Monday, August 6, 2012

The Challenge(s)

Olympic-mania has set in, and we can all watch hours of footage ogling the most fascinating human machines on the planet doing the thing they do best - compete. Something about it is so gosh darn inspiring. Want proof? Watch some coverage while on a treadmill at the gym, and see if you don't start working harder. 

In the spirit of the Olympics, and also to fight off the blah that is August and navigating the first month without The Gentleman here, I roped two of my friends into doing The Cardio Challenge. It's totally simple - two weeks, five days per week, forty minutes a day of cardio.  You can run, bike, swim, whatever you want to do. You can even change it up - twenty minutes on the treadmill, and another twenty on the elliptical. 

There were three intentions here:

1. To get my ass back into a regular gym-going habit. Since the batshit crazy of summer descended, I was making to the gym sporadically. Which, for me, is about three times a week. Save your breath. I AM AN ACTIVE PERSON. But also, I needed to get back into the 5-a-week habit because this week begins training for the Baltimore Half Marathon, which I dutifully signed up for even though all of my running buddies had to bail on me this year. For various reasons, which are all mostly bullshit, like "total debilitating injury" or "moving to the Middle East." Wow, thanks a lot, slackers. You guys suck. Kidding! Smooches.

2. To set a goal that might offset my funk that has me sighing deeply at regular intervals and staring out of windows. It'll pass. 

3. Because my two friends also needed a kick in the ass to get back into some healthy habits and routines.

So, in a series of inspiring, insulting, challenging, and bragging text messages and public Facebook posts, the three of us embarked on our challenge. We texted each other pictures of the time clock on the treadmill, harassed one another when someone failed to pull through, and threatened double make-up time for failure to put in the requisite 40 minutes. It was fun, it was inspiring, and it was just enough of a challenge to be helpful but not daunting. 

Which led to this brainful idea: I happened to be Happy Hour Skyping with Lee and Hot Curry, and Lee and I were both bitching poetical about how hard it is to find time to write, and how sometimes just the act of sitting your butt down in the chair can be so daunting. It occurred to me that in my time of training for races, I have often found the schedule grueling or daunting but it has never deterred me from actually slapping on my running shoes and hitting the pavement. And now, in training for my third half-marathon, I wonder why the discipline doesn't translate.

Which led to this: The Writing Challenge. Same basics: forty minutes a day, five days a week. But with writing. 

It seems completely terrifying to me.

And not just writing anything, like this blog entry so does not count. It has to be writing towards this book, for which I have pages and pages of scribbled notes just waiting to be crafted and formed into hilarious narrative. I have the ideas, the basic skill set, and the time - it's just a matter of actually doing it.

Physical challenges, like training for long races, have never seemed as terrifying to me as this. Actually embarking on the act of writing is so scary, I think, because the idea of failure is much bigger. I never claimed to be a runner, so my measure of success was basically, "Just actually run." But I do claim to be a writer, and I claim to want to write a book, and for me the stakes for that kind of goal is so much higher. 

Going into this challenge, I'm really not sure what will come out of it. If it will feel torturous, or bring out the worst self-doubt in me, or if it will unlock something. 

I have no idea what is so utterly scary to me about the act of writing. I squirm around it, I procrastinate, I decide that I can't write because the lighting in my room isn't right and I spend the next two hours relocating all of the lamps. 

Whereas I can set out a 9-week training schedule for a half marathon, and shrug it off as part of my daily routine. Wake up, run 9 miles, go to work, no biggie.

I wonder if part of the manageability of training for something daunting is that it's broken out into a day-by-day process that feels doable, whereas the prospect of writing a book is just so overwhelming that it's a total mental trip. 

Hence, the idea for The Writing Challenge. For me, it's all about discipline and the act of having to show up, every day, for writing with the same mindset as I show up for running. It's building muscles and creating habits, and working on a foundation of strength that will translate into truly great performances over time. I like the analogy, and it's something I can wrap my head around. 

Also, between that and training, it's keeping me busy so I'm not counting the days until October 31 when I can fly to Abu Dhabi to see The Gentleman. That too.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I am ready!

Also, I should have mentioned during our Skype date Murakami's autobiographical book of essays/musings "What I Talk About when I Talk about Running." He muses over the same comparison between running and writing.