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Remember, rest is part of your training

Mar 30, 2024

“It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.”

                                                                                       - Thich Nhat Hanh


I am writing this blog for myself.  My logic in sharing this publicly with you, is I actually might listen to my own coaching (as well as help some others along the way).


Like all of us, I have been blessed with specific talents that have served me quite well.  However, I also have some very specific “areas of opportunity” that I could address to make myself more impactful, fulfilled and happy.  One of those areas of opportunity is taking time to slow down and rest.


I am writing this after once again realizing that I have gone several weeks without truly taking a day off.  It is said that nature abhors a vacuum and as a result, I find more and more that I fill up space on my calendar when it is available.  This oftentimes has me going days on end without slowing down to recharge, ignoring the sage advice of Steven Covey to, “sharpen the saw”.


I like to tell myself it is because I love my work - which I do.  I love speaking, coaching, teaching and empowering others.  It brings me great joy to be able to share my message and make a positive impact on the lives of others.  


While this is true, when I really get honest with myself, this refusal to slow down is really steeped in my belief of scarcity.  In this, the fear of believing opportunities will pass me by creates in me the feeling that I need to keep pressing forward or I will not be able to take advantage of prospects that present themselves.  As a result, I wear myself down and then I am not in the best position to act or create when opportunities do arise. 


Can anyone relate?


As I was pondering this “area of opportunity” once again resurfacing in my life, I was reminded of a story from several years ago that caused me to seriously confront this issue.


In the summer of 2000, I was preparing for, what was at the time, the most important event of my martial arts career – my 6th Degree Black Belt Test.  As with my past Black Belt testings, I had poured my body, mind, and soul into preparing for this challenge.  I spent months preparing for this day, diligently training on the various elements I was set to perform. 


My grandmaster instructors were set to fly into Denver to test me for the exam.  A cadre of local master instructors would also be present as well as hundreds of students I led in my role as leader of our martial arts organization.  I was pumped, to say the least and the intensity of my preparation reflected how very seriously I was taking this test.


About a month out from my testing, I began to become worn down.  Not feeling the vitality of my usual self, I went to see my good friend and homeopathic doctor, the late Gil Greiner.  I always enjoyed my visits with Gil.  Being an athlete himself (he was a former Mr. Colorado Bodybuilding Champion) we had an innate understanding of one another, and he could speak to me in direct ways I could always understand.  (I really miss our conversations). 


On this particular visit, after doing a scan of my body with his Phasix machine, he looked up from the computer screen, and with concern in his eyes said to me, “Chris, you are really wearing yourself down by over-training, my friend.  You are getting ready for a major injury (perhaps tearing a hamstring).  You need to pull back off your training.”


I immediately got defensive.  “You don’t understand, Gil,” I said to him.  “There’s no way I can slow down!  This is the biggest test of my life and there is so much more for me to do to prepare.” 


Gil just smiled at me and as the good friend and coach that he was, said to me, “How many kicks could hold yourself to each week in order to get you prepared for this test.  I’m getting 100.”


Begrudgingly I responded, “I guess I can hold myself to 100 kicks a day to get myself ready.”

“No, Chris”, Gil shot back, “I said 100 kicks a WEEK!!!!!” (For perspective, my normal training regimen then included 800-1,200 kicks per daily workout).


I continued to argue my cause, and then my good friend gave me the advice that has stayed with me almost two decades later when he said,


“Remember, Chris……….Rest is part of your training."

I took Gil’s advice and followed his direction to dramatically reduce my physical workouts and focused intently on visualization and mental preparation for my exam (see last week’s MOC Tip of the Week on the power of visualization).  When the day arrived, I was well-rested, re-vitalized and prepared.  I then had, up until that point, the best Black Belt Testing of my career.


In using this story to get me back in focus on the diligent self-care that comes through adequate rest and revitalization, here are three things I am looking to do, going forward, that may help you as well.


  • Get Adequate Sleep – I feel best when I get a consistent 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Study upon study shows that deep restful sleep is one of the most necessary components of high performance.
  • Plan my Down Time – I am going to go through my calendar and schedule weekly rest and revitalization time, free of computers and work. If weekends cannot accommodate this practice, I will schedule downtime during the weekdays leading up to Saturday and Sunday.
  • Take time each day to just “Be” – Taking time each day to just “BE” can do wonders to help us to reset and recharge - if even for only 5 minutes at a time. It is said that Thomas Edison would take time each day to go “fishing”.  The only thing is he never baited his hook.  Rather, he would throw a line in the water and just let his mind wander.  It was during these times of restful concentration that his most creative ideas came to him.  


Well, friends.  Now that I have shared my plan and request you help to keep me in line with my commitment, I would ask where you have an opportunity to create time in your scheduled to consistently rest and recharge.  Taking time to revitalize your body, mind and spirit may be just what you need to bring out the very best in you.


And even when you think you may not be doing anything to move ahead, you will be, because remember……………….  “Rest is part of your training.”


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching


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