In the last week, I’ve detailed at great length an attempt to jump up my weekly running mileage in getting prepared, as early as possible, for a half Ironman in September. I normally only run two days a week, Thursday and Saturday, and only about 10 miles (a 5k on Thursday and 7.2 on Saturday) and I’m jumping that to 15.4 by adding 5.1 on Saturday. In addition I put in between 50 and 65 miles a week on my bike, whether outside or on a trainer.
I’ve also attempted to make quite clear that jumping mileage in this fashion is not advisable, but there seems to be a caveat that comes with the recommendation and it’s proving to be quite important, at least in my experience. When I started running, three times a week back then, I quickly moved up to about 15-20 miles a week (5-7 on Tuesday, 3.1 on Thursday and 7-10 on Saturday) over the course of three or four months where I remained for years. A few years ago I dropped my Tuesday run and kept to Thursday and Saturday because it seemed like my body responded more positively without the Tuesday run – I recovered more completely. Over time I’d come to believe that I’m relegated to only run 10-13 miles a week because of some unknown defect and accepted that because I still maintained my weight and felt better – more lively if you will with two runs a week.
Fast forward to the end of last week. The jump in my Saturday run should have slowed me down until roughly tomorrow, or a full six days. That is what I expected based on past experience but that is not what happened. I was fully recovered yesterday and never really took any time off. I swam on Sunday, rode on my trainer at an active recovery pace on Monday and Tuesday and was able to hit my spin hard yesterday. I shouldn’t be able to recover this quickly according to my old way of doing things. I’ve come to realize that as my fitness (and possibly intelligence?) has increased, recovery time has decreased.
I believe there are a few factors at work here, chief among them is the active recovery workout – if you would call a leisurely ride on a fat-tire bike, slow speed/high cadence/easy gear, or taking my kids swimming a workout – I call that fun. In the good old days, after I pushed myself and wound up a little sore, I would sit on the couch for most of the next day and limit activity the day after that. By the time the sixth day rolled around I’d start feeling good again. I’m currently at half of that and I’m not having to take time off at all.
Next is the cross training. If you’ve read a couple of posts on this blog, you already know that I just started riding last summer and I love it. The point to the cycling though is that I’ve increased my overall weekly mileage by something in the order of 1,000% (ten to 100) in a matter of two months. I ride almost every day and that’s only helped with running.
Another factor is excitement, or a drive to keep my fitness up. A small part of that would have to go to writing this blog – it’s hard to write tough and wuss out. The lion’s share goes to an itch that started several years ago to complete a triathlon (originally I aimed just for a sprint, but quickly found that anything less than an Olympic would be shorting myself based on the training distances I was capable of). Once I finally bought a bike (this all started with a rusty old garage sale Huffy mountain bike, then my Trek 3700, then the Cannondale and now my 5200 in the space of eight months) and found out how much I like riding it was Katie bar the door.
Finally, as it turns out, the more miles I put, the easier and shorter it is to recover as long as I take the precaution to recover correctly after building up a decent base. This was very unexpected. For me, there existed a wall at about 15 miles a week (running) that I just couldn’t break through comfortably – it didn’t matter if I stretched or how I ate or how much sleep I got, I just couldn’t have more than a day or two a week pain-free if I was running more than two days a week. Cycling helped me to bust through the wall into a new existence.
And it is awesome.