Several weeks ago, our spin class teacher had a very simple approach to our class. We would climb for six minutes, go fast for 20 seconds, and then recover for three minutes. Then we'd do it again, cycle after cycle, until class was over.
Some teachers have more complicated routines. For example, we might climb switchback style, adding gears and pedaling for 30 seconds, taking off gears and pedaling, adding one here, taking off two there. I like those routines because they keep calling me back to the moment, reminding me to be present.
But when we did our streamlined routine several weeks ago, I was reminded of the benefit of a simple approach. When it was time to climb, I added as much gear as I could stand and pumped away. When it was time to speed, I took much of the gear off and went as fast as I could. We didn't worry about the music--although I like a routine matched to the beat of the music, the beat of any particular song seemed less important that day.
As I think about that approach and the satisfying workout that I had that day, I wonder if we could adopt a similar approach to other areas of life. I think about my creative work, about all the various projects I have going at any given time. Would I better off if I simply worked on poems?
I think of our approach to teaching Composition, which I've taught in a variety of ways. I think one of the less successful ways is to say, "O.K. this week we're writing a process essay. Next week, we'll write an argumentative essay. Let's move on to a research essay." I would rather have a stripped down approach: tell me what's interesting to you this week.
Of course, the danger to this approach is that students don't always know how to approach that kind of essay. Or they choose a topic that really needs research. Or the choosing of the topic takes so much time that there's no time left to polish the writing.
The other lesson to come out of the simple approach to spin class is to remember that one single approach would never satisfy most of us for long. It's a nice change of pace, but I wouldn't want it day after day.
It's a good tool to have in our toolboxes, as we approach much of life. If I'm feeling frustrated, in teaching, in creative life, I'll try to remember to focus on just one aspect, for at least a little time.