The realm of diminishing returns

I took the first week of November off from work at Jumpstart / Health:Further to focus on one last editing pass on my book before I submitted it to my publisher for their edit. That went really well, and the book is off with the editors now getting a thorough beating.

As I worked through the book that week, I had a growing sense of the kind of year that 2020 could size up to be. Perhaps a year unlike any I’ve ever experienced. It’s the year that I’ll become a published author. I’ll want to go on a book tour, which I’ve never done before.

I’ll be actively doing business outside of the country for the first time in my career.

It will be the first season of Major League Soccer for Nashville Soccer Club.

I’ll be pursuing my 2nd degree black belt in HapKiDo as well as training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with an intent to compete for the first time in 25 years.

All of this in addition to my run of the mill activities like running an advisory business, public speaking, the podcast, and this little newsletter you’re reading.

As this reality hit me during my week of editing, I felt this need to work out hard to prepare. I had already been working out hard all year, but since I wasn’t working outside of editing, I had some space to put in some heavy work. Four heavy weightlifting sessions, a couple of martial arts practices, boxing class, pull-ups, and 3 mile runs most mornings filled out my week.

By Saturday, I was wrecked.

The anxiousness for the coming year ate into my sleep, and I worked my body past the point of exhaustion. Working hard may be my one real addiction, and for most of my life is has served me well.

But by Saturday of that week, I knew something about it was wrong. I was working too much because I didn’t know how else to address the anxiousness, and I had hit the realm of diminishing returns.

In a year of therapy, there is one area that I failed to act on even though my therapist would ask me about it every other session. I consistently was unable to take time for myself. She’s been asking me to make time for myself to recharge, and I have not been able to take ownership and do it.

I feel like a hypocrite because I talk about owning one’s time a lot on The Grind, but the context there is always about work, never about recovery.

I am poor at recovery.

By that Sunday, I realized that I had injured my shoulder, likely from overuse. It was the kind of injury that I could push through, but if I did could threaten to eliminate my big martial arts goals for next year. So I was forced to stop working out, for the most part. For the last three weeks, I haven’t lifted weights at all. I’ve stuck to running and pilates.

The first week, I was scared and agitated.

In the second week, I was concerned but feeling confident that I made the right decision.

Last week, I realized that if I knew how to recover properly, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. It became apparent that I have to develop a recovery regimen. Since I’m already inclined to work hard, I need to make recovery part of my “work” and commit to it regularly.

A recovery regimen is going to be even more important with the kind of year I want to 2020 to be. As I work on my calendar and my time budget, I need to plug in the required recovery time on a very regular basis. My current thinking is twice a week physical recovery (no heavy workout, sauna, Epsom salt bath, etc.), once a month mental break recovery, and once a quarter deep pampering.

The last seven days have produced some of the best sleep I’ve gotten in months. Even without the steep reduction in workouts, I’ve gained no weight, and I credit that to the improved sleep. My shoulder isn’t 100%, but it feels a lot better. And I’m excited to get back to working out, especially now that I am time budgeting breaks to care for myself properly.

Our bodies require recovery. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t need to spend 1/3 of the time asleep. While recovery (or sleep) is happening, a different kind of work is taking place. Prioritizing recovery is a balance that elite performers understand, but too often gets overshadowed for the heroic “work past exhaustion” narrative.

There’s a reason we are drained when we don’t get enough sleep, but refreshed and ready to run hard when we do. The same principle applies to recovery. Taking conscious breaks allow us to return with more passion and intensity when we do step in the arena of life.

I’m happy I’m finally coming around to understanding how important recovery is, and I’m excited to make a practice of it as I set out on my most ambitious year yet.

I hope this gave you something to think about.

Have a wonderful and grateful week.

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