Rest can make a runner anxious. Especially during training season. Most especially when it’s not optional.
Anxiety was one of my first reactions upon realizing I’d need to take a full week of rest to recover from a minor surgery just 6 weeks before my next race, the Tarawera Ultramarathon 50K in New Zealand. Also lumped in with that - a little dread (of sitting still for so long- boring!), fear (that losing a week of training would somehow stunt my ability to perform on race day), and irrational self-doubt (wouldn’t an entire week of rest completely negate all the training I’ve done so far, causing me to start at square one the next week?!).
Having now survived the surgery and dreaded week of rest, those feelings are very much in tact. Sitting still did become painfully boring toward the week’s end - however, that in itself came as a welcome sign of recovery. But though the anxiety is still apparent, I can honestly say that as my week of rest progressed, a few silver linings emerged, and it’s quite possible I’m moving into the remaining weeks of training with a much more positive outlook.
A time to refresh.
Leading up to my week of rest, I’d been in a bit of a slump. Physically, my muscles were the tightest they’ve been in recent memory, and no amount of foam rolling or smashing seemed to help. The frustration was wearing on my outlook for the upcoming race, and once self-doubt creeps in, the very thing you love most (running, in this case) can feel like a burden.
During this week of rest, I slept a lot, gained new appreciation for putting my feet up with a good book, and also did some slow yoga poses each day to stretch and stay flexible. My muscles, tense and tight just one week ago, are much more relaxed. This physical improvement is also a mental improvement. Optimism has returned.
A priority shakeup.
Training for any ultra distance is time-intensive. Each week, the 50K training regimen requires at least 10-15 hours of running and 2-3 hours of cross training, in addition to full time work, staying in touch with friends and family, and managing other everyday obligations. Grocery shopping. Paying bills. Book club. Volunteering. Etc. Etc.
A rest week offers the gift of time and the ability to focus on things that are easy to throw on the back burner when life gets busy. This week I caught up on trip planning for New Zealand, enjoyed quality time with close friends, wrote overdue thank you letters and birthday cards, and spent lots of time reading, writing, and considering personal goals. It was a productive week in a different way, and I though I have no miles to tally, I feel like I accomplished a lot.
A reminder of what’s important.
It’s easy to take good health for granted. Often, and especially when in training mode, we push our bodies hard, and expect them to perform. In the zone of training and physical activity, it’s easy to inflate the importance of an upcoming race, or yesterday’s long run.
When life requires a hard stop to rest - whether for illness, migraines, or a standard surgery - the experience can entirely reframe perspective to what really matters. And this week, the things I observed that really matter are personal relationships, rest and emotional wellness, and engaging in physical self-care to ensure long-term health.
With 6 weeks left to prepare, I’m looking forward to easing back into training for the Tarawera 50K, with these lessons in mind and gratitude for the - originally unwelcome - week of rest and opportunity to reset.