As many of you know if you read my blog, I don’t like to wear headphones while running. With how busy of a life we all lead, it is such a blessing to be able to have time to just think and feel. Running is a type of active meditation to me, or at least a time to be more present in the moment and FEEL.

This past week, I had a recovery run scheduled into my training. Recovery runs are so hard for me. I fully believe that every person has their own pace, one that fits their body, their stride, and to deviate too much from that – faster or slower – is a pretty major challenge. Recovery runs, on the other hand, are substantially slower than race pace or any other training pace, usually around 2 minutes per mile slower. Initially thinking, you’d believe that to be easier. Let me just tell you now… It isn’t. But WHY, I ask?!?! I asked this a lot during my training session. Instead of trying to hide from the pain and the discomfort, though, this time I just tried to listen to it.

So many times I try to just shut out the pain. I usually think that if I can just quiet those painful moments, those “negative” emotions, those bouts of discomfort, that I will simply just rise above them. I’m not sure that I believe this anymore, though. I think pain has so much to teach us, and so I tried to listen to it. And when I started listening, I started realizing some things.

First, I realized that recovery isn’t the same thing as rest. It’s really easy to believe that the two should be one and the same. I guess both can be under the same umbrella of SOMETHING, but they can and should be distinctly different. Recovery is work. It is painful. It serves a important purpose of lifting us out of that pain and toward growth and betterment.

Second, because our bodies are wrecked when we begin our recovery phase, a easier slower pace is actually difficult to keep. My brain wants to explode every time. All of my Mean Mind’s comments start creeping in. “You’re only a mile in?” “How are you so tired already?” “This should be a slow and easy pace,” Mean Mind says. It’s tricky, because slower isn’t always easier. Our brains can’t comprehend that sometimes; mine definitely can’t. It wants to blow up like a baked potato that’s been microwaved too long.

Finally, its in these painful moments that we have to let go of our egos, which is sometimes just as painful as the moment we’re finding ourselves in to begin with. Humility is the only grace that we can bring in our journey of recovery, but ego is a hard thing to give up. A lot of athletes record everything. Digital platforms (I primarily use Strava) are great outlets to keep track of every single training session. They’re also social platforms, so followers can see all of the details of any given training session if your settings allow, and even give you “kudos” on your training if they’re moved to. The thought actually crossed my mind that I needed to change the default verbiage on my recovery run title from “Lunch Run” to “Recovery Run.” I needed to let people know that this is not my normal pace. That I’m “better” than the pace that I ran that day. That I ran that “slow” on purpose. I didn’t want to disappoint my loyal running buddies by thinking that I am slacking or surrendering my pace goal or just (gasp) slow. As if they’d even care! How arrogant of me. The more I thought about recovery, and what all it actually entails, I started thinking about it in segments.

I started to think of recovery as having three main phases:

  1. Denial. Here’s where all of the initial mental barriers are put up. In my running, it is all of the “This shouldn’t be hard” thoughts and those similar that my Mean Mind says to me. This is where I initially battle with ego.
  2. Dedication :: Again, this isn’t easy. If everything that brought you to this point has taken a toll on your body, mind, and spirit, beginning to recover from that can be brutal. We have to trust the process enough to not stray from the plan or the pace. We also have to have enough mental fortitude to be dedicated and persevere. It would be really easy to give up and just stop. It would feel good. It may even feel right. But we take it step by step. Moment by moment. Breath by breath. As the miles progress, dedication lets us grab onto something besides denial, something bigger than ego: why we’re doing this in the first place.
  3. Deliverance :: Sometimes its very apparent what we’re recovering from but I think its just as important to understand what we are recovering to. As the hilariously famous Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” So where are you going? In the era of “quick fixes,” this may not (and chances are) won’t happen immediately, but our dedication really does provide a stepping stone towards something more.

I find it helpful here to ask myself two questions if I’m really struggling. What am I recovering from and what I am recovering to? Last week, I answered like this:

What am I recovering from?

Pain, suffering, the weaker version of myself.

What am I recovering to?

Strength, understanding, a better version of myself.

Maybe you aren’t a runner. Maybe you have something big in your world that you’re working through. I find that sometimes re-framing the question can help me find a different answer. What I do know is that pain and suffering are part of most worthy endeavors. It just matters that we find our inner fire to know where we’re going and be dedicated enough to get there. Lose the ego and find a friend instead. I’m working on that part.

Get fired up! Shoot me a comment below and tell me about your experience with recovery (runs). How are you feeling? What are you working toward?

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