Thursday looked like it was going to be yet another day that I would shortchange myself on working out. I’d been in the latter stages of a book deadline crisis for the past three weeks, my every moment occupied with writing or fretting over why I wasn’t writing. My ability to get out for a ride, to take a long run, to go for a night hike or to hit the climbing wall had suffered. Driving back from a meeting in Durham I felt the pull of the deadline yanking me away from yet another workout. I was cranky.
The situation felt vaguely familiar: Crushing deadlines keeping me from getting out. Then it hit, the reason it felt familiar. I sped home (not to be confused with “speeding” home), changed into my running gear, set my watch for 30 minutes and ran until the alarm rang. The following two hours behind the keyboard were two of the most productive I’d had in a while.
Years ago, in college, I’d been in a similar situation. It was spring semester of my senior year. I was trying to graduate. I was trying to find a job. I was running the daily student newspaper. And I was getting married a week after graduation. My running suffered because I didn’t see any way I could break away for an hour and a half and run eight miles. For some reason, though, breaking away for three half-hour runs didn’t seem nearly as indulgent. So every morning for several weeks I’d get up at 6 and run three miles. I’d take a break around 1 in the afternoon, run three more miles. Then, in the early evening, I’d run another three. The thrice-daily runs not only gave me much-needed energy boosts throughout the day, they broke up the monotony of work and studying, they relieved the anxiety of looking for a job, and they mitigated the insanity of getting married. It was my salvation. And I realized it could be again.
At the time, I elected to do three-mile runs because that’s about how far I could run in 30 minutes, including stretching and warmdown. At the time, conventional wisdom held that you needed to do a minimum of 30 minutes of continuous exercise to see any benefit. That thinking has since … evolved. Some say you need 30 minutes, but can do it in three 10-minute increments. The Federal government says you need 60 minutes a day, minimum. And there’s a whole movement now that says 4 minutes a day is plenty. Call me stuck in the past, but I still believe you need 30 minutes of continuous exercise, but that you should get a minimum of 60 minutes a day. Which would mean that I need to fit in two 30-minute workouts a day, regardless of my schedule.
So far, I’m on target. I followed up Thursday’s 30-minute run with 30 minutes of strength training later in the day. Friday, I did 30 minutes of strength training in the morning, in the afternoon Marcy and I took a 30-minute walk. Today, I plan to go all out and do all 60 minutes at once, on a ride on the singlespeed. Best of all? I think I’m going to make my deadline.
And because I believe in coming completely clean on these matters, I should add that while I hope I reap the same short-term rewards that I did 31 years ago — a boost in energy, a rejuvenated focus, the ability to sit still for another 3-hour stint and work — I’m hoping to avoid the long-term effect of that driving pace.
After five weeks, I got mono.