Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lessons about the Creative Life from Boot Camp Exercise Class

In yesterday morning's boot camp class, we went to the parking garage.  We did sprints across the deserted 7th floor, under the sky lightening with the first streaks of dawn.  We did exercises against the walls of the upper deck--and then, we sprinted some more.

A week ago, I was running up the stairs of the doctor's office building (our gym/wellness center is on the 8th floor of the building)--yes, I was running up the stairs.  Usually I would not use that verb when it comes to my progress up the stairs; I'd use words like "trudge," "slog," and "huff."  But last week, before I had a chance to tell myself that I couldn't do it, there I was, zipping up the stairs.

My Tuesday morning boot camp class is the toughest thing I do each week.  The instructor changes every 4 weeks, and the workout changes every week.    One week we're using weights, the next week we're using stretchy bands, and occasionally we use the counterweight of our own bodies.  Some weeks we do more aerobic workouts in a variety of ways:  stairs, running, dancing down deserted hallways.  Other weeks we focus more on weight workouts.  Often, we do a variety.  One instructor likes to have us punch, while another has us work with partners.  We never know what to expect.  We do know that it will be both grueling and fun.

I come back to this theme occasionally on this blog, and once again, I'm seeing connections between my work out life and other aspects of my life.  What can Tuesday morning boot camp class teach us about the creative life?

The main thing that leaps out at me is that there are many different routes towards the same goal.  In my boot camp class, we're all there for the same reason:  we want to maintain the fitness that we have and build on it.  Boot camp class shows us all the ways we could do that, with a variety of aerobic activity (stairs, dancing, obstacle courses, sprinting), strength training (abs, free weights, machines, bands), and some flexibility training.  In my creative life, too, there are many routes to the finished product.

Early on, I decided to do what I could each day.  I have a friend who says that she needs a long stretch of time--6-8 hours--to fully immerse herself in her writing.  But guess how often she has that kind of time?  Almost never.

She could retrain herself to work in smaller segments.  I know that she could, because I used to be that person who wouldn't start on a creative project if I had an appointment later in the day.  What if I really got going on something important and then had to quit?

Now I would say that it would be a nice problem to have.    Now I would make a note for where I was headed.  And guess what?  The next day would be that much easier.

We do better in most aspects of our life if we approach it as a daily practice.  Even though my Tuesday morning boot camp class is tough, it's not the only thing I do.  I exercise every day except for Sunday, and some times, I have 2 workouts a day.  But even on days when I don't do anything more rigorous than go for a leisurely walk, it's all adding up to a Kristin who is in better health than she would be if she did nothing.

Likewise, in my writing life, I do something to further my goal every day.  Even if I can't write something new, I can make notes about what I'll do when I have time to write.  I can send out some submissions.  Even if I'm not working at full steam, I'm making progress towards my goal.

In many ways, I think this diversity is good.  It keeps me from getting bored.  It gives me a variety of activities to do.

Likewise in boot camp class, we move quickly from activity to activity; most of our classes are set up to run on a circuit where we spend no more than 75 seconds at any given station.  Yesterday, we didn't spend the whole hour sprinting--we'd have all lost enthusiasm for that after about 3 minutes.  But we can do anything for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

If we look at most people with successful creative lives, we find that most people have learned to work with the time they have.  No time to paint and clean up?  They sketch.  No time for a 5 course meal?  They make a comprehensive casserole.  No time to write for 6 hours a day?  They write for as much time as they can steal from other activities.

And along the way, they've built in mechanisms to keep from getting bored.  I wouldn't want to write nothing but poetry.  My forays into fiction delight me in different ways.

And boot camp class reminds us of another essential thing:  if we find something distasteful, it's easier to face if we break it down into smaller chunks.  Maybe we'll want to keep going for a whole hour of ab work.  Or maybe 5 minutes is enough.

Maybe we can't send out 20 packets of poetry in an afternoon, the way we once did.  But a packet or two in a week, week after week, will likely be enough.

In exercise, as with every other aspect of my life, I wish I had more time to devote to it.  I wish I had 2 or 3 selves, one of whom would exercise, one of whom would work on creative projects, and one we'd send to work at the job which pays in dollars and benefits.

Alas, in exercise, as in every other aspect, I don't have that kind of time.  But boot camp class shows that I can accomplish a lot in just 45-60 minutes.

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