I want to talk about how to be brave enough to rest.
If you’ve been listening to this show for awhile, you’ve probably heard some conversations I’ve had around identity, burnout, mental fatigue, and how to define rest. The fact is that for driven people like us, it’s really hard to take down time. I would hazard to guess that the majority of us need more downtime in our busy lives. Everything we see tells us to hustle, train hard, work harder, crush it, do epic shit! But in order to crush it, we need to look at rest as a more weighted contributor to the equation. As you heard in episode 14 from the book Peak Performance, Stress + Rest = Growth. And going WAY back to episode 1, we heard from Dr. Kristin Keim that it’s not just about time management, it’s about energy management.
There’s a couple different types of rest; there’s physical rest and there’s mental rest. Last year, one of the biggest lessons I learned was that mental fatigue greatly contributes to perception of physical effort. If you had a hard day at work, or your “rest” day off your sport involved a lot of mental stimulation, you still may need more time off. If you’re pushing your body hard physically and also expending energy on projects, family, work and feel run ragged, you might need to rethink your training.
In addition to muscles, your cardiac and respiratory systems needing time to heal, we also often forget about our endocrine system and hormonal regulation. Fatigue also can contribute to hormone imbalances- like cortisol. I did a videoshoot last week. I raced Marathon Nationals, got home Monday night, and starting Tuesday morning, I did three 12-14 hour days. I wasn’t riding the whole time, but I was standing, hiking, driving, riding technical terrain that involved a lot of concentration, and trying to get email done late when I got home. I was frustrated over the long weekend because I was completely exhausted. Instead of crushing it, I spent time laying around, I binge- watched Netflix, and kept my rides really short and easy. It may sound silly, but it takes courage to rest.
Personally, I actually feel guilty and anxious when I’m not pushing myself but it helps to recognize that the rest is still a part of training. And rest also helps with our mental health so that we can show up in a better mood, with more patience, and will have the ability to be more creative. Rest also means making sleep a priority. If you can, aim to be in bed for 8-9 hours. There’s no magic bullet- but sleeping, eating healthy, minimizing alcohol, and taking down time for reflection can make a big difference. And if you still feel tired, take more rest. You won’t get faster or get smarter if you push too hard while you’re tired. And be kind to yourself while you are resting. Remind yourself it’s part of the process. On days I feel terrible on my bike, and I start beating myself up, my husband says to me, “That’s okay. It means you’re still getting faster and just need more rest.” I think that’s a really positive way to reframe being tired. Being able to recognize when you’re beating yourself up, pause, and then change how you’re talking to yourself with self compassion and big picture thinking will make rest seem like a bigger part of your work. If it’s hard, think of what you’d tell a friend if they were saying negative things to themself. Everyone has their individual limit of how much stimulus is too much. We can’t do it all and be the best all the time, and that is okay. So for this week and beyond, I challenge you to actually take the rest when you need it and work on being okay with it. Needing more rest just means that you are still getting faster and smarter.