Let’s face it. When we have an objective that we are completely dedicated to reach we can get a little obsessive. We work day-in and day-out to complete the needed steps to reach that objective. An athlete might spend extra time in the weight room or watching film in preparation for the next competition. Maybe a manager might spend the weekends reviewing the numbers from the prior week, and prepare changes to increase the productivity of his team. In this mindset time off begins to feel wasteful and lazy. If you are working on reaching your objective why should you take time to rest?
Why Rest is Important
At times we can get wrapped up in the idea that taking time off from work or training would be counterproductive. We start to believe that if we take time off we might lose the momentum we have built. We will then just have to make up that time ‘lost’ the next day. This type of thinking is a incorrect. Taking time off is not counterproductive, what is counterproductive is taking time off and worrying.
I spent the last couple months preparing to run my first mountain marathon and trail 50k foot races. During that time I was so dedicated to preparing well for my races that easing back on my miles when I was feeling fatigued, or taking a recovery day scared me. My mind spun with thoughts about how the races were coming closer and I didn’t have time to rest. I needed to be running.
Thankfully I came to my seances pretty quickly. I realized that the rest I took would help my legs recover so I could run even stronger the next day. And it worked. I let myself recover and I prepared well for the races. In fact, I ended up taking 11th place overall in my first 50k and beating my goal time by over 30 minutes.
Just as taking time to rest let my legs recover to come back stronger, taking a break can help our mind recover to come back more energized. My legs did not get stronger while I rested, and while we rest our minds we do not gain new skills. This is alright as long as we do not let too much dust settle on our skills. Short periodic breaks (and at times longer breaks) will help us comeback stronger and develop mental skills even deeper in our mind because it is well rested.
You’re Doing it Wrong—How to Rest Correctly
When we rest we still need to live in the present. Just because we are resting doesn’t mean that we can let our mind do what it wants. Most times when we let our mind run free it will shoot forward to the future causing worry. Do not worry about the time when you are resting. Instead focus on the activity you are doing to rest. It might be as simple as taking a lunch break. Eating lunch and worrying about what you need to get done once you get back to the office or facilities is not a break. Instead of worrying, focus on the taste and smell of your food. Focus on who you are with, or on the setting around you. You’ll see that once you return from the break that you will be more refreshed and ready to attack the next task.
Part of high performance is managing our energy. Different tasks require different amounts and types of rest to rejuvenate our energy stores. A short walk, or an evening with friends or family might do. Or you might need several days to get your mind right before you return to work on your objective. It depends on you. I cannot tell you how much you need to rest or what to do to rest. What I can tell you is that when you are resting to focus your mind on the present moment. Enjoying rest does not reflect on your work ethic or determination. As you learn to rest well your general anxiety levels will reduce, your motivation will improve, and you will be able to develop deeper skills in your mind than you would without that strategic time off. Think about it, but not too much. Then do it, and see for yourself.
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