There is a term in exercising called active recovery. When I first learned it I thought Justin, my trainer, was being creative and making things up. The premise is one works out in some form of intensity and then uses a lesser amount of effort to recover. The idea is with the body still in motion, lactic acid is released, the muscles stay supple and you avoid that whole “how the hell do I walk down the stairs after that” experience.
I was thinking about this process as I was attempting to make it up a very steep incline, oh hell, it was the whole stinking mountain. It was a short distance for me as it was only three miles but when I tell you it was straight up, I am not kidding. I love a challenge but I suck at the incline efforts. I have such a hard time keeping my breath even. I recover very quickly but I sound like a six pack a day smoker as I am attempting the climbs. (Yes, I know all my workout buddies. Hill repeats. Hill repeats.)
I was ticked. Full on boil and not because of the heat temperature. I’m sure that didn’t help the breathing but my subconscious was doing a number on how after I hurt my shoulder I really slacked off. Not true. I lost all my conditioning. Also not true. I’m never going to be good at inclines. Don’t know about this yet. That could be true but I didn’t need the help at that moment. Ha!
Where the active recovery comes in is I had to stop; A LOT! I had to keep stopping and I was so upset with myself both for needing to stop and for beating myself up. So, I decided to cut that crap out. I know the unsupportive self talk does not work and I would never talk to anyone else that way. There was no pressure from my hiking partner, just myself and I had a say over that.
So, I started doing my wiring focus assessment which is comprised of doing an active inventory of what was happening and what could I shift. Was I injured? No. Was I not able to climb? No. My legs were fatigued from three days of intense workouts back to back but I had the steam if I stopped wasting it. Was there a timeline in which I had to finish? Absolutely not. Ok, then what is working? I’m upright! I have plenty of water and fuel if I need it. I have support. It’s gorgeous out here. I’m perfectly healthy and capable of digging deep to finish this. I also have my years of redirecting my thoughts and energy process so let’s do that.
By the time I did the little talk through, that took a mere four minutes or so, I felt much more prepared to finish. It was hard. It was stupid hard but at least my head wasn’t the problem anymore. This is when I remembered active recovery. Do the push of a certain length and then participate in active recovery! I knew that! I could use it.
Tools come from every area of our lives. Not only the self help books, powerful memes, or amazing intuitive coaches. They come from within ALWAYS!
Active recovery can be used between surges of effort like the climbing I was doing and the benefit is the body in motion keeps the blood flowing and allows the heart rate to come down again. It can also be used in the following days after a long effort such as a marathon or a century bike ride. There is an additional benefit to using it after a workout to cool down and signal to your body that the workout is over.
So, when you’ve had a day that felt like you were on the sprinters block and never got a moment to stop, where is your active recovery? How are you moving and yet relaxing? Are you taking a walk? Talking with a friend? Creating an amazing meal?
When you have a week where you are maybe primary caregiver for someone who is ill or you have a big project due for school or work. Perhaps you really are training for a marathon, where is your active recovery? Do you book time with you on the couch reading? Do you have a gentle yoga class to go to? Is there an art project that you could get lost in calling your name?
How about the evening where you are winding down your day and you are complete with the days events and about to go night night. Can you take some deep breaths and focus on your in and out? Can you allow your mind to wander to all the amazing experiences you’ve had today and do a mental gratitude list. Yes, the pillow and nice clean sheets can be part of the gratitude practice.
My point is we have to begin speaking kindly to ourselves when we are short circuiting and we can only do that if we practice before these moments happen. Maybe this sounds as nuts as it did when Justin suggested it to me at first but will make total sense later (thank you bud!). Maybe it won’t be something you access now but occurs to you when you’ve reached your threshold and self kindness is the only way through it. Tension will keep it going, relaxing will help it release.
I am so grateful for all the tools in my kit and that they show up when I most need them. Share with me what tools you have in yours!
P.S. There was a fire tower with 108 steps at the top of that mountain. I counted and celebrated each step up and the, oh my goodness, decent back down the mountain. Celebrate your victories!