2 min read

Active Recovery

Want to gain an edge? You've got to stay sharp.
A cyclist riding on a foggy road
Photo by Rikki Chan / Unsplash
This post was originally published on September 8, 2010 on andyellwood.com.

I am busier than you. I have more meetings, more phone calls, more emails, and more people that want my attention. I am so busy taking over the world, I just wanted to take a second to tell you about it...

Or at least, that seems to be the story we're all portraying to our friends, family, and fans.

This morning in spin class, Shaina again throttled any illusions that I may have had of being in shape. The focus of this class was the concept of Active Recovery. She explained it as more of a test of our mental resolve than our physical. The art of knowing how to restore smooth breathing and lower your heart rate with the resistance on. For real cyclists, this practice is used to conserve energy while climbing a hill so they have enough energy to make a big push when they see an opportunity. It isn't about getting to the top first, it's about knowing when to sprint and when to keep an aggressive pace while maintaining control of your energy.

That is very different than resting. Active Recovery keeps the body engaged and ready at a moment's notice to seize the opportunity to gain that edge.

This past weekend, Labor Day weekend, Annie and I had 3 days of active recovery and they were amazing. It was a full weekend where we hadn't made any intense commitments and could enjoy being in NYC together. But in doing so, we were actively recovering. We caught up on things that had been left undone, put finishing touches on a couple projects, and perhaps most rewarding, caught up on some professional reading. All things that could be considered work tasks, but things that contributed to the recovery we felt as the long weekend came to an end.

There is a story told of a legendary lumberjack that was often sought after to lead the biggest clearings. A cocky young lumberjack met this legend one day and challenged him to a competition. They'd each start at the same time and chop for a day. At the end of the day, whoever had chopped down the most trees would win.

As they began, the young lumberjack jumped out to a lead and showed an aggressive pace. The legend was keeping up, but it was clear the young man was clearly moving faster. A couple times during the day, the young man looked over to see the legendary lumberjack sitting down in the shade. The young man thought to himself, "the old man just can't keep up," as he continued to chop away. At the end of the day, the trees felled were tallied and the young man was shocked to see that not only had he lost, but lost by a decent margin. In complete disbelief and humbled, he asked the legend how on earth he had done it, especially with all the breaks he'd taken.

The legend smiled and shared, "I wasn't taking a break, I was sharpening my axe."