I have been so busy in the last couple of months that it’s been hard to find time to eat and sleep properly. Exercise totally goes by the wayside — not good! Brent, on the other hand, always remembers that exercise is just as important as food or sleep. Rather than nag, though, he offered me some tactful support Sunday night. He simply aired up my bike tires for me and handed me a Bicycling Magazine article (“Faster Fitness,” October 2010). “I know you’re pressed for time,” he said. “Maybe this will help.” The article asks how much time you have to ride, and suggests three different workouts for each of three time frames. The shortest was 30-45 minutes. Surely I could squeeze in about 40 minutes, so I read the first of those workout plans.
The workout calls for a 10-minute warmup, then a series of 30-second all-out sprint intervals with a 2 1/2-minute recovery between them. After ten or twelve of these intervals, you cool down. Maybe it was just compared to the stress, but that actually sounded kind of fun. Certainly manageable, in terms of both intensity and overall duration. Yes, I said; I’ll do it first thing tomorrow! Before going to bed I set out cycling clothes, thus committing myself to follow through. (You can’t get up the next morning and pretend not to notice that lurid day-glo orange jersey hanging over the chair.)
7:45 Monday morning found me warming up along the straight, almost-flat road leading away from our neighborhood. Still feeling pinched for time, I made do with a 7-minute warmup, then hit the first interval. I could never ride that hard for long, but 30 seconds went by with no obvious damage. After the recovery time, I was ready for another sprint. I rode the route I had planned, and got in nine of the intervals.
I felt great, physically and mentally — as if I had made some progress without wasting my whole morning at it. My average speed was higher than usual, too. Still nothing to write home about, but the point is that it improved.
Later, it occurred to me that living under all this stress and pressure (trying to get my parents’ house empty before its sale closes next week, while simultaneously chasing magazine deadlines, preparing for my father’s memorial service and trying to help my mom with routine daily business from afar) is sort of like a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng bike ride. Uphill and/or into the wind. I can’t hammer at top speed for three solid weeks. No one could.
So now what I am trying to do is to tackle the work in intervals: take care of one project, maybe working super-hard for a whole day, then stop for some down time. Maybe it’s just wasting an hour on something silly like watching television, or maybe a more beneficial activity like walking a mile.
I can enjoy the down time, as long as I feel I have legitimately accomplished something. Also, if I pause to get a relaxed start to the day, I find I accomplish more in the first place. By alternating intervals and recovery I am less likely to burn out, become overly crabby, or just unravel into despair.
Come to think of it, the idea of intervals is not new, and not the invention of cycling coaches. For centuries God has been telling us to intersperse work and recovery; He calls the recovery time a sabbath. “Enter into My rest,” He invites us.
All of this reminded me that Jen, one of my “Company Girls” online friends (see “Home Sanctuary” sidebar link), blogged about this concept a few weeks ago. Perhaps I have had enough reminders now? Do you think I’ve learned to calm down and just breathe?
Oh look, there’s yet another box of papers to sort. Maybe I’ll have some coffee first… or a walk…
Thanks for reading!