Rest Takes Guts

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Our culture loves extremes. We have extreme sports, foods, diets, vacations, houses, and fitness trends. We also have extreme work ethic and with that comes extreme praise. But what else does an extreme work ethic come with? It comes with extreme fatigue, stress, burnout, and anxiety. Some extremes, say skydiving, can be fun and adventurous. Other extremes, like working around the clock in a #nodaysoff culture, can pose a serious threat to our physical and mental health. (Yes I think #nodayoff is more dangerous than skydiving.)

Growing up, my mom worked two jobs. She ran an in-home daycare and owned an aerobics studio (later selling that, leading eventually to her now owning a karate school bc she’s cool and BA) where she would go to teach classes in the evenings. My dad worked pretty long hours and spent evenings shuttling my sister and I around, making sure we were fed, and checking in on homework. When we were home, my household was not one where my sister and I spent hours on end watching cartoons or playing video games. Weekends and breaks were filled with crafts, pool time, and trips to the local zoo or children’s museum. There were activities abound. When I did have a chance to get bored, I’d call a friend and before you know it we’d be setting up a tent in the backyard for a pretend camping trip, or choreographing a new routine to Baby One More Time. These were all really positive things and I am overwhelmingly grateful that my parents never just stuck a remote control in my hand, but from a very young age I’ve been in constant motion. 

Busyness was a staple of my childhood and busyness remains a staple of my life today.

I work full time as an elementary school teacher, I coach running clients, I manage Lane 9 with Heather, I train for marathons, I take my dog to the park, and I also try to maintain strong relationships with my friends, family, and significant other. I do a lot and I enjoy the things I do, but I’ve recently recognized that sometimes it’s all too much. At this point, I’m aware that I have a lot on my plate and trying to go all in on everything all the time just isn’t possible, but although I recognize it, I struggle to slow down. 

On Instagram, #nodaysoff has over 5 million posts, that’s 3 million more than #restday. Our society glamorizes constant motion and we wear exhaustion like a badge of honor. We’re all guilty of it. I’m especially guilty of it. I’ve come to terms with rest in my running life and now instead of dreading my weekly rest day, I get excited for it! I have even gotten to a place where I can take an unplanned rest day with little to no stress. But in my personal and professional life, I have a long way to go and that journey starts by letting go of the idea that everything I do needs to be productive.

Our society glamorizes constant motion and we wear exhaustion like a badge of honor.

I constantly fall into the trap of thinking that if a day goes by and I haven’t “accomplished something”, then I have failed. Being productive has its perks and everyone enjoys a sense of accomplishment, but I find myself creating work to do in order to avoid the guilt I feel from doing nothing. This is a problem that I have yet to solve but I am working to let go of that guilt in small doses.

As the school year was wrapping up in May and June, I was overwhelmed. In April, I ran the Boston Marathon and the months leading up to the race were chaotic between long runs and long hours at work, taking on new running clients, podcasting and writing for Lane 9, and trying to keep my head above water with general life responsibilities. By the time May hit, I was done. My motivation was lost and my capacity to keep going all-in on everything was depleted. So I gave myself a break. For the months of May and June, the only things I went all in on were teaching and coaching. Teaching and coaching are my sources of income and so they were my obvious priorities. All the other stuff, including Lane 9 and running, took a back seat. It wasn’t easy, especially the Lane 9 part (because I love this community and want to do right by our supporters), but it was absolutely necessary. The lack of total motivation lasted longer than I hoped or expected, but I decided to go with the flow and continued to let myself rest. During that time, I spent more time with friends, went to happy hours with coworkers, and read for fun more often. I was still busy, but I was focused on leisure activities that let my mind and body relax and recharge. 

Deadlines and productivity are important, but most things are rarely as urgent as we make them out to be.

My last day of school was a little over a week ago now. I took the three or four days after the year ended to just be. I went to the pool, I went to brunch, I laid around the house and watched a lot of Netflix, and I just generally relaxed. Now after that time completely off, I feel my motivation returning. My desire to write is back, running is enjoyable rather than a chore, and I’m excited, not anxious, to open the L9P inbox. So as I get back to doing all the things that I enjoy but can also get stressed about, I’m trying to slow down and take the pressure off of myself. I know that as a teacher, I’m in a unique and privileged position to give myself more time to rest while I’m not working full time, but it’s something we all need to make a priority. Deadlines and productivity are important, but most things are rarely as urgent as we make them out to be. It’s not easy, but I challenge you to put half the energy you put into constant productivity into resting without guilt. We make everything extreme, let’s make rest extreme, too.

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I’ll leave you with this Tweet that was serendipitously tweeted while I was halfway through writing this post.

Tremendous thanks to the Lane 9 community who constantly supports us and provides us the space and patience we need to take a step back and put our personal needs first. 

Submit your essay to Lane9Project@gmail.com.

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