There’s a disconnect between my mentality towards running and exercise and my mentality towards life. In my running life, my rest day is a non-negotiable. I do not, except under the most extreme circumstances, exercise in any capacity on Fridays. I don’t run. I don’t do yoga. I don’t strength train. I don’t do my PT. I don’t bike, I don’t elliptical, I don’t practice dance. I do nothing. Obviously my day involves movement–I do have to go to work, after all, which requires walking on my commute–but I absolutely am not going to exercise on my rest day. I take my rest days seriously, and while I haven’t remained entirely uninjured for the duration of my running career, I have, up to this point, avoided any major, sidelined-for-six-months overuse injuries, and I think my commitment to rest has played into that.

For whatever reason, though, this firm commitment to rest in my exercise life has not translated well to my non-exercise life. The idea of a “life rest day”–a day where I actively choose to do nothing and firmly stick to that decision–does not seem to really exist for me. Obviously, it’s a bit more of a challenge to take a regular life rest day than it is to take an exercise rest day–after all, taking an exercise rest day just means giving up 30-60 minutes (on average) of physical activity, not giving up 24 hours of general activity. I don’t think I would even particularly like a life rest day, at least in the entire day sense. If I don’t leave my apartment at least once for 24 straight hours, I start to get a little nutty (this is one of the reasons I hate working from home). But, just like exercise, while a complete and total rest day may be the ideal, an “active rest day” of light activity is infinitely better than plowing forward full speed ahead seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

rest quote

Last Tuesday, I did a real number on my left quad in dance and was incredibly sore on Wednesday and Thursday. Things started looking up on Friday and by Saturday I could finally walk without pain, so I headed out for a (planned) seven mile run. Within the first 1.5 miles, it became quite apparent that I would not be able to make it seven miles, so I cut it down to five (which involved much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but that’s beside the point). For the past year, I’ve been taking at least one, sometimes two, dance classes on Saturdays in addition to running because Saturdays are the only day I can fit those classes in. I love dance and honestly wish I had the time and budget to take classes four to five days a week, but since that’s not an option, I settle for twice a week. With the state of my quad, though, I knew there was no way I could make it to dance on Saturday, especially since I have a half marathon coming up in three weeks that is infinitely more important to me than improving my breakdance skills. After my run on Saturday, I came home, showered, and…did nothing.

I didn’t go downtown to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

I didn’t day drink. (Not that I had anyone to day drink with, nor did I want to, since my stomach was all out of sorts on Saturday and alcohol sounded absolutely terrible, but let’s be real: if I had had a group of friends that had invited me out for St. Patrick’s Day, chances are I would have gone.)

I didn’t go to dance.

I stayed home. I ate lunch. I had a nice, hour-long conversation with my roommate. I caught up on bills and other boring financial things I had put off during the week. I ate dinner. I went to a breakdance battle (lulz what even is my life? One of my teachers insisted we go, and all my dance friends were going), but was home by 11:15 and in bed by midnight.

Originally, I planned to carve out a fair amount of my Sunday afternoon to run, practice dance, and do my PT, and though my quad had finally stopped hurting entirely, I didn’t want to push it, so instead, I did…nothing. I went to church in the morning. When I saw a text from a good friend after church asking if I wanted to go to brunch, I jumped on that opportunity, because I had a completely open day and absolutely adore brunch, even though I never have time to go to brunch, given my normal Saturday “run-chill for an hour-go to dance” schedule and my normal Sunday “church-lunch-exercise-dinner” or “church-lunch-volunteer-dinner” schedule. Breakfast and brunch, easily, are my favorite meals to go out to eat, and though I can make plenty of excuses for not going out to brunch regularly/ever–“I don’t have the money!” (definitely true), “I don’t have anyone to go with!” (definitely false)–the fact is I don’t make time to go out to brunch because it’s not “productive.” I can literally tell you every single place I’ve been to brunch in the entire time I’ve lived in Chicago, including when I did my internship in 2011, and while I’m not aspiring to be Chicago’s ultimate brunching expert, it seems kind of ridiculous to me that I could tell you, in detail, what each and every one of my Chicago brunching experiences has been like because there have been so few of them, when this is something I genuinely enjoy doing.

After a really wonderful brunch at Sunny Side Up on Sunday (their French toast = bomb. Some of the best French toast I’ve ever had), I came home and did…nothing. I lazed around my apartment all afternoon. I agonized over my March Madness bracket. I did a little food prep for the week, which mostly involved putting things in the oven and taking them out at the appropriate time. I had another great conversation with my roommate.

relaxed. And it was incredible.

Growing up, Sundays were always do-nothing days. I was raised by pretty conservative standards, and “Honor the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy,” was taken very seriously in my house. We went to church on Sunday, once in the morning and once in the evening, and that was it. We weren’t allowed to watch TV. We weren’t allowed to play sports. We weren’t allowed to go over to friends’ houses. We didn’t go shopping. We didn’t go out to eat. We did nothing. As a kid, I hated this policy. It was soooooooo boring. I had nothing to do all afternoon, and it sucked (until high school, when Sunday became, “Do ALL the homework!” day…then it sucked in a different way haha).

rest quote

But as I’m getting older, I’m starting to think my parents were really onto something with this whole insistence on resting on Sundays. I don’t know if I could ever dedicate every Sunday exclusively to rest–I think eventually, that soooooooo boring feeling would come back–but I think, for my mental health, taking a “life rest day,” even if it’s a slightly active rest day (ahem, brunch), at least once a month is something I need to commit to, even if it means saying no to other “productive” ways of spending my Sunday. I’ve been mad stressed for the past six weeks, and never in this time did I say “no” to things that came up (whether by own choosing or by invitation of others) for the sake of preserving my sanity. Right now, I’m feeling calmer than I’ve felt since the beginning of January, and while a few other factors play into that (no more impending travels, a slower season at work), I think taking a life rest day had a huge impact on this.

I know we Type A-ers tend to worship at the throne of busyness, but this weekend really put into perspective how desperately critical it is to have a time to do nothing. I schedule rest days into each week of exercise, and I really think I’m going to start scheduling them into my regular life as well as a non-negotiable, mandatory thing. I want to avoid mental overuse “injury” just as much as I want to avoid physical overuse injury, and I believe the only way to achieve that is through rest.

Do you take “life rest days”?

14 thoughts on “Relaxation

  1. wow. this post hit home. i think we have talked about this and from being together, I honestly think this is something we are so similar on. We both have those dedicated exercise rest days, we learned the importance of it. but like you life rest days.. ha they do not exist. at all. I think that is something I want and continue to make an effort to incorporate. I really love this, good for you. and like everything, practice makes perfect

  2. Woah. I can relate to this big time. I rarely let myself have down time. I don’t know why, but I feel the need to be doing something all the time. I did a pretty good job of doing nothing during christmas break but it really drove me crazy. It’s something I feel like we all need to do every month or so. It’s important to let ourselves mentally recharge, but at the same time, I’m terrible at it. It’s really awesome that you gave yourself a day of rest from life. Being busy all the time isn’t as awesome as we as a society make it seem. We could all take a lesson or two from you 🙂

  3. Society tells us that we should be making the most of EVERY MINUTE so I think that’s one of the reasons that some of us feel guilty if we just sit and don’t DO something notable. I’ve had weekends where I didn’t DO much of anything and while it felt great at the time I also felt super lazy and like I wasted it. However, our bodies need that down time. Or, least, this introverted body does. I like to get out and do things and have experiences but if I don’t have a totally free day to sit in my apartment and read or watch tv or whatever every now and then I get really cranky and stressed! So, yes, maybe we should schedule those into our lives every few weeks.

  4. Wow, that is really interesting that you had that rest day on Sundays growing up! I think that is a great idea! And whether it moves, or is two days some weeks or one the next… I have found my ideal weekend is a chill day and a day with some activity. I don’t deal well with the go go go.

    Do you think you’ll be able to incorporate this in to your upcoming weeks? I … try to take advantage of it when I can. Starting soon, my weeks are kind of booked. Eh.

    Hope your quad is better!

    • My quad is feeling much better 🙂 Took three full days completely off and all the pain is 100% gone. Hoping to get back running tomorrow!

      My next three Sundays are pretty packed, but with a couple races coming up, I should have down time on Saturdays to rest up for those races, which will hopefully enable me to have a “life rest day.” I really think it’s something I’m going to honestly put on my calendar, though, and hopefully will be able to stick to it!

  5. I love rest day. As a teacher I am mentally exhausted every single day. I look forward to coming home (after my run) to eat and watch TV. Sometimes I go out to dinner or grade some papers but other than that, that is how I spend my evenings. Not very exciting but I have no energy to do anything else.

  6. I often find that I CAN’T relax. Relaxing gives me anxiety (I know, those two things don’t actually go together). That’s why I tried to be intentional about unplugging last month. I found that I loved it, and I need to start back doing that again. Giving yourself permission to relax is so important!

    • I totally agree. I think we’re constantly bombarded with messages that we need to be producing, getting things done, working hard, go go go, all. the. time., so of course we feel anxious when we’re not doing that! It’s like we’re taught that relaxing is “wasting our time,” when that just is not true at all. It’s critically important!

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