The last time I took up running, I ended up injured. I did really well until the last stretch of a long run when something went wrong with my knee. I hobbled home and traded my running shoes for medical visits and a cane. That was the end of my running for a few years.
I’m running again now, and so far I’m doing a lot better. One of the keys is what I’m not doing. I’m not overtraining. John Stanton writes:
Overtraining is doing too much too soon…Training is the result of the body adapting to stress. The stress must be regular enough and strong enough to stimulate adaptation, but if it is too strong or too frequent, you will break down — you are overtraining. Rest is the phrase during which adaptation takes place, and you become stronger. It is just as important as your workout…If you do not rest voluntarily, your body will force you to rest — by fatigue, illness, injury, staleness or burnout. (Running: The Complete Guide to Building Your Running Program)
Talk about counterintuitive: rest is when you get stronger, and it’s as important as working out. Ignore rest, and your body will make sure you get rest. I discovered this myself as I limped around like an old man with a cane.
Our problem is that we hate rest. We fill every nook of our lives with things to do, skimp on our vacations, and refuse to take days for rest. Sometimes we even struggle to sleep. It’s another form of overtraining. We fail to realize that we become stronger as we rest, and that if we don’t rest, our body will force us to rest.
It’s ultimately a spiritual issue. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel write:
Sleep is an excellent litmus test of our posture toward time. Often, we view sleep as superfluous— wasted space that can be used if we determine more time is needed to accomplish a certain task. Every night millions of people around the world stare blankly at their TVs to avoid the reality that sleep is next on the day’s docket. Embracing our call to be creatures entails embracing sleep as a fundamental aspect of our vocation. We are called to rest and respect our bodies. In this sense, for many believers, sleep is a profound, spiritual practice reminding us on a daily basis of the truth of our identity as creatures. In sleep we are laying down our bodies as living sacrifices before the Lord (Rom. 12:1). This, too, can be an aspect of our worship of God. (Beloved Dust)
One of the best things I do to run well is to stop running some days. And one of the best things I do as a follower of Jesus Christ is to sometimes stop working, and to receive His sabbath not as an obligation, but a gift. Rest is sometimes as important as work.
So rest well. Acknowledge your finitude. I’ve seen the consequences in my own life when I haven’t done this, and I’ve also seen it in others. Sleep and sabbath are part of our vocations; put just as much energy into doing those well as anything else that you do.