Fighting recovery

December 7, 2011

I remember my first ever recovery week. It was self prescribed. I don’t think I had ever taken one and I was in desperate need of one.

It was a struggle. It was only supposed to be for a few days. But truth be told at the end of that recovery week, while I a ball of twitchiness… I was glad I did it.

In seven years of coaching I can’t think of one single time (now there may have been some, I just can’t remember) when I have had to tell an athlete that they need to work harder. Yes, there is a small contingent of athletes who sign up for things like Ironman and for whatever reason can’t get motivated to get their training in. That’s not who I am referring to.

I am referring to the majority of triathletes, many of whom possess the same type A (as I do as well). We are driven, we are hard-working. Many of us have an extreme fear of failure, or of being inadequate and that can be a driving force in our daily training. Even at this stage of the game I have those thoughts. You know…. the little devil that sits on my shoulder that says…… if you want to hold XX pace in this race you need to know you can do it in training. That’s the devil that causes us to train too hard when we should not be, resulting in slower than desired performances, resulting in harder training because we must not be pushing hard enough.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying 100% of your training should be super easy. I am saying the base phase primarily should be. Intensity, tempo, hill bounding, mile repeats, BST’s….. those are a part of the plan….. but at the right time and in the right blend. You have to be a  *little bit*  patient.

Recovery weeks though….. a whole different story. In 100% of the athletes that I have coached through the past 7 years….. 100%….. see that first recovery week and interpret it as punishment. “I am not tired.” They will tell me, “I have been going easy.” and even “I have the time.”. This right here is the number one reason you hired me. And let me add the disclaimer right here and now…… I try to come up with the exact same excuses to this day.

If it were ethical, safe, and not the most horrible thing I could do…… I would almost love to conduct a study to see just how far an athlete would go, if we let them. The easiest thing for me to do is convince you to commit physical suicide. Easiest. Any time I have EVER told an athlete to run mile repeats at XX pace…. they have ALWAYS NAILED IT. I have NEVER SAID TO AN ATHLETE IN TRAINING: you need to work harder.

I find that I issue the challenges during recovery weeks. I dare you to actually recover. I dare you to watch TV for an hour tonight. I dare you to look at HR instead of pace or power.

It’s hard. It’s really hard. I fight it myself. Even now. too.

I help athletes think long term. I help them realize that the work done right now when race season begins in spring should be about laying the foundation, not personal bests. It’s tough for them. It’s a leap of faith. It’s a huge amount of trust, especially if it is something they have never really done before. If it is new for an athlete… it’s even more difficult. We all stick with what we know.

Trusting a coach…. especially in a new coaching relationship is total blind faith. From my side…. I feel like I know the end of the story already and the absolute joy in it is watching an athlete evolve. Through the doubts against me and themselves. Through logic and faith. They arrive at that finish line and then are convinced.  And it’s nothing magical I did. I really….. just told them to slow down on these days and speed the heck up on those days.

Logistically processing slower in the beginning means faster later is hard. I will not argue that. Lucky for me…… I have the experience to guarantee that. Now as part of QT2 I not only can share the results of the athletes I myself have coached before I joined QT2…… but I have a ton of results from QT2 athletes who have trained in our system…. to show.

Understanding that we don’t necessarily need to FEEL like we need recovery to take recovery is another emotional struggle. EVEN FOR ME. Trust me there have been many times Jesse has planned me a recovery week and I have thought about secretly skipping it.

Then I remember the results of this team. Five sub 3:05 marathons in Kona is not an accident. Take the recovery Eggers.

The answer? I don’t really have one. Sit tight. Trust the work that those before you have done. Trust your coach… and even for me that is sometimes difficult….. but most importantly trust yourself. Don’t allow recovery to cause you to doubt yourself. Trust in your body, trust where it will lead you. Challenge yourself to do something you normally don’t. Schedule a message. Catch up on paperwork. Meet friends for coffee. Get really wild and watch TV!!!! (I hear this walking dead show is pretty good, after LOST…. I just can’t get involved again).

I guarantee that in August when you come down that finisher’s chute knowing you gave everything you had, nailing your race…. you will think back to december and think……. I will never ignore recovery again.


One comment

  1. hey. your blog is snowing again! I don’t fight recovery. I crave it! Hard work, after all, should bring its rewards.

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