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Outdoors/Adventure

Finding the right balance between overscheduling and slothdom

  • Author: Alli Harvey
    | Alaska Outdoors
  • Updated: April 5, 2018
  • Published April 4, 2018

My world is ruled by a Google calendar. I worry about it a little. I wonder if, in this modern world, my brain is constantly flooded with information to the point that I rely on my calendar as an extension past my own limitations. I wouldn't remember half of the things I need to do on any given day if I didn't have those colorful blocks of time, in a row, blocking out appointments and tasks.

Friends tease me about this, and they're right to, because if I don't have something down on my calendar it doesn't happen.

In a related story, I gave up training for races in 2016. At least for a little while. While many Americans resolved to hit the gym more or to get stronger, I told myself to be OK with being less fit. I needed to relax.

I needed some gaps in my calendar that were simply blank. I could fill up this new space with whims, new challenges, or even boredom. The point was not to know or anticipate. It's not good to be scheduled all the time. It can lead to that kind of soul-deadening "busy-ness" that I fear will creep up one day and make me wonder where all of my time went, and if I really spent it wisely. I get one life. I've always found the best way to creativity and change is by being bored for a little while.

Unfortunately, when I'm in the boredom, I never know exactly what's on the other side of it or when the other side arrives. It's not like an appointment that ends. A next task pops up eventually, yes, because I need to go to work or get the oil changed on the car. But as far as having a bigger purpose in life that's as easily prescribed and mapped out on a timeline as, say, training for a race? Removing that from my life — and calendar — left a lot of space. It wasn't comfortable at first.

I don't like feeling aimless. Still, I know it's good for me, at least sometimes.

So I didn't train at all in 2016. No marathon, no triathlon. I watched my husband train for various mountain races, getting out on Sundays for long runs and then shuffling upstairs to bond with some Epsom salts. I missed my own training schedules, but I stuck with the blanks on the calendar like I said I would. It's kind of the inverse of having a schedule — if nothing pops up, I'm committed to nothing. I waited for something. I went for cute little runs that felt futile since they weren't adding up to anything bigger, but I figured I wanted to keep a baseline of fitness.

I ran three miles, occasionally five. I biked downtown for a glass of wine. I went hiking with friends.

Then I went backpacking. The year before I hadn't been able to go backpacking because I'd been too committed to my training schedule on weekends. I remembered how much I liked this whole "walking in Alaska's backcountry" thing, walking along with my temporary home on my back.

Then I went bike-packing. It was my first time. I pushed beyond what I thought I was physically capable of on a bike, riding toward Wonder Lake in Denali National Park during a long day. Denali itself seemed to take up half of the sky, gleaming white as I pedaled toward it. I summoned that feeling of commitment and endurance I'd learned from long-distance racing, and it helped me push through and still enjoy the day.

I gardened, I went on weeknight hikes with friends, I hung out in the sunshine on my back porch in my Crocs with a cocktail and a book.

I did it — I relaxed, and I enjoyed life even without a consistent training schedule.

Hooray for me, I know. Maybe I should schedule a block of time in my calendar to congratulate myself on successfully, if temporarily, reducing my neuroticism.

The truth is my schedule is a way for me to run, sometimes literally, from what I believe my internal default setting is — slothdom. I fear that if I don't have time blocked off all the time, I will do absolutely nothing with myself. And that's true for a little bit — but I know when I hit a certain level of boredom, I'll come out of it with something. 2016 was about testing that. At the end of the day, I'm glad I did. I found new purpose and a new way of being in the world, and I enjoyed it.

I trained "lightly" in 2017. I didn't take any goals too seriously. I trained for a half marathon, then signed up for another because I was already there, then another. I had fun during the races. The training schedules didn't take over my life at all. I just had some long-ish runs on the weekends.

I still gardened, biked, and backpacked. 2017 was about variety. I wasn't bored. I also wasn't over-scheduled.

This year I decided I'm ready to take up training again. It's partially a way to have structure for my need to get outside and be active on a routine basis. Work is busy, so actually calendaring out my schedule helps me to elbow in some room between appointments to maintain my own sanity.

I am loving feeling back in the swing of training. Yes, the time off was great — aimless, long, full of possibilities that panned out into new activities and hobbies. But pulling on my running shoes and getting back on the road? Looking at the weekends ahead as the runs get longer and longer, and knowing that I'll work my way there? In that way, training can't be beat. With long March daylight stretching into April, feeling that sun in my eyes as I run — it's all coming back, and it makes me excited and content at the same time.

Go ahead, make fun. I calendar that feeling. I squish it in between other work and commitments. It's worth it, and I'll keep it, at least until it overwhelms the rest of my life. I'll know when I need the break from training again. For now, I'm enjoying every minute.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

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