Writing is made up of cycles, often ones that constantly overlap one another. We are forever absorbing new input, generating new ideas, brainstorming new worlds, creating characters, drafting scenes, finishing drafts, revising, submitting, publishing…and then doing it all over again and again. There’s no real end to a writer’s work, even when we write The End on a completed story. It’s a creativity merry-go-round and we’re all a little too crazy to ever want to get off.
A lifestyle of being healthy and pursuing fitness has its cycles too. Some are negative cycles, such as the constant yo-yoing on and off a diet, or jumping on and off popular exercise routines because we don’t see immediate, drastic results. These sort of cycles are defined by skewed expectations, faltering motivation, and chasing after fads.
However, there are certain fitness cycles we can incorporate that are to our advantage if we handle them properly. We go through warm-up and cool-down cycles with each workout. We go through stress, rest, and rebuild cycles. In the same vein, none of us should be stuck in a workout or diet rut forever, and cycling through various regimens is one way to naturally give ourselves more freedom and a breadth of experience.
- Routine Cycles – Remember when we talked about hitting plateaus because our bodies adapt to a particular exercise or routine? If you do nothing but the same workout month after month, eventually you’ll see diminishing returns on the strength and endurance gains. When you stop progressing with a certain program, why should you force yourself to stick to it? You can still hold to a particular style of working out, such as lifting weights—but find a way to change the underlying dynamics, like switching from a high-rep to a high-volume approach or moving to a routine that emphasizes negative vs. positive reps.
- Training/Off-Training Cycles – If you have a specific event you’re training for, like a race or other fitness competition, you usually ramp up the exercise effort to prepare for it. For instance, if you’ve got a marathon coming up, you can start training for it months in advance, adding a mile or two to your route every week until your endurance is up to the task. But the stress of that training might not be what you want to (or can) maintain after a while. It’s just too hard on the body. So you need off-training seasons where you still remain active but at much lower intensity…and then schedule a ramp-up season again for the next event.
- Cutting/Bulking Cycle – This is another common fitness cycle, linked to the calorie surplus and deficit. In a deficit mode, you’re aiming to drop weight. Surplus adds weight, hopefully in the form of muscle. People usually spend months in one mode or another, trying to bulk up muscle and then going into cutting mode to take off fat and actually show the lean mass they’ve added. Others, such as those on the intermittent fasting protocol, will cycle bulking and cutting on a daily basis to make smaller advances in both areas over longer periods of time.
What cycles do you go through, either in your fitness or writing? Are you aware of them and plan on how to transition through their various stages or do you just let them come and go as they will? Are you aware of when you start adapting to a new norm and switch it up to keep progressing?