The Rest Step

Recently I found myself in the position of carrying my 2-year-old on my shoulders while I dragged my 6-year-old along in a sled. We were hurrying back through the falling snow and the howling wind to the car after our foray into the first snow of the season turned the corner into too cold. My footing on the soft snow while hauling 80 extra pounds was shaky at first and I found I was searching for a rhythm.

It brought to mind of one of the techniques that I learned from mountain guides when I first started climbing mountains – the rest step. When you are carrying a heavy load, you rest for a moment on your back leg that is straight so that the load is aligned with your spine. Then you can step onto the front leg with the bent knee moving fluidly so that you aren’t overly weighting the muscle of the leg and knee when it’s working.

The idea as it was explained to me is to rest regularly when your load is centered and take advantage of the strength of the spine. Equally as important is to keep moving so the muscle isn’t unnecessarily stressed by pausing during the motion.

The thing I’ve noticed is that this works metaphorically as well. When carrying a heavy load, rest regularly. There are three parts to this:

  1. Rest when you can rely on your infrastructure. For me this means when I’m doing something I’ve done a zillion times and so it’s easy. Making a cup of tea. Emptying the dishwasher. Doing the part of my work that’s rote.
  2. Move steadily through anything that is stressing your muscle whether that be your learning, giving or listening muscle. The trick is to keep moving when doing tiring. Place the weight on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
  3. Be intentional. By noticing that you are giving yourself a micro-rest, you bring your brain into the loop. Although not part of the training from the guides, I think this might be the key to convincing yourself that you can carry heavy loads.

I find there are so many opportunities to do this in the holiday season. Rest while driving to a party. Take in all the scenery around you – the lights and decorations. Once arrived, move through the conversations with intention and presence. Take another rest step when driving home.

Or rest when paying bills. Take a walk to get the stamp. Then write the check and be done with it. Then rest again when walking to the mailbox to post it.

If it’s finals time at school, take a rest while brewing that cup of coffee to hold while studying. Notice the clank of the spoon against the mug, feel the warmth of the drink against your hand. Then move into studying one subject you need to perfect. Relax again by getting a glass of water before cracking open the next book.

The other day I got back to the car with my cold kids one step at a time. Eventually they will learn their own rest step technique but occasionally they are my heavy load to carry. It’s doable by taking a slight, barely perceptible by anyone other than me, rest at the right moment.

As William Blake said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” We all have our own version of heavy loads and mountains to climb. We can make it to the top one rest step at a time!

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(featured photo from Pexels)


12 thoughts on “The Rest Step

  1. “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” . . . a truth I embrace Wynne and am still blessed to enjoy at my ‘advanced state of maturity’ at a more one-day-at-a-time pace than when back in the hustle of my youth 😊

    1. Fred, you are an inspiration to us all. I can only imagine what your pace in the “hustle of your youth” was given how much you enjoy your mountains now!

  2. I often prepare dinner in stages with rests in between…prep…rest…food in the oven…rest…This is time I can use for answering emails. This sometimes causes Robert some confusion about when dinner will be ready, but I think he is adjusting. 🙂 Breaking tasks down into segments is a helpful technique as you grow older.

    My mountain climbing days are over, Wynne, but I do have beautiful memories! Your methods for carrying heavy loads are applicable for many tasks, both physical and mental. Thank you for a glimpse of your family snow day and the helpful information.

    All the best to you and your family! Many more snow days together! <3

    1. What a great example of the rest step with dinner preparation. Makes me laugh that it might confuse Robert as to when dinner is ready. Funny!

      And I love that this resonates with your mountain climbing experience. Grateful to be connected to you! Sending my best – Wynne

  3. What an experience! I like the rest step technique. I think I have been using it for years without knowing it. It helps me a lot during busy days. Thanks for sharing!

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