Endurance Race Recovery And Context As The Wallpaper Of Life



“In JKD [Jeet Kune Do], one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” Bruce Lee.

“Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster.” by Robert M. Pirsig, from The Painter’s Keys.

“If you could wish for one athletic-enhancing gene it should be the one that improves your capacity to recover quickly from workouts.”  Chez Ollie

Hi folks,

Jordan at Andy Fleishman's beautiful table at Straw Valley Art Gallery, Durham, NC, USA.

Jordan at Andy Fleishman’s beautiful table in the Straw Valley Art Gallery, Durham, NC, USA. What a great context for one’s work – beauty is important but is often undervalued by Western society. Click figure for more detail of table.

A friend and great Ironman triathlete, Stephanie Vaarsi, recently asked me about my approach to recovery from long races. There are plenty of books and articles that discuss this subject, some written by famous athletes and well-known writers. It is a good idea to listen to these people, and your coach, but at the end of the day you have to decide for yourself what is right for you. You would be well advised to design your recovery period with respect to the entire context of your sport, that being your life, which brings me to the interesting subject of context.

I really enjoyed Robert Pirsig’s wonderful book about the nature of quality, ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,’ but his second book, Lila, which was long in the making and harder to digest, discussed the critical dependence of life quality on life context in relation to morals.

Mark working in the Straw Valley Art Studios in Durham, NC, USA, which now has a great coffee shop. The ambience for Mark's work is provided by Andy Fleishman's new wallpaper designs.

Mark working in the Straw Valley Art Studios in Durham, NC, USA, which now has a great coffee shop. The ambience for Mark’s work is provided by Andy Fleishman’s new digitally manipulated photographs and paintings. Click figure to see more great designs.

But what is the context of your life, and how much of it is under your control? From time to time it is a good idea to revisit your finances, just to see if you can plug some leaks and bring your fiscal life into a state of healthy balance. This is also true of your life in general, but this process is more challenging. For a good place to start, read ‘The 4-Hour Work Week,’ by Tim Ferriss (I say this often!). You might consider exploring the general state of balance of your life and the relative contributions made to your level of contentment and happiness by such variables as science, art, technology, financial training, and emotional intelligence, each of which can be more or less subjected to your will, with a little effort.

Make a personal life inventory, because your life context is like wallpaper in that it is the backdrop to the stage upon which you play out your life. Maybe some things could be removed, added or modified to enhance your general state of health, such as dropping an unsuitable friend or hobby, seeking new areas of study, or even changing your style of dress (I don’t plan to do that anytime soon – comfort is the key for me, when it comes to clothing). What better time to stop and reassess our life (over a cup of tea!) than during post-race recovery, when you have so much more time to think.

Thinking of wallpaper, I understand that it is now coming back in, in the ‘In Circles’ – that statement made me think of Lemony Snicket! I was raised replacing the wallpaper regularly when I was in my twenties and thirties in England, but I haven’t thought about it during the intervening quarter century. Is wallpaper really coming back into vogue, I wonder?

Deb and The Buddha at the Straw Valley Art Gallery in Durham, NC, USA

Deb and The Buddha at the Straw Valley Art Gallery and Coffee Shop in Durham, NC, USA

In the case of Ironman recovery, context includes (1) family and friends, who may have to recover from pre-race abandonment, due to your endless training, (2) career or job [not the same thing!] that may need a little more attention for a while, (3) injury history and potential race damage, (4) psyche, which may benefit from a training break, (5) religious and/or spiritual life, (6) hopes and dreams, (7) age, and finally (8) general state of health, all of which have the potential to impact your recovery rate following grueling endurance races. I strongly recommend that you follow a system that combines both passive and active recovery. Ideally, obtain a recovery plan from your coach, but most of all, listen to your body day by day.

When undertaking a program of safe exercise for better health, sometimes the best exercise is no exercise.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. Isn’t the main thing about recovery to stop doing or do less of the the thing from which you need to recover?

  2. Marsha Schauer says

    Nice writing and thoughts as I am adding daily exercise to recover from way too many years of inactivity. I undertake ‘micro’ recovery on a daily basis, energy levels ebb and flow, so I ride this tide taking into account what the body says, but it doesn’t always get its way. And, yes to the ultimate way of living, simplification and slowing down.

    • Sounds as though you are moving along nicely. Look back a year from now (maybe even leave yourself a time capsule), and see who things compare. Just a thought. I have found that a diary can be very useful at certain times in life. Kind Regards, Kevin

  3. “Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster.”(Robert M. Pirsig). What about a dancer, or an athlete, whose body is their art?

    • Hi Marian, your comment presents the classic misunderstanding of what Pirsig has wisely said, and one that was common in the case of the many graduate students and post-docs I dealt with over the years. In fact, in some cases this failure to comprehend was crippling, and I managed to fix a few of them and change their lives for the better, for which one thanked me many years later.
      I’ll blog about the answer to your question today.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Hope Porgy and the cats are well, especially Pip Squeak!

  4. Great information. Interesting, clear and precise. Great job Kevin.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.