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How to Recover and Avoid Burn Out

by Karl Gruber
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In my previous blog post, I wrote about the post race blues, but there is another key element that you must tackle first – properly recovering from your long training period and from the hard effort of the race itself.
 
It’s funny. You would think that my body would be somewhat impervious to needing to recover after completing 78 marathons during my lifetime, but this is not true. Even when running 52 marathons in 52 weeks from 1996 to 1997, I basically resembled a piece of burnt toast after almost every race. I got pretty used to one of the volunteers coming up to me in the finisher’s chute asking, “Are you ok?” as I staggered around looking for a place to plop my body down. 
 
I tend to give it my all when I race, so yes, I do get beat up. It usually has an effect on my body for anywhere from three days to a week – then I’m ready to go again. However, everyone’s body reacts to a very hard running effort in a different way, and every individual has a different recovery time. Some of my ultra-runner friends, for instance, can go right back out the next day to run another 30 miles after running a 50 miler, but even they need to allow their body to recover. 
 
Whether you are new or a veteran of distance running, you can learn well from elite runners like 2018 Boston Marathon champion Desiree Linden. In a recent article by Samantha LeFave in Runner’s World entitled What Desiree Linden’s Boston Marathon Victory Can Teach Us about Recovery, you will learn that sometimes your recovery can involve the dreaded “runner’s burn-out,” or the need to hit the reset button in order to recover not only physically but mentally, too. 
 
“Her victory in Boston was anything but magic, luck, or whatever else goes into creating the happily-ever-after endings we see in the movies. Linden won because she consistently shows up, puts in the work, and then comes back the next day to do it all again… She also knows when to take a break—something many runners struggle with, elite-status or not. It’s no coincidence that the 34-year-old claimed the top spot of the podium after recently taking a five-month break from training. In 2017, feeling burnt out on the sport after placing fourth in the 2016 Boston Marathon (and after making It clear that she wanted first), Linden said she spent the summer kayaking, reading, and spending time with people who loved her regardless of that pro runner status. ‘My body and mind needed a reset’.”
 
The most logical and common sense thing that you must do after racing a half or full marathon is simply to let your body rest and heal, and then allow it to come back stronger than ever. However, as we can see in the case of Des Linden, sometimes that is just not enough. Sometimes a much-needed push of the mental reset button is needed, too. 
 
I will admit that over the last few months, I too have lost the passion that motivates me to get my daily run in, most of the time using bad weather as an excuse. Fortunately, I have been successful in pushing my mental reset button, and through some lifestyle and habit changes, I am loving every moment of it! Just today, on a gorgeous spring day, I did a longer run on a local bike path, and it was literally one of those runs where I was just truly “running-to-run.” The passion is back!
 
Again from article from Runner’s World, author LeFave refers to Aaron Drogoszewski, co-founder of ReCOVER, who states, “ ‘Anyone can hit the level of total burnout that Linden had reached, too,’ which is why Drogoszewski stresses recovery periods to his clients. ‘You would never ask a race car driver to simply step on the pedal harder when the car’s tires are balding, and it’s running out of gas’, he explains. ‘Humans need to figuratively pull off the track and rotate their tires, and get an oil change every once in a while if they want to stay in whichever race for the long run.’ ” 
 
In Joel Friel’s The Triathlete’s Training Diary, he notes to key strategies to avoid future burn-out and allow for proper recovery:
 
1. Avoid overtraining
2. Just Say “no” to compulsion
 
You would think that both of these would be common sense, but many runners feel that they simply must get that track workout in. They must get “x” amount of mileage in to feel like they are successfully training. Much of this is driven by man’s inherent competitive drive, but it usually comes at their body’s expense. The result is usually poor recovery, illness, and the dreaded burnout and lack of passion for running.
 
I like Friel’s instruction that at the start of your long training periods, you should identify your training objectives and clearly set up your season’s training and racing goals. Doing so will go a long way in helping you to not only race well but recover well, and keep your passion for the sport of running.
 
As I always say, “Run well, race smart!” Here’s to a lifetime of running and racing with a passion in a healthy, happy and joyful manner! 

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