Maybe you’ve noticed something now that you’re forty or sixty or eighty: your body takes a little longer to do what it used to do easily and effortlessly. Use this information wisely. Be nice to yourself. Take care of small scratches and cuts as they can take longer to heal. Be patient with others your own age as they are moving a little slower, too.
This is essential advice if you exercise. Back in the good ol’ days, I could step on the scale on Friday morning, frown, run ten miles on Saturday and another five on Sunday, and smile at the scale on Monday morning. Not now. Now that I’m on the brink of old age losing weight takes a concentrated effort.
I had an interesting insight into rest and healing and health last summer. I’ve lived in South Carolina now for five years and am still not used to the sunny, blistering, buggy, and drippingly humid weather. It’s glorious in April and October but by the end of June I wake up to 85 degrees and a forecast of 100. Running on paved roads where you can see the steam rising as you run adds another five degrees. My wife loves this stuff. Natives complain less than I do but for this coffee-infused Son of Seattle, it’s a tough slog.
So, I quit running. I took August off and did yoga to the hum of the air conditioner. I ran a three-miler once a week just to remember how to run. September came and it was just as hot as August. I decided to start back up in mid-September to get ready for a race in early October. When I went out for my first Saturday morning run in six weeks, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was seriously shocked when I turned in one of my fastest three-milers ever. I felt smooth and comfortable the entire run. At first, I thought it was my new Lycra tights. They admittedly look pretty sweet but I don’t think they contributed to my times. Maybe they cut down the wind resistance from my hairy legs? I wondered if it was the cooler temps and I’m sure that helped. What I’m most convinced of is that the time off helped. Stretching and resting gave my legs time to repair from long runs in the late spring and it took a few weeks of rest to begin feeling the benefits.
Every fitness book and trainer talks about rest. It’s when our bodies repair and recharge but few of us really believe it. We’re athletes! We push through pain! We force our body to submit to our iron will! Well, maybe not. So I’ve incorporated indolence and sloth into my weekly regimen and I feel so much better for it. When my legs feel like lead on Tuesday, I listen to them and take off until Saturday. I stretch. I get a couple hours of extra sleep. I loll about and read. Maybe even spend some quality time with the family! And I feel better for it.
So go work out. Work hard. Breathe hard. Pump your muscles. Feel your body work. And when you’ve worked enough – you’ll know when that is – take a rest. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a week. Or for six weeks like I did. It’s not the end of the world and will almost certainly make your whole life a little better. And isn’t that exactly why exercise? And isn’t that what living the good life is all about?
She Hired a Track Coach at 77! Another post about older bodies.
How about you? What have you learned about rest and recovery?
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