writing rengeek magpie mind

July 2014

S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
criminal minds reid runs like a girl

give me things that don't last long


On Endurance:

She got to get behind the mule
In the morning and plow.

She got to get behind the mule
In the morning and plow.

--Tom Waits


Last night I wrote 4000 words. Today, I ran twelve miles.

These two activities are not really dissimilar. They require good prep, training, proper rest and nutrition, and they're the sort of feats that become destructive if repeated on a daily basis, unless you are some kind of Eddie Izzard freak of nature. (Seriously. Eddie Izzard. Fucking amazing.

It wasn't easy, and actually on the run, I pushed myself a bit too far. I've run 11.4 miles before (I'm training for a half marathon in March) but apparently there is some kind of two-hours-of-intense-exercise time limit on my body) with no ill effects other than muscle soreness, but despite the fact that I really felt like I was ready for this, the last half mile was a series of negotiations with myself along the lines of "We're doing this with or without you, meat, so you may as well get on board and help push." And I suffered a fair amount of nausea and GI distress after I got home, which is just about gone four hours later.

My requisite post-run snack was a challenge to get down, I will tell you that. And I am going to be seriously under for calories today.

Oh, well. Except for yoga, tomorrow is a rest day.

But there was a whole long part where I was running with a tailwind beside a leaden lake, half-thawed and tossing in that stiff breeze, and I felt like I could run forever. The same stride I hit yesterday in my writing, where I was just cruising along, crushing page count. In a few minutes, I'm going to have to get to work on today's writing obligation. It won't be an endurance event like yesterday's outing, just an easy eight pages or so.

But that's another thing. When I was running two miles regularly, running two miles seemed really hard. Now it's a pleasant quick run, over before I'm really warmed up. Even four miles is perfectly comfortable now.

Writing eight pages doesn't seem bad when you wrote twenty the day before.

Your body and mind adapt to what you expect of them, and it helps to get better performance out of them overall when occasionally you push them past the point of comfort. You get faster by running faster, even beyond what's comfortable. You get more efficient and creative as an artist by pushing your boundaries, by expecting more of yourself. Not necessarily more pages, though I think sometimes it's very satisfying to blow it out and see just what you can accomplish, but more ideas, more craft, more technique, more characterization, more beautiful language.

Any personal trainer will tell you that if you repeat the same workout over and over again, your body adapts to it and you stop improving. You stop benefiting. To continue to gain you have to push yourself to do things that are a little uncomfortable. A little too hard.

But you also have to know your limits. Because if you push yourself to the point of exhaustion every day, all you get is diminishing returns. Your body and mind get weaker, worn down--not stronger, fiercer, sharper, more capable.

It would be fucking stupid, in other words, for me to go out again tomorrow and try to run another twelve miles. I'd hurt myself. Perhaps seriously.

I mean, my goal is that by March, this exercise (which today I found exhausting) will be--if not trivial--well within my abilities. It had better be, because I have to run thirteen miles, not just twelve.

But next week, I only have to run nine and a half on my long run. Which is still strenuous, but will seem pretty luxurious by comparison to today.

Writing a novel is a lot like training for a marathon. It demands endurance and consistency, but also--brains need a balance of activity and rest. Creativity needs time to work. Of course, I do this for a living, which means creativity also has to work to a schedule or I go hungry, and I also inconvenience a lot of people. But the mind, like the body, needs nourishment and downtime.

I could not have done what I did today without a serious breakfast, nutrition and hydration along the way (dried apricots and Mott's fruit snacks are my poison of choice), and I could not do it again later if I didn't get protein and carbs in my head afterwards. Likewise, I can't create if I don't consume--art, the world, information in all its forms.

People sometimes ask why on earth I would run--why I would tolerate the discomfort and inconvenience. It's because, for me, having a fit body that can meet my demands and sometimes even exceed my expectations is a greater pleasure than sitting on the sofa eating ice cream. Which is not to say that I don't sit on the sofa eating ice cream, because you bet your ass I do. And drinking bourbon, too, on occasion. I don't love running--but I love how easy it makes it to do other things that I do love.

It's a question of opportunity cost. Writing books is hard and sometimes uncomfortable too, but I do that maybe sixty hours a week and I only run about four or five. The rewards of both are evident--a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of well-being. And at the end, I have something to show for it, which is pretty awesome too.

Comments

I've been getting so much better at academics since I learned that pushing myself into burnout actually isn't the most efficient way to get the homework done. Still working on figuring out how to push myself safely on the physical front, but as the same principle applies, I'm bound to get it eventually.
And you know, if you overdo it... as I did today... you rest. *g* And maybe eat a cupcake.
I am celebrating homework moderation with leftover banana bread. Right now!
Just got your critique of my chapters on OWW and wanted to say that I really appreciate your comments. I've been following your blog for years--in fact, I first heard about OWW through one of your posts.

Congrats on the excellent run! I'm looking forward to some long distance runs myself, but I hate the cold, so I'm waiting for spring... In the meantime, suppose I should work on my endurance writing.
My very great pleasure. Good work. ;-)

Yeah, when it's under 20 degrees, running is miserable. Or over 75. Fortunately, today was a weird balmy thaw day, and I took advantage. *g*
Heh, generally under 50 degrees is miserable for me. On the other hand, I can run pretty comfortably into the 80s, so I guess it's a trade-off. ;)
Congrats on the run! Also, wise words, these. (I need to work harder on making fallow time for myself, rather than running into the ground over and over again.)
I hear ya. It's not easy, but....
This is inspiring and encouraging to read and comes at just the right time for me. I need to learn this too. Thanks, Bear.
I hear you about pacing. That's why it's taking me two weeks to clean my house. I'm talking serious, moving furniture and vacuuming underneath, getting rid of furniture, moving furniture from room to room,, cleaning house. Good feng shui to start the new year (Feb 4) with a clean house.
Those of us who were no good at hockey in school were allowed to go running, once we got into the 6th form and could be trusted not to bunk off. After about 2 years of this, I got to the point where I could run a mile and it nearly killed me. I was tall and thin, and could run extremely fast as a sprint, but stamina-based running never improved, so I gave it up, with great relief, and haven't done it since.
Awesome work on the 12 miles.

I need to work up to that distance.. If it ever warms up in MN that is. Got a Tough Mudder to make it through this summer.
Excelsior!

I might do Run For Your Lives in December. For my sins.
I will be a zombie chaser at the Minnesota Event in July.
Honestly, that sounds like even more fun. I was thinking of doing both...
I was inspired by your post so I went to the gym and did some yoga and core work today. Now I am sore but feeling satisfied. Nothing a little ibuprofen with a martini chaser won't fix. Long may you run!