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Exercise science is full of numbers. Equations, parameters, statistics, percentages. How high is my VO2 max, what is 65% of my max heart rate, how much should I lift based on my one rep max, how many pounds do I have to lose to be at 15% body fat, does that blood pressure suggest hypertension? Numbers, numbers everywhere, you could almost write a “school house rock” tune about it.
But one thing I have learned in the last 3 years studying exercise science is that those numbers are never written in stone. There is always going to be someone who defies max heart rate, someone who has a crazy great uncle who drinks and smokes everyday, and at age 97 appears to still be in perfect health. While it frustrates me to no end to hear people claim scientists and doctors basically pull numbers out of their a$$es (like BMI, no one seems to be a fan of that one), I still recognize that there are always exceptions to these numbers and facts that have been thoroughly researched.
And in addition, there are always variations between different people. Just because your measured body fat is one percentage point into the “unhealthy” range, doesn’t mean you are, in fact, currently unhealthy. Just because the energy gel packet says “consume one packet every 45 minutes” doesn’t mean that EVERYONE burns through 110 calories per 45 minutes on a run, and that you truly need that much (or, perhaps that little) in that given time frame.
While most of these numbers have significant evidence to back them up, sometimes you still have to find what works for YOUR body.
I have discovered, through my running and my schooling, that I am my own science experiment. At times it’s trying and obnoxious to find out what works for me as an athlete, and at other times it’s interesting and fun.
Which brings me to today’s topic at hand: Recovery. I’ve heard a million and one different numbers concerning how long you should recover from a marathon. A day for each mile. 1, 2, even 3 weeks with little or no running. I’ve heard people who swear you should go out the next day for a few easy miles. I know some runners who log another 40+ the week following.
I find myself in a precarious situation. Here’s what I’ve got going
a) I just ran my fastest marathon ever.
b) While it was the fastest ever, I’d say I stayed in zone 2 (aerobic) for 80% if not more of the race
c) I’ve got a half marathon to run this weekend
d) I’ve got a full marathon to run next weekend.
and most notably:
e) my body, especially my legs feel good. Like, really, really good, especially considering how BAD miles 22-26.2 hurt. The only sign that I ran a marathon this past weekend is some swelling in my right knee (but zero pain accompanying the swelling). My quads, calfs, and hamstrings I’d rate a 9/10 on feeling rested. Really, that good.
I think my proactive approach thus far to recovery has been beneficial. I’m jumping up and down with excitement over being spoiled with the Recovery Pump being sent my way (an active compression recovery boot system, like, my legs seriously seem to relax just THINKING about it!) , but until then, here’s what I’ve got:
1) Compression socks. Saturday’s pair were bright green CEP socks. These are my favorite compression socks so far, you can FEEL how much tighter and more supportive they are than other brands I’ve tried. I don’t run with them, but I sat my butt down in the (wet) grass within 5 minutes of finishing and put them on. And other than a shower, left them on all day long. Calfs were loosey goosey at the end of the day.
2) Massage. Rich gives the BEST massages. And no, not in the relaxing, sensual, sweet husband giving wifey a massage. Nope, it’s basically borderline torture, as he tells me to quit being a pansy as I squirm and scream/laugh while he works the knots out. It hurts but MAN does it work!
4) Water. Food. More water, more food.
5) Sleep. As if the running Gods blessed my house with a most wonderful gift this weekend, both of my boys were in bed by 7:00 both Saturday and Sunday night, allowing me to go to bed before 8:30 pm.
So what do I do as far as continued exercise? I was hesitant while teaching my aerobics class yesterday. Much more relaxed today. Avoided a leg press one rep max in class today (thankfully, my professor is totally understanding, she ran the marathon as well), yet I’m tempted to run tonight. Just a few easy miles.
Smart idea? Stupid idea? My personal jury is out for the night. I do know one thing: Saturday was my last “long run” before Umstead Trail Marathon (there’s a method to my madness, I swear!) This weekend , Disney Princess Half Marathon, will be a cutback, last medium, easy run before Umstead. Besides, who can run “hard” when you have to stop to pose with Captain Jack Sparrow and Peter Pan.
What are your favorite recovery strategies? Do you stick with the tried and true, or have something a little less than conventional? I’d love to hear!
Long live the self experiment!