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Please be advised that the following article was written for an online running magazine and is reproduced here by the author, who retains the copyright of the work. Reproduction in part or in whole of the content, in any format, should not be made without the author's express permission in writing.


When the editor invited me to write a series of articles for his prestigious publication, I was delighted, particularly as he said I could write about whatever I liked. Would it be food, fashion or films? Then I picked up on the fact that this was a running publication and that probably meant I should write about something connected to running, so I thought I’d start off by talking about not running.
            ‘Not running?‘ I hear you echo (I have exceptionally good hearing). ‘How can you write a running article about not running?’ Quite simply actually – because what I’m really talking about here is resting. I don’t mean resting when you’re injured or ill and can’t run at all, I’m talking about resting in between running.
            Personally, I’ve always been a great fan of resting. They always say you enjoy doing the things you’re best at, and, without meaning to sound big-headed, resting is one of my greatest talents.
            The trouble with resting is that many runners don’t like it, and don’t recognise it as a vital part of their running lives - they have some kind of weird mental block when you suggest that the reason their times are getting slower or they’re feeling really sluggish or, now, what is that word – oh yes, tired, is that their bodies are hinting that, ‘Please sir, we’d like to rest now’.
            Often they feel guilty about not running, worrying that a day off means they are somehow failing themselves or handing the advantage to a rival who isn’t so slothful. Neither of these things holds any credence whatsoever. 
            Let me explain – training is made up of two main parts – running – and resting. 
            If you want to improve as a runner, you must learn the importance of rest. How do you learn such a thing? By listening to your body and respecting what it is saying to you. Think of your body as if it were a car – the fuel gauge sits on empty, the low oil warning light is on and the tyres are flat, these are the car’s indicators that something is wrong – would you ignore them? Of course you wouldn’t! So why, when your body grows tired, your limbs show weakness and your performance feels flat – would you ignore your body’s indicators that it needs a rest?
            As coaches we are taught the importance of rest, particularly for older runners where rest is probably the most important factor in a training regime. You can train as much as you like without rest and, initially, your performance will likely improve, but then your body will say, ‘Whoa, mate, I need a break!’ If you don’t take a break, all that will happen is your body will get more and more tired, and your running will get slower and slower.
            Eventually, if you still refuse to listen to your body, it will take charge completely and you will get injured or fall ill, which will force you to rest for much longer than if you’d just listened to your body’s polite request in the first place. If, however, you listen to your body and allow it some rest, it will say thank you very much, and then, when you ask it to perform, it will spring back to life and meet your demands. Respect your body – and it will respect you.
            Fundamentally, there are two different types of rest – active and static. Active rest means continuing to be physically active away from your sport, in this case running. For example, instead of going for a run, you may want to take a dip in the ocean (or pool), hop on your bike or go for a hike. Alternatively, you may prefer a game of badminton or tennis with friends. It’s important these activities are seen as leisure/pleasure activities rather than another personal challenge to swim faster, walk longer or win a game of badminton. In that regard, it may be a good idea to vary your active rest activities, otherwise you may find yourself setting targets and trying to outdo yourself every time, which would kind of negate the benefits.
            Static rest is probably self-explanatory – you rest without making any kind of movement, other than perhaps to turn over on your sun lounger to ensure an even tan  (or rust should it be raining) or rise from the couch to make a cup of tea. Alternatively, you could take up a restful hobby such as knitting or origami.
            For active people like runners, static rest is probably the most challenging for it involves STAYING STILL. Runners are not always very good at this, but if they are to reach their running potential, they must learn to conquer their twitchy legs and feelings of guilt about remaining in one place for a period of time.
            Often, when it comes to resting, it is the mind that is our worst enemy. Our society, and perhaps most notably social media, has become one that suggests everyone should be constantly on the go, never stopping but dashing from one activity to another. There is no time to stand and stare.
            And yet we should. For resting is not just about the physical act. It also benefits the mind. A mind that can become stale, unmotivated and dull when forced to constantly focus on one form of physical exertion relentlessly with no time out. A mind that becomes jaded in this way has no interest in providing motivation or inspiration and takes no joy in the activity itself.  
            So, do yourself a favour and take that time out. Free your mind enough that you properly see the beauty around you; breathe in the air (don’t sniff it, breathe deep and long, fill your lungs with it, there is no shortage); sky watch (day or night). Find the middle road between over and under training. Find balance.
In so doing, you offer your mind and body the chance to refresh and re-set, not only in terms of potential running performance, but also in terms of personal well-being and appreciation of the world around you and your place in it. It might also be a good time to consider all you have achieved in your running life up to this point and to celebrate it, rather than brush it aside in your haste to set/achieve your next goal.
            And when you have rested and considered and appreciated, even if just for one day a week, you will return to your running physically and mentally restored, ready to face your next challenge and also, perhaps, looking forward to your next day off!
            See you next time…
©Helen Summer