Prioritizing rest

Earlier this year, in a YOLO/carpe diem moment (or possibly a moment of insanity), I decided to sign up for a marathon. I’d been contemplating the marathon for a while as something I’d do “someday”. But I’d been running injury-free for over a year, completed a few half-marathons and was enjoying running longer distances, and realized that schedule-wise, I could train for a full marathon this year with minimal disruption to our family’s schedule and my husband’s racing schedule (he’s a Cat 3 cyclist). So I signed up, found a training plan, and jumped in.

Things were going well, really well….until they weren’t. (Damn you, weak glutes!) I injured my IT band and had to scale back on my training for a few weeks. Luckily, I have a fantastic doctor and a fantastic physical therapist, and thanks to them I’m healing, getting stronger, and most importantly, back to training.

Yesterday, my physical therapist and I sat down to sketch out a modified training plan for the remaining 32 days (eek!) until the marathon. The plan I’d been following had 4 days of running, 2 days of cross-training, and 1 rest day, which is typical. To allow me to continue to heal and ensure I get the necessary training miles in, the modified plan has me running 4 days (and doing therapy exercises on those days as well), and 3 days of complete rest. No cross training, no “oh come on, just a really easy workout?”—REST.

It should come as no surprise to long-time readers that the rest part is hard for me. Really, really hard. But I know that my physical therapist is absolutely correct. My runs have felt harder lately because the right muscles are now firing and doing what they’re supposed to do, and my body got used to doing things the wrong way biomechanically for so long, so now everything is SORE and I fatigue a lot more quickly. (It’s kind of like I’m a beginner again.) The rest, therefore, is as crucial to my training as the speedwork, the long run, the tempo run, etc. Without the rest, I won’t be able to run the distances I need to do or hit the speeds I need to reach during training, which means I won’t be fully prepared for race day.

Of course it’s not lost on me that this same principle should apply to my work life, too. In my last post I wrote about the very real burnout I was feeling, and how this burnout was as much a result of overcommitment as it was a result of not having a break this summer. I’m not prioritizing rest, and when I don’t prioritize rest, my productivity (and health!) suffer. My dad, many years ago when I was in grad school, pulled me aside and said “it’s great that you work so hard, but you need to take weekends off. At the very least, you need one work-free day per week.” And he’s absolutely right—we all need time away from work, time to do other things, time to let our thoughts wander and to breathe. These things all help with focus, and productivity, and creativity.

So as I’m completing my marathon training this month, and as we head into a new trimester in a couple of weeks, I’m working on incorporating the “rest mentality” beyond my athletic life into my work life. I’m figuring out ways that I can incorporate rest and rejuvenation into my daily and work life, in ways that are both sustainable and useful to me, so that I can be a better, more productive worker, but also, more importantly, a happier, healthier, more relaxed person. I’m reminding myself that rest is as important, and indeed more important, than Inbox Zero or ticking off every single thing on the to-do list or basically working myself into the ground.

Let’s see if I can actually make this work this time….