Sunday, July 17, 2011

Starvation Rehab

I remember reading somewhere that people who have been in a state of starvation need to be careful transitioning back to normal eating.

Apparently, if you haven't eaten in quite some time, you don't want to try to make it all up in one sitting. And an entire pork roast shouldn't be your first meal. Or second.

If a recently no longer starving person were to gorge themselves on a huge meal, they'd overwhelm their system. Their organs, having been idle for some time, don't just flip on with a switch. They need to be coaxed back into duty, slowly.

I would guess that as these folks allow themselves to think of eating again, they dream about buffet tables that stretch to the vanishing point, piled high with every food they've ever loved. In their dreams they can pig out, even if not in the real world.

Same goes for running. If you've been on the sidelines for an extended time, you need to ease back into things.

After way too many weeks of rehab, I've put my feet tentatively back on the road. The first runs have been slow, and cautious, making sure that I really did remember how.

Once I knew I still had it, though most certainly less of it, I wanted more.

At night, just before drifting off to sleep, my mind takes me to beautiful, imaginary trails, and I'm moving over them effortlessly, and swiftly, of course, toward the end, which I hope never comes. I used to have these pseudo-dreams all the time, but not in the last few weeks. Now, with their return, they leave me eager to run fast, even at midnight, though I know that in reality, I can't... not yet.

Runners coming back need to submit to a higher authority - physics. And physiology. And time. I guess that's three higher authorities.

No matter how much you want to run every day, or to rip a hard 10K, you just can't. You need to set your sights low for a while.

Nope, lower.

Lower.

No, not even a crappy 5K... lower.

You need to put yourself into a long, slow, steady rebuilding phase. Your head and heart will want to feed that long unsatisfied appetite for a cranking run, the desire to feel great, and to be fast. But your body can't digest that meal.

The trick is to channel all of that energy/frustration in a positive direction, as opposed to self-destruction in the form of a track workout or hill repeats. Stick to your rebuilding plan. Make sure you're running way less than you want to. When you can't run, do the things that will keep you out of rehab when you are ready to run hard. Stretch, do some yoga, hit some light weights, maybe even hop on a bike or into the pool. Just stay away from treadmills.

Now that you've survived starvation, don't kill yourself with doughnuts, pork chops, and brownies. That's right, not even brownies. Stick to rice and broth until your body is ready.

Then, when you're sure you're up for it, maybe a waffle, with ice cream.

And then a 5K.

Good running,
Doug

Image from here.