God created the world and then…He rested.
I seem to always come back to racing and obstacles. Of course, it’s racing season. We had our own 5K yesterday. The Tully Triathalon was last week, and there were some recent obstacle and trail races.
Races and obstacles are great metaphors for life. Oprah Winfrey says that what you put into running is what you get back and it’s the same with life: you get back what you put in.
I learn so much from my practice on the trails. About myself and about the people around me.
Someone mentioned to me earlier this week as we were heading into Fair Weekend that we needed to pace ourselves. Of course that made me think of racing. But it’s true. One day at a time. One thing at a time. It’ll get done. And done better, if we pace ourselves.
It’s like a marathon. You can’t show up without having trained. You can’t just leap forward when the start horn goes off and start running as fast as you can. 26.2 miles is a long, long way. You have to plan and pace yourself. You have to train. You have to know what you are doing, what might come up and plan for it. You have to be aware of the potential obstacles: weather, injury, ‘the wall’, your own mind…
It’s like putting on a fair or any other event. You can’t just show up and expect it to fall into place. There’s planning and work to be done…long before Fair day. It’s also a great metaphor for getting yourself through a challenging time. You might not know what life will throw at you, but you can make guesses. You can know yourself and your weaknesses. And you can ‘train’ yourself to be strong.
There are a few phases to racing. Whatever kind of racing you’re doing. You can think of it as a bell curve. There’s an intro phase, a peak phase, and an exit phase. The planning & training phase. The race/life event/fair phase. The recovery phase. Each phase has its own mini phases. I’ll repeat that: each phase has its own mini phases. The training has it’s own intro, peak, and exit. The race itself has the intro phase, the peak phase, and exit/closing. The fair has its start and set up to the day, the peak when people show up, and the clean up.
We have a tendency to focus on the more, uh, glamorous parts of the phases. The obvious is the peak phase. The race. The event. The fair. Of course, that’s what all the other work is about.
But, truly, once you hit the start line and start moving there’s not much you can do at this point but follow the current and hope all your planning and training pays off. Fingers crossed. Pray time.
Because the peak phase is mostly following the current and showing us how all that previous work pays off, the phase we tend to focus on the most is the Training phase (and hopefully the planning phase; it’s not wise to jump into training without a plan, but people do it). Planning and training is what’s going to get you to the start line and it is what you need to get to the finish line.
Let’s come back to the marathon metaphor. Nope, let’s imagine a 5K instead. It’s more our speed. First things first: assess and plan. Have you ever done a 5K before? Are you familiar with how it works? Do you have any injuries or limitations? What are your weak spaces? How are you going to manage your limitations? You got this. But you need a plan. This is your entry phase of the bell curve.
What is the plan? A running plan is easier than life. You can pull a training plan off the internet and tweak it to meet your needs. It’s much harder to find a life training plan on the internet that tells you exactly what to do, when to do it, and when to rest.
And then your bell curve begins to curve upward.
Your training begins. Follow the plan. Check in. Assess. Tweak. Things always come up…oooh, there’s those obstacles again. Weather, injury, time commitments, your own mind. Assess, tweak, and get back to training.
There’s a beautiful triad in the yoga foundations that guides us on these practices in life:
–Self discipline is the planning and practice/training piece. Consistent, daily practice.
–Self study is the pay attention and tweak. Don’t get stuck; pay attention to what’s happening an modify appropriately.
–Surrender is the piece of trust and faith. You can, you should, and it matters. Faith in yourself. Faith in God.
At this point we have a plan, we’re training (discipline—often it’s the hardest part), and we have our ‘race’.
We plan, we do, and finally we’re ready for our race, and then phew, we’re done…
Here’s the piece we tend to neglect: the exit phase. We feel like we’re done. We’ve accomplished our goal (or we haven’t accomplished our goal, so we push ourselves to get out there, keep training, and do better next time). Push. Push. Push.
How about: Recovery. Recovery. Recovery.
This is THE most important step to races, life, fairs, events. This is what alleviates: burn out. How many of you have experienced or watched a bride pull off that amazing wedding and head off to the honeymoon and either spends the whole time sick or comes home sick? Like really sick.
Recovery. Self Care.
I would argue that you haven’t won your race if you fail this one piece. Recovery and self care. Recovery and self care.
Your recovery piece is so important it is often LONGER than any other phase.
Here’s a question for those of you who know die hard racers. They complete their 100 mile race, share their awesome pictures wearing their medals on facebook, and then… when was the last time you heard this person say: oh, I’m taking the week off to recover; I’m gonna get some extra rest, walk more and stretch more? No, they are back pounding the pavement as soon as their body lets them…preparing for that next race. And TOO OFTEN that next race is a mere week or two away. You can do this, yes, but there’s still a recovery, a deeper recovery, after that last race. The more stressful the ‘race’, the deeper the recovery phase.
Let’s break this down into a mini example that’s easy to comprehend. Say you go out for a three mile run. It’s a good hard run. You come home and all you want to do is take a shower and lie on the sofa. You deserve it, right? You went for a run. Maybe you want to eat a bowl of ice cream…you deserve it. You just went for a run.
Remember, these are metaphors for life. Life gets crazy and wild and out of control. You’re stressed out. You just got through that whatever it was. You deserve ice cream and movies and cookies…
Your legs start to cramp up. Your feet start to swell up. Your joints start to ache.
You just spent the last half an hour moving them to capacity. Your muscles are all hot and fired up and tense. Your joints are warm and active. Cool down gradually. Gently. Stretch those muscles and joints to ease them back into quiet and alignment. If you have injuries or weak spaces, take some extra time to nourish those places. This is the meat of the work. This is what keeps your body functioning on the long term.
And don’t forget that your mind, and sometimes your heart. It too needs rest and recovery.
Challenge then recovery. We can’t live a life racing forward all the time. We need time for recovery. Quiet space. Time to think and plan and be. We need time to nourish. Simple, easy to digest food and quality time with quality family a friends. Time spent with God and prayer.
A life of pushing is a life short of the things that matter.
This is the long way of saying: be kind to yourself this coming week. Rest well. Eat well. Hydrate well. Notice how hard it is for you to let yourself have a break….it’s insightful.
Remember, even God took the seventh day off to rest. He encourages you to do so as well. We should listen.