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To rest, or not to rest: that is sometimes the question

07/12/2011

I’m typing this from my foam roller. I’m laying face up with it firmly tucked into the small of my back trying to work out the old lady kinks I’ve developed at the very old age of 34. And only a few days into official marathon training I’ve already taken an unscheduled day off. Maybe I should just buy myself a Hoveround and call it day. Is Mahjong hard to learn?

I always take one day of rest each week. I think it is an important component to successful training. Even if you aren’t running everyday and incorporate plenty of cross training into your routine, your muscles need a day to regroup. It also helps mentally to have that break–a day off can change your perspective from “I have to workout” to “I want to workout.” But aside from that one day, I don’t like to take additional days off and will rearrange my schedule a dozen times to make sure I get all my sweat sessions in each week.

For example, I typically take Friday off and do my long run on Saturday morning. But last weekend I went camping with Madylin and had to switch things up. I worked out Friday, took Saturday as my day off, and did my long run Sunday. Easy peasy! Sometimes squeezing in all my workouts isn’t as simple as swapping days, but most times it does work out (pun!). Getting up so early to exercise is also great help because there is very little that can get in the way of me and the gym at 4:30 AM… aside from my snooze button.

One day of rest is usually enough to recharge my batteries both mentally and physically, but I do sometimes find myself debating if I should get up and go or stay in bed–it’s hard not to when it is still dark out and the rest of the world won’t be up for hours. The days I find myself dragging like this are the days I force myself to workout. I know that it is mental–I’m feeling tired or lazy–and once I get my heart pumping, I will feel great. But every so often the hurdle isn’t in my head and it is my body telling me that it just can’t do it today. I used to ignore these little messages and perhaps that contributed to some past overuse injuries. Now I know how important it is to listen to my body and take the day off even if it was unplanned.

Yesterday was one of those days. On Sunday I drove from Camp Tohikanee in Quakertown Pennsylvania, where Madylin and I had a blast at the Just Us Girls Weekend, to Long Island (Mady is spending two weeks with my parents). After a hot 7 mile run, a refreshing shower, a quick bite to eat, and a stop at Panera Bread for some Iced Green Tea (yum!), I was back on the road from Long Island to Philadelphia. The drive from LI to my house normally takes 2.5 hours (IF there is no traffic) but can range anywhere from 3 to 6 hours when you are battling the summertime Jersey Shore traffic. Driving for long stretches always bothers my lower back and the second leg of Sunday’s trip was especially painful. I am sure sleeping on a very, very, very saggy cot with a 1 inch *mattress* the two night’s before was no help. And I wasn’t exactly sedentary over the weekend either, trekking all over Camp Tohi’s 235 acres! So even though I had every intention of hitting the gym yesterday, I was just sore all over and knew that any workout I managed to eke out would just be junk. I’d rather take the day to rest and have a great workout the next day. And I don’t feel guilty about it!

Although I am not a fan of the unscheduled day off, I know that there are times that these rest days are necessary–like yesterday. They help prevent injuries and keep you motivated. However, it is important to discern if your body truly needs the day off or if it is in your head. If it is mental, push past that. Exercise will make you feel better and you’ll be proud that you overcame a hurdle and got your workout in. Sometimes I ease myself into it–I say “I’ll just put my sneakers on. I’ll just go a few miles. I can turn back whenever I feel like it. I can just go easy today.” and the next thing I know I’ve pounded out a kick ass run. Try it–it works!

“You’re bound to have days when everything seems sluggish and ungainly and you’d just as soon not be training at all. That’s a good time to persist.”   – James Fixx

Sunday’s Workout:
Run 7.05 miles/65:00

Today’s Workout:
Warm-up 2 miles/18:38
8 x 200 with 200 recovery 0:44, 0:45, 0:45, 0:46, 0:48, 0:47, 0:48, 0:47
Bleacher stairs 0:60
Cool down 2 miles/19:25
Stationary Bike (level 3) 30:00/8.0 miles
Butt Bible Lower 1 20:00
P90X Ab Ripper X 15:00

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