When I was diagnosed with Colitis a little over a year ago, I honestly didn’t think too much of it, I was just thrilled my colonoscopy didn’t show colon cancer! (It’s in my family) As the news set in, though, I started to get scared. Approximately 25% of people with Colitis end up with a colostomy bag at some point in their life. If you don’t know what that is, Google it. (I’ll wait) Right?! Not fun. The drugs can have terrible side effects, the symptoms disrupt everyday life to a very serious point, the body’s immune system is constantly compromised, making it susceptible to other viruses and diseases like cancer. Not to mention, nobody wants to talk about bathroom problems so a lot of people with Chron’s and Colitis suffer silently. I mean, the more I learned the more depressed I got about this disease.
The worst of it all was that I started having trouble getting through long runs without stopping several times to use the facilities. It was ruining my rhythm and my running mojo, and in turn, my spirit. Not one to wallow in self-pity, and with encouragement from my gorgeous husband, Obi-wan and Mrs. Obi-wan, I started to fight back. I found a doctor who rocks, Dr. Boz, and started telling people about my disease. The other thing that made a HUGE difference was that I began to take much better care to listening to my body.
Runners are typically terrible resters. Type A, power-through-the-pain types make lousy patients and very rarely take the time to rest. I am guilty of it, too, so I’m not throwing rocks in glass houses. However, I have found over the past year that I am a much better runner and overall human being when I take time for myself and rest my weary body. I do two-a-days (run & yoga/lift), take back-to-back spin classes, push hard in speed drills, make plans for every second of my day, stay up late doing homework, get up before the sun to get a run in and generally wear myself thin wherever possible. I ALSO make sure I have a couple of days a week where I have several hours to myself. To do whatever. Mani/pedi, nap, watch the latest Netflix movie, stay in my PJs all day, clean out my closets, and I always have one day a week when I do not workout. It’s called active rest. I live in New York City, so walking is how I get to and fro, but I don’t do a run, take a class or lift a weight all day. I let my body rest and recover.
Here’s the thing: resting will make you a better athlete. It will allow for your body to recover and generate new muscle fibers, repair old ones, and allow for you to physically be ready for the next challenge. For me, rest helps to keep my flare-ups in check. Too much rest makes me batty, but just enough keeps me from stressing out and, in turn, getting sick (or sick-er, sometimes).
Here’s a good way to figure out if you need a rest day: keep a stopwatch and a pen next to your bed. Every morning before you sit up or get out of bed, take your heart rate. Over a week’s time you should start to see what your normal resting heart rate is and where/when it isn’t. If you figure that yours is, say, 50 beats per minute, you know that you will need to rest that day if you wake up and it’s 58+. You see, when you are sleeping, your body goes into repair mode, kind of like sending a car to the body shop. If you wake up and find that your resting heart rate is 15% (or more) higher than normal, the mechanics haven’t finished their work and you need to leave it in the shop that day. That way, you will be working with fresh muscles, new cells and will be able to perform at tip-top form.
I’m off to Flywheel this morning with my fabulous cousin, Chi-Chi. And then we’re going to have a spa day at my favorite NYC spot. Can. Not. Wait. Take a day off from running to spend it with one of your favorite people at a spa? Don’t mind if I do. It’s a very big day in New York and I’m looking forward to celebrating with all my peeps tomorrow after the Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler. See you there?
Now go out and run…but before you do, tell me how you like to spend a rest day!