Respecting Rest by Mandi Gilbert

mandi gilbert

Mandi Gilbert works as a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Activities at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois where she advises the programming board.  Additionally, Mandi is finishing up her masters in College Student Personnel in May 2014.  She loves mornings, running, yoga, and making lists. Follow on twitter! @mandijgilbert


Respecting Rest by Mandi Gilbert

I have trained for 2 full marathons and 5 half marathons since the spring of 2011.  I am in the process right now of training for my 6th half.  That is a lot of miles run, a lot of toenails lost, a lot of nights out missed, a lot of blisters, and a lot of sweat.  Training requires a lot of time, determination, and energy.  It requires me to make decisions sometimes that puts running ahead of other things.

There is one piece of training for these runs that I find to be the most challenging of all.  Rest days.

Every training schedule has them built in.  You run a few days a week, maybe you cross train on a day, and you have a rest day or two.  You cannot avoid them.  They pop up each week reminding you to slow down and let your body heal.  You do not have to enjoy them, but respecting them is critical.  The running experts would tell you not to skip your rest days.  Your body and its soreness will tell you not to skip them.  That is easier said than done for me.

Each time I go through this, I never expect the rest days to be the hardest.  I never expect the taper weeks to be the most painful.  (Tapering is when you cut down your mileage in the week leading up to the race).  I feel guilty on rest days even though I usually only take 1-2 each week.  During taper week I can psych myself out into believing that I am going to lose all of the fitness that I have obtained during training.

Why!?  Why do I have such a hard time taking advantage of and enjoying my well-earned days off from running?

I spent a lot of time thinking about rest days this week and I came to the conclusion that being okay with rest days in my running schedule means that I need to be okay with rest in my life.  Sure, my plate is full and my days are packed.  My schedule is pretty go-go-go like most of our schedules are.  I try not to complain.  I try to embrace the chaos in every day.  I love my job, my graduate program, and the people I surround myself with.  I am so lucky to do the work that I do.  I am realizing though, that I do not make enough time for rest.

We talk about taking time for ourselves.  We encourage students to make time for rest, but I find myself asking, am I demonstrating that?  When I actually do take some time off, or rest, am I okay with what that feels like?  Can I separate the guilt that slowing down brings me and just enjoy the relaxing?

The programming board I advise was putting on an event a few nights ago: a Toy Story marathon.  My co-grad and I sat in and watched the first Toy Story movie and I had the scary realization that I rarely sit that still and just watch a movie.  When I do watch a movie, I usually have my computer, my phone, my homework, my smash book, or some other project also in front of me.  I have a hard time just sitting and being still.  I am going to vow to try to just relax more often, for my health and well-being.

Rest days are crucial.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Hal Higdon is my favorite marathoner and I love following his training plans.  Hal reminds us that, “Rest days are as vital as training days. They give your muscles time to recover so you can run again. Actually, your muscles will build in strength as you rest. Without recovery days, you will not improve.”

No matter what training, workout, or life plan you follow, build in your rest days — and Respect them!  Do not skip them.  Do not feel guilty when you enjoy them.  Do not feel guilty if some weeks you take even more rest days than your schedule calls for.  It is the chance for your body and mind to recover and heal.  You will be a stronger runner and person, if you respect the rest in your life.


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