This was definitely a week of transition for me. My running programming had this week scheduled as a recovery week, which I didn’t hate one bit. I also spent some time figuring out where I want to workout since leaving my CrossFit box last week. I’m not a huge fan of changing my routines, but I have kept reminding myself of the reason behind the changes. And honestly, I feel good about my decision. Even if it was one I was hoping I wouldn’t have to make.
Outside of working out at two different places, this week was pretty standard. My son had a good time at camp, but said he didn’t love how tired he felt at the end of the week, haha. He seems like he was really looking forward to spending a little more time relaxing and playing video games next week, which I don’t love, but honestly can’t blame him for. Camp is exhausting.
We had a friend come over for some pool time on Monday, and it was really nice to have a face to face conversation with someone I don’t live with. We talked about all the frustration going on with CrossFit HQ, politics, and racism in general, as well as how strange and different this year has been. With most states beginning to open back up, it feels like things are getting a little more normal, but man 2020 has been a disorientating year of unpredictable situations. She’s in the middle of a whole-30 situation, and she was kind enough to bring me beer she couldn’t drink. I happily accepted!
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The rest of the week was just work and camp and hanging out with the boys. It sure was nice to have a quiet home to work in with my kiddo at camp, but I did have moments where I missed seeing his curly hair popping around our home during the day. Having a little more time during my recovery definitely allowed me to prioritize stretching, core work, and getting a little more sleep. I have a hard time, honestly, with respecting recovery weeks, but I’ve learned my lesson (several times) over the last couple of years that not incorporating recovery weeks has a whole lot of consequences.
Which is why I want to talk about the purpose of recovery weeks, and my recommendations for making the most of them.
The Importance of Recovery Weeks
What Are Recovery Weeks?
Recovery weeks. Much like mile repeats, some people love them while others hate them. Regardless, everyone needs them. Which is exactly why you will find them in every running plan since coaches began to have some minimal understanding of running and the human body. You’re probably familiar with what recovery or deload weeks are, but just to cover all the basis I’m going to explain. They are intentional weeks where training effort is reduced.
Simple enough, right? Training plans and coaches can achieve the reduction in effort in a couple of different ways. Option one is to reduce overall weekly mileage; sometimes this method is called a cutback week. Option two is to keep mileage as usual, but to reduce intensity by removing tough workouts and replacing them with easy mileage. The final option is a combination of both mileage and intensity reduction.
Every runner is different, and some people have a preference of one method over the others. Additionally, some runners bodies handle one method better than others. Most non-individualized training programs will use option three, since the combination makes it less likely that the runner will find themselves injured over time.
Why Do We Need Recovery Weeks?
Which is one of the reasons we need recovery weeks, even if we don’t like them. Recovery weeks are what allow our bodies to make actual adaptations to the increased stressors we put on our bodies during training. Running, and physical exercise in general, causes muscular breakdown in the body. The recovery periods we implement in training allow our bodies to repair what has been broken down, and to build those areas up even stronger. That is the high-level explanation of why we need recovery weeks, but I also recommend this great article by David Roche if you want a more detailed and science-y explanation.
But if you’re like me, you may well know that you need rest days and recovery weeks, and still be unphased in your approach of disregarding them all together. Hopefully you are smarter, less stubborn, and less restless than I am and recovery weeks are a welcomed friend. If not, maybe understanding the benefits of recovery weeks will help. The major benefit of recovery weeks is the physical adaptation we just mentioned. If you want to see improvements in your running, you need to stop running every once in a while. No matter how counter-intuitive that may be.
If you’re new to running, you might still see some progress in the beginning even if you don’t include recovery weeks into your training plans, but for most runners those improvements will eventually plateau. Which sucks. No one wants to keep training only to see the resultsIt stagnate, it’s maddening. Especially if you are type-a enough to want to skip recovery weeks. Additionally, recovery weeks can reduce overall fatigue, meaning you have a better shot at maintaining healthy relationships. It’s certainly not guaranteed, but reduced fatigue and crankiness can definitely make you a little more likable than the alternative.
Recovery weeks can also prevent overuse injuries, which are unfortunately fairly common in the running world. Probably because a lot of runners are like me, and don’t like recovery weeks or rest days. Remember how we said intense, consistent training is a stressor to your body? Well, if you keep stressing a system (such as bones and muscles, which are somewhat important in training), eventually that system is going to break down if you don’t give it the opportunity to repair. You can only whack a brick with a sledge hammer so many times before the brick breaks.
What Should We Do During Deload Weeks?
So recovery weeks are a great way to potentially prevent stress fractures or muscle strains. They also give us a break from the mental fatigue of training. Even if we love running, and it feels like one of the few things we are good at, too much of a good thing stops being a good thing. What might have once been your mental outlet can turn into a stressful experience of feeling like your daily run has become a box that needs to be checked off. If you ever find yourself feeling that way, it’s a good sign that you probably need a recovery period.
So what do you do if you decide to accept the fact that recovery weeks are a necessary evil? Well, you (thankfully) aren’t required to sit around like a bamboo chute all day. Though you certainly can if that sounds like a good time. You should try to make sure you are getting an appropriate amount of rest, especially if training has meant early wake up calls. Recovery weeks also give you a great opportunity to incorporate some active recovery like swimming, walking the dog, or hiking. These activities get you moving, without stressing the body or subjecting your bones and joints to high impact.
Recovery weeks are also a great time to reacquaint yourself with some of the important ancillary work that is necessary, but also easy to skip during busy weeks. Things like foam rolling, stretching, core work, and strength exercises can become more of a priority when you are spending less time running. Finally, recovery weeks are a fantastic opportunity to pretend like you are a normal human being with social skills. I’m kidding, mostly. But they are good time to catch up with friends who maybe don’t want to join you on your 5am “jog”, have a beer with your spouse, or spend time catching up on all that running laundry.
Cutback weeks can feel like a waste, and can make some people a little antsy. But they are 100% necessary, and making sure to include them in my training plans every 3-4 weeks has helped me prevent injuries and burn out over the last decade of running. One of the best benefits of individualized coaching is having a coach who can make specific recommendations on how often you should include recovery weeks, and what method will be most beneficial for you. If you’re interested in coaching, please reach out via my Contact Me page.
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 52
Total Workouts: 4
50 Mile Training, Week 4
How the Runs Felt
The decreased mileage this week was much needed. And for the first time since I started training, my entire week was done on trails. This is definitely not going to be possible every week, but it was fun. Since this was a down week, I didn’t have any workouts. As much as I enjoyed all of the time on the trails and not worrying about paces, I did miss having to push a little.
My Friday miles were split, but otherwise all weekly miles happened at the wilderness trails near our home. I enjoyed a few sprinkles here and there throughout the week, which I don’t mind. But it did make the rocks on the trails more slippery. Transitioning over to trail running has been a huge learning curve for me, and it seems like I’m always figuring out new things. Like the fact that slippery rocks are almost as terrifying as running through a giant spider web with your face.
Next week I’ll be focusing more on hill work than traditional speedwork. While I’ve certainly been dealing with plenty of hills these past couple of months, I haven’t spent much focused time trying to improve my strength and ability to actually run hills efficiently. For the most part, the hills on the trails near me are also fairly technical, and usually need to be walked. I found a trail near me that has very steep, but non-technical hills for my workouts over the next couple of weeks. In all honesty, I am equal parts excited and terrified. Traditional speedwork is tough; hill workouts are an unknown beast for me. Wish me luck.
I decided to run my long-run at Eisenhower Park, which is slightly more steep and technical than the trails I usually run during the week. Since I had fewer miles, I decided to go for as much vertical as I could get. I got turned around a few times, but ended up getting it together. Right before I started my long run, we had a few drizzles, which meant I spent most of the morning really focusing on not sliding down the front of some very steep hills. I have to admit that I slipped multiple times, and fortunately came down on my butt instead of my face. Transitioning to Trail Running continues to prove exciting.
What I’ve Been Listening To
I am still catching new episodes of The Missionary, Light In Darkness, and Forgotten: The Women of Juarez as they come out. All three podcasts have me very interested and entertained. I started a new investigative journalism podcast about a hacker who worked to uncover a dark web child pornography ring, and so far the podcast has a ton of unexpected twists. It’s called Hunting Warhead, and I have to thank my girlfriend Stephanie for recommending it. Outside of that, I’ve been listening to a lot of Morbid episodes and catching up on the Run Hard, Mom Hard episodes as well.
How the WODs felt
This was my first week working out as an ex-CrossFitter, and it was definitely a strange one. I dropped into a box that plans to de-affiliate on Monday, and LOVED the workout and atmosphere of the box. In all honesty, the price point was fairly high, and I want to wait a little time to make sure steps are actually taken to move forward without the affiliate backing. I signed up with LifeTime Fitness on a month to month basis and have been programming some workouts based on modified workouts from other de-affiliated boxes I’ve been following on Instagram. It’s definitely not ideal, but I have a lot of peace knowing that I am aligning my actions with my values. Plus the pool at LifeTime does not suck one bit. In fact, I was fairly surprised at the fact that they have a lot of equipment that has allowed me to keep working out in a crossfit-style program. I do think eventually I’ll decide which online program I want to follow through the summer.
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My workout on Wednesday was a workout posted by a box I used to be a member of when I lived in Austin, 3rd Element Fitness. They have been extremely outspoken about their decision to de-affiliate and their support of equality and the black lives matter movement. They programmed a workout named Breonna Taylor, and members completed it on what would have been Breonna’s birthday. The police officers who shot and killed her have not faced any disciplinary action, and I hope continued awareness about her death continues to pressure law enforcement to investigate this case the way it should be. The workout was incredibly tough, but I felt very grateful to know there are boxes who are continuing to support the movement and move forward with separation from CrossFit HQ.
What Went Well
I had a great time trying my best to stay upright on my two feet this week. I love the fact that I ran exclusively on the trails. I got some extra sleep, and have settled in at LifeTime Fitness.
What Went Shitty
Transitioning over to a big box gym has felt somewhat uncomfortable, even though I have been able to workout in the way I like. I’m still really frustrated with the continued revelations about the culture at CrossFit, HQ, and honestly I feel embarrassed that I was such a strong supporter of a company that treated women and minorities so toxically.
Plans to Improve Next Week
Next week, I’m hoping to continue to get more comfortable working out in a regular gym. I’m looking forward to the challenges of hill workouts, and feel ready for some increased mileage.