I recently bought a new shirt with the slogan, “Rest day is my favorite.” When I first saw it, I immediately thought, “I want that shirt!” When it arrived two weeks later, I found myself wondering why I was so excited for it. Don’t get me wrong – the shirt is soft, and comfy, and an awesome shade of light blue. I’m sure I’ll wear it all the time. And yet, it’s basically a lie. Rest days aren’t my favorite. In fact, they are pretty much my least favorite day of the week.
It wasn’t always this way. When I first start running, every run was a chore. I had to drag myself out the door, and I was always so much happier once my run was over. I used to look forward to rest days – a chance to do nothing without feeling guilty, because I was “supposed” to rest. Yet somehow, that changed over the years.
You see, the more that I’ve run, the more I’ve come to love it. And when you truly love something, having the opportunity to do it is a privilege. This is even more true now that I try to log the bulk of my mileage on the trails. My runs are often the highlight of my week. Which means that the days that I don’t run are usually a low point for me.
Last weekend, I was moving quickly through my house as I got ready for a long run. I turned away from the kitchen table and promptly kicked my foot solidly into the base of our rolling computer chair. I am embarrassed to say that the pain was so great in the moment that I uttered a long stream of obscenities. After getting myself back up off the ground, I tenderly flexed my foot and realized that my one toe was not moving as it should. Glancing down, I realized that it had started to swell immediately. My early years as a competitive gymnast allowed me to become well acquainted with injuries – I broke several toes over the years and my suspicions were telling me that my injury-free run was at an end. Always the stubborn one, I put my running shoes on anyway and headed out to the trails to meet my friends.
Other than a few extremely painful downhill steps, my run went better than I expected. I managed to make it 11 miles and actually felt stronger as I went along. When I finished, I removed my shoes and slid into my flip flops, as is my custom after all warm weather runs. I checked my toe and found that it was already turning a vivid shade of purple. Never a good sign. I somehow justified two more days of running, but after returning to work on Tuesday, and spending the entire day on my feet, I realized that running injured and working just weren’t going together. I did the smart thing and skipped my runs yesterday and today. My toe feels a bit better and is far less bruised. I, however, am miserable.
I’m sure that admitting this sounds crazy to a non-runner, but I feel awful when I don’t run. On a normal training week, I run Saturday & Sunday and Tuesday – Thursday. Monday and Friday are my rest days, when I usually do a short yoga workout. I’m always more irritable on my rest days. I should enjoy the chance to sleep in and the more leisurely pace to my mornings, but I rarely do. Instead, I feel restless, cranky, and unsettled. When those rest days come back to back, like they have this week, I’m downright unpleasant to be around.
I know that my rest days are an important part of my training plan. Sticking to them so consistently is probably one of the biggest reasons why I’ve managed to make it through the past few years with so few setbacks. But I don’t like them. I grudgingly accept them. I just don’t feel like myself when I don’t get out for a run. Which is why rest days will never really be my favorite. And why tomorrow, I’ll be setting my alarm a bit early so I can get in a short run before heading about the rest of my day.