July 25, 2016

Health : Rest

Two weeks ago I did the longest run of my marathon training (20 miles). I'd decided that if I could complete this run then I'd at least attempt the marathon, and I did and I will.  Except that the run felt really hard, leaving me with the sense that I haven't trained long and strictly enough.

Now I'm in the taper period of training, meaning that I'm running much less mileage and less frequently, the idea being that rest in the last two weeks prior to the race is more important than trying to get in last-minute training.  They say that everyone worries during this period, second-guessing their fitness because it feels weird not to run very much with the goal to run 26 miles soon.  You're supposed to ignore this uncertainty and trust that rest is the most important element of preparation at this point.

For me it's particularly hard to rest, because I really do think I didn't train as well as I could have. It's hard to resist the desire to push a few more workouts to compensate. It gets me thinking a lot about when to stop pushing, not just in running but in all areas of life that take time and effort.  

Now more than ever, immersed in the sound bytes of social media, we get bombarded with conflicting maxims about how we should we live our lives.  Never give up. Let it go. Push past the pain. Mind over matter. Listen to your body. Listen to your heart.  Let time tell.  Everyone knows they are right, and all their memes convince me that they are, even when they oppose one another.

And the one I struggle with most is the battle between continuing and resting. Anyone knows me knows how extremely, extremely stubborn I am.  Media tends to affirm this quality--the "never give up" mentality.  No pain, no gain.  And it's true that in many ways I see this as a strength, and the foundation for many good things in my life.  But what I've to come to realize is that life is just way more nuanced than memes, no matter how authoritative they sound and no matter how many likes they get. Sometimes, it's worth stubbornly continuing through pain to achieve a goal.  And sometimes, it takes much more strength and pain to accept that resting is actually better for you.  And sometimes, you just don't know what's right and no one can tell you.

I think the internet has done amazing things to connect people and ideas, but I think a major downside has been the loss of nuance, the reluctance to accept uncertain gray areas. We read blog advice, news editorials, and facebook opinions, and everything has defined outlines and clear colors. 

This isn't to say that I'm debating whether I should rest this last week before the marathon.  I know I should. Just recognizing that making the transition from putting every muscle you have into movement, to then stilling that motion, can sometimes be the hardest part of the path. I think it's these transitions that are sometimes lost in our virtual world these days. They are the hardest to experience, the hardest to articulate, the hardest to understand.  So as I give my physical self some rest this week, I'm trying less to make any firm judgments and more to just pay attention to this process.

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