This is not a picture of me doing nothing.
Published 05.12.2021

Written by Darcy Luoma

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.

Stillness is Essential, Not a Luxury

People are often surprised to learn that some of the most important days of an exercise program are those where you intentionally do nothing at all. 

I learned this the hard way. 

When I started triathlon training, I spent every day running, biking, and/or swimming. After a while, I not only stopped progressing, I was actually going backwards. I was getting slower. What I didn’t realize is that I was over training. And it had the exact opposite impact than I wanted. 

Rest makes you stronger

Rest days are not only days when we don’t exercise. Rest days make us stronger. Muscles repair and rebuild on rest days. Energy stores are replenished. As you might imagine, rest days are essential for peak performance. 

Taking time to rest—and be still— is necessary to be physically fit. Stillness is also necessary to be Thoughtfully Fit. Our minds are constantly racing and thinking about what we need to do next. It can feel like we need to keep pushing. But just like pushing too hard physically can have negative effects, so can pushing too hard mentally. Mental Stillness is essential for peak performance as well. 

Let me say that again. Stillness is essential. It’s not a luxury. Imagine if a friend calls and says, “I’ve been so busy! I’ve been driving to meetings and events all day and didn’t stop for a single stop sign. Who has time to stop?”

You’d immediately be concerned for their well-being, right?

And yet, how often do you hear (or say) these statements? 

  • I’ve been working all day—I haven’t even had the chance to eat.
  • This weekend was non-stop—I didn’t sit down once.
  • I’m so behind—I just keep trying to dig out.

Who has time to stop?

The reality is, just like when I was overtraining for my triathlons, working or going non-stop is ineffective. Not only is that pace unsustainable, it has diminishing returns.

My book launch is coming up in just three weeks. I thought completing the book manuscript was the finish line. Little did I know that was only the first step. The real marathon is writing a book proposal, finding an agent, getting a publisher, going through sixty-three rounds of editing, designing the cover, creating a book landing page, building a quiz to create intrigue for the book, securing endorsements, and marketing the book. It’s overwhelming! 

Even though there’s so much to do, it’s in those moments I know I most need Stillness.

When you take time for Stillness, you’re giving your thoughts the chance to settle. Think of your thoughts like a snow globe. When you’re constantly shaking the snow globe, you can’t see anything. When you give your thoughts the opportunity to be still, you’re giving yourself the chance to recognize what’s most important or urgent. You can more easily see your priorities.

Here are some easy ways to add Stillness to your day. 

  • Schedule time for Stillness. If you wait for things to quiet down before you practice Stillness, you never will. If scheduling sixty-minutes in your calendar to go for a walk or thirty-minutes to eat lunch mindfully feels like too much, try five-minutes to be still at your desk or to step outside and take a few deep breaths. I promise—you have five minutes.
  • Multitask with Stillness. Waiting in the carpool lane or at the grocery store? Microwaving your lunch? Just be still. Don’t pick up your phone. Allow yourself the luxury to not fill the time with something else. Let your thoughts settle. Reflect. Breathe. Instead of multitasking with doing something, multitask with Stillness. 

One-minute Core Workout

As always, it takes practice and consistent training to be Thoughtfully Fit. So here’s your one-minute workout for this week to build your core. 

  • Pause. When it feels like you just can’t stop, that’s the sign you need to. This might be the hardest step, but remember it’s only for a minute.
  • Think. How can I take a moment to be still? What will help me slow down and rest my mind? How can I schedule time for Stillness?
  • Act. Be still. (Yes, it’s that simple.)

Are there Stillness workouts that also last an hour, a day, or a week? Absolutely! But start where you are. And if that means being still for one minute a day, do that. You’ll be glad you did!

Just like rest helps you be stronger physically, Stillness helps you be stronger mentally. As a matter of fact, it’s part of your training plan to be more thoughtful—with yourself and others. And when you’re Thoughtfully Fit, the rest of your life is easier. 

Give it a try and let us know how it goes. This is one area where you likely can’t overtrain!

Recommended Resource: If you’re like me, Stillness can be hard. I’ve been grateful for the Headspace App this month because it has an interface that shows me I’ve meditated for a 27-day streak (what better way to be still than meditation). On days when it feels like I don’t have time for Stillness, this small feature reminds me that I’m on track—and that I don’t want to break my streak!

IS YOUR MIND FIT FOR SUCCESS?