Deep Breath

This morning, as I cranked through my 5am – 7am routine (which ends at 6am today because I have to leave the house at 630am to get to CU Boulder to give a keynote at the 2011 Boulder Economic Summit) I kept thinking to myself “deep breath.” If you do yoga you know exactly what I’m talking about – it’s part of Amy’s mantra for each of us to relax, slow down, and concentrate.

I’m in a particularly intense work phase that I expect will run through the end of June based on a few things that are going on that will happen between now and then. On top of it, I’m trying to run two marathons in May (Cincinnati, which I did already – and it sucked, and Madison, which is coming up at the end of the month.) Between all the work and travel, I’d probably already be pretty tired, but layer the running and the marathons on top of it and I’m physically exhausted.

While I contemplated punting on the second marathon, there are a few things driving me to do it, including really understanding my own recovery dynamics. I have a hypothesis about how I recover from a marathon (quickly) but I haven’t tested it. By adding a second marathon on top of everything else within 30 days, I’m suddenly learning some new stuff about rest, sleep, and weight. I’m also experiencing an interesting emotional spectrum that I haven’t experienced in a while (some good, some not good) that is clearly a function of the intersection of my physical activity and my work activity.

What popped out this morning is the need for more “deep breaths.” With my normal work / life rhythm, I get these on the weekend and then once a quarter when I go off the grid for a week. But given the daily work intensity combined with the physical fatigue, it’s become very obvious that I need something different during the week to sustain things at this level. Last night I blew off a dinner with a friend to just go home and lie on the couch with Amy all evening. That helped, although I spent almost all of it with an iPad in my lap sort of watching The Hangover, sort of catching up on email, and working on a few things that I knew I couldn’t jam into today.

Tonight, Amy and I have dinner alone. I’m going to shut off completely for a few hours and reflect on what I’m going through and learning about recovery. Fortunately I have a partner who puts up with this and lets me use myself as my own laboratory for these experiments.

  • Very interesting Brad! I hear you about the ‘experiment’ side of things (I try to avoid sleep but still be awake) and it’s an all too common in the tech industry. I think it has to do with the ease at which we can communicate and form business transactions – quite incredible, but extremely dangerous at the same time! Great to hear your thoughts, Diesel.

  •  i’ve been learning a lot about this too and while running, not marathons.  in my case i got my nutrition wrong – i was eating both low carb AND low fat.  but you need either fat OR carbs to have energy during the day.  and particularly if you’re doing a lot of stuff, you may need more of both.

    have you tried tracking your diet using fitday and breaking down the full dietary macros and reviewing them with a nutritionist?  i’ve found this to be incredibly useful and my productivity much increased.

    • I haven’t focused on the nutrition / nutritionist stuff enough. That’s
      coming – I’m starting to explore an online nutritionist.

      • Walter

        You should have a chat about refueling and nutrition etc with Allen Lim once he gets back from the Tour of California. He is all about nutrition, recovery, preparation etc.. 

  • Having a great partner that reminds one to breathe (deep breaths, especially) is a great thing. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones – it is a great place to be for sure.

    [ Update 5/18/11 at 8:46AM: LOL, I didn’t even think about the fact that I wrote a blog entry this past Monday scheduled for posting today. It touches on similar topic ]

  • Re: the marathon recovery, ask Dowdsie what works for him.  Recall he’s run | biked regulars, super- and ultra-marathons, inc the 100 mile Tahoe Rim Trail.  He’s insane, of course, but he may have a few helpful tips, as he now uses a nutritionist.

  • It’s nice to see that someone else performs experiments on themselves to constantly test their own response. Having a supportive partner just makes it that much better.

  • I just finished the Pittsburgh Marathon this past Sunday. What works for me in terms of recovery is to take a day completely off, then get on a bike the next day (48-hours post-race) and do an easy spin for an hour. The important thing is to get blood flowing through the legs again and loosen anything that’s tight. I also highly recommend a foam roller, painful as it can be, and pausing every couple of hours to put yourself in Chair Pose, again to get blood flowing to muscle and stretch out. 

  •  you need to pay attention [email protected]:twitter and his post on work life balance is bullshit.

    “The real gift is learning to be present in whatever third you’re living. So when you’re working, work. And when you’re loving, love. And when you’re eating, eat. As the wise old Ram Dass said: Be Here Now.”

    the half TV/half computer thing es no bueno.

    good luck on the recovery for marathon #2.

    • Jerry and I had dinner together in Boulder shortly after he wrote it. It’s a
      great post and like most titles like this, it’s actually just a buddhist

      • Anonymous

        Well it was really intended just to get read. Ex-reporter knows the value of a good headline.

        • DaveJ

          Wasn’t it really intended just to get written?

          • Anonymous

            Very good. Yes.

        • Of course!

  • Do you still do the qtrly life reviews?  

  •  Hi Brad, have read your posts for quite a while and really appreciate all you do 🙂  Writing today to suggest an alt method for destressing that really helped me and leveraged my type-A-ness to do it: 10 day intensive meditation retreat.  I’ve been doing it periodically and it’s completely changed my life (seriously), and now can do productively for short periods because of the intense experience.  Visit for more info (i’m not affiliated).  

    Apologies if you already know about it 🙂  Happy day!

    • Thanks! Amy loves doing 10 day silent meditation retreats. I expect I’ll try
      a three day one soon.

  •  We are often 30 minutes to few hours or even days ahead of ourselves.  We cannot enjoy something in the future, only the present.

  • Great post and always a challenge. Jerry Colonna recently posted “Work-life balance is bullshit”  

    Something that has helped me is focusing on Being Present in the “mode” you are focusing on.  Do it completely and effectively while in that focus.  Multi tasking leads to not doing any of the tasks you are sharing completely and efficiently.  Sometimes its useful but never efficient. 

    Hopefully tonight you can have an effective and deep experience without compromise or distraction.

  • Coachprs

    I guess explaining the symptoms of over-training and racing aren’t necessary. 

    • Yup – I know them well!

  • Derek Scruggs

    Lately I’ve been doing the Tim Ferris slow carb diet and my energy level has markedly improved. About 6 weeks into that I started taking a supplement called Powerfull and my energy went through the roof. It kind of scares me how well it works. Example: today I did a Crossfit workout for the first time in almost three weeks and, though it was a challenge as always, I was stunned at how much my pull ups have improved.

    I can’t remember the last time I had this much energy. Maybe ever? I’ve certainly never done pull ups like that before.

  • Fun fact: mile 8 of the Madison Marathon runs right by the apartment home of a startup that will some day be trying to pitch you. =)

    • Come out, jog on the course, and tell me what you are doing!

      • Haha I’m in terrible shape (last time I ran more than a mile was probably high school) but I’ll see what I can do! I’ll send you an email to coordinate a bit so we find each other.

  •  Good luck in the Madison marathon.  It’s a good one.

  • I agree. Good luck!

  • Sharon Wienbar

     Another aspect of hard physical exercise that I’ve come to treasure is that one’s sleep quality is much better with physical tiredness. Last year I took up rowing, and am on the water 3X/wk 5-7am, plus 2 land workouts. That’s taken me from restlessness to rock, and I am far happier for that, and, as noted below, the mental refreshment from being in the moment and focused. I was inspired to take up a sport by Doron @ uTest who was training for marathon while running a hypergrowth startup. Good luck to you on your races coming up.

    • Thanks – yeah – I love the quality of sleep – just need more of it!

  • fyi: the link to amy.feld is not working atm

    • Guessing it’s a typepad issue. Thanks for the headsup.