Rest days… not as fun as they sound.

“Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries” – Blaise Pascal

I have mixed feelings about the concept of rest days. I’m willing to accept that they’re scientifically and practically proven to be essential to a balanced training plan, and that if you skimp on rest days you run the risk of overtraining. In the past, I’ve briefly tried training plans that relied on an even mix of training and rest days so that you could recover from intense speed work, but I quickly came to the conclusion that – as excellent a thing as that might be for some people (some people have gotten amazing results from the FIRST plan, for instance) – it wasn’t for me. I actually skip more workouts when I’m aiming to do 3 runs a week, than when I’m aiming to do 6 runs a week. And missing a run is, well, not the root of unhappiness, but definitely an impediment to happiness.

I like the link that Pascal makes in the above quote between distraction and misery. As someone who’s had problems with distraction/inattention for pretty much my whole life, and who has occasionally come close to “official” ADHD diagnoses, and has been prescribed drugs used to treat ADHD, the connection between a distracted state of mind and a depressed state of mind has become very transparent to me at this point in life. Personally, I think the inattention component of ADHD is more or less synonymous with the tendency to think more of the future and the past than of the “reality of the present moment” (Vipassana again) – obviously this is a characteristic of a huge number of non-ADHD people, myself included.

Running is one of many cures for distraction. One might focus one’s energies on meditation, or academics, or whatever, but for me running has seemed to be one of the most expedient routes because of the way in which it forces you to concentrate on the present. This is doubly true of ultrarunning (in which pain and generally unpleasant physical sensations grab our attention) and of trail running (where one must constantly be aware of the footing). I would say the same of urban running, since cars and people can be dangerous obstacles, and obviously winter’s snow and ice ramp up the need for present-awareness. You can’t run on the pavement in Montreal in the winter and just pleasantly space out, thinking your preferred thoughts of elsewhere.

So why take rest days? Do sloth and distraction take rest days? Does misery take a rest day? These are relentless forces, and I for one find it hard to keep them at bay. Right now I’m quite happy with running 6 days a week, because I think it’s allowing me adequate recovery time as I ramp up the mileage. But no, as you may have noticed, I do not intend to take many rest days as I go trans-Canada. I’m just going to be living the dream and immersing myself in that. Will I get injured? As I think I’ve said before, I seem to be pretty injury-proof, but more importantly, I think running injuries are often pretty subjective and psychology has a lot to do with how you recover from one. Anyway, stay tuned.

Goal this week is 61 miles and I’m on track as long as I do another marathon on Saturday. Running in Brooklyn was tough because I wasn’t anywhere near Prospect Park. Honestly it wasn’t a lot of fun, doing laps around the block in the cold. Makes one wonder what it must be like for those special people who participate in the Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race! Just got back to Montreal via overnight bus and promptly did a 12-miler around Laurier Park (covered in ice, tricky footing) to make up for a missed day while I was living it up with Woody et al.

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~ by edmundmilly on January 5, 2012.

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