I’ve been running for 10 years; no, I’m not a fugitive. I’m one of those bizarre individuals who find pleasure in shoving on some trainers and legging it for six miles. At my peak, I was training for three half marathons in one year and racking up to 30 miles in one week. I was also crushing a mile in ten minutes, or just under. However, following a move to a busy city, I found myself in a slump. My miles decreased and the minutes taken to complete them increased, much to my dismay. At the beginning of this summer, I timed myself and found that a mile was taking me an appalling 11 minutes to complete. I had become the paradox – a lazy runner.
Fuelled by disappointment and determination, I decided I would dedicate the following weeks to a strict running regime that consisted of five days a week – before work at 5am, after work at 5pm, 6 miles here, 2 miles there…I was fully immersed in decreasing the amount of time it took me to run a mile to nine minutes. I could do this. I knew I could…
But, fucking hell, it was hard. I wanted to try and do it before my birthday, as we were going away for four days to Brighton and like fuck was I going to be doing any running then. The only thing I’d be increasing would be the amount of recycling in empty beer bottles. I was dedicated, in those moments, to resting entirely.
Anyway, we returned home from Brighton and, the following morning, I laced up and hit the streets again. That first run after a long break is always the best – there’s nothing like it. I felt like a Divine Goddess Mo Farah Running Queen. I assumed that this run would be a bit of a challenge after said beer consumption but, on the contrary, a fucking miracle; I stopped at my front door, checked the fancy GPS watch (that only runners get excited about), and saw that my average split pace was nine minutes.
Technically, I’d done it. I’d set out to achieve nine minutes and there it was…
And it was then that I realised how utterly paramount rest is whenever we set out to achieve something.
This is the time of year which is most poingnant in our calendar and, whether we are a fan of them or not, the New Year’s Resolutions are out in full force. There is definitely an air of excitement and anticipation for the year ahead; the electricity is tangible as we reflect on 2017 and enter into 2018. Any opportunity to start again, to set goals to achieve, to work on changing yourself, or starting a new project, is A-OK with me. I love it. I love setting resolutions. I love to create goals and work towards something. Why not throw yourself into January 1st 2018 with a fresh mindset and new ambitions?
So, it may seem counter-intuitive to talk about going full force into something whilst also discussing the concept of resting…But, bear with me.
In this day and age, I think that we feel resting is a sign of weakness; a sign that you’re ‘not quite up to it.’ That the pressures have gotten too much and it’s a sign that you should just pack it all in. We feel that resting is akin to quitting…
But it’s also a fear. A fear that, if we take our finger off the pulse, we will miss out. That we will be left behind. That we will lose all of our hard-earned achievements in a flash because resting, as a sign of self-love, is also the ability to trust yourself; to trust that you will be able to come away, temporarily, from the project/goal/transformation, but still be able to dive back in with the same energy and passion as before. Trusting that your input and your work is enough for now. Resting becomes a risk.
However, the opposite is true; if we wish to achieve anything this year, we must also factor in those opportunities for ourselves to fully come away from our project and/or goals, just to have a break from them for a moment. We must prioritise self-care and carve out those moments where we just have an hour doing something relaxing that allows us to recuperate and regain our strength, ready for the next step of the journey. Going back to my running analogy, those four days away allowed my body to repair itself and my mind was able to relax entirely. I allowed myself the time to just chill the fuck out and allow the dust to settle and, then, move forward with my goal clearly in view.
Sometimes we are guilty of pushing ourselves too hard because we have been told success is an all or nothing game. We either commit fully or not at all. So, we push and push and push; at first, this constant pushing toward our goals is OK because we have all the fire of passion in our hearts that keeps our engines going. However, after a while, we get tired because we are only fucking human and we are not immune from burning out. Sometimes the fatigue happens overnight and we simply wake up in the morning exhausted and we can’t be bothered. Then, our goal slips away under the weight of lethargy and we are led to a false impression that the fault is with us, that we were aiming too high, and that’s why we didn’t succeed. Other times, it trickles in slowly and causes minor self-doubts…when we receive external influences, such as criticsm or setbacks, we haven’t the strength to recover from these. Alternatively, we might not be seeing progress as fast as we would like or we focus too much on the distance we have to go, rather than how far we have travelled.
Oh, and how we wage war against our tired minds, bodies, and souls! We become the crying baby who refuses to go to sleep despite being absolutely exhausted. When we ignore the niggles in the back of our minds to take a break, our passion and determination get lost amongst the large list of to-dos, targets, and general difficulties we can encounter when working toward something we believe in. Our sight can get very narrow, we can beat ourselves up, and we stop seeing the end goal.
In the context of this, one of three things may happen:
1. We succeed at achieving our goals but our success is, essentially, half-arsed and we kick ourselves with what it should have been (we think we should’ve worked harder when really, we just needed a break.)
2. We give up entirely, plagued with tiredness, and feeling as though our dreams are larger than our capacilities.
3. The happy ending – we succeed, through sheer grit, although sometimes the pain it’s caused us to get there taints our full enjoyment of our goal.
It all sounds a bit fucking shit, doesn’t it? So, let’s paint a different picture…
What if we incorporated rest as part of the process? What if, alongside the to-do lists, we carved out specific days where we would do nothing and just chill? Where we would fill an hour with a hot cup of coffee and meeting a friend, rather than sending those emails and eating our food at the desk? What if rest was seen as a vital partner to hard-work and not the enemy we are so used to viewing it as?
What if we allowed ourself these opportunities to read a book, go for a walk, paint, draw, listen to music, leave our project alone for a little while, guilt-free and trust ourselves that we can dive straight back into it when we need to?
Rest allows us the chance to take a step back, to breathe deeply, and to appreciate how far we have come. It brings clarity – have you ever been puzzling over something for ages and you decide to ‘come back to it later’…only to then have the answer just pop up in your brain after a few moments? Yes – you can thank rest for that.
Just…for however long you need to…choose some moments to take your foot off the accelerator and coast along, soaking up and enjoying your surroundings. Doing so will allow your passion and determination to have a chance to be rebooted, your mind to rest, and new ideas to come flowing. Trust yourself; your hard work will not disappear when you choose to rest, and neither will your passion…And, perhaps, if your passion does wane and you find that you don’t want to return to your project or step back to the journey of achieving your goals, maybe it’s time to rejig your desires and chase what you really want. But, you’ll never know unless you choose to take a break.
In fact, one of the things I’ve learned is that when I start to become afraid of taking a break, for fear of losing momentum or losing all the hard work, that is my body’s way of telling me that I need to take a break. What language does your soul speak in when it needs you to take a step back? Maybe it’s a headache, or a really bad bout of flu. Maybe you can’t sleep at night, or maybe you can’t wake up in the morning. Maybe you start forgetting important information, or maybe it’s just an annoying feeling that you’ve forgotten something but cannot remember what…
Listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs.
So, read a book for an hour, watch a TV show for two hours.
Spend time making dinner for yourself, carefully measuring each ingredient and tasting the delicious food bite by bite.
Take a day trip somewhere you’ve never been before, or book a two week holiday to Spain.
Go shopping. Get your hair done. Do your nails. Spend time outside. Go to the cinema…
You will know how long you need to rest for, whether it’s a month or an hour. Just listen to yourself and trust yourself. A little breeze can put out a flickering candle, but it will struggle to extinguish a roaring fire; don’t allow your internal flames to reduce to something so small that it can be put out so easily. Feed your fire with equal amounts of hard-work and resting time, and you will see your projects, goals, ambitions…whatever it is you’re aiming toward…come to life.
I hope that you achieve everything you want to in the next 12 months of 2018. Make it one to remember but look after yourself in the process.
All my love,