Confession – I was NOT enamored with the extended rest last week. I expected to enter the Friday workout ready and raring to go and could not believe how heavy the barbell felt. I opted for the lighter, shorter option of the workout and consoled myself with the knowledge that The Siskiyou Challenge, a multi-leg multi-sport relay race was pending the following day, and this could serve as a taper (a concept I have considered often, but implemented only rarely, never wanting to miss out on the fun just because of the next day’s race). The evening brought heavy rain, and I embraced the quiet energy of the day.
Relaxing – Reluctantly
The rain continued into the morning, but the weather was kind overall for the bike, kayak, bike, run, bike, run events. It was a fantastic day with so many members of our community, particularly from our gym, participating in the race. A social event composed of a variety of physical activities, against the back drop of the beautiful landscape of our town, complete with live music and delicious home-grown food might come close to a perfect experience. Capped off by a gymnastics performance where biggest, middlest and littlest demonstrated their hard-earned skills in jumping, flipping and dancing, the day was bursting with energy and enjoyment.
As Sunday arrived, I relished the quiet calm of mobility to start the day (relaxing respectfully) and began to find a rhythm again in the gym with workouts, inspired by the enthusiasm of my husband and fellow athletes along with our children, who are always up for a challenge. Welcoming back the soreness in my muscles as a feeling of being alive and building strength, I began to convince myself that rest days were not for me, that I had done my due diligence and would return to the omission of them from my schedule going forward.
Relaxing – Relatively
Our gym social Monday was a great celebration of achievements from both the relay race as well as a weightlifting meet for our coaches and I espoused my new philosophy, noting that it might not be the right choice for everyone, but for me, the extended, total rest intervals were detrimental rather than therapeutic. Ironically, that same day, an article I had written for a local publication was released noting Rest Days and Recovery Help to Get You Fit! Thankfully, I had detailed the option of active recovery and encouraged outdoor, playful activities, so was saved from hypocrisy by the capacity for utilization of the many fantastic local resources and would be able to achieve restfulness in the way of cycling, swimming, paddling, running, hiking or playing in the beautiful landscape of Southern Oregon.
By Tuesday, I was back in action for an extended gym celebration – participating in classes as a new coach took the reins and celebrating the anniversary of my first-ever due date with a workout that shares a name with biggest. An unexpected add-on clinic on a usual day off was balanced with opportunity to sneak in a bike ride through town and I regained the sense of contentment that had been missing in the week prior.
Relaxing – Remotely
I committed mentally to adjusting my rest day goal and entered into Wednesday ready to work. Thanks to the formatting of the workout, I was able to both coach and participate, utilizing the rest intervals (relaxing resourcefully!) to complete the prescribed movements and found myself drawn to the after-work with fellow athletes instead of the writing I had originally intended. Trusting the spirit of the moment, I finished the session, replete with conversation and encouragement before setting forth into an extended clinic day. The usual evening mobility session was precluded by the addition of extra patients and, instead, my unwind was a brief walk to town and a delicious dinner, recapping with my uncle, who graciously came to town to represent our elder generation at the children’s Grandparent’s Day, overriding the time I planned for writing in place of the morning session, leading me to set an early alarm for the following morning,
When the tones sounded at 0425, I was overcome by a very emotional response – an internal turmoil of awareness that I did not have the energy to coach a class with the enthusiasm I would want for my athletes and wondering how I was going to survive the extended clinic day to follow, wishing desperately for a few more hours of sleep. After brushing my teeth and reaching for my leggings, I had a sudden realization – it was THURSDAY! The one day I am exempt from the coaching schedule (thanks to the forethought of my former self, recognizing that we need a regular pause from activities to maintain a positive spirit) and that a few more hours of sleep were, indeed, possible. This was a true moment of awakening and acceptance for me in the week – speaking to the need for rest as well as flexibility in timing of that respite with capacity to honor myself, past and present, in order to support the best of myself in the future.
Relaxing – Relievedly
Owning the necessary vulnerability of the experience, I shared the wake-up distress and immediate rejoicing on discovery of the built-in rest-from-responsibility-in-the-gym-day; many took this to mean I feel burdened by coaching, which is absolutely not the case. Quite the contrary, I usually feel invigorated and inspired, eager to work with athletes, explore the boundaries of fitness, witness progress, develop new goals and celebrate personal victories. Consequently, this moment of feeling unable to enter into a typically welcome experience was the aggressive wake-up call needed. To clearly see that a limit had been reached and, in order to maintain that inspired state and the enthusiasm my athletes deserve, I needed to pause, reset and replenish. What might historically have been perceived personally as a failure, in light of this rest-day challenge and dedicated exploration of that sweet spot among mind, body, spirit, it was a most needed moment of growth. Synthesizing the considerations I have carried in the previous weeks, I am motivated to continue with the challenge.
(with an open mind on the details)
A gentle run on Thursday evening, supporting active recovery, brought me to the gym for a lecture on Mind-Body-Inseparable with two of our athletes, who are teachers at a local meditation center. As they led us all in reflection, I neared that integral space of mind, body and spirit and landed smack dab in the middle upon hearing their testimony that the act of being fully present in the body during time in the gym was a truly unique experience, allowing us to be free of the busy mind while still mindful of the active body. Such a profound concept and one I honestly never acknowledged – perhaps the only time in the day when we do not allow ourselves to be swept up into the current of “what’s next” and truly feel “here I am, now.”
With a closing statement on the use of meditation in our daily lives, it was advised that we can always return to the breath, as if it was the only thing that mattered and because it is the one thing that does, above all else. To achieve this, we practiced a simple deep breath in, thinking of nothing but the breath, and another out, followed by the direction to relax – relentlessly.
May we find the balance point for ourselves by trusting instincts, remaining open to insights and adapting to shifts in the experience, finding reinforcement through the power of relaxing – responsibly, responsively and reliably.