Guest Writer: Krissy Moehl
December, January, February. To me, these months are downtime. Time to checkout, rest up, chill out and even tune in to other activities. In the last two years this downtime has brought up some pains and forced me to tune in to my own recovery. Such that Pro-Tec is all about helping keep our bodies nimble and healthy, this seems like a great place to share this experience.
As 2014 came to a close, we prepped for our trip to Patagonia Chile and the filming of Mile for Mile. I ramped up my mileage in preparation for keeping up with the boys (Jeff Browning http://www.gobroncobilly.com and Luke Nelson http://challengeofbalance.com) for 100 miles across the new Patagonia National Park. Meanwhile my body let me know that it’d had enough and it was time for some downtime, but with the ensuing project I persisted and pushed through one more run. We did it and we did it right. We had a great time and the end result is the fantastic 14-minute film Mile for Mile http://www.patagonia.com/us/the-new-localism/mile-for-mile that we traveled the States and China in 2015 to share. We raised money for trail building in the park and met our fundraising goal at the end of the year. 50 miles of trails will be built utilizing the funding raised by sharing our adventure run. Success!
After the run and travels home I finally rewarded my mind & body with the downtime it was requesting. And not long after, a new to me injury crept in. I was seriously bummed thinking I’d torn my meniscus somehow as the pain radiated in my knee. http://krissymoehl.com/blog/2015/1/29/nerves-new-to-me. Fortunately I worked with an amazing PT in Boulder (Heather North – Red Hammer – http://www.redhammerrehab.com) who thought beyond my pain symptoms and was able to figure out that I was dealing with a pinched femoral nerve. I had to remain insistent and consistent with the exercises and treatments and as I did, the pain symptoms diminished. I had to stay diligent and my continued work on my hip allowed for another amazing year of running in 2015.
Fast forward through 2015 which was filled with amazing running adventures including running for Team USA in the World 50 mile Trail Championships in Annecy http://krissymoehl.com/blog/2015/6/2/team-usa-world-50-mile-trail-championships-thoughts, sharing the Mile for Mile film all over the country and setting the women’s supported record on the Tahoe Rim Trail http://www.irunfar.com/2015/10/krissy-moehl-post-tahoe-rim-trail-fkt-interview.html. I relocated to Bellingham, Washington and spent more time in my car and on planes than in my new hometown. My training decreased as I recovered from the summer and it’s cap of 170 miles in less than two days and my body is again adjusting, not only to my new surroundings, but probably more relevant to the lessened physical workload. I love working out, being busy and movement. And while I still aim to do something every day, whether a 30-minute run, or a yoga class, the volume is much less now than the rest of the year. December. January. February. I find myself in another period of downtime.
As a part of this adjustment, my same left hip decided to talk to me, but this time a little differently. Sitting on the plane back and forth to China made matters worse, pain and continued weakness, especially after long periods of sitting, sent me in search of advice. Fortunately I quickly found Bellingham’s guru for athletes. Kerry Gustafson of PRiME Massage and Sports Medicine at http://www.primebellingham.com went right to work listening to my symptoms and working with my descriptions to dial in the latest diagnosis. Instead of a pinched femoral nerve, this time my pelvis was shifted, my glute weak and periformis downright angry. During my appointment she performed body manipulations, massaged knots and prescribed exercises as homework. The key bit being the homework. A couple of weeks flew by with more travel and I worked to incorporate the various stretches and strengthening exercises. Fortunately, I continue to feel my body realign and the strength in my hip return.
Most interesting to me (and why I decided to write a post so that I could explore the thinking more) is that while I was in Kerry’s office we got to talking about the fact that this is the same hip I dealt with during my off season last year. Why does downtime trigger these issues? Just when I think I sailed through the year and am going to reward my body with downtime I come up against some pretty limiting pains that are not associated with impact or over training; they come up weeks into my downtime. Adjusting. My body is used to a certain workload and I have to adjust to the lighter load. As that happens, things I have kept at bay now have a chance to speak up and be heard. Muscle imbalances, strength deficiencies, nerve pain even unexplainable exhaustion can all show up during this down time.
My first thought was – I cannot maintain a high level of training year round. Both my body and my mind need time to recoup and reset, to focus on other things and not so much physical output. Kerry agreed and assured me I did not have to and definitely should not maintain high mileage weeks to avoid these nuisances. She explained “I use the analogy of always outrunning wild animals, or outrunning the wooly mammoths and sabor tooth tigers during prehistoric times. You can’t get your parasympathetic system to function for relaxation when you are constantly under high stress. In this phase we react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming us for fight or flight. Specifically, the adrenal medulla produces a hormonal cascade that results in the secretion of catecholamines, especially norepinephrine and epinephrine. The hormones estrogen, testosterone and cortisol, and the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, also affect how organisms react to stress. When we are not allowing our bodies to break this cycle, our digestion is off, our heart rate and blood pressure are constantly elevated, inflammation is constantly present, and our minds are always on alert. We need the time and space to allow these systems to find balance again.”
This is an opportunity to bring the body back into balance. These issues speak up so that we will focus on strengthening other muscles and work out the imbalances we can create during the high training season.
Color Block: Key Recovery Methods
- Foam rolling https://www.pro-tecathletics.com/Products/Massage – Self massage is one of the best ways to check in with your body and feel what is cranky and work out tightness that may lead to injury.
- I always feel better after, but have a hard time motivating to get on that roller! With less time out running, I need fill this time with rolling.
- Nutrition – maintain good nutrition, whole foods, enough calories, regular snacks and meals.
- It is easy in the off-season to slack on fueling. To a point, I encourage relaxing any strictness you might place in season. Mostly I find that I do not eat enough during the off-season because my appetite is not as fierce due to decreased training. It is best to keep good habits and eat good-for-you foods that make you feel energetic and sustained.
- Supplements – Refuel your body with the minerals and nutrients that your body burns through in high training.
- I know that I feel the benefits of supplements year round. Flora Seven Sources http://www.florahealth.com/product_az_usa.cfm?sbyletter=7&prod_id=959and First Endurance Multi-V http://firstendurance.com/nutrition/multiv.html are two examples that I continue throughout the year.
- Yoga, Float, Meditating – This is specific to each person, but finding the yin to your yang, quiet to your output, is a part of finding balance.
- In season and out of season I try to maintain some yin by attending yoga classes.
- This year I also discovered Sensory Deprivation Training or aka Float. http://www.floatshoppe.com Floating in salt water that is body temperature in a room that is also body temperature, completely dark and quiet removes all stresses & stimulus from your mind & body, namely gravity. There are so many benefits; mostly I find the 90 minutes of nothingness incredibly grounding.
What surprised me the most is that my body is so accustomed to working at a certain output level for the majority of the year, so when I take downtime and scale back the physical demands, there is more than just muscle recovery happening. Think about those other important hidden bits – the nervous system, immune system and endocrine system. All of the issues I’ve kept at bay through training finally find the space to speak up. It is a time to deal with them, to balance and strengthen those systems that do so much to support me the majority of the year.
It seems like I should be able to take time off and not have to do anything – at least that is how I envision it. But the reality is there is always something that needs attention. Like work, relationships, nutrition, training, and sleep we have to give recovery attention as well. We don’t get to completely check out. We get to stay tuned in and therefore reap the opportunities of improving. I will be demanding the long miles of my body again soon, but for now tending to these other important issues fills my off-season.
Trail running for over 15 years now has led Pro-Tec Athletics Ambassador Krissy Moehl to a resume including over 100 ultra races, 55 female wins and iconic FKT’s (Fastest Known Times) including the Wonderland Trail 93 miles and most recently the Tahoe Rim Trail 170 miles. Moehl most recently authored a training manual titled Running Your First Ultra: Customizable Training Plans for Your First 50k to 100-Mile Race.