Taking a Down Day: Vacation, Swimming, Running


Taking a day off or a day easy is not really my thing. But sometimes, you just need a down day.

Normally on vacation, I’ll plan every minute of my vacation to explore and head out into a new area. Who wants to waste a minute? But this approach can tend to make you feel like you need a vacation when you come back from vacation. It is the same frenetic pace that drives most of us, at least the people that I meet, to fill every hour of every day and then collapse when we can get a break between activities. It ignores something fundamental in Christian and Jewish practice: Sabbath.

Low and behold it’s a concept that absolutely needs to be practiced for runners and swimmers. Very few runners run hard or long runs every day of the week. Any runners that do train that way get weeded out pretty quickly via physical injury or psychological burn out. In swimming the general theory for years stood, “more yardage, faster times”. The last few decades have really transformed that mentality to micro and macro cycles that include down days and rest. But even during the time that high volume training was in vogue coaches seemed to know that you needed one or two days off a week.

Usually, they left Sunday off.

Over our vacation, I’ve realized that my tendency to plan (especially training) does not leave any time for me and the girls to play and do random fun things. We do go to the pool and play, but when we are all tired and I’ve scheduled time at the pool, it isn’t good to force the schedule on the situation. So, a few times we just new we needed to rest and take time off.

This got me thinking about my training. Mostly, it got me thinking about my frustrations with my training. Some weeks, I’ll swim four days, but because I didn’t get five in, I feel guilty and like I let myself down. It’s a psychological spiral.

I know that missing one day a week does lower general training quality…

Doesn’t it?

I know that if you aren’t structured you wont get everything out of vacation…

Isn’t that right?

But now, I’m thinking that what I think matters the most out of vacation isn’t as important as creating space in time for my family to rest and be together. That is a practice that I can take home with me from this trip. That is what is meant by Sabbath. Perhaps, I need to find a way to translate this into my training as well.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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