Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Too much of a good thing

I've read somewhere that running is good for you. So lots and lots of good, hard running must be even better. Right? Wrong. I don't know why I keep relearning this lesson. Any idiot can run themselves into the ground. Trust me on this one. I'm the king of doing that. But proper training consists of knowing what kind of workouts to do, at what intensity, and most importantly, when to back off and let your body absorb all the hard work. It's that last part that I struggle with. Running involves a certain amount of masochism as we push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. This creates a mindset that if we're not working hard during our workouts, then we're not running properly.

Last week was the Fourth of July holiday and a few of us on the team decided to run the Sparkler 5K in Merrimack. The day before the race I went out for an easy 5 miler and it was a total disaster. I couldn't run for more than 5 minutes without my legs burning and my body feeling just terrible. I decided to do a walk/run instead. But what a horrible feeling. I've always taken great pride in my ability to run and it's totally demoralizing to be walking like that. There wasn't much else to do other than ponder why my body felt like it did. There are 2 likely reasons. The first, and least likely, is that something very bad is going on in my body. The second, and more likely reason, is that I'm beating up my body and not giving it sufficient time to recover.

For the past year I've studied as much as I can about training and how to do it properly. I know the importance of rest. I know that the body does not get stronger during hard workouts. It gets stronger during recovery. Proper training is based on the simple principle that improvement is gained from repeated cycles of stress/recover, stress/recover. Too much stress leads to burnout and/or injury. Too much rest leads to an erosion of fitness. Finding that balance is the key to a successful training program.

After the Sparkler, I decided to take 2 complete rest days. No biking, no swimming and no running. On the 3rd day I ran an easy 5 miles and I felt great! I've since run 5 miles on the tmill and I successfully ran my 7.7 mile Fryer Tuck route (I'll describe the Fryer Tuck route in another post) on a very hot day and I felt strong. I forced myself to go slow, but still averaged 7:30 pace. That's a good sign. I plan to give myself a little more time to recover, then I'll reintroduce the more intense workouts, but with sufficient rest to avoid the downward spiral of overtraining this time.

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