Thanks to all of my bloggy friends for your congratulatory wishes and kind words over the weekend. My birthday/graduation celebration in three parts this past weekend was a smashing success. Not only did I drink, eat, and party a lot with friends and family, I also got to lead a perfectly paced 20 mile training run for NYRR and run my 35K all at the same time. Hooray! I honestly cannot remember the last time I had as much fun celebrating my birthday as I did this year! It was all so fantabulous! (Yes, I know it's a made-up word, but it's awesome...don't judge!)
As I look back and reflect on my progression as a runner, one of the immediate things that struck me was how much my running volume has changed. It is mind boggling how I ran more miles at age 32 than I did at age 30 and 31 combined and how I ran more miles at 34 than I did at 31 and 32 combined. I remember when I used to run just 3-4 times a week in the earlier days, being fully convinced that I'd surely injure myself if I were to run more. Nowadays, I run 6 days a week without a moment's hesitation and without worrying if or when an injury might pop up next. Besides the obvious gains in knowledge and experience over the years, the main difference in my opinion between where I am now and where I was in the past is learning, applying, and embracing a concept I call active recovery.
To the naive and inexperienced, the term "active recovery" seems oxymoronic. After all, how can rest and recovery, both passive events, ever be considered active? But if you understand that muscular recovery can occur even during an ongoing activity (if the activity is kept predominantly slow and does not utilize aerobic mechanisms), then it is not hard to comprehend. However, simply understanding the concept does not imply application and practice. Over the years, far too many times, I've found myself intending an active recovery run, only to forget mid-run and end up running at a general aerobic or tempo pace. The aftermath of not taking a recovery run seriously enough is that you end up feeling just as sluggish the day after the run as you did before the run. This may lead to decreased efficiency, fatigue, or worse, overtraining.
Over the past several weeks, many people I know have already begun to overtrain for their late summer/fall races. Because many runners and triathletes have addictive type A personalities that propel them to crush each and every workout, they run too fast for too long with not enough rest and easy miles and end up running themselves into the ground. I know because I used to be one of them. For about 1.5 to 2 years, I didn't know any better than to push every workout and race every tempo/interval run. This was until I met a friend who caught me limping after a particularly grueling workout one day and asked me how I was planning to run tomorrow or the next day. I told him I wasn't sure. Then he told me words that I still have never forgotten. "Run today as if the most important run is the one you will have tomorrow." What he meant by that is to never jeopardize your chance of having a good run tomorrow by running harder than necessary today. If it's a scheduled easy day, keep at easy pace so tomorrow's run can be great. If it's a hard/speedwork day, don't run harder than necessary to get the job done. That way, you won't injury yourself and can still run easy tomorrow.
Just knowing and embracing that fact has kept me off the injured list and running better and faster every year. That's what I would wish for every runner out there. That's my gift to you. Please take this message and apply wisely. Your running livelihood may very well depend on it. Run on, my friends!