Hair of the Dog

As I dragged myself from bed this morning after last night’s housewarming to purchase the largest iced coffee of my adult life and curse Dionysus himself, it occurred to me that all these “Life in Your Late 20s” buzzfeed listicles* have it right: bouncing back takes significantly longer as you approach the rightful age of 30.

(*Even though Oxford University Press now recognizes listicle as a word, my iPhone still underlines it with a red squiggly line and for that I am eternally grateful.)

In college, we could pregame with a bottle of “champagne,” drink some jug wine and host a social house party, and we’d be in perfect shape by the time we exited the next day’s brunch. No hangover was so severe it couldn’t be cured with a plate full of eggs and a fresh Maine lobster.

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Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Knowing I had an early train this morning, I wasn’t even excessive last night — a few glasses of rosé, a sampling of whites, enough stromboli to fuel the Ravens — yet when my alarm went off in perfect synchronization with my nascent headache this morning, I heard that all-too-familiar refrain regardless: you just can’t drink like a 21-year-old anymore.

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You also can’t wear corduroy hats anymore. Oh, 21-year-old past me studying in Spain on your birthday, what were you thinking?

But alcohol isn’t the only thing my body doesn’t bounce back from as quickly now that I’m approaching the end of my third decade. It has also become painstakingly clear this summer that bouncing back from workouts is taking much longer than ever before.

Take, for example, my 10K race in Delaware earlier this month. I told you all last post that I happened to place first in my age group at that road racing event. What I didn’t tell you is I had to take off the next two days entirely as I iced my shin splits.

The following Saturday, I ran 12 miles along the Delaware coastline for my scheduled long run; the following two days, my right calf was so tight, I went down my apartment stairs on my butt.

Last Sunday, I raced a 10-miler in Prospect Park. The second half, I felt so sore and miserable that I nearly skipped the free ShakeShack at the end to wallow instead.

Key word: nearly.

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This newfangled notion that it takes several days instead of just an afternoon nap to recover from a hard running event is uncharted territory for me, and I’m still figuring out how best to manage it. The first few times this marathon training cycle I felt uncharacteristically sore, I followed the traditional RICE method of recovery: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. But mostly just rest.

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A few days off seemed to work for the shin splints, but when the injuries kept a’comin, I started to wonder if taking too many recovery days would do more harm than good and ultimately derail my marathon training plan.

So I tried something a bit unorthodox last week: when my legs were feeling excruciatingly tight, instead of staying in to rest them as I’d been doing all summer long, I laced up anyways and logged a few slow miles on a soft surface. The first lap of the bridle path was brutal, but with each quarter mile, my legs loosened up a little more, and by the time I’d covered a three-mile stretch, I felt like a new woman. So good, in fact, that I finished this weekend’s hilly Harlem 5K at a sub-8:00 clip. Not as speedy as I used to be, but moving once again in the right direction.

A little hair of the dog can work wonders sometimes. At least when it comes to fitness. Although if someone on this Amtrak wanted to buy me a Bloody Mary right now, I probably wouldn’t turn it down.

Do you believe in the hair of the dog fitness (or boozing) hangover cure?

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