Sunday, March 9, 2008

Back Running After My Short Break

For four days, I did not run. Not by choice mind you. By restrictive order pretty much all the way around. Had it been my way, I'd have kept running. But, after 10 days of the flu and not getting appreciably better, I had to admit the break was almost welcome. I was tired. And sick.

While enjoying the side effects of physical healing as my aches and pains gradually faded to nothing, my mind raced ever faster in panic. With only two and a half months away, would I still be able to run the marathon? Eating all that pizza and no running, would I now be five pounds heavier? When I tried to put on my running clothes, would I look in the mirror and see Jabba the Hut?

Just how much physical training did I lose? How quickly are my muscles turning into mush that will require weeks of retraining? I was pretty sure every ounce of fitness I had was evaporating in the dry winter air faster than Missouri was running out of Tamiflu.

Pleasantly surprised my legs hadn't turned to dry, wooden sticks when I went for my first run, an easy 5-miler, followed by 6 and 8 miles on day two and three. Most surprisingly, I hadn't even gained a pound.

So, I read a lot about the loss of fitness during bouts of not training. Although the loss of fitness is pretty speedy and dramatic, as long as you are counting single-digit days it's not so bad. All bets are off at about the two week mark. This article I found most helpful:

Here's the first paragraph: "Please answer the following question: When you take a break from training, your body starts to turn to mush: a) after a few months; b) after a few weeks; c) after a few days; or d) almost immediately. Most runners apparently believe the correct answer is (d), and that the fitness gains of years of running are in danger of quickly vanishing into thin air. This behavior is manifested in phenomena such as running streaks, double workouts, and a propensity to run through such potentially life-threatening conditions as blizzards, electrical storms, and bronchitis." Sound like anyone you know? Yours truly perhaps? I live in constant fear of missing a run, one reason I almost always run in the morning. I'm not distracted all day long as to whether I'll get my run in or not.

The rest of my "research" assured me there was nothing to fear. In fact, I may have done my body a favor in recovery--not only helping me get "well" faster, but in healing overall as I haven't even thought of taking an Ibuprofen for eight days (although I've been back running for four days in a row now).

So, I'm hopeful that I haven't ruined my shot at Ottawa, and I did learn a little bit about resting and recovering when truly sick enough to take a few days off. (Just don't make me do it again any time soon.) Don't sweat it: It just might do you some good. Bonus: I got caught up on my Netflix queue.

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