These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Close Season - finding rest

Recently, I was struck with just how short the time is between the end of one sports season and the start of the next. Modern sportsmen and women seem to be constantly competing, conditioning or carrying injuries! The intensity of top level sport requires year round preparation. Competing as a hurdler, my eldest son had the added complication of preparing for an indoor and outdoor athletics season. Logistically very interesting and physically and emotionally demanding.

Investigating further, I discovered that three days after the grand final of the championship in which my own rugby club had competed, the lads were back in for pre-season. Admittedly our season was over a few weeks prior to the grand final, but I think you get the picture. Even if there are longer periods between actual seasons, there are other competing demands such as tours or international call ups. Its a tough environment in which to stay at the top of your game, the demands seem unrelenting. I guess life itself can seem pretty unremitting at times too.

Rest and recuperation are essential ingredients in ensuring a return to the physical demands of competition. But with training and conditioning environments frequently as vigorous as competing, its often very difficult to find time to fully rest. One of my great coaching mentors used to tell us "you have to be fit to train" and he was right! Progressing through a grueling regime and then breaking into the competitive season often left us as mentally tired as we were physically. You can travel so far on your internal energy reserves and then they become depleted. You can equally travel on the adrenaline rush of the highs and lows of wining and losing. But eventually, you will need rest. I guess I am not alone in needing the first week of a holiday to simply come down from the stratosphere, through the atmosphere and back down to earth. There's always a slump too. I noticed it  in my family at the end of terms in education or the end of a particular project phase in work. Finding rest is important. Finding rest for your mind is essentially - although not always as simple as it sounds.

Scientists and doctors tell us there are different types of stress. Some forms of stress fire us to activity and are linked with the positive aspects of motivation and momentum. Other forms are destructive.When stress levels are very high and persist for prolonged periods of time, serious physical, emotional and mental damage can be set in train. Finding rest for our mind is essential. My wife recently told me to take a day off and just go do something that I enjoyed. I spent the day drinking coffee at a favorite cafe, getting a haircut and going to watch a rugby 7s tournament. It was strange actually taking a day off just for me. But she was right. It worked. As I sat drinking coffee and writing, it dawned on me, I felt relaxed. In the relaxation came refreshing. I went home happier, more relaxed and with more of a focus on our relationship.

Back in the day, our close season involved switching from rugby to athletics or cricket. I suppose the old adage is true, a change is as good as a rest. But there is a sense in which a real rest is better than a change. The man's man Jesus Christ understood the need for space and mental recuperation. He would often withdraw to a solitary place. Not to become introverted, or to brood over the public adversity he often faced. Nor to find relief from the continuous pressure brought by handling crowds of needy people. He would get away to recharge and rest his mind and pray. As a man of faith, I have discovered that prayer is a great stress reliever and a way of rediscovering and refreshing that faith.

The man's man Jesus recognized the importance of rest. At one the most pressured times, when his team couldn't even find time to eat, he insisted they come away to a solitary location to get some rest. His invitation is still valid today: "if you're feeling weary or weighed down by the load of responsibility or the weight of life in all its complexity is getting to you - come to me and find rest. Rest for the "you" that nobody else sees (rest for your soul). Scientists and medics, therapists and counselling experts tell us that articulating how we feel carries great value - not an easy one for men, but who better than the man's man to confide in as a man. There is a rest that refreshes and aids recuperation - its a simple conversation away with a man who men can trust.