Today is “sit-around-and-eat-and-obsess-about-tomorrow" day, so I’ll post a second entry. And in many ways, this post is appropriate for this day, which frankly has been one of the hardest training days of the past years. Not physically hard, but still hard. Because today, the training day is very, very light (Charlie and I did a 10 min swim, 20 min bike and 10 min run at a very easy pace, this morning), at the end of a two week “taper” where the work outs have all been very, very light (or none at all.)
The “taper” period of training is all about letting the body heal from the heavy load that finished three weeks ago. Coming down from 20-25 hours of hard training to 40 minutes of easy “get the kinks out” pacing is for most triathletes that I know, pretty difficult. It takes discipline and determination, trust in your training program and the wisdom of coaches and experienced athletes who have come before.
Along with a lot of long, hard intense workouts—and equally important—is rest. Indeed, that is how health is actually formed.
In an earlier sabbatical post, I wrote about Bill Bowerman. One of the books that I have been reading these past few weeks is a biography about this legendary track coach from the University of Oregon. Bowerman was to running, what John Wooden was to college basketball. Indeed, it was Bowerman’s genius that led to the modern running shoe, as he used his wife’s waffle iron to create the first wide waffle-soled shoe. He singlehandedly introduced America to a weird New Zealand practice called “jogging”. He was one of the co-founders of Nike. But Bowerman’s genius was in defying the conventional wisdom of the day and forcing, yes forcing his runners to have “easy days” and a far greater number of rest days.
Back in the day when all training for running simply meant logging as many miles as hard as possible, Bowerman was convinced that it was impossible to reach your potential as a runner unless you also built in regular, committed, disciplined, dedicated periods of NOT running. He used to gather his new recruits to the university together at the beginning of the season and tell them, “Gentleman, take a primitive organism, any weak, pitiful organism. Make it lift or jump or run. Let it rest. What happens? A little miracle. It gets a little better. That’s all training is. Stress—recover—improve.”
One of the things that I have learned from all of this training is the we don’t get stronger from work but from rest that follows work. It is the rhythm of work and rest, of stress and, yes, sabbath, of stretching and then relaxing, that leads to genuine long, term health and wholeness.
The lesson in all of this could be put this way:
Anything worth doing is also worth not doing for a while.
And only in the rhythm of doing and “not doing”, together does a triathlete who loves the exercise…or a pastor who loves the ministry…find the stamina and strength for the long haul.