August 3, 2021

The Stress/Rest Balancing Act

Growth can be attributed to two things, stress and rest. Stress is our stimulus. It’s what’s being applied to the brain and the body to provoke adaptation and growth.

Rest is the physiological state where the sympathetic nervous system subsides and your parasympathetic nervous system takes over helping to produce a more relaxed, passive state. In this state your heart rate and blood pressure comes down, tension begins to be released in the muscles, breathing rate slows and deepens and most importantly your body goes through the repair processes that turn all that work into adaptation and growth.

Now, we know that for the vast majority of the athletes in this community, doing the stress causing work that helps provoke adaptation is not the problem. But, with all the busy lives we lead with endless to-do lists and piles of work, it’s the rest part of this equation that gets the back seat. If you truly want to reach your potential, how you rest matters.

Rest is vital because it’s not just when our bodies repair and grow, it’s also when our brains become smarter, where we become more creative, better problem solvers, replenish our drive and regain mental/emotional capacity. Because rest is so important, we often tell our athletes to think about rest as your most important training day of the week. It’s not something separate that you do, it’s integral to the work you do.

We like our athletes to operate under a balancing rule when it comes to stress and rest. The more stress you have with work, in training or in other areas of your life, the more important it is to balance that stress with rest.

Prioritizing rest and getting away from work can be really tough at first, and often rest is undermined by thoughts of needing to work, checking social media, endless scrolling, chores, email, but we strongly recommend setting firm boundaries around these activities. Find activities that help you get away from these thoughts. Oscillate your work schedule, taking 10 minutes rest for every 60 minutes of work, or 20 minutes rest for every 2 hours. Don’t over emphasis your runs as rest from the work day. Although it may have therapeutic benefits to book end a work day or split a day up with your training, running creates stress too. For us, prioritizing rest activities looks like very easy dog walks on the trails, playing music and engaging in non-running related stuff like cooking. It means closing our computers and silencing our phones. For other people it can be some of the following:

Rest day activities!


-Hanging out with Friends

-Easy Yoga


-Sleep (The best form of rest)

We have this great big myth in our society that it’s the hard work that makes us better. That if you work your freaking butt off you’ll be great. If I hammer my workout this week, I’ll be a better, stronger runner. But the truth is that during those intense bouts of work, your body is breaking down, it’s getting worse. That work is vital to the process, but your body won’t adapt and you won’t start to grow until you step away from the work, prioritize sleep, build better habits and set boundaries. Rest isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for every athlete in this community. We all have the opportunity to rest better this week and into the future! Let’s do it!!

Own your training. Trust the process.

-TJ & The Microcosm Team