Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Courage To Quit

I am not 25 anymore.

I think I've started a couple of recent blog posts with this realization. It must really be hitting home these days!

While I don't believe I have hit the inevitable 'slowing down with age' threshold yet, I have definitely hit the 'need more recovery time after races and very hard workouts' threshold. Specifically, when you race to your limit two weeks in a row after the age of 35, well, it takes a little while to fully bounce back from that.

In good news, I am paying attention and listening to my body and its messages better than ever before. I think a key factor in my ability to do this has been reading Matt Fitzgerald's books about training and organizing key workouts and listening to your body to know when to modify them.

Specifically, I'll give you an example from our track workout yesterday. 3 x 2 miles at 1/2 marathon pace with 2 min recovery. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to run 6 miles at the pace you can handle for 13.1 miles, but this workout is pretty darn hard. We nailed the first 2 miles without much issue. And 2 minutes seemed like plenty of rest. Next 2 miles were harder but still doable and we came in just a few seconds under goal pace. Perfect. 2 minutes rest went by quite a bit quicker this time. 1200M into the final 2 mile interval I felt the piano fall on my back. My breathing increased past the point of panting to nearly hyperventilating. 5 more laps to go at this effort? It was going to take some serious digging to accomplish goal pace now. I ran the next 400 at what felt like a very hard effort but was off the pace. And I quit the interval right then and there. That was enough for today.

Last year I do not think I would have had the courage to leave that workout incomplete. It would have felt like quitting to me and I would have felt like a wimp. But yesterday it was the absolute smartest thing I could have done. I "went to the well" two weekends in a row racing, and going to the well again on this track workout was just going to leave me thirsty... because guess what? The well was empty. The best thing I could have done for myself and my December marathon was to stop that workout before I dug myself a deeper hole. So I listened. I had the courage to quit. And I don't feel like a wimp. I feel like a smart athlete. I know that in a few weeks my body will be back to normal and I'll be able to nail these longer training days again. I know that. So that is why I am not worried about the fact that I couldn't finish that workout.

Now don't get me wrong- I am NOT advocating quitting a workout every time it gets hard and starts to hurt. But there is a difference between wimping out and being smart. And for those of us who are overachievers and typically lean toward more/harder/faster is better, well, sometimes we need to know that it's not.

12 comments:

Regina said...

Well, well, well...welcome to my world. The world where my mind is still 26 years old and my body is like, "what have you been smoking?" And with that I am bitch slapped back into my 43 year old reality.

It does take more time, I have noticed these last few years, for things to come back.....and some things never do....they don't bear mentioning...

Beth said...

So very few athletes can do this!! But I think it's what makes the difference between reaching your full potential and not. Swallowing the pride every once in a while and being SMART. Now if I could just do that too... ;) Your maturity as an athlete surely shows!

Running and living said...

These workouts seem so easy but you are right, they are very hard the first time you do them. You'll probably going to do it again (if you are using a variation of Hudson) and you'll see how EASY it is going to feel then.
Unless I am sick or injured, I never completely stop a workout. This is because if the workout does not get done that day, it will never get done (my schedule is pretty inflexible). But, sometimes I modify a workout, maybe split a mile interval in 2 800ms, etc. Probably better the way you do it, though.
Also, I can't believe you ran those miles on the track - lots and lots of circles:)

Lizzie said...

So smart Michelle. I wish I had figured that out while ago - might have save myself an injury and a heap of stress. But then what would be the point of learning? It's tough to back off when mentally you want to stick it out - finding that balance is all part of the plan (says she of 1/2 plans! :)). Excited to see how your training goes!

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Great post! I think a lot of athletes consider it a failure to quit a workout, but the most important thing is listening to your body and doing what's best!

Angela and David said...

Being smart is incredibly hard. Luckily when I had the piano fall on my back at the track Jen was actually there to stop me because I would not have been smart enough to stop myself.

And I wish when I had been 25 I was doing this kind of stuff. Instead I was pulling all nighters at work and going out whenever I had the chance. I guess 33 year old me wouldn't have recovered nearly so well from that either.

Katie A. said...

Wait, I thought that after you have a babe you get faster!? LOL! I think you were smart - and as we all know it's not so easy to be a smart athelete all the time. You giving yourself more time to recover will reap the rewards - but already knew that ;)
Seriously though, I'm excited to get prego and have a baby - I swear it makes you ladies faster!!! Hahaha!
Happy Thursday!

Teresa said...

A real athlete knows when enough is enough! Listening to your body is key! Way to keep it smart and be tough! Tn

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

It's taken me like 8 years to figure this out :-) Now I just have to ask myself if I'm gaining anything by this? It's good to hear crazy fast people like you do it to!!

Kim said...

That is so true! Great post. I'm going to remember that next time I'm in that spot!

Ange said...

smart!! It is NOT easy to figure out the difference...quitting when it gets hard and stopping when your body needs to stop. It is critical to know and so hard to give in to but you will reap the rewards later.

kerrie said...

wow, i wish i had read this about 2 weeks ago....
i am SOOOOOOO not 25 anymore. as a matter of fact, i might be 65. sometimes my internal monologue overrides my need to do what's right. oops.