By now you’ve heard this word many times before – overtraining. Perhaps you’ve experienced it, are actively working with a coach to avoid it, or constantly live in fear of it – afraid that one workout, poor night of sleep or extra long run will push you over the edge. Of course, in a sport like ultra running, overtraining is a concern. But how is your resting and recovery game? Fanatics of this sport are eager to run the miles, put in the miles and do the vert, week after week, month after month, but are they as adamant about resting as they are actively training? There is a an overall credence in our sport that ‘more is better’ and if we are preparing for an ultra, our training has to match and we must get accustomed to feeling tired. I disagree.
Now, although I’m a coach, I’m not writing this to dig deep into the science of overtraining (If you’d like more information on overtraining and what it is, check out this episode of Trail Society where we dive deep into the science of overtraining and REDs). My hope here is to stimulate some thought on how and why you train, to encourage a curiosity that might challenge this notion that ‘more is better’ and encourage a shift towards a more balanced perspective that rest and recovery is just as important as training.
When I first got into the sport of ultra running I quickly adopted the mentality that ‘more is better’ – I thought I had to train a ridiculous amount of miles, vertical feet, or hours to be ready to race these ultra-distance races. I was successful in racing, but I felt I was on the edge. I was tired all the time, irritable and questioning my love of the sport. What I came to realize, with the help of my coach, is that quality matters over quantity and that a rest day is the most important day of the week. I had to start shifting my perspective and focus on recovery as much as I focused on training.
Are you overtrained or under-recovered? This was (and is) a question I ask myself to check in, reflect and analyze how I’m feeling. I tend to focus on doing my long runs or workouts, and I sometimes forget that although these aspects of training are important, time spent recovering is far greater and far more influential on overall training. What was I doing with all that time that I wasn’t running?
Recovery isn’t just a rest day. Recovery is in everything. It’s how well you fuel yourself before, during and after your workout. It’s your bedtime routine and prioritizing sleep. It’s saying ‘no’ to late nights out when you have a hard workout or long run the next day, all on top of a stressful work day. It’s surrounding yourself with positive people, who build you up and encourage the pursuit of your goals. It’s the days spent in the gym, or seeing a physical therapist to work on imbalances. It’s time spent cross training, stretching, and foam rolling. It’s the time spent with a sports psychologist, to work on mental toughness, resilience and compassion. It’s all recovery.
I’ve found, that the more I shift toward balanced training – prioritizing recovery and rest just as much as my active training, the better I feel when I’m actually moving my body. So when that urge comes around to add on an extra run or ride to my training schedule – to do more – I ask myself how recovered I am, and instead, use my extra time and energy to prioritize more rest and recovery.
If you’re wondering about some specific recovery tools I use, here is something I use in my daily routine – GO sleeves. Use my GOSleeves.com/hillaryallen referral link to receive 15% off your order, and feel free to hit me up for suggestions on how to incorporate GO Sleeves into your own training.