One Step Back, Two Steps Forward – The Benefits of Taking a Break

Apple Pie Ice CreamImage by She Who Shall Not Be Named via Flickr

Thanksgiving break could not have come at a better time for me. While things have been going relatively smoothly for me at work this semester, the end of November is right about the time when both faculty (myself included) and students begin to feel burned out – we’re all badly in need of a break. On top of work-related mental exhaustion, running two marathons this Fall has taken a toll on me physically, and I could feel my enthusiasm for my runs beginning to wane a bit. Heck, my blogging has even slacked off, as this is my first post in over a week. Given all of this, I decided to use this week as a scale-back week – the plan was to not worry too much about what I ate on Thanksgiving, not worry too much if I didn’t get runs in, and to just try to get some R&R and spend some quality time with my family. Needless to say, I was successful on all counts.

My wife, kids, and I traveled up to Maine to spend the holiday with my parents and my brother and sister. Normally I like to run while we’re in Maine as the area is fairly rustic and it provides a nice change of scenery, but a day of cold, pouring rain followed by a day of ridiculously strong wind forced me to stay inside and eat too much turkey, pie, and ice cream (really, it was the weather’s fault). Sleep was also surprisingly easy to come by – I actually got a decent nap on Thanksgiving day, and 2 consecutive nights of almost 12 hours of sleep, which is a rarity with two small kids in the family. The excess food and sleep, combined with only one easy treadmill run, left me feeling refueled and refreshed, and I’m now ready to face down the hectic last 2 weeks of the semester before a nice, long winter break.

Sometimes taking what seems like a step backward can actually be a step forward, and giving my body a chance to recuperate a bit is probably the best thing I could have done (I ran a total of only 15 miles this week). I really don’t regret that I ate like a pig and didn’t exercise enough to burn it off, and I’m ready to hit the looming NH winter with a renewed commitment to my running, and a renewed commitment to not letting the cold, dark days to come get the better of my health and fitness.

I’m going to start off my goal of running through the winter by shooting to run 120 miles in December – I’ve set up a “Dashing Through December” challenge on Dailymile to help me toward this goal, and you’re welcome to join as well. If I can get 10 people to run 120+ miles in December, my plan is to donate $120.00 to the ING Run For Something Better program to support exercise programs for kids and fight childhood obesity. If you can’t hit 120 miles, consider donating a dollar amount equal to your December mileage to the charity of your choice – let’s make our running count this holiday season!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Glad you had a great Thanksgiving (and Maine is beautiful!) as well as a much-deserved break. Sometimes it’s hard to give yourself a little break from running, but you’re very right…it makes a difference. :)
    Plus, I’ve heard that turkey, pie, and ice cream are actually good for you! Well, once a year in November though. ;)
    I’m thinking of joining your challenge on Dailymile!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Pie is my Thanksgiving downfall, but being able to eat it is one of the
      benefits of running! Hope you join the challenge – just need to make sure I
      complete it myself… -Pete

  2. Oh how I would love some extra sleep! My tiny tyke is two and although she’s super star when it comes to going to bed and sleeping through the night, she wakes everyday at 5:00 am. Always. Even if we prolong her bedtime (which makes everyone miserable).

    Your December challenge sounds interesting. I’m game.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’m lucky in that my kids are usually asleep by 7:30, but they’re both early
      risers. However, 12 hour nights are few and far between! -Pete

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