My Secret Weapon

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Who doesn’t want to recover quickly so they can have a great next run? It should come as no surprise to people that read this blog for a while that I’m all about taking care of my body so that I can recover quickly. I have a secret weapon for that, too.

G is for Garmin
I have a Garmin Vivoactive 3. Before that I had the original Garmin Vivoactive. I replaced the Vivoactive after about 4 years because a) it was acting a bit wonky and b) I really, really wanted the HR monitor function — which was not built into the original version.

I like that I am not switching back and forth between a regular watch and a Garmin. Because it tracks my sleep, my steps, my floors, my resting heart rate, my stress levels, and so much more — I wear my Garmin Vivoactive 3 24/7. I may have to remember to charge it before a run, but I pretty much always know where it is.

Some of those features are incredibly useful to me: they help me figure out whether or not I should push a run off to another day, or maybe just do an easier run rather than a planned harder workout. Here are the things I check frequently.

I don’t really think my fitness age should be 20 & if it really is 20 yr olds are in trouble!

V02 MAX
I know that the V02 MAX reported by my Garmin is not extremely accurate, but I’ve found over time it’s pretty consistent. Sure it moves around a point here, a point there, but it usually stays in the same relatively narrow range.

I’ve never looked at several months of V02 MAX stats. You can see what happened in January when I was sick & didn’t run for 3 weeks. You can also see what happened with each COVID vaccine.

After my COVID vaccines I was struggling with my runs and my energy levels. Sure enough, my V02 MAX had fallen lower than my normal range. It took a while before it settled back into its normal range and my runs slowly started to get better.

My physiological stress levels are usually pretty low.

Stress
Garmin uses HRV (heart rate variability) to give you a number for how stressed your body is feeling. You may not feel stressed, by your heart doesn’t lie.

I actually find it kind of fascinating. In general my Stress metric is usually in the low range, but I could see it jump up after my COVID vaccines, for instance. I also know that if I see it jump up, it’s another good indicator it’s not time for a hard run (and maybe not any run at all).

Resting Heart Rate is something I do keep an eye on. It’s one of the best measurements I’ve found that can warn you you’re heading into the danger zone. I generally know when it’s most likely just a blip & the times it really means it’s time to rest by feel & from tracking it for so long. With both vaccines it jumped about 10 points in one day — which it almost never does.

RHR (resting heart rate)
Very similar to the Stress metric. If you see this jump up more than 5 points, it’s a good indicator something’s brewing. Although I’m not quite sure of the algorithm Garmin uses, because they do adjust it down sometimes the next day, so I’ve learned to take this one with a grain of salt.

Yes, my RHR jumped up almost 10 points after both vaccines, too. If I see it move up more than 5 points, again, it’s time to either readjust my run or my schedule.

I actually don’t track my heart rate while I run anymore, mostly just running by feel, and for the most part, it’s pretty consistent.

Final Thoughts
A lot of people could care less about these metrics, I know. I sync my Garmin with the app each morning (I believe that helps me to get a signal more quickly), so it’s just a matter of glancing at the info that’s already recorded. There are times I don’t have to look at that to know that it’s not a good idea for me to run hard, or run at all.

There are other times, though, that I don’t feel bad, yet the data says something is brewing. How many times have you felt fine until you didn’t? Tracking these three simple things (if that’s available to you) might help you clue in to fact that you’re not recovering well, for whatever reason, and you can adjust accordingly.

I am not a slave to the numbers, either, but I just find that it’s good information for me, and it’s readily available to me. I like not having to wear a fitness tracker and a GPS watch!

What’s a signal to you that you’ve recovered well?

Do you ever feel fine and then suddenly get sick?

Are you good about adjusting your running due to how you feel?

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Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.

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1 Reason I Took a Running Break

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When should you take a break from running? I do think it does a body good once in a while. Any repetitive activity leaves you open to injury. Switching it up and giving your body a break is one way to stay injury free.

Fairytales and Fitness

Pay attention to your RHR (resting heart rate)
The line between pushing yourself and injuring yourself or burning out is so thin it’s almost invisible. This decision was easy for me, because I made it a while ago. Better to be proactive than reactive — I always tell Mr. Judy that about walking the dogs!

When it came time to actually take that break, I had already noticed an upward tick in my RHR. As far as I can deduce, Garmin averages your RHR throughout the day. So sometimes it will autocorrect the lower value a day or two later for me, when I’ve synced that day. That just means that much like a false positive test, sometimes a high RHR turns out to be a bit lower.

In my case, even allowing for time, there was a steady uptick. I actually started my running break a few days earlier than I’d planned to. I felt okay, but my body seemed to be indicating that I wasn’t recovering well. I am not a slave to data — but it’s one hint when something is coming off the rails.

In normal times, if I’d been training for a race or racing a lot as I often do in the Fall, I might have just pushed through it. Sometimes not having running goals can actually be a good thing!

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What I gained
I gained time. Running is time consuming. Making sure I fuel right, have my outfit laid out, making sure I have hydration, foam rolling, pre- and post-stretching: it all adds up. I used that time to walk more. Fall is the perfect time in the Northeast to explore and get out in nature.

Walking more allowed me to slow down. Slowing down allowed me to be more observant to everything around me. We see more on the run than we do driving in a car, right? You also see a lot more walking than you do running.

My RHR came back down into its normal range.

Final Thoughts
You may be able to run hard and many miles without taking breaks. As I wrote in You are an experiment of 1 here, every body is different. As I’ve so often mentioned, even elites take breaks from running. Sometimes long breaks. Yes, running is their job — but they are still wise enough to know that recovery is also their job.

Recovery may not be our job, but being kind to our body is.

Still struggling with whether or not it’s time for a break? Check out Embrace the Taper here for a list of my many posts on rest and recovery.

Are you afraid of losing running fitness if you stop running?

When was the last time you voluntarily took a break from running?

When was the last time you were forced to take a break from running due to illness or injury?

Are you really recovered?

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I’ll sleep when I’m dead. How often do you hear people say that? Yet we get stronger when we rest and recover properly. But how do you know if you’re recovered?

Meet my little friend
The pulse oximeter. That’s right, like the thing you wear on your finger when you’re in the hospital. It measures your pulse and your oxygen levels. It’s inexpensive, small, and easy to use.

So why would you need one? I don’t have a GPS watch with a heart monitor. I don’t want to wear a chest strap. But I did want to start tracking my resting heart rate (RHR). And the pulse oximeter has really helped me do just that!

It doesn’t wake up Mr. Judy (although I do make sure to cover it up with the blanket). It doesn’t require an app or a phone. I know most people sleep with their  phones, but I don’t. It’s the perfect solution for me.

You, of course, can do the same thing with your watch if it has a HR Monitor. Or if you don’t have to worry about waking someone up, you can just take your pulse. The tricky thing about resting heart rate is you need to take it before you get out of bed first thing in the morning. Although sometimes I have to make a pitstop in the middle of the night; I don’t take it then, but I will take it a few hours later right before I get up.

So are you recovered?
Bear in mind I am not a medical professional. If your heart rate is very elevated after a hard workout (I’ve seen 7 beats per minute or 10% used as a benchmark for very elevated), chances are you are not recovered. 

That doesn’t mean you need to take a rest day, but it would be wise to take it a little easier.

If you find that over time your RHR seems to be rising, that may also be a sign that you’re overtraining. Supposedly the opposite is true too: if over time your RHR declines, it’s a sign that you’re getting fitter. I’ve only been tracking mine for a few months, but definitely haven’t seen any declines.

However, of course after I wrote the paragraph above, I saw my lowest RHR to date. Hopefully that means I’m getting a little fitter.

I have shuffled around workouts occasionally when my RHR has been more elevated than usual. I haven’t been tracking long enough to know if it’s made a difference. It certainly hasn’t hurt.

There is no one way to tell if you’re recovered
Recovery and overtraining are tricky buggers. Sometimes you think you’re doing everything right, and yet you succumb to an illness at the worst times. Is it lack of recovery? Is it bad luck? I don’t think there’s any definitive way to tell.

I can tell you that I like having this simple tool in my toolbox.

What signs make you think you’re overtrainng?

Have you ever tracked your RHR?

See this article here for more information on RHR & Recovery

I’m linking up with with MCM Mama Runs, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and My No Guilt Life for the Tuesdays on the Run linkup.

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This week I am also joining up with Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs each week for the Coaches’ Corner linkup

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