A time to rest and reset


By Henry Howard


Last week’s running notebook shows more PT appointments than runs. This week’s plan calls for the same thing.


Forced time off is not a situation any runner wants to be in. But taking a break is a scenario that every runner needs to have every so often.


Still that doesn’t make it any easier.


I’ve been dealing with some plantar fasciitis in my left heel for the second time in three years. Both times it erupted as I was immersed in or just coming off training during winter. Frozen, harder road surfaces could be to blame.


However, as with most running injuries, there is an underlying weakness that caused the issue. After a year of almost exclusively working remotely and away from my stand-up desk, my calves have weakened. So I recently ordered a stand-up desk for my home, which I should have done a year ago. Additionally, I’ve been doing daily work on my calves, as directed by my PT.


Healing the heel is necessary, of course. But this break – hopefully just 10 days – also gives me the opportunity to rest while resetting in both a physical sense and a mental one.


Have time, will heal


The past year, of course, has been challenging for all of us as we’ve ridden the pandemic roller coaster. With the additional task of cleaning, fixing and selling my dad’s home behind me, this break is allowing my mind to get off the never-ending merry-go-round of stress related to his care and overseeing his assets.


I’m embracing active but low-key recovery. Most days I ride a stationary bike for 45 minutes to an hour, and bang out some push-ups. I mix in some yoga and core work — and, of course, the calf exercises.


This break is not nearly as long as when I was suddenly sidelined by emergency abdominal surgery in 2018. Basically overnight, I went from being in prime shape to run my first 100K to methodically walking hospital corridors while grasping my IV cart.


Later that year, I went on to run well at a half marathon trail race, my third fastest marathon at the Chicago Marathon and complete a challenging 50-miler.


Prelude to adventure


My coach, David Roche, wrote last month about how downtime can lead to breakthroughs.


Science supports the concept. In a larger sense, it’s similar to how muscles and the cardio system adapt to the stress of workouts after – not during — the training. And that is why rest and recovery days are so critical.


I don’t know if I would classify my immediate races post-surgery as breakthroughs. It’s impossible to know whether that layoff was responsible or whether those results were the result of the fitness I put in before and after my belly was ripped open.


Likewise, I don’t know how this pause in my training will have an impact on my fitness and performance going forward.


Right now, I am only signed up for the Hennepin Hundred this fall. But as my current injury has shown improvement, I have begun to turn my attention to filling out my race calendar.


Perhaps the mind knows the body is healing.


I won’t sign up for any races until I know for sure that my heel is back to where it should be. In the meantime, I’ll focus on recovery, clear my mind and scour Ultrasignup and other racing calendars.


And dream big.