Recovery is important. This applies to everything that this blog is about: epilepsy, running, life. Recovery is a hugely underappreciated need and is actually absolutely crucial to moving forward.
I will acknowledge that while I am writing this entry, I am actually possibly the worst person for recovery. I’m writing this as if I follow it, and I usually don’t. I promise I’m working on it.
Seizures require recovery. Seizures are massively hard on the body and the brain. They are a physical trauma, even if there aren’t any additional injuries as a result of the seizure. It is so easy to just sit up afterwards and be completely sure that we can just carry on. That we are fine and nothing happened or it’s not a big deal. This is especially in the circumstances that there aren’t substantial injuries. I am absolutely terrible for this. As much as I like to encourage people to get up, keep going and to not let epilepsy hold us back, I need to work on acknowledging the ordeal that I go through when I have seizures and to respect that. It’s not even just physical. In the moment that we have seizures, neurons are exploding (figuratively) all over in our brains. It’s a burst of electrical activity (literally). That hurts and yet I still sit up and want to go do whatever it was. Sometimes it’s possible (or to me, necessary) and sometimes just not. We need to allow our bodies and brains a chance to heal.
Running requires recovery. I am also pretty terrible at this. I hate taking time off after races and I’m pretty bad at accepting that I need to slow down. I race, and then I’m already prepping for the next race. When I do long runs during training, I struggle to keep those at a slower pace, because once I get started, I just want to go. Earlier this year I met someone who has oodles of experience with run training. He emphasized to me (over and over and over again) the importance of recovery. Slowing down and resting is necessary to get faster and stronger and to improve. I wouldn’t even be able to count the number of times that I called him to ask “Is it too soon to do another half? How about 15k”. This is a circumstance where over enthusiasm isn’t always the best. I am not a professional runner or athlete but even if I was, recovery is something that needs to happen. When I spoke with my friend, who is a running coach, he emphatically stressed to me that developing as a runner absolutely requires recovery and taking rest days. After long distance races, consider one day per mile. That’s not to say be completely inactive, just less distance, more slowly, less often. It’s important to keep moving, but it won’t help us develop as runners if we injure ourselves by pushing too far too soon.
Life requires recovery. There are things that we experience that are stressful (good and bad). There are personal goals we set for ourselves that may take us out of our comfort zone. Whether it’s related to work, relationships, education, home renovations, whatever, there are things that are stressful. When we meet those goals, or the timeline for the goal has passed, there’s almost a void where that plan had been. That’s definitely how I feel. I worked to be prepared to speak at the epilepsy event in Anaheim and now that’s over. Automatically I was trying to find something to do next. Rather than be satisfied with my accomplishment, or to decompress over the personal stress I had building up to it, I was immediately trying to find something new to push my energy towards. Constantly pushing for something is the starting point to burning out.
After last week, for the first time in a couple years, I didn’t have anything on the horizon. At this moment, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not registered for any races. I have no significant travel plans in place. This is a time that I should be enjoying. I should be recovering from a huge, exciting and terrifying new experience. I should be recovering from three races in three days. I should be spending my evenings curled up in bed with hot chocolate binge watching movies and being satisfied with that. This is something that is unbelievably difficult to accept.
They say that trying to convince an injured runner to stop running is like talking to a brick wall. When I’ve had a seizure but haven’t had an additional injury, I’m a brick wall. When I run a race but don’t have any injuries, I’m a brick wall. When I accomplish something that I’m super proud of but don’t have something immediate to jump into, I’m a brick wall. I feel like I can’t stop. In reality, I can. And I should. Not just should: need to.
Yesterday I went for a run. Intentionally just 3 kilometres. Once I was out in my sneakers and running gear (including the shirt I got from running the Thor 10K) I just wanted to keep going. I know I can fit 8 kilometres in at lunch hour and still have time to stretch and change before getting back to work. I’m not injured, I don’t feel like I need to slow down. But if I push myself too far too quickly then I’m more likely to cause damage. The same applies to seizures. The same applies to life. It applies to everyone whether they are athletic, have medical conditions or not. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a time out and disconnect, decompress, relax. Taking the time to do that will make us stronger, faster, and refreshed to take on new challenges, when the right time comes to continue on.