Stamina–CoronaLife Day 607

Every day at bedtime, my daughter complains that her legs ache. This is not a surprise. After 18 months of mostly being home, combined with being on crutches all of August and in an ankle brace all of September, she is tremendously out of shape. That 40 minutes of exercise in gym every day has her muscles balking.

I sit here watching her swim laps, working on her endurance with the rest of her class…and I realize she is not the only one in need of more stamina.

My daily fatigue has been with me since the pandemic started, and I attributed a lot of it to my anxiety levels being through the roof. My anxiety often manifests as deep fatigue. Add to that the fact that I often only get about 6 hours of sleep a night, and it made sense.

But now I think there is another factor. As we move back to a more normal-ish existence, I am going out more. Socializing more. Interacting more.

And my mental and social muscles are flabby. I have no stamina.

The 45 minute drive to my folks’ house, which used to be nothing, is a grueling trek.

Going to a meeting in person makes me want to hibernate.

Focusing for 4 hours at an online conference drains me.

I need to build my stamina again.

I find myself working in bursts, trading spurts of productivity with times of scrolling mindlessly online or napping.

Concentration and socializing skills need exercise to stay in shape. This is the “learning loss” I have experienced during this upheaval.

While my daughter works on her swimming endurance, I will continue to work on getting myself back in mental shape.

I hope I can, because I am tired of not feeling like myself. It will take work, time, and patience–which is just another way of saying stamina.

The New Regimen: Checking In

When my daughter started full-time Kindergarten in September, I celebrated. I was full of plans for how to break out my days and how to balance home-work responsibilities.

So now we’re halfway through October. How’s the new regimen been working for me? Time to check in.

First, I was going to get a lot of writing done. So much writing. I have not gotten as much of that done as I had hoped. I do get my blog post done more quickly, and I have been able to get to other writing in spurts, but not in the focused manner I had envisioned. Part of the problem is that I have taken naps in the afternoon far more than I would like. I’m just not sleeping well at night lately, and if I don’t grab an hour in the afternoon, I am wrecked by the evening.

Second, I was going to get some of these non-writing projects under control and off my To-Do list. I have actually accomplished several of these projects, although, again, not as many as I had hoped. Still, it’s nice to see that To-Do list get smaller!

Third, I wanted to incorporate my exercise routine while my daughter was at school. This I have done fairly well. I generally complete all my walking before I get her from school. In fact, the walk to pick her up usually finishes my step goal for the day. I break up the walking into a few short walks during the day, which gets me out of my chair and gets the blood moving again. So it helps me with the work side of things, too.

Finally, I wanted to try and end the constant push-pull of having to “choose” between working and spending time with my daughter. Whenever I would work while she was home, I would feel guilty. Whenever I would play with her instead of work, I would feel the weight of everything I could be getting done. It was a no-win situation for me—part of my mind was always somewhere else.

In this, at least, I have been pretty successful so far. Because I am able to get the things I must get done finished before I pick my daughter up from school, I can relax into spending the afternoon/evening hours with her until she goes to bed. We can chat or play or go to her extra-curricular events without me feeling pressured by things yet to do. I spent 4 hours at a local farm this weekend going hayriding, pumpkin picking, having lunch, and watching her play, and not once did I stress over things left undone. We had a fun, beautiful day out together.

My relationship with my daughter was the most important part of this new regimen for me, so I feel as if I have made a very successful start. However, I need to address the other parts of the new regimen that are not working so well.

My main problem is focus. The concrete things I know I need to do, I always get done. But then I drift on all the nebulous things I need to do but don’t have to do just yet—with the result that none of them get done. I need to break those things into discreet, concrete pieces and assign them a day. If I can do that, I believe I will find my productivity rising to the level I want. Without a focused, concrete list, my laziness expands to fit my free time.

So overall, my new writing plan is succeeding in the most important parts, but needs some work and adjustment. As is the way of the world, I expect I will finally have my new regimen tweaked and humming along just in time for Christmas break, when it will all fall apart again!

How do you make sure you stick to schedules?

The Revision Exercise Regimen

Revision is a lot like starting a new exercise program. They both have very distinct stages you have to pass through before arriving at the end.

The hardest stage for a lot of people is getting started. Most of us need to exercise more, and we know it, but getting started is tough. It means finding time to exercise instead of doing all the other, more fun, things I want to spend time on. Revision is the same way, particularly when it’s a large revision. It’s overwhelming and I feel like I’m never going to be able to get to the end of it. So I procrastinate, doing all the “fun” writing things instead.

But finally, I have to take the plunge.

That first week on a new exercise program is tough. Aching muscles. Fatigue. Sweat. I so want to give up during this first week, and the revision process can be equally as painful. Those first few revision sessions are spent planning my attack, marshalling my details so I don’t forget to do something. My brain aches from juggling all the revision details, my eyes are tired from looking at the screen, and I’m sweating because I am positive there is no way I can get this done.

It is so easy to quit at this point. But I can’t—not if I want to reap the rewards.

Slowly my body adjusts to the new normal. The achy, tired muscles go away. My metabolism ramps up and I find myself haunting the kitchen for snacks (which I do not buy for this very reason). The revision program hits this phase, too. When I’m actually doing the revising, checking things off my lists, my brain ramps up—it’s playful, creative, eager to move forward. Ideas flow and connections get made that I didn’t see before.

After a while, I notice a change in my body. I feel stronger. I have more stamina. In revision, I grow in confidence, I am energized by the process. I can see the finish line, glowing like a beacon in the distance.

In the end, if I’ve persevered, I end up with a leaner, stronger, healthier body. The same is true with my novel. After the days of disciplined revision, the book is leaner, the story stronger, the whole healthier than when I began.

For me, sticking to an exercise regimen is really hard, because I find no joy in exercise at all. I’ve never once experienced the “exercise high” others have. Revision, on the other hand, I do enjoy. I love cutting the chaff and strengthening the story. “Writer’s high”? Maybe the difference is that to maintain my body once I reach a goal, I need to keep exercising, while with a manuscript, there’s a finite end point. While you may have to revise multiple times, at some point you stop and call it “done.”

But the key to success, as in so many things in life, is perseverance.

So get started, stick to it, and reach your goal!

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