Active resting

Active resting. A contradiction in terms. How can you actively rest? Or indeed, rest in an active fashion? This is a term I have only seen splashed around lately. It seems it actually means something different to what I thought/hoped it meant.

From my running exploits over the years, I have learned many things, and terms for different training activities. It happened gradually, from just going out for a ‘run’ and seeing how it went, to having a structured training plan. I used to believe that in order to run better, I needed to run more, and as fast and as hard as possible every time I went out. After a few years and a fair bit of experience, I realised this was not the case, and I needed to have regular rest days and days that are easy runs, at a much slower pace. From my internet research, I can assume these easy days are what are now being called active resting. The act of running, but very slowly compared to your normal pace, allowing your presumably tired muscles to recover. Makes sense.

Here’s what I thought it might mean. Stay with me. I related to it because the phrase resonated with me as something I consider myself to do. I thought it might mean going outdoors for a possibly strenuous walk in the mountains, or anywhere, that whilst being taxing physically is actually resting your mind and, in the long run, providing relaxation. I may be completely wrong, but I like mine better. I do prefer to get up early on days off and distance myself from stresses and strains of every day life – resting. Not being one to lounge around in bed, this is how I choose to be alive.

In relation to the aforementioned resting, I have just (as of yesterday), reached the end of a 50 day running streak, that is, 50 days of consecutive running. It wasn’t structured, and most of my runs were active rests really, but I enjoyed it and effectively out-ran some niggling injuries that had been getting me down since June, as well as shifting a few extra pounds I had gained from being housebound and greedy. The feeling of being overweight, though only by a few pounds, coupled with pain when running and a distinct lack of motivation pushed me to taking a week off and seriously consider whether running was still something I wanted to continue doing. So I picked it up again, created a couple of challenges for myself and allowed them to keep me focused, driven and motivated. Thinking lockdown and working from home would only last a month at most back in March, I made the most of every day, running, workouts in the garden, push up challenges, just being in the garden; but as time went on and various issues niggled at me, I lost my drive, purpose and motivation. Luckily I seem to have recovered some, if not all of it. In the midst of it, I wildcamped and also managed a pretty rewarding day in my favourite part of South Wales.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll bore you stupid with one of my stories from one of my adventures next time, as I haven’t done it yet. Stand by.

Lone Wolf

It has suddenly occurred to me that we are already in April and in less than a month I’ll be running in my first ultra marathon of the year. Since the last ultra I completed last June, my training went through a distinct change, when after years of just running miles after miles, I deliberately built in recovery runs to my weekly plan. For any non-runners (or non-obsessed runners I should say), recovery runs are typically deliberately slow runs designed to help the legs recover from big efforts, but better than just resting. Easy miles. With these recovery runs, I quickly reaped the benefits. In two consecutive weekends I smashed both my half marathon personal best as well as my 5k too. Since then however, the training switched to Bergen runs on Sundays for a while, and mixed runs during the week. The Bergen runs have slipped this year, but more importantly, I haven’t been doing the long distance runs in preparation for the ultras.

With this in mind on Sunday, I headed down to my local hills and ran a section of the upcoming ultra. It could have gone better, but could have gone much worse. Lately the struggle has been state of mind. It’s not often I’m so honest about my present feelings, but lately I have faced a struggle where everything feels like it’s dragging me down, turning a pressure screw. So it’s not easy to get up and go and do a trail run that I once enjoyed, when your mind is a pretty dark place and coping is like an ultra marathon in itself. It just becomes so hard to enjoy things. I think my close friends don’t know how to deal with me because I’m the clown of the group, the one dishing out the sought after advice and support, so it’s difficult for them to see me struggle, so therefore I don’t turn to them. It’s just me and the road (or trails).

I’m thankful for the outdoors. I’m thankful for the ability to run. In a month when I’m at the start line, I know I will be focused solely on the task in hand, though my thoughts will wander. I know I will be out there supporting other runners, but not asking for any from others. Funny how my running style reflects my life style.