The Mental State of Rest and How to Enjoy It

I used to think of rest as doing nothing. It freaks me out because there is sometimes nothing worse than an idle mind full of “shoulds” and the fear of missing out.

Others think of rest (from a sport in talking about) as easy cross training, not weight bearing movement etc.

Actually, rest is neither of those things. In my experience, rest is two things:

1.) Not moving very much in the same way as before

2.) Doing something completely different than the activity you are resting from

In my time off, I’ve been obsessively reading. Or well, I’ve been spending the time I would be running or lifting with my nose in a book.

I love to read, so this works for me. For my other friends this means getting into a TV show, seeing more music and theater stuff, trying new restaurants or just being more social.

Sure, I’ve done a lot more of those things too recently, but when I am actively NOT PARTICIPATING in my one hobby, running, I get really into my other hobby: reading.

Rest should be about that. It’s not about doing nothing at all or active rest, it’s about doing the other things you enjoy that don’t stress your body in the same way. For my friend Laura Kline, it’s cooking (and I love it when she’s in a taper or rest period…bring on the treats!)

I’ve found that I actually enjoy the process of rest now that it has both purpose and pointlessness.

It is purposeful in that I was tired and needed a break, but also I don’t find I have to force it either. My mind isn’t going to that place. You know that place some athletes get where they have it in their mind “I am reading/watching TV/cooking etc because I am supposed to be resting.”

That mindset takes the enjoyment out of rest for me. I am reading because I like it. I am not running because it stopped being fun and I was on the brink of injury. I do not think of reading as “the activity I am doing because I am not supposed to be running.”

I think of reading or socializing or whatever as something fun I enjoy and have time to do. I’m not thinking of it as an “I would rather be…” activity.

This mindset has allowed me to accept the state I am in both in life and running. It has given me a sense of peace. 

I’ll take that.

12 thoughts on “The Mental State of Rest and How to Enjoy It”

  1. I absolutely savor my one rest day of the week and honestly, it flies by and I don’t even think about training. Tapering used to be hard for me but not any more. I know my mind and body need it, that I’ve put in the work and tapering is the final piece of work for a good race.
    Now I just need a friend who bakes on her rest days!! My God that dessert looks amazing!

  2. This is great Ellie; I love that shift of replacing your one hobby with another hobby. It’s cool that we can grow in our love for other hobbies, when we’re taking a hiatus from running or any other activity. Lately I’ve been embracing rest with shorter runs, sometimes less runs, shorter workouts, or different workouts, and definitely more writing or reading.

  3. This is so good. Its amazing how just a shift of perspective, if you can get your mind to do it, can make such a huge different. I love the idea of not seeing rest as any sort of “have to” or “punishment” but rather a rational reason for doing other things you love. Thanks, Ellie.

  4. This is so important. It has taken me a long time to actually ENJOY resting. For so many years I felt guilty for resting. But actually enjoying it and being intentional about it has made a huge difference.

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