I am a cyclist.
one might even call me an athlete, an endurance athlete, as I train for and complete ridiculously long and challenging rides.
for the past 8 years I have trained for an event called lotoja, a 206-mile race from logan, utah, to jackson, wyoming. the event occurs in september and is the carrot at the end of the stick that dangles before me all spring and summer. I ride 6 days a week, I ride long and hard on saturdays, and I always–every year–hit a state of burnout.
the first year it surprised me. I was tired, grumpy, unexcited about riding, feeling pressured, and just plain worn out . . . I didn’t understand. so I went to my friend google, and found an excellent guide from an ivy league college’s cycling team that discussed effective training: work hard during most rides, but always add in an easy day or two each week. I had been riding hard each time I rode, climbing up canyons, pushing myself, always working to improve my times and strength.
make one day a recovery day? spin easily, go slower, don’t challenge myself so much? wow. okay. I added that piece to my training schedule, and life improved.
yet every year, come late july or so, I hit burnout. and it reminds me to back off, rest, not push so hard. recover.
this past year I researched and wrote a book. I worked hard, I pushed. it flowed, I loved it, I gained wisdom and knowledge and deepened my connection with earth and others. after a developmental edit and working through revisions, in early june I turned the manuscript over to my publishers. and have struggled to write anything since that time. I’ve told myself it’s a well-needed break, that I’m refueling, that I will write again soon. but even my blogging–the regular turning out of a brief essay which is similar to my daily riding–has shriveled to a bare occasional post.
it’s not writer’s block. it’s burnout. and what I need, what will heal me, is a lot of recovery. a lot of easy spinning, a slow down, an absence of challenges. and just as my “recovery rides” often seem to take forever (they are so slow! sometimes boring!), this period of writing-recovery seems to be taking longer than I want it to.
but I know it’s necessary. I must be gentle with myself, and allow the time to rebuild mental muscles, endurance, tenacity. muscles gain strength from being stressed then given time to recover. I will be a better writer from having buried myself in work, then allowing a time of non-work.
lotoja is 8 days away. I have ridden thousands of miles during the past few months, and I have challenged my body then let it recover. I will ride well, I will complete the race; all of my work–and recovery–these past months will pay off.
I will write again. I will write better than before. for I have challenged myself, and I’ve allowed myself this period of recovery filled with reading, yoga, housework, other physical labor. recovery heals and strengthens, as difficult as it sometimes is to not function at your optimum level.
so I will read a few more books, maybe jot a few things in my journal if so inspired, take a walk, make a batch of peach jam with a friend. always filled with faith that the writing will come, will return, will always be with me as long as I let it ebb and flow. to quote hemingway and add just a teeny tweak,
Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. or later.