Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 2 Aug 1998 09:33:20 -0400

Rest of the Week

(from RC 274)

Where I came from, which is small-town Iowa in mid-century, we had mixed feelings about Sundays. This mixture extended to my own family.

Sunday was the Biblical day of rest. My mother observed it, refusing to indulge in any commercial or entertainment venture on Sundays and urging her children to abstain as well.

My father couldn't rest that day, or any day. He was a farmer, and the animals didn't abstain from eating on the seventh day.

As a runner I took after Dad, not Mom. For years I ran seven days every week. Skipping a day of running would have been like fasting one-seventh of the time.

In my youth, not outgrown until my early 40s, I was a streaker (see archives, "Speaking of Streaking"). Years passed between days off, and those were never voluntary. Little short of hospitalization would make me rest.

Eleven years ago I started stopping by choice, becoming a born-again believer in rest. Like many recent converts to a new theology I went from one extreme to another: from never missing a day to never running more than a couple of days straight.

I ran by "cycles" -- a three-day round of longer run, faster run and rest... or, alternately, one rest day for every hour of running. I wrote, "There's no such thing as an 'easy' run. The best way to recover is to rest" -- which I did two or three days every week.

This was too many, and it had to change. Running little more than half the days left me feeling like a lost soul of a runner.

Tom Mann set me straight. I quoted this longtime RC reader last year:

"My running has gone through a wonderful six months or so of really feeling like a runner again. I shed about 10 ugly pounds, started doing a little (very little) speedwork and went back to doing some running every day. Within two weeks I was like a new person."

After hearing from Tom, I slipped into a new pattern. Out is the cycle, back in is the week.

The week includes six days of running -- one fast day, one long day and all the others easy. After admitting that easy runs do serve a purpose, I readmitted half-hour runs (that's an average length, not an absolute quota) to my routine.

I rest one day most weeks. This usually is on a Sunday after the long run, though exceptions are allowed.

A extra-long Saturday might extend the rest to Monday and beyond. Or I might rest on Saturday for a Sunday race, then rest again afterward.

This weekly pattern finally brings me into step with the tradition most other runners observe. They've long taken a big day and a rest day on their weekends. Now so do I.

Most weeks, Sunday is my day off. It's necessary, not only to keep me from backsliding into the habits of the streaker, but also as a day for pausing to reflect on the work of the week past and recharge for one to come.

I haven't exactly found religion but have adopted a day of rest. My mother would approve.

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