It’s kind of amazing how I schedule cut-back weeks into my training plan way in advance and they always come right when I need them most. They fall perfectly on the weeks when I’m feeling run down and when no amount of sleep is enough and I’m on the cusp of losing my shit. That was this past week and I totally embraced not having a ton of miles to log or a three hour long run on my Saturday morning schedule. I also decided to clear my calendar for about half the week and I was able to get some serious rest. I caught several (insanely epic) sunsets, got in a couple naps and even found time to journal. I stayed in my jammies all day Sunday until the early evening when I finally ventured out of the house and to the gym. I still managed to have a productive week, but in a less frenzied way. Slowly but surely everything got done.
I am such a firm believer that rest is one of the most essential ingredients in training and racing success. I am also a huge advocate of running easy most of the time to get faster (I should write a whole blog post on that one). Downtime is when your body adapts and makes improvements. It’s when you actually absorb all the hard effort you put in. That is when the magic happens.
I watch so many runners train incredibly hard with fierce determination in pursuit of a PR. They rarely rest and hardly ever cut back on mileage and speed and then come race day – they blow up. It pains me to see this because I can see how much work they put in. The missing ingredient is often rest, easy running, and scheduled cut-backs. You’d think it would be easy to slow down, but it’s almost like an art that so many people haven’t yet mastered.
Sometimes I wonder if the same is true for life. Does the magic happen when we slow down and take it easy? Do the fruits of our labor come when we stop trying so hard? Do the benefits really take effect when we just cut back a little?
I take rest days very seriously in running, and I also believe in regularly “cutting back” in my every day life – which is usually pretty chaotic. I am in a constant state of busyness and typically live in a place where I am working on 5 projects simultaneously and reading 3 books at once while also squeezing in a social life, marathon training, a full time job and a relationship. (Luckily, Brittany takes complete care of the animals or I would have to add “taking care of 3 animals” to that list.) And as Brittany constantly reminds me, I do this to myself. Yes, yes I do.
I’ve found that when I commit to slowing down, I feel a thousand times better and I still manage to be productive – just with a lot less stress and anxiety. So what does slowing down actually look like? It’s basically me saying “no, thank you” more often than “yes, of course!” It doesn’t mean being a lazy couch potato. I still go running, work on coaching and do stuff outside of the house – I just don’t schedule things and instead do them as I please. If I want an extra hour of sleep, I go for it. If I decide I don’t feel like putting on real clothes or make-up all day, I don’t. I take nap breaks and reality TV breaks but I’m still productive. It’s just far more organic productivity – if that makes any sense at all.
More often than not, what’s true in running is also true in life. For most runners, slowing down and cutting back is incredibly beneficial to performance. For me, slowing down and cutting back in life has proven to be equally as beneficial. Taking a step back gives me an entirely different perspective on what I’ve accomplished. Sometimes I think ‘holy shit! I did all this?!’ and consequently feel really proud. This shift in perspective fuels the fire and reignites my passion and enthusiasm for what I’m doing, which is critical if I plan to keep doing this stuff for awhile.
For a super Type A person who thrives on checklists, iPhone reminders and calendar updates, cutting back on to-do’s probably feels damn near impossible but honestly, it’s worth it. I’ve been proclaiming the benefits of slow running and rest for ages but now I’d like to include a little p.s. that says we should also slow the f*ck down in our daily lives. It won’t kill you. In fact, you will likely be MORE productive if you cut back and chill once in awhile. Rest, relax, recharge and refocus. It works wonders. Do yourself a solid and take me up on this one. Experiment with it and report back, mmkay?