Every day for the last week, I’ve slept through multiple alarms, and I feel great about it.
For the last five months, I’ve been waking in the dark quiet of pre-dawn, when event the birds know it’s still sleepy time. In the heat and the rain and the humidity, whether I feel like it or not. I’ve been logging mile after mile training for the Chicago Marathon.
And I ran that Chicago Marathon, which was the most fun I’ve ever had running 26.2 miles. From the drag queens to Elvis, from the charity tents to the pure victors coming in last, I drank up ever minute of that long slog through a gorgeous city.
But I promised myself a full two weeks to recover: to sleep in, to avoid Lycra and sweat wicking socks, to eat and drink and chill. My pillow and I have become reacquainted and I’ve enjoyed not a few afternoon naps on the sofa. It’s been bliss.
It also hasn’t been easy. The compulsion is to get up. To run. To go. To move. To keep busy. To fret over paces and mileage and nutrition and fluid. To plan tomorrow’s workout today. To lay out clothes so I can find them in the mornings. Letting go of that rigor has been a challenge.
I don’t think this is specific to marathon runners. I think it’s easy to get caught up in busyness. Being busy makes us important. It elevates us and our goals. A full work, recreation and social calendar means we have hit the sweet spot of personal and professional success.
Or maybe not. As I’ve enjoyed my weeks of rest, I have come to breathe more deeply, to relax how I feel about running, and to practice being still. Being still is not the same as being lazy. Resting is not the same as procrastinating. Taking a break is also vital in creating habits that sustain rather than destroy. No athlete who goes all out all the time will avoid injury or burnout; once either of those two hit, returning to form, shape or enjoyment become a more daunting task.
Rest is just as important as running the right paces for a 6×400 workout. Rest contributes to strength just as much as 3×12 reps in the weight room. Rest creates just as much endurance as a long run through town. Rest is vital.
Soon I will return to the trails, and when I do I will want to run. I will be ready to run. I will have the energy, will and excitement to run. That’s medicine only rest can bring.
How do you create space for rest?