Resting on the Run

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March 27, 2015 by Ray Yanek

7 Things I’ve Learned about Writing through Running

Thing #7: You have to rest–I think.

Look at any runner’s training schedule, whether it be the Couch to Five K program or the more advanced Hal Higdon’s half-marathon training.  Look any workout program for that matter, from Crossfit to any body building system.  An important part of these workouts is always–always–rest.

Rest.

Just like your body needs carbs and other proper nutrients to recover and grow stronger, so too does it need rest.

Some fitness experts even recommend taking not just rest days but an intermittent rest week.

Resting is common sense.  No one ever doubts the importance of rest in regards to working out.

But people often do doubt the benefits of taking a rest from writing, even though intense writing can often leave us feeling like we’ve run consecutive marathons.

The common advice from books, blogs, Twitter, interviews, etc.  is that we cannot take breaks, that we need to write everyday.

I’m struggling with my feelings about rest days in writing. The logic behind writing every day seems valid.  Writing everyday helps the writer get work done.  It whittles away at those pages little-by-little, bit-by-bit.  You stay in your story which keeps the voice and elements consistent.   You stay in the flow.

When you run you never, ever, want to stop in the middle of the run–not to pee, not to tie your shoe, not to cry–because when you stop it’s incredibly hard to get started again.

The same seems true with writing.  Take a couple of days off and it’s a struggle to get back into the flow.  You spend more time trying to find the rhythm than you do actually producing work.

Sometimes though, I have weeks like this one, where my head feels hazy, I can’t find ideas, characters aren’t talking, and things are generally just dragging ass.  My mental knees are aching and everything is screaming that I should step back and take a few days off.

The common advice when working out is that one should listen to the body, right?  So why shouldn’t one listen to the brain as well?

I think, at least for me, the answer falls in a compromise as answers so often do.

A couple of years ago some friends and I tried the P90x program, which also included rest phases.  These were active rest phases though, not periods where you sat around and did nothing.  You weren’t hitting the high intensity levels of the regular program. Instead, you were doing  soft exercise such as stretching and yoga and light cardio sessions. The rest phase allowed you to recover, but not stop completely.  It kept you on a schedule and kept you showing up everyday.

The active rest phase is what I think I need as a writer every couple of months so that I can recharge and avoid the negatives of mental over-training.  These are phases where I can just let my creativity play–play with creating fun characters, doing some research, reading, exploring ideas, anything that keeps my mind flexible and limber.

This will keep me in the rhythm, keep me in the routine, and make the transition back to the actual writing that much easier.

So what do you think?  Active rest?  Full rest? No rest?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

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3 thoughts on “Resting on the Run

  1. Pamela Liegl says:

    Uhmmm. I liked that statement about not stopping in the middle of a race, but in watching Olympic runners I notice they have different paces throughout the race. Maybe just a change of pace would work. Doing math, which is what I do, I like a break more often than not. Doing a sodoku puzzle or numbrix puzzle or logic puzzle is a good change of pace. Sometimes I do just plain old bad math (to see if my students are paying any attention and usually someone is). So write a bad character sketch and critique it later. Who knows what could develop.

    PL

  2. I go for active rest

  3. zeuslyone says:

    I definitely think there is a necessary rest phase. I write a lot for a while, and It’s important for me to put any inspired ideas to the page soon after I have them (within a couple days), or they will not be written, ever. Plus, if I start writing, even more creativity flows out that was not necessarily originally intended. Yet.. If I push too hard all the time, I run out of ideas and then the fatigue of writer’s block looms large. This is enough to make writing feel like a chore, and the initial intrinsic motivation of joy is crushed. When this happens, the longer term act of writing may fall by the wayside more permanently than if I take a day or even a week to let my inspiration return. I wonder about simple writing practices like “morning pages” to strike a balance: open-ended writing without any intention of making it into anything. This would be an active rest, as per your metaphor, and I’m finding that journaling my life and my dreams keeps this going for me (I don’t write fiction, after all… at least not yet). In any case, I’m saying that I agree. Resting, particularly active resting, is important and beneficial for creativity and inspiration.

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