Rest days. These have never been my forte. Movement, workouts, training, energy expenditure, competition – these sustain me. They orient me. They compose me. They make me a better mom, wife, doctor, friend and citizen. They are non-negotiable. It is easier to make it to the gym than it is to omit. When my mood dips, my family will often suggest a run or a workout as the antidote. When on-ramping athletes into our program, it is difficult to relate to challenges incorporating workouts into their schedule as for me I would not cope without daily athletic engagement. As I look at other goals I have for myself, for which I do not manage the daily task load to complete, I begin to see the power of habit, the role of daily integration and understand more clearly that though the non-negotiables are different for all of us, the negotiables often follow a similar pattern, requiring more attention and clearly established commitment.
Rest, however, is mandatory for growth and, with the guidance of my expert coaches and discipline of the fellow athletes in my gym, I am learning to embrace them…gradually. An article posted last week highlighted the waste of a rest day. Rather than shifting focus from physical to mental or spiritual or a new version of productivity, the day becomes a drain, and with the loss of orientation, you find yourself spinning into oblivion, eating all the foods, gazing at the pile of unmatched socks, wondering if you can adapt to the shows everyone mentions on Netflix until suddenly it is time for bed and you find yourself adding items retroactively to the ambitious to-do list you so enthusiastically made the day prior, fueled by the adrenaline of your day-before-your-rest day-workout. How can this be approached in a more functional manner? This question ran through my head during a weekend bike-ride towing littlest to see middlest play soccer and am (as I write!) testing a hypothesis.
In the midst of National Osteopathic Medicine Week, I considered the relationship of body, mind and spirit, often seen simply as integrated, interrelated and, I was realizing, sometimes from my view, indistinguishable. During that bike ride I mentioned earlier, I had the recurring vision of a pie chart and considered body, mind and spirit as parts of the whole, with occupancy of one limiting space for the others. These were the most common breakdowns that transpired:
I envisioned the usual distribution of myself among these three aspects and realized that while there is generally some time reserved for spirit, and I do see some crossover from the mental and spiritual rejuvenation of a physical workout, this point is fairly fixed…and lowest on volume by a considerable margin. My sister often reminds me, “you can have it all, just not all at once” and I have had a difficult time embracing this concept but am maturing into the acceptance of my mortal status, the need for balance and granting self-permission to let some things go to encourage the growth of others.
This required reflection on what might be included in the spirit category – reading, writing, music came to mind and I also reminded myself that family time, snuggles, stories, evening hang-outs with husband, baking with middlest, coaching littlest, run club with biggest, all contributed, so perhaps a truer breakdown of the split might be:
Even so, there is still work to be done…how could I bolster the spirit component even further? Would the rest day and a decrease in the body category allow for this shift? Could I still feel fulfilled on a day not marked by the usual sense of accomplishment of completing the reps, miles or minutes? Reflecting on the rest vs waste concept, I considered the “let down” I often experience with poor utilization of the time I would usually spend on a workout along with the absence of the energy from this investment that often motivates a productive day. I again drew on my osteopathic roots and realized that if I wanted better function, I needed to look at the structure of the day and remove the obstructions that were interfering with my goals and my “other job” owning and coaching in CrossFit helped with this piece.
Recognizing that the most attractive aspect of CrossFit is the direction – a workout designed for you, led by a coach with clear expectations, timelines, movements and targets for performance, I decided to apply that concept to my rest day through an activity that has long been rejuvenating for my spirit, but has fallen off of the priority list despite aspirations for regularity – writing. I thought jokingly about the usual parameters we might use in a workout – As Many Reps as Possible in a certain time frame…5 Rounds For Time of a group of movements…1 Rep Maxes for lifts…but none of these seemed quite right to apply to writing. I didn’t just want a high volume of words, I certainly wasn’t going to get through multiple rounds of writing in a day and this wasn’t going to be max effort as I was learning to be more relaxed in the process. Eventually, I was drawn back to the work in Barbell Technique Class, which has been a new endeavor for me and one of the more humbling experiences of my athletic career – revealing countless flaws subject to revision, rep after rep at lighter weights, focusing on technique with a lot of reflection. This was the sentiment I wanted to take with me into my rest day challenge (a bit of an oxymoron I realize…) focusing on quality, honing concepts and investing time in skills practice with regular output to encourage better performance in the long-term goals in writing that will only be supported by good habits and commitment.
And so, the challenge is extended – to take a Wednesday rest day, replacing the usual 6am workout I would complete after coaching the 5am class and instead set that 60 minutes aside for generation of a blog. Practicing regular writing, bringing ideas that have been stuck in limbo to the page and creating – a rest day for the body but rejuvenation for the spirit. Full disclosure, day one I was able to participate in the 5am class…but stuck to the plan of writing during the 6am, so it seems baby steps will be part of the process. It seems I will likely need a little more time to revise the draft before publishing but am going to time cap the effort at 2 hours to ensure procrastination of perfection doesn’t thwart the whole project.
I hope if your pie chart is a bit unbalanced, you will join me in this challenge to shift the space, making room for body, mind and spirit to stand on equal ground and bring best balance to the whole, examining structure of your days to optimize function. Looking forward to where this will lead in the coming weeks as I prepare for a shift in this site and in spirit – thanks for joining me!
(previously known as MamaTriDOc)