Like Riding a Bike

Yo! How are we doing? Everyone having a good time writing? Are you steadily working through your plot? Are your characters cooperating? Maybe you’re taking a break because the muse is being flighty. In that case, are you taking care of yourself? Eating good meals, drinking plenty of water, getting some fresh air? Maybe you’re reading a new book. Wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well.

As for me, I can’t complain too much. Oh that doesn’t stop me, of course, but in the grand scheme of things all aspects of my life are going well. A newish development: I exercised this week. The sun came out and the air was warm and I was compelled to run.

I used to run a lot when I was younger. Never seriously, like on track or cross country, but as a means of exercise I didn’t hate it. I did ski cross country in my last two years of high school, and so I did a lot of running in the fall as conditioning for our season so that probably contributed to it a little.

The forecast for this weekend was great so I knew my husband would want to go play tennis. I decided to run a few miles during the week to “warm up” for our “court date.” We always wind up on a tennis court on the first warm and dry day of the year. It’s also usually still March and we haven’t done any sort of physical activity since the last warm and dry day of the fall, typically some time in October. (That’s going to change next winter when we finally get our own ski gear and season passes to local mountains/trails.) I wanted to get the most of our first day out on the court and cardio is always the weakest link for me at this point in the year.

So Monday after work, I came home and changed into a long-sleeved t-shirt and leggings and headed out for a jog through my neighborhood. It was 50F and sunny, the perfect weather for a post-work run. I had almost talked myself out of it. “Do I really want to run by myself?” “I’m kinda tired, maybe I’ll just curl up on the couch and watch Netflix instead.” “It’s not as warm out as I thought.” But I squashed that little voice and just went out and did it.

I know I like running. I know that the first 5 minutes are torture and that after that, I can settle into a groove and just enjoy the run. It’s not like I was running a race; I could go at whatever pace I wanted. If I needed to slow to a walk to catch my breath, that was ok. There was once a time where I believed I was a failure if I couldn’t run for a straight mile, or even a straight twenty minutes. That if I walked at any point, it was somehow proof that I was weak and shouldn’t even bother. Which tells you all you need to know about my personality.

Namely, that I set the bar insanely high for myself in everything I do. When it comes to running, even though I enjoy it when I do it, I don’t actually run that often. So when I do decide to go for a run after a long time without and find myself laboring to breathe after a short time/distance, I get discouraged and tell myself “this is why we don’t do this” and then I don’t go again for a while.

But here’s the thing. I keep coming back to it. And I keep pushing myself to run faster and farther, even when I have not had the conditioning to do so. Especially when I have not had the conditioning to do so. I admit that I am a stubborn overachiever, which is a bad habit to have when I consistently fail to meet my own high expectations.

It’s a very recent development for me that I can acknowledge that I don’t have to set outrageous goals for myself though. That it’s ok for me to admit that I’m out of shape and flabby now and won’t be able to run an 8 minute mile like I did back in high school when I was in peak physical form. That it’s ok if I need to stop; the only person I’m racing against is myself. I’m just bettering myself. If I keep it up, I can get back to that form. But I have to keep it up.

Towards the end of my second run of the week on Thursday, I noticed I was already back in the groove. It was a surreal moment of realization as it occurred to me that my legs and arms were pumping like I was in the middle of a race. Like they went “we remember this! Let’s go FASTER!” Of course, my lungs were not quite on the same page, and I started gasping as I reached my target “finish.” But I had that slight runner’s high as I was coming down the final stretch. I could do this.

Those two runs also served their purpose. My husband and I went to the high school yesterday afternoon and hit some tennis balls for a little over an hour. I did not wear out as early as I usually do for a first day out. In fact, I felt like I could have kept going. He, on the other hand, did not have time earlier in the week to prepare as I had, and his body was done after an hour. (He was wary/jealous of my preparations for this reason. “You’re gonna kick my ass,” he had said, and he was right.)

During my runs, it occurred to me that it’s much the same with writing. Sometimes when we get discouraged and take a break, we feel like we’ve failed. Like we were never good enough to begin with. And sometimes when we come back to it—because we just can’t help ourselves—it’s a struggle to get going. But we still feel like we have to. If we’d developed a habit before the break though, coming back is like riding a bike. We can fall into the groove easily once we struggle through those first few minutes of the run. If we need to take it slow, that’s fine too. It’s all going to help us come back stronger.

I certainly had a couple slow days last week. The trick was not to let them discourage me. In the month since my struggle-bus post, I’ve had many more good writing days than bad. A big part of that stems from my new mindset that not every day has to be a good one. What matters is that I’m still putting in the effort, especially on the days I walk away with little to show for it. “I can always try again tomorrow.”

Speaking of tomorrow, I will have a prompt to write! As well as the next day, and the next day, and the day after that! *counts how many days that is on her fingers* And then another one! Here is the list of those prompts!

234. Describe the day you met your best friend, from your friend’s point of view.
235. What is your favorite physical aspect of your partner? If you are single, describe something you like about a crush or your fantasy celebrity date.
236. Have you ever snooped in a friend or partner’s house?
237. What do you want more of out of life: happiness or success?
238. There is a strong current trend among kids to read comic books or graphic novels instead of regular books. What do you think about that?

Oh boy do I have words for that last one. Spoiler alert: Friday’s post is gonna be a rant! As for the others, well, I guess we’ll just have to see how they go.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend and are ready for another week of life and writing! Let’s do this thing! See you tomorrow!

PS-Like these prompts? Like the short stories I write based on these prompts? Want to show your support? Give the blog a follow! Leave a comment! Buy me a coffee! I put a lot of time and effort into these posts and your support means the world to me! Ok, now go out there and write!

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