Student Athlete Column: Relax and Rejuvenate


For Taylor Mascetta and the rest of Fordham, winter break is on the horizon. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Let’s get one thing straight. The two-week stretch post-Thanksgiving break is the single worst time of the year. You’re ripped away from the warm comforts of your home, filled with turkey, football and quality family time, only to be greeted with never-ending final projects the moment you step back onto campus. It’s awful, but it all leads up with the sweet release of Christmas break. Thanksgiving break is just a taste of what’s to come — much needed downtime and actually getting over ten hours of sleep. 

This got me thinking. One thing that’s often overlooked in athletics is the importance of rest. Not just physical, but mental as well. Taking a break from everything can make the most difference come race day. 

My coach reminds our team to prioritize sleep all the time. It’s been a mantra that haunts me when the clock strikes midnight. I still get about eight hours a night (coach, my bedtime is 11 p.m., I promise!), but I also take this as a reminder to relax. After all, athletes are always going, going, going. Most of my mornings consist of rolling out of bed around 6:50 a.m., then practice, then lift, then either work or class. On top of that, I’ve got podcasts, homework and live shows to work on. My coworkers tell me they don’t know how I do it. To that I say: I’m used to the grind.

But, I’m also used to burnout. The last stretch of this year’s cross country season was the most tired I’ve ever felt in my life. I’d only have time to squeeze in a half-hour nap in the most dire of situations and live off Starbucks cold brew. While I enjoyed every second of it (except for the times I practically fell asleep standing up), I knew that the eventual break would do wonders for my mental health. I tend to get overwhelmed very easily, so taking a step back from everything over Thanksgiving felt liberating. I got to eat home-cooked meals, finally crack into my new Pokemon game and watch Michigan absolutely demolish Ohio State in “The Game.” Nothing better than that. 

Athletes often feel pressured to keep pushing forward, even as their bodies and minds scream at them to stop. While pushing for one more rep often makes you stronger, it’s also important to know when to stop while you’re ahead. Constantly aiming to do the absolute most usually results in crashing and burning more frequently than success. I know this firsthand with running. If there’s a tugging in your foot, pause and check it out. Take a day off or crosstrain if necessary. Don’t run another five miles and give yourself an easily avoidable stress fracture. Been there, done that. 

I always think that the most successful people have enough trust in their training to know when to take a break, so they can come back fresher than ever. It’s important to look from the outside looking in, see all the awesome things you’re doing and acknowledge that you deserve to slow down every once in a while. You’ll enter more races with a relaxed mindset, rather than one cluttered with stress. 

Rams, we’re in the home stretch now. Two hard weeks, and then we get a month to sit back and recharge. Everyone deserves it.