at it again you have something to shoot for.

Anyone out there besides me, going through a recovery time right now ? You’re allowed to cry, whine, and vent here  =)

On The Road Again, Sorta

Did the title of my blog just generate that old Willy Nelson song in your head ? It did mine. Please… please…make it go away….

Ok… on with business… I’m talking about… me… on the road…  running….finally… well sorta running. You gotta start somewhere and sometimes you gotta start small again, right ?

If you read a previous post of mine, “Not Running Sucks” you might remember me sharing I was sidelined with a diagnosis from my sports doc that I had insertional Achilles tendonitis. That’s a mouthful isn’t it ?

Ugh. My first running injury ever.

But hey, play hard, invest yourself into something 110%, getting hurt is a part of the game sometimes. In my opinion, it beats sitting on the sidelines, right ??

So I got the instructions from doctor… meds, icing, rolling the heck outta my calves/Achilles/hammies, modified exercise (no running) but I did get to spend a lot of time on my bike which was a second substitute for NOT running. On other days, boxing and strength training were my friends.

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No, I’m not cooking. These are runner recovery tools 😉

Overall, I guess you can say, I’ve been an “actively” recovering runner =)

Last Wed. I went in for my follow up with him to see how my 6 weeks had gone. Long story short, he gave me his blessing to hit the road this week. His words… “ok my ultra girl, we’re gonna start off short and sweet, no more than 1 1/2 – 2 miles to start”

*** the running gods were smiling down on me ***

Ok, I’ll take it, although secretly I had been thinking 3 miles would be a good first run back out….

You know I took the full two miles, don’t you ? 😉

It felt nothing short of amazing slipping into my running gear that morning, putting on my shoes that I only wear for running, strapping on my Nike watch knowing I’d use it for my mileage and not just for time, and then going through routine stretches and warms ups before I took off.

I had already given myself instructions… 2 miles… add in walking… no pushing hard, easy, easy pace… listen to my body.

With my first step, my heart was singing.

Being out with the sun coming up, the road under my feet, the wind in my face ( even though it was a lovely humid Tx morning) feeling the familiar response of pulling a hill and my body responding and doing what I’ve trained it to do….. priceless.

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Messy, happy, sweaty runner girl. First run after 2 months off ? Delicious.

I returned from my 2 miles sweaty and feeling amazing…. thinking I could still continue on… but knowing I still need to be careful and let my body adapt and not stress it with to much.

My goals are small at this point. I want to add another 1.1 miles to those 2 so I can be in at least in the 5k zone again.  I have plans for that distance 😉 I also know my days running in a week will be few for awhile.

Right now, if I can do that, stay injury/pain free then that’s a major victory. I know I might have to adjust goals I had for end of year ( marathon) and I’m not even sure of a half at this point.

However, I DO have a new challenge on my radar screen and that’s all I need right now. ( I will share more about this later)

So, yeah, not running DOES suck. I hate not doing it. I miss it. ( someone… when I’m better… and knocking out a 20miler…remind me I said this haha 😉

I want to remind you, my faithful 1.5 readers, whatever obstacles you might be up against right now, you can always find another way to continue to get you to your goals.

Oh, and being a little stubborn, persistent, and hard headed don’t hurt either  =)

Anyone ? Anyone out there up against any obstacles they are working to overcome right now ?