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.
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.
I 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).
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”?