Ask the Goat: Recovery vs. immortality

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on recovery. Part one was published on Thursday, Aug. 21.

A periodized training cycle is most simply defined as a three-week build and one week benchmark/recovery plan. Meaning: Week #1 has a progressive build focus to incrementally increase load and intensity to produce new levels of performance. Week #2 and #3 push the envelope even further by taxing the system. Week #4, though, tests the new thresholds and then allows for a period of planned rest.

This is the recovery phase of the training model. This four-week system is implemented through a training season to strategically focus on base building, strengthening, power, speed and endurance skill-set development. These various aspects culminate into a complete athlete and peaks within the final three week cycle. This final phase begins with a competition simulation (the final benchmark testing), and then goes into a two/three week taper cycle leading up to the target competition.

Now, for many of you, this will seem insane. What I just described is effectively a four to six month block leading to a single event. How can you compete in 25, 50 or more competitions per year doing that? And the answer is simple –you cannot. That’s not to say that you can’t still run multiple races per year, but they become training runs and must be treated as such. Without engaging in a proper long-term recovery program, your performance will always be a marginal plateau of mediocrity. You want to qualify for Boston? Then train for Boston. Let the local 26.2s and 50Ks go. No one can compete at peak levels year-round. You have to recover within a training cycle.

For instance, begin the build phase in April, one-year from Boston. Target the six month periodized plan for Chicago as your qualification race. Once in, target the second six-month cycle to terminate with the recovery/taper period leading into Boston. So many people just hit as many marathons as possible in the hopes that one will “pan out.” They do not train for anything – they simply compete at an average level throughout the year and wonder why they never get any better.

For short-term recovery, taper up to the event and engage in replenishment immediately after. Carbs, fats, protein, electrolytes (Na, K, Mg, I & Cl) and water are all essential parts of post-race recovery. Using either heat or cold to aid in short-term recovery is also key. Stretching, yoga and foam rolling show (in certain studies) a reduction in reparation times. But sleep is your best short-term ally. Without an effective sleep cycle, the chemicals charged in rebuilding, healing and strengthening muscle tissue are hindered. If you continue working the muscles without a lapse in load, nothing has been gained from the activity.

In essence, you can recover or you can break. It’s your choice. No one gets better by using competitions as their only training. Those weekend warriors simply find that after years of wear and tear on bodies that do not train sufficiently and never heal adequately, the machine breaks down. Injury becomes common and performance suffers. Recovery is not a myth. Immortality is.

Chris Knodel is a Mangum Track Club member and Sandhills Region native. He is the author of “More, Better Quicker – The Irish Goat: A Fat-Boy & His Path to Ultra-Distance.” His column will appear each Thursday on

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