Learning to rest

This week I'm allowing myself some time to rest. I've been working pretty much flat out since I went full time and I'm starting to notice the signs that I'm... not burning out, but fatiguing. I'm more easily distracted when I'm trying to work. My days are less productive than they could be. Writing is hard in a way that's not enjoyable, rather than hard in a way that feels like a challenge.

So it's time for a break. And you may be thinking, "Chris, if you're having a week off then why are you spending your morning writing this post instead of playing Dark Souls?" And that's a very good question that I'm going to answer by briefly talking about lifting weights. Indulge me for a couple of paragraphs.

If you follow me on twitter or if you read my early post here about my daily routine you'll know that my main hobby outside of RPGs is powerlifting. Most mornings the first thing I do is go to the gym, I like lifting heavy, and I like feeling like I physically can't do any more. It's hard and exhausting and I love it, but over time fatigue builds up and your progress starts to stall. The first sign - for me - is that the quality of my sleep starts to degrade. If I'm suddenly waking up multiple times in the night and not feeling rested in the morning, I know it's time to do something about it.

The thing lifters - and, I assume, runners and other athletes - do when this fatigue builds up is take what's known as a "deload week". This, crucially, is not a "week off". The aim is to recover, not to stop training entirely. 

There are different ways to deload, but the general consensus is that there needs to be a fairly significant decrease in training volume and that there's probably also some merit in reducing the intensity of training. Some people reduce the number of sets they perform. Some people reduce the weight they use. Some people do both. Personally, I've found that I benefit from lifting the same weight as the previous week but reducing the volume ~20%. That means I'll do one set less of each exercise, and that each set will be shorter. If I'd normally do sets of 10-12 reps, for example, then I'll stop at 8. Nice and simple.

The effect of this is that my body is still moving the same weight as it has been doing, but I'm not fatiguing myself. In the past I've tried to deload by either taking a week off entirely, or by reducing the weight, and I always find that when I come back to training after that week that it's much harder to start again at the intensity I'd got used to.

I find this with writing, too. I took a week off at the beginning of January where I basically did nothing but check emails. When I came to start work again the next week, I found it really hard to slide back into that ritual that I've talked about in the past.

When I had a day job I'd take a week off and I'd spend a large portion of it working on creative things, because creative things were my hobby. And that kept my mind active, so that when I got back to the day job I felt refreshed and ready to work again. But now creative work is my day job, and so I need to figure out how to get the same effect.

So I'm deloading. I'm keeping my ritual alive, writing something for 20 minutes or so when I get back from the gym, even if it's something nobody ever sees. Today it's this post. I'll check some emails and put physical orders in the post, and then I'll be done. Lower volume of work. less intensity.

The play is to mostly play Dark Souls 2 to get my brain back in that zone so that I can hopefully come back swinging and write Dice Souls. At some point this week I'll do a long read thread of Night's Black Agents, and we'll call that a full day of work.

I don't know how effective this method of resting is going to be, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

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