On Christmas and the Importance of Recovery

You know the phrase, “And now for something completely different”?  Well, that has been my life this past week.  Typically, a day in the life of Katie involves waking up, going to work and sitting at my desk, working out over my lunch hour, sitting at my desk some more, going over to Rob’s place, eating dinner, and then going home.

Every. Single. Day.

And honestly, being a chronically boring person who loves routine, I’m pretty okay with that.  It had been getting old, though, and even I needed a break from the routine.  That’s exactly what I got when visited my family for a week (a whole week!) over Christmas.  For a week, my days involved staying up later than usual, sleeping in much later than usual, having running partners, spending time with my grandparents, and playing with the four little monsters (my name for my nieces and nephews) every day for what seemed like hours on end.  These are all wonderful things, but they are not my typical routine, so for someone who thrives on routine like I do, it was pretty exhausting, especially my aunt duties.

He was being so cute sitting on the stairs, so I took my phone out and told him to say, “Cheese.”  Then he ran into the corner.

Overall, the week was wonderful.  For my marathon training, I had two longer runs this week, a thirteen mile long run and a ten mile tempo run.  And, for the first time in forever, I had a running buddy for both of them.  Neither my dad nor my older sister ran as much as I did this week, but we worked it out so I had a running buddy for all but three miles.  We used my dad’s five mile loop, and my dad and sister would choose how many loops they wanted to run with me and just run their miles while I ran mine.  For my ten-mile run, for example, my dad ran the first loop with me and my sister ran the second with me.  It was a great system, and with the weather as cold and slippery as it when I was in Idaho, I needed it.  The weather turned should have been completely manageable runs during my recovery week into reasonably difficult runs, so it was nice to have “pacers” so that I was thinking about something other than how cold it was and how much I didn’t want to be running at that particular moment.

Snow. Ice. Slipperiness.

But I don’t think anyone really cares about the workouts that happen over Christmas (although, as always, they are available if you are interested).  I think people care more about all the loot that is exchanged.  And there was a lot of loot this year.  It was a big Christmas at the Pridgen household.  My parents hosted, and my older sister’s family (a husband and four kids), my little sister and her husband, my grandparents, and I were all there exchanging gifts.  Plus, we all kind of love giving gifts on Christmas, so the number of gifts was sort of over-the-top.  And at least a little embarrassing.  My mom always forbade us from sharing photos of our Christmas tree, but I’m an adult now, so I’m totally going to.  Keep in mind that many of these presents are for the plethora of children my sister has.

To be fair, there wasn’t actually much under the tree because many of the presents were large in size.

I got some nice running clothes that I probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise because I’m cheap.  My younger sister got me a pair of running shorts because she had noticed that I wear the same pair of running shorts every single time I visit.  My older sister got me some running socks, which I’m excited about because I’ve lost one sock out of almost every pair I have.  My presents for the monsters were a big hit.  I got my five-year old niece a Shopkins playset and some Shopkins.  Shopkins are these weird little characters that are personified department store items.  For some reason, I think they are ridiculously cute (calculator with glasses! a winking carrot! a smiling little telephone!), and my niece loved them.  I got my three year old nephew a Hot Wheels race track which was the most fun toy I played with all week.  He got four cars going at once, which I thought was impressive for a three year old.  And I got my almost-two year old nephew a little trainset with wooden tracks that fit together and trains that stick together magnetically.  We let him open it early on so he would play with it while we all opened presents instead of running around like a little terror and ripping open every present he could get his hands on! (Oh, my littlest niece isn’t even three months old, so I just got her a little stuffed animal.)

Yet despite not going to work, having a cut-back week in marathon training, and sleeping in, I felt myself get more tired instead of rejuvenated as the week progressed.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I think all adults learn that, while they love their parents and siblings and grandparents, visiting family can be exhausting.  Not because the family is exhausting, necessarily (though I’m sure some are!), but because it’s outside of the routine.  I was pretty good about getting off by myself to decompress, but sometimes it was difficult.  My nieces and nephews love to play when I visit, and when my niece asks, “Will you play with us, Auntie Katie?” and then looks up at me with her giant eyes, it’s pretty hard to say no.

How could I ever say no to her?

I’m not sure if it was the extra wear-and-tear of Christmas or if catching something was inevitable since I spent a week around different people and new germs, but on Saturday night I noticed my throat was getting sore.  I tried to convince myself that it just hurt because I had run 10 miles in 10-15° weather that day, but I knew I was getting a cold.  Sure enough, I woke up on Sunday with congestion and a pretty painful sore throat.  Sunday was a rest day, and I tried to keep it that way.  We had a mega-Sunday dinner* with probably around 15 people (that’s huge for the Pridgen household!), but I spent most of the afternoon after that watching Netflix and taking a short nap.  The kids came over around supper time, but they were mostly content to sit and play with their toys with me there instead of asking to play house or Follow the Leader.  Still, I found myself facing a difficult (for me) decision on Sunday evening as I started to feel achy from my cold.  I wanted to work out on Monday since I typically take my rest day later in the week.  But I knew Rob had taken a day off work on Monday so he could pick me up from the airport and then spend time with me, so I didn’t want to schedule a workout on Monday afternoon.  I had been planning on getting up early on Monday and getting my three mile tempo run in for the week before leaving for the airport at seven o’clock.  Normally, this would be an early day for me, but not absurdly so.  As I thought about waking up with crud in my throat and running hard in the dark at 15°, I realized the only thing tying me to the workout was the fact that I couldn’t take the day off because I hadn’t planned it as a rest day.

So I decided to ditch the unnecessary obsessiveness and give myself another day of rest so I could recover from my cold.  Of course, I had to run it by the two most obsessive people I know (my dad and my older sister) so that I could feel comfortable with my decision, but I’m really glad I decided to take the day off.  I woke up at a reasonable hour to go to the airport and arrived in Salt Lake City just a little before 11:00am.  And the rest of the day was absolutely relaxing.  Rob and I exchanged Christmas gifts.  I got him some nice pans he had been eyeing, a couple bags of Starbucks Christmas Blend, and the Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki (a filmmaker, if you aren’t familiar with him).  And Rob got me a new carbon wheelset!  It’s super cool—the wheels are gorgeous, and apparently they also have a good brake track (because braking on carbon wheels can be sketchy).  I guess he got a really good deal because of little defect that didn’t affect their functionality at all.  Sometimes dating someone who works for a bike retailer is pretty awesome.  We got burritos for dinner, and I spent the evening playing video games, serving as a bed for the cat, and watching Spirited Away from Rob’s new boxed set.  Not once did I regret not going for a run in the morning.  And after a day of rest, I was able to get up very early and power through a speed workout on the treadmill the next day, all without feeling like I wanted to die.

AHHH!  Aren’t they so cool?!

You’d think that I would have learned and understood the importance of recovery in a training plan (and also in life), but I’m kind of a slow learner, so it’s something that I still struggle with.  It’s easy for me to get caught up in the pattern of trusting my training plan so much that I forget to trust my body.  Now that my body is recovering from the cold, I can feel how my legs benefitted from the easier week of training.  Now that I’ve had the time to relax and regain emotional equilibrium, I can really appreciate the week I was able to spend with my family, most notably my nieces and nephews.  A few days of recovery does wonders.

Mostly it was this little guy that aided my emotional recovery.  I have been getting cuddles galore since coming back to Salt Lake.

*Sunday dinner happens around 12:30pm.  I’ve seen people confused by that, much to my own confusion.  I’ve always been raised with the notion that dinner is the “large” meal of the day, regardless of whether it is served at noon or at seven.  I believe this is technically the correct usage of the word, but I think in the less-formal Northwest, that usage sometimes falls by the wayside.  Of course, a strong argument could be made that since this usage has fallen out of favors in certain areas and thus results in confusion, it is no longer technically correct in those areas at all because the ultimate purpose of language is successful communication.  But that would be a post for an entirely different blog altogether.


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