A story is told of a highly motivated woodcutter who was hired to cut down and chop up several wooded acres. His boss explained to him that he would be paid a bonus for every tree he felled over 15 per day and that if he did a good job, there would be plenty of work for him in the future. The woodsman was then given a company axe and went off to prove himself to be a great hire.
The first day he cut down and stacked 18 trees. His boss was delighted with him and the woodcutter was even more motivated, promising his boss that he would better his production the following day. The next day he rose early and worked twice as hard for the entire day. However, when he counted up the result, he had only chopped down 17 trees. A little disappointed, he made a vow to himself that the next day he would set a company record. However, when that day had finished, and he had worked harder than he felt humanly possible, his production had dropped even more. He had only cut down 14 trees! Puzzled and a little discouraged, the woodsman rededicated himself and gave it all he had the following day. However, when that day was over he had only cut down 12 trees!
How was this possible? Was he getting weaker? Each day that he had worked harder and longer his production had steadily fell. He approached his boss and apologized for having let him down. He said he would understand if the boss decided to fire him given how he had clearly failed at the job, doing worse rather than better over time. Once again, he expressed his complete confusion at having worked so hard, only to do progressively worse.
His boss asked to see his axe and ran his finger across the sharp edge. Then he asked the woodsman, when was the last time he sharpened the axe. The woodcutter was completely surprised by this question. He replied: “Sharpen the axe sir? I had no time to sharpen it! I was far too busy trying to cut down as many trees as I could!”
If you don’t take care of your equipment as an athlete the same disappointing results will be waiting for you. Of course, your equipment is your body and your physical and mental health. The way you sharpen your axe is by resting, by giving yourself breaks from your training where you can rest your mind and body. In our highly competitive culture, we get too caught up in the axiom that the harder you try, the better you’ll do. On some level this is true. However, if you don’t regularly take time off to give your mind and body a much needed break, than one or both will break down on you.
Make no mistake about it! REST IS PART OF TRAINING. Take care of yourself. Be smart. Understand that oftentimes the fastest way to get to your goals may feel like the slowest.
So that’s where I’ve been for the last 10 days. Sharpening my axe on a beach.