Rest Like a Dog Sledding Champion

Aaron McHugh

I learned the hard way that I am not a robot. For decades I pushed myself to the brink of depression and emotional exhaustion. When I was younger, I was so regimented that I wouldn’t permit myself a nap as I thought naps were for lazy people.

I read an article recently that changed my beliefs about rest. I learned about Susan Butcher, a four-time winner of the infamous suffer-fest endurance dog sledding race across Alaska, the Iditarod. She held the speed record from 1986 to 1992. Prior to her disruption, the legendary Arctic men mushed in twelve-hour shifts. Twelve hours on the sled in the harsh cold followed by twelve hours off to recuperate.

Susan chose a provocative, seemingly cushier plan. She unlocked the secret weapon that crushed her opponents, three hours on followed by three hours of rest. She instituted this sustainable rhythm of work-rest-work-rest in smaller bursts for eleven straight days. She obliterated the course record by resting more frequently.

I’ve been reminding myself that like Susan, resting actually helps me go faster and farther. I now build rest into my weekly rhythm. I’ve become a big fan of naps a couple times a week. Like the legendary Arctic men, the shift that occurred for me was when I stopped believing rest was for the weak. I now believe that regular rest is the secret weapon to sustainable living. Susan changed the race forever and now her methods are adopted as the better strategy to race the Iditarod.

Rest more. Go longer. Be more productive. Live smarter.

This post is an excerpt from the Field Guide: 99 Ways to Navigate Your Best Life. Download the full guide here.

Susan Butcher Pioneered the Sled Race

Susan’s accomplishments: First to summit Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak, with a dog team. She won the Iditarod race a total of four times. She improved the influenced training and treatment of dogs sled teams.