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As journeys do, I’ve come across more hurdles and discovered more ways I can use lessons learned from one to influence the other.
Starting is a decision made every day. Ask many an accomplished writer and they will say one of the hardest parts of writing is starting. Every. Day. I’ve found this to be true of both practices. I choose to sit down to write something even when I don’t feel “inspired” or “tortured.” If I don’t write something every day, I will get out of the habit. I choose to run as soon as possible in the day before I find an excuse to skip. In running’s case, I’ve come too far to in my endurance to stop now.
Revere the 15-minute increment. I’d love to say each day is open for me to run and write to my heart’s content but this isn’t reality. Day jobs, family, holidays—all of these present challenges to routines. When life’s surprises become obstacles, I give myself permission to run or write for just fifteen minutes. That’s it. It goes back to the small steps that make up each practice. It’s enough to keep the momentum of moving forward but makes room for life.
Avoid plateaus by incorporating challenges. Muscles adapt quickly. Demand continuous improvement from them by changing up the routine. In writing, I try flash fiction, timed free writing, poetry. In running, I incorporate sprint days, long run days, and walk/run intervals all within a week's time.
Take appropriate breaks. As writers, we’ve all been told to “write every day” and, while I agree it’s important to write every day, I think the advice applies more to writing in general and not to a particular project. Yes, if I want to finish a piece I have to dedicate time to it but it’s important to take a step back from said piece to give it fresh eyes. I journal or use short creative writing prompts to let a bigger project breathe. In regards to running, we are all aware of why we need to take breaks. On non-running days I engage my body in other ways—yoga, walking, hiking, dance parties with my toddlers. It’s fun and necessary to remember the amazing ways my body moves around. Running and writing benefit from rejuvenation; rejuvenation happens when I step back.
Embrace the view. Goals are great but life is filled with obstacles and setbacks. I learned I must not only endure the journey but embrace it. When I started running, I had one goal—lose the baby weight. After I accomplished that, the goal became speed and time. When winter and two months of illness hit, I lost all the hard work I’d made with my endurance. I was devastated. I wanted to quit running but I remembered that “starting is an every day decision” so I laced up the shoes, hit the pavement, and, instead of focusing on my setbacks or my goals, I focused on the run itself: what the temperature felt like on my skin, the peaceful sounds of nature, the feel of keeping my core tight, the very fact that I was healthy enough to be running at all. In writing, I have deadlines that give me stress. I get “thanks, but no thanks” rejection emails that send me to bed with a box of tissues. What brings me back again and again is the joy I get when putting words together that fit just right, or sentences that make me step back and think “damn, that’s good.” This trek through writing, the peaks and the valleys, showed me how, as a runner, I needed to slow down and enjoy the view.
I've learned so much about myself in trying to keep writing and running in my life amid other aspects vying for my time and attention. I've redefined what success looks like for me. Less idealistic and more practical. Both practices are richer for it.