Copyright Dennis Mitton
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 as they are moving a little slower too.
This is essential advice if you actively exercise. Back in the good ol’ days that we all talk about, 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. Losing weight takes a concentrated Herculean effort now that I’m pushing sixty. And that many miles will tire me out for a week.
I learned to give my body time to rest last summer in sunny, blistering, buggy, and drippingly humid, South Carolina. It’s glorious in April but by the end of May I will wake up to 85 degrees and the temperature will top at around 100. Running on paved roads adds another five degrees. I tried waiting until we had a brief shower but that drives the humidity up to where one can hardly catch a breath. 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 enjoyed the air conditioning and concentrated on stretching and yoga. I ran a three-mile loop one night a week when the temperature mercifully dropped to below 85 degrees. September here is as hot as August so I started back up in mid-September to get ready for a race in early October. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was truly shocked when I turned in my best times for both a 5k and 10k run. I felt smooth and comfortable the entire race. 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. 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 world a little better. And isn’t that exactly what living the good life is all about?