Mountain Mama: Resting up to Improve Performance

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Dear Mountain Mama,

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m super bummed I can’t go running! Nursing a sore ankle has left me on the sideline for this weekend’s long run. As much as I thought double digit runs would be the most difficult part of training for marathon, I’m finding that not doings anything at all is tougher. Will resting really improve my performance? Any tips for how to deal with taking a break?


Dear Gimpy,

We live in a society that values pushing onward despite any obstacle or risk being labelled a “quitter.” The rush and pressure of daily life arises from committing to too many projects, wanting to help everyone, and surrendering to every demand. We measure our lives by how productive we are, whether those accomplishments be the miles we run, the hours we worked, or the errands we crossed off our to-do lists.

The modern do-it-all attitude is reflected in our attitudes about sleep. Take Dolly Parton, one of the wealthiest women in the U.S., who usually gets up at 3 a.m. “I don’t require a lot of sleep, and if I’m tired, I’ll take a powernap during the day.”

We resort to caffeine to get more accomplished. “We want to do lots of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful cup,” said Jerry Seinfeld.

But sometimes that hum of activity drowns out our life purpose. We were never meant to do it all, to be super beings. By succumbing to the frenzy, we compromise our true potential of giving our full attention to the things that matter most.

It might be tempting, Gimpy, to hop on the bike or head to a yoga class, ignoring the subtle throbs from your knee. But there’s another way. Consider focusing on the matter at hand – really resting, and doing it well can improve your performance.

Shakespeare’s famous quote about sleep can be applied to rest as well “Enjoy the honey heavy dew of slumber.” We’ve lost the perspective of sleep that our forefathers, like Thomas Dekker, valuing down time. “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

As a society, we think improving our performance requires us to do more. But sometimes we’re most successful after taking a break. Resting isn’t for wimps; sleeping isn’t lame. In facet, taking time off might well be the most difficult aspect of training for most athletes — it feels weird to do less or nothing at all. Take reassurance that your performance won’t suffer from taking a few days off of training. It usually takes the body two-weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of fitness. A day or two off won’t set you back.

Running your best hinges on taking breaks.Taking time off can rekindle your desire to lace up your shoes. Mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental on race performance as physical fatigue. If you’re going to rest, decide to rest with intention and really enjoy your time off. Catch up with your best friend, take a bath, cook a nice meal, cuddle with a lover, read a good book, and get lots of sleep. Shut your engines and allow your body the time it needs to heal and restore. And Gimpy, when you’re ready to run again, you’ll come back with extra energy and enthusiasm.

Rest Up!
Mountain Mama


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