Hullo. I’m back now.
After my mixed bag exercise at Head of the American, last week was my week off.
Why did I take a week off?
originally asked by Sachiel.
In most training plans, athletes are encouraged to take at least one week a year off. For a lot of rowers, this often happens in August/September — it’s a natural break between sprint season ending & fall head racing beginning.
In my case, it happened in July — I wasn’t going to Canadian Henley, so after tearing down the course at Mercer like a bull in a china shop, I’d had a break and started training for the fall in August.
With my right arm injured & the decision not to row NARF, I took the week after Head of the American off — not only in the hopes of allowing my elbow/forearm to heal up, but also so that I could do a second step test to be compared to the one from earlier this fall. I’ll most likely do lactate testing with the kids at Beach!Boathouse in December, but since my first step test was done right after I’d been Sick Because of the Wheat, we did another to see if there was any difference or I just… suck.
(no, I don’t know the answer to that one yet, The Man Doing the Math had two high school regattas to run that Saturday & Sunday – we squinched it in last Friday due to timing of training schedule, so we both knew he’d get back to me with actual results when he gets a chance to breathe.)
For the record, a week off doesn’t mean I sat around on a couch watching TV & eating bon-bons. Instead of doing say, seven workouts in five days, I only did 3, and I was indeed completely off the water for… actually come to think of it I still haven’t been back on the water – my first days back that the boathouse have been erg workouts. #sad
so this is what other people do…
It’s an odd thing, a week off. The only comparison I can make is that it’s like when you work a 9-to-5 job and then there’s that one day when, for one reason or another, you’re not at your job and are instead out & about in the world. You drive around, go to the grocery store, Do Things Out in the World, and think, “So this is what happens in the rest of the world when I’m
avoiding meetings and playing WordsWithFriends compiling code? Huh.”
I remember talking to one of the junior alums Alle when she came home for Christmas her freshman year. After four years rowing in high school, she got to uni in NY and decided that college rowing was not for her.
“It’s kinda weird at first, isn’t it?” I’d asked her.
“Oh my god,” she’d exclaimed, “I got like, twenty hours a week of my life back. I didn’t know what to do with myself!”
…and in a way, it’s like that. You look at your schedule & decide it’s going to be an All the Things! week. You’re going to Clean All the Things! and Make All the Food! and Catch Up on All the Client Work!
…and that totally, totally, completely doesn’t happen.
You think you know … but you have no idea.
What actually happens is that you get home from the regatta, and after having driven 12-14 hours in three days, drop all your crap in the middle of the living room, consider a shower, decide that you’ll just sit on your couch for a moment first, and then wake up on your couch the next morning.
Awesome start to what should have been The Week of Efficiency.
The next morning, when you were going to pack your boat on the car then row Z‘s Filippi before driving to Beach!Boathouse to drop off said boat & then pick up the Canine Brigade from their stint as part of Doggie Devo, you discover that it is not only pitch dark, but the coast has also been enveloped in a fog wall roughly the consistency of pea soup.
Good times driving the 45 minutes south on the 405 with that one, especially since my roll of twine disappeared & I couldn’t tie down the ends:
by the time I got to Beach!Boathouse and stopped after the speed bump to take this picture through my windshield, the fog had thankfully gotten a bit better than when I’d left LA. and yes, it was only my second time driving with $5k of hardware on the roof, so these conditions aren’t nerve-wracking at all.
…and the whole week just kinda goes from there. I got some things done, but not nearly as much as I really should have, or honestly, needed to.
The Week of Efficiency turned out to be The Week of Sludgery. Every time I’d be home to do something, I’d end up putting it off. Or sleeping. Or getting distracted by the dogs because I’m home for once & I should spend time with them. Or…something.
But most of all, last week reminded me of just how much the structure of having an athletic schedule helps to stave off depression.
silver lining: modern creatives have learned to abstain from ear amputation. (mostly)
Here’s the thing about creatives – we’re all a little crazy in our own way. That’s what makes us able to see things differently enough to comment on it in some form which gets your attention. If our brains worked like “normal” people, you’d only get “normal” stuff, and then we’d all just be really friggin’ bored at the office.
And for the public at large, this great — these are the kind of minds that think up how to win a debate with your husband over whether to buy new towels by putting a 4 foot high metal chicken on the front stoop, or Seven Games You Can Play With a Brick.
But it also gets you into places where you freak out because all you can think is that you have no idea what the f*ck you’re doing and you have to be honest with people that the reason you haven’t been writing is that you’ve been trying to figure out why you don’t want to get out of bed.
I think part of it is that it’s just that time of year. Here in SoCal, summer ran out on us faster than a whore the morning after payday, leaving behind cold winds and a fog worthy of a Brontë novel, and everyone’s just like, “ugh… great.”
But across the board, I have several highly creative, incredibly smart friends who are having Life!Crisis!Moments! Whether it’s from a book deadline, job uncertainty, or in one case dog training, there’s a high occurrence of us each talking one another off the ledge as of late, and it just keeps reminding me to thank $deity for the internet. Years ago, we’d have each just been the town weirdo, isolated & told by others that there’s something wrong with us, but thanks to the power of the interwebs, town freaks across the world can connect & discover that it’s not that you’re the only person having these issues, it’s simply that geography separated us from meeting face-to-face, so let’s just go ahead & create our own electronic-based support group.
In terms of helping to create an emotionally stable place for creatives to innovate the ideas in their head, the internet just might be the best thing to ever happen for that weird kid who sat in the back of class in high school.
why? because our fellow crazies help us feel better.
Here’s the thing — just like the brains of creative people have the ability to bring about really great things, it also works in the way of being able to see life in creatively bad ways, the thinking about which can cause one to go completely over the edge — not necessarily into Hacking Apart My Neighbors Mode, but more into a despondent sort of Why the F*ck Am I Even Bothering Mode, where you’re so apathetic that not even the possibility of unicorn bacon could make things better.
In Despondent Mode (as I shall refer to things in a rare attempt at brevity), you just don’t care. Things are never going to work out right anyway, they never have, why bother doing anything? It’s way easier to catch up on Hulu, or take a nap, or walk to Target & get food you shouldn’t be eating even though there’s food that’s good for you which could easily be made in the fridge because things will never change and one day everyone’s going to figure out that I’ve actually been desperately hoping no one will notice that underneath everything I’m just a huge failure so why bother trying in the first place when the inevitable is inevitable — after all, that’s why we call it inevitable because in this case I know that that word means what I think it means, goddammit.
It’s especially hard when you’re alone. When you’re out in the world, at work, or amongst other people, you can take your mind off it and focus on other things, and probably get things done. I am ridiculously productive when I’m at Museum!Co – the thought of going in on a day when I’m not getting paid to be there so I can work on other clients has seriously crossed my mind, I sh*t y’all not.
Because as much as you can email, and call, and connect with the Internet Friends Who Are Your Kind of Crazy, there’s a limit to how much that can help. So if you’re someone that’s single and lives alone, there’s no one to talk you off the ledge in real life, because oh holy jesus you don’t want to talk to someone you see every day about it, because then they’ll look at you and what if they always wonder if you’re about to go crazy, and then they’ll try to be like, sensitive & sh*t & be all, “You know, if you ever need to talk, it’s okay” which is well-intended but just comes off really… patronizing. A relationship? Forget it. Who would want to deal with that? Normal people aren’t like this, after all, and people want to be around people who are normal.
…and that’s the kind of thinking & reasoning that starts things off. The problem is that when you’re by yourself, with only your brain, that’s when things can go… a little off the rails.
it’s called a downward spiral for a reason.
When you’re already tired & you get home to the apartment that for the love of god you’re trying to leave but finding somewhere that doesn’t mind that you have two dogs is such a bitch in LA, and there’s work to be done and food that needs to be made because hey – turns out your body doesn’t like wheat so the majority of any food in packaging has become off-limits, and there’s laundry and it’s just you to do everything, because there is no one else there.
You’re on your own, the same way you’ve always been and sometimes can’t help but think you just might always be if for no other reason than that your brain doesn’t work like other girls which is why guys always ask the tiny cute girl who doesn’t have these problems and knows how to play whatever game it is that I’m supposed to understand but don’t because clearly I missed that day in junior high when everybody else got to go over the rules which is why I always do the wrong thing, and even if I did know what I’m supposed to be doing, it doesn’t really matter because guys in California are only interested in Tiny Cute Girls which my double-digit jeans size ass will never be, ’cause while being able to balance 3/4 slide at a standstill with oars up in a single looks great on the water, turns out that’s not exactly something guys consider a siren song of date-ability, and maybe my mother was right that no man is going to want a girl with a smart mouth like mine so couldn’t I at least try to lose a little weight because you’d probably look just lovely if you lost a few pounds but if you can’t manage that you’d best go make yourself useful & work.
Because work is all I’m really good at, or I would be if I would just finally get everything done and live up to all of my supposed potential that everyone is always telling me I have, except I’m tired and I don’t want to have to do everything myself but there’s no one else and I need to just figure everything out and get everything done and do it on my own because I can’t depend on anyone else to actually do anything, I can’t even trust the woman that’s been walking my dogs because when I came home at 7pm on Wednesday she was only just taking them out for their second walk and when I went to give her the check for the month she reeked of pot and I’m so glad I was able to tell her no es más after November 20 because holy shit you’re old enough to be my mom and I already grew up with Drunk Mommy I don’t need Pothead Dogwalker plus now I’m wondering how many times you’ve come into my house and taken my dogs out onto the street when you’ve been high as a fuckin’ kite and am I the only one in this apartment building that’s not a pot smoker this is why I keep trying to leave, for fuck’s sake I just want an apartment that I like in a neighborhood that doesn’t suck in my price range where they don’t mind that I have two dogs and that one of them is over 40 pounds I hate to break it to ya but both of my dogs will cause far less damage than a cat — have you ever been in an apartment where the cat refuses to use the litter box? Do you know how noxious the smell of fermented cat pee in the walls and carpet is and you’re worried about my dogs? Christ on a crutch I hate this place and I don’t want to do a damn scrap of client work even though that money would make it easier to move because I’m just so tired and I really want a nap because I don’t want to deal with any of this and fuck my potential and accomplishment and all the shit I’m supposedly capable of, I am tired and alone and why does it seems like everyone else knows what they’re doing when I feel so lost and it would be so much easier just to go to sleep.
… because in your head, things sound like that, and you just want to sit down and cry.
…and then when you wake up the next morning, all that stuff from the night before is still there needing to be done, and you have to deal with it.
All. Over. Again.
slicing life into more manageable pieces. like cake.
So how, you might ask, does one get through moments like that and not end up in a padded cell wearing a jacket that hasn’t been fashionable since the completely unexpected Spanish Inquisition?
Everybody’s got their own way – some people have a shrink, some people cry, some people yell at other people on the internet, and I’ve got two friends in San Francisco who became roommates & declared themselves The House that Biochemistry Built.
Warning: While there is very little chance of involuntary anal leakage, morbid humor has been found to be a common side effect of any therapeutic technique.
For me, it’s structure.
Other than my time at Museum!Co, I technically do not have an actual accountability to be anywhere or see anyone at any point in time. I am a freelancer, I make my own schedule – theoretically, I can work from wherever I want whenever I want. While that sounds really great, the whole working-in-your-pajamas concept, it’s actually incredibly hard. Most of the time, for me to get any significant work done, I have to literally physically leave my apartment. The CBTL on Melrose? For some reason, that spot is just incredibly productive for me. I can get more done in one 8 or 12 hour stretch where I’ve glued my arse to the chair in the table by the door than I would in three days spent trying to work in my apartment.
But it’s also about not working 12 hours at a stretch, and giving myself a break.
As one guy I know said, “your brain just never stops working, does it?”
To which I unthinkingly replied, “I was left to my own a lot as a child, and according to my brother’s military recruiter I have a high aptitude for creative problem-solving.”
–> for the record, ^that response tends to be a conversation-stopper. just a tip.
I’ve learned that it’s important for me to create times when I can put all of the things in my head aside and just do without thinking, which for me is often achieved by working out.
Some people work out because they’re angry. rowing has a lot of this one.
Some people work out because of their body issues, some people use it to work off stress.
I work out so that my brain is too tired to work itself into Slightly Crazed Despondent Mode.
After growing up & being told that I was chubby & not an athlete, rah rah one of the last kids running around the track on Presidential Fitness Testing Day & all that, I walked into a gym at the age of 18 and discovered something:
High amounts of cardio makes my world better.
The Riddikulus Voice doesn’t think four chess moves ahead because I simply don’t have the mental energy to hear it – truth is, I’m actually kind of okay with the fact that I have a tendency to forget day-to-day operational details — trust me when I say that in my case, better to be absent-minded than overly-minded.
In terms of the largest yield of Fatigue Acquisition in the shortest amount of time, rowing’s hard to beat. Competitive rowers are, well, we’re kinda not right in the head, and most other athletes will openly acknowledge that. I was walking across the pitch at the San Diego Highland Games a few years ago when a very friendly, completely fit Irish guy made a beeline over & tried to recruit me for the San Diego Rugby league. (Like I said, I ain’t a tiny girl.)
I laughed & said, “”First off, I’m from LA, so I’m geographically useless to you, but also the UK already got me in another sport.”
“Oh really,” my would-be recruiter asked, “what’s that?”
“Never mind,” his delightful Irish accent informed me as he took a step or two back with his hands in the air. “I used to go running with the rowers at university. You fuckers are crazy.”
That’s right, people. Irish rugby players think the rowers are crazy.
In terms of comparative scale, that’s what one could call “an indicator”.
And every rower that just read that story just had a moment of pride in our sport. #trufax
Exercise also gives me a schedule. I have to get up in the mornings because rowing isn’t something you can do at any ol’ time of day. Or at least, not if you want anything to go well. While Beach!Boathouse is open to members 24/7, it’s a minimum 45 minute drive away.
Thus I have to go to Bear!Boathouse, whose morning hours are from 6am-9am, so if I’m going to go, I’ve got to get up. I try to set up my double days for when I’m not working onsite not only because of scheduling flexibility, but also because then I can’t tell myself I’ll just work later — I have to do it between this time & this time because I’ve already got something to do later.
This way, I don’t have to do everything all at once or feel pressured to Accomplish All the Things in one huge swath — I’ve got a slice of Work Cake built into my schedule, and I’ll do as much as I can in that slice of Work Cake before I go to my next slice of Exercise Cake.
except now I have a day without Exercise Cake. omg, no cake!
While it’s admittedly not perfect, this system is sort of what I’ve sussed out for myself, and it wasn’t until this last week when half of my structure was gone that I realized just how much I depend on it to make my world function. Not having that time set aside and not having planned anything to fill that gap in my schedule was just a new kind of horrible, and it really wasn’t until towards the end of the week when I realized that I was running out of time to do all the things that I was supposed to have gotten done over the last week that I actually got my procrastinate-ey depressed arse in gear & was Productive Due to Panic.
I’m not gonna lie — when I put together what we’d discussed for the next stage of my training & sent it to Z for proofing & revisions, I was honestly looking forward to being told, “Yes, go with that”, and being able to have my structure again.
I did not expect the response I got.
“I think everything looks good except that you don’t have a day off. You need one. A complete day off.”
Seriously, this caused me to have a moment.
Like, an actual serious pause where I laid in bed at 4:30am* and had to think about how to do approach this beyond my knee-jerk response to him of, “You & your allowance for HUMANITY.”
*4:30am: Zoey woke me up because she had to pee & I was checking my email on my phone before I let her in & we both raced back under the covers.
learning how to build structure with different materials. I’ve gone from recipe to civil engineering experiment.
The truth is, as scary as the idea might be after the last week, a day off is a good thing. Right now I’m living the present workout/work setup with a specific goal in mind, but I won’t always be able to keep up this pace, either physically or schedule-wise. And Z knows me enough to know that I will just mindlessly work myself into Fail Mode, denying that I need a rest all the way until I hit a wall.
Example: I just got the intro email confirming my membership to CrossFit & they mentioned that on Sundays they have open gym to make up workouts, do extra, or work on certain skills, & my brain went, “I could totally go do that after my 15k steady state… Wait — no, no I’m not supposed to do that anymore. Bad Claris!“
So I’ve got this – the one day free. Baby steps to figure out what it is that everyone else is doing while I’ve been burning off my neurosis. That way, when the time does come for me to step away from things, I don’t have a repeat of last week.
For now, however, it’s time for me to go do an Intro O-lifting class so that I don’t accidentally break myself this Friday when I join up with the regular CrossFit classes. There’s still plenty of time between now & endgame, so I still need to do the work in between.
… which is probably for the best, because I really can’t eat wheat & after writing this, I completely & totally want some freakin’ cake.