After two months of recovery, how do you come back?
You have a surgery, or an injury that keeps you from running for more weeks / months. That sucks. It does.
One or two weeks rest might even do good for your muscles, performance, as it is a common mistake among hobby athletes that enough time with recovery is not spent.
But more than a month, it is definitely a compulsory recovery with all it’s negative effects.
- Detoxication symptoms: your mind is around where you will run, how much and with whom at the first time. What music will escort you
- Your daily activity will decrease
- Your body will change
- If eating habits are not adjused properly, some pounds will come up
- You will be irritated and depressed
- Nothing is good around you, you are bothered by life, by others, but most of all by yourself
And when the moment arrives, catharsis is partly missing. I thought about it why and came to the conclusion that the reason is, that your mind and heart run from memories, but your body cannot keep up with them. That means that you have incongruence in yourself. You know of course, that it takes time till your shape before the recovery would come back. But it is a completely different story to know it and to excperience it.
With running the thing is – and I assume with other sports samewise – that performance falls back incredibely quickly.
Both pace and stamina. To picture it more: to run 10 kms at a 5.30 min/km pace was appr. the same feeling than running 10 K at 4:30 before. The difference is huge and it feels huge. You feel that you are sluggish and powerless and it seemed to be incredible that weeks ago it was a convenient, rather easy pace. I knew I should feel euphorie, but it was not what I expected. Of course I was content that I could finally run and I appreciated that couples of days ago I could not even run. But human is a rarely impatient and discontent race.
People say that you need at least the same amount of time to rebuild your shape than what you had spent with the recovery. And that is an optimistic approach. Well, that was my starting point.
How is it recommended to come back?
Gradually. Step by step, regarding pace and distance and the regularity of runs.
For me it was truly a difficult task.
- Leave your watch (or mobile) behind. For the first couple of runs it is rather bothering. Experienced runners feel their pace anyway. Watches are cruel and a way too honest mirrors in these days. I think they harm more than serve your comeback.
- But after the first shock (3-4 occasions) start using your watch, especially monitoring your heart rate. Goal is to run at low rate and try to run as long as possible in aerob zone.
- Before: I ran 5 times on an average (besides cycling, gym and swimming)
- After: my motto was: less running, more crosstraining. At first I ran every third day and did hometrainer or went to the gym and did eliptical and stepping cardio minutes in order to improve stamina without overloading running muscles too early. In the next two weeks I ran every other day and by the end of the first month I was back with my 5 times schedule. However pace was still missing.
- Before: minimum was 8-9 K, longer distances were 20-25 K, on average 10-16 K.
- After: my first run was 5 K. The second 7 K. Then for a couple of occasions I ran 7-8 K. Next etap was 10 K, which was my 6th run maybe. I increased after a week to 12 and by the end of the month my first long run was 15 K. The last 5 K was not an uplifting feeling. My first wow was after a month when I ran 10 K with my friend.
- Before: 10 K I ran usually between 4:30 – 4:40 min / km. The easy ones at 5:00, long ones around 5:15 – 5: 20.
- After: the first run was at 5:40 min / km. It went really hard. The next three weeks were about the 5:30 pace and after three weeks it started to improve very slowly. To break through the wall was a slow and long process.
- Before: I had one interval session on an avarage (kb. 10 K, 5-6 K was the interval part in fact). In more intense prerace periods I did a second session or a tempo session.
- After: I did not do any intervals in the first month. In interval sessions you have a higher risk for injuries normally, not to mention an undertrained period. It is important to improve endurance and stamina first and get your muscles used to the workload again.
Two extra hints:
Change of ambience:
- If you can afford it, go to a different destination. Where you run usually will automatically remind you, how did it go before, how quick you run a certain loop, how easily you felt, etc. If you run in a different location, the effect is very similar to when you act as a tourist abroad. You are more open, your are bold with regards to verbal communication and clothing, and you have less expectations towards your own behaviour. The same applies to your running. Your self-expectation and performance drive decrease. If you can manage it for a couple of days, it can make your comeback much easier.
- Do things that you neglected because of your hobby. Anything: working around the house, preparing family albums, going out with friends, traveling with your partner, visiting museums, playing the piano. Anything you loved, love or would love to do, only your timeframe did not allow and you sacrificed it for sports. It helps a lot and you have the feeling that time goes by faster and useful.
And do not forget! If one runs on a regular basis for years, injuries and recovery times will hit.
Therefore keep it in mind that you are not alone.
All of us went through this, some of us more, some less. Some make it through, some quit. For some it is easier to survire, for some it is a real struggle. It is mostly up to you, if it is the fact, than you can fully come back!
with love for you: Réka