Why do I find taking a rest day or periodization week so difficult? Are there any mental tricks to overcome this struggle with resting?
Oooh, I hear you with this one. Not so much nowadays, but in my past, taking a day off was much harder than pushing through and adding another training day. We are so used to the grind, to hustling. After all, that’s what the very best athletes tell us, right? That they are gritty, they work the hardest, and they are willing to go deep into the hurt cave. I know it, as I told myself those things and did those things too. But here is the part they don’t say, that I couldn’t say; they struggle with days off too. When the Olympics, world championships or marathon major is done, often they feel empty, alone, and question their identity. Without the grind of pushing towards that goal, who are they?
So to answer your question, why do you find it so difficult, I ask you what it is you get from running. Is your identity so wrapped up in it that even a rest day or a few easy days send you into a panic that you are losing fitness? That you are going to be “slow” (remember, slow is relative; stop comparing yourself to elites, slow for you), or that you won’t know what to talk about with family and friends who know to talk to you about running as that’s what you love to do?
There are no mental tricks for this, because the only way to really work through it is to loosen your grip on running and what it means to you. I am not saying, “Don’t go for a goal” or “Don’t push yourself to see what you are capable of,” that is beautiful and I think good for us all in this world of comfort. But I suspect you are very tied to the outcomes of your training in terms of performance or in terms of your body and what it looks like, over what it has already accomplished. If you want mental tricks of what to work on, it is likely going to be to dig into why it makes you uncomfortable (through a journal, meditation, or just being still); what is it that you think you will lose by taking a day off? The running answer will come first, but dig deeper; what is it about YOU that makes taking your foot off the gas (likely in other areas of life too) so hard?
For me, it was once I was able to realize that missing a few runs wouldn’t do much harm, but also that I was still a valid human being, even if I didn’t reach my running goals (or any other goals, for that matter). Not the answer you wanted to hear, but it’s likely a case of mental health and by working on that, either with a therapist or on your own, you will find those “mental tricks.” Just maybe not in the way you expected 😉
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