The Trouble with R&R

It’s “Active Recovery Week” here at my Crossfit box, and I am irrationally angry about it.

All I want to do is throw heavy shit around. I wake up cranky. I go to bed cranky. I’m pissy-pants at every turn. Just give me a barbell and a hero WOD and no one gets hurt.

Perhaps it’s this mental/emotional breakdown relating to a bit of rest and recovery is showing me that, of anyone, I need it the most.

But beyond Crossfit, it’s a growing phenomenon that I’ve witnessed over the past year in the world of obstacle racing/adventure racing: the utter inability of anyone to take time off, even ONE day. To rest. To recover. To treat our body well and nourish it. And I’ll admit that I’m one of the biggest offenders.

We take pride in our pain, in our sore shoulders and tight hammies. In our inability to walk after races and our gashes and infected wounds. We race for 24, 48, and occasionally 60+ hours, and are back in the gym within the next day or two.

We post with pride on Facebook and other sites about racing while injured, about one’s body being crippled by pain and DOMS. We wear our wounds like a badge of honor, with a sense of self-righteousness that defies all logic.

We refuse to taper, and bitch like little schoolgirls when we are forced to before a race. We laugh at workouts that don’t span multiple hours or involve massive amounts of weight.

We don’t feel like we’ve worked hard enough unless we are laying in a pool of our own sweat, utterly exhausted and dizzy. We take pride in others calling our workouts “crazy,” and we try to one-up each other on the “ridiculousness” of our workouts. We don’t “right” if we aren’t sore, or our hands aren’t torn up, or if are legs aren’t like jello.

Listen up folks: it makes no sense. And while I hate to admit it, in the long run, it’s going to catch up.

When I started endurance racing, my parents obviously worried about me (beyond just getting lost in the woods or chopping my foot off with an axe). As my mom once asked me: “Do you want to be able to walk when you’re 60?” And I laugh it off, because I feel so strong right now. But day after day, and week after week of just brutalizing my body (and taking pride in it), has me wondering if it’s a legitimate question.

Last week, for once in my life, I made a smart decision: I DNS’ed the Chicago Marathon. It’d be the second year in a row: last year with a tibial stress fracture and in a boot, this year with the flare up of pain in the same spot and some anterior sheath tendonitis as a result of the Vermont Ultrabeast. And I was angry, so angry. I COULD have run. Other people that ran the Ultrabeast were able to run, so I was angry that I wasn’t as “tough” as them, or that I was more prone to injury. But, given my history, I knew that if I did run through the pain, the likelihood of lasting injury was very high, and not worth the risk.

And one week later, I ran this morning for the first time since Vermont, pain free. So, perhaps, rest was the right decision.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t hate it. It’s only been in the past few months where I’ve scheduled in a complete rest day once a week (like, “laying on the couch, watching football and not moving all day” rest day), and I still struggle with that. But right now it’s a mental battle, it’s the task of reframing how I think about exercise, racing, and the relationship with my body.

In the words of the well-used AA mantra: “Fake it ’til you make it.”

The barbell will still be there next week.


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