It's November. After an unusually warm October, colder weather has finally settled in, which has brought on a welcomed break from training in the heat.
It's been 12 weeks since I first started ramping back up my running volume. Overall, things have been great. I'm getting faster, I'm able to absorb longer and more difficult training sessions, my volume has steadily increased, and most importantly, I've remained 100% healthy the entire time.
But recently I've been wondering if I need a recovery week.
To be honest, I'm not completely sure what the right answer is. All I know, is that I've noticed two changes over the last week of training:
1) I've noticed an ever-so-slight tightness in my right knee, where my IT band issues had plagued me during the summer. It's not pain, but rather a bit of tension that I can't seem to shake off.
2) The perceived effort of my training runs have been much higher, despite no noticeable decrease in performance. I literally feel winded at lower heart rates where I'd usually be cruising along comfortably.
Am I due for a bit of a break?
One thing I remain committed to is my long-term health. I'm in no rush to get better. The challenge is to play the long game and be able to make continuous improvement over the next 6-12 months.
Laying off the gas, especially when I've been on such a good run is incredibly difficult. I'm filled with doubt and questions of toughness. But the biggest mistake I made this past summer was not taking cues from my body to rest.
Again, I honestly don't know what the right plan here is. But a part of me feels like this is an opportunity to stay ahead of the injuries and burnout that would inevitably sideline me for much longer than just a week.
Recovery weeks are usually pre-planned into training programs. But the truth is you can't anticipate when or how the body will need to rest. Unfortunately, it doesn't occur in a nice predictable fashion every 4 or 6 weeks.
Training is about giving the body a certain level of stress, then allowing it to recover and adapt. This pattern occurs both at the micro-level (within the week), but also at the macro-level, such as after several weeks or months of stress.
The tricky part is it can be difficult to tell when you've reached the point where an adaptation phase should begin. But EVERY injury I've ever had, whether it be on the trails or in the weightroom, has been preceded by that little voice in my head that whispers "let's take a break."
Point taken. Lesson learned. Time for the ego to take a seat and back off a little bit.
At the very least, it will be a good lesson in how my body responds, which will make me that much better, and well-rounded of an athlete.