In 2011, I made the questionable decision to train and run the Chicago Marathon. Now when you distance run, it is recommended that you cross train. This can be walking, weights, yoga, whatever floats your boat. The idea being that it balances out all the running you're doing by strengthening your non-running muscles while your running muscles get a nice spa day to max relax. Dear Reader, this is the part where I admit to you that NO I did not cross train whilst training to run a marathon for the first time. Pretty sure I was too busy crushing vodka sodas to hit the yoga mat. I bet by now you can guess what happened? Yes, I got hurt. I did my 18 mile training run and woke up the next day to a knee that felt like someone had taken a hammer to it.
I zip zap zopped on down to the nearest physical therapist who told me that I had Runner’s Knee, which was due to what? WEAK MUSCLES. Now, did I give up? OF COURSE NOT HAVE YOU MET ME!? Also, I hadn’t yet heard of sunk cost fallacy so I just laid off it for a week or so and then did my final long run, a quick and jaunty 20 miles, trying not to cry from the pain. Race day came and I took a handful of ibuprofen and made it through with a very shitty time.
Years later I ran the Miami Half-Marathon and guess what I did? Yoga every week. And guess what happened? YOU ARE SO SMART! Yes, I PR’d. (aka set a personal record) That race was the fastest I’d ever run and I believe it was from all that got damn yoga. Because, as it turns out, cross training works. Who knew?
Now, let’s look at creativity through the cross training lens. Say you have a project in front of you, maybe even a deadline with stacks of cash involved. Do you bury yourself in the project until it is done? Do you say no to any and all fun which includes but is not limited to: anything that does not make money, socializing with friends, going for a walk, dancing, learning something new? Do you find yourself sitting in front of the computer screen/guitar/easel feeling frustrated and exhausted because you just can’t seem to figure it out? And finally, instead of opting to take a break you just stay there and tell yourself what a talent less piece of shit you are?
Then let me introduce you to Play as Cross Training! According to author and researcher Dr. Stuart Brown, Play is any kind of purposeless all-consuming restorative activity. Read that again. Did you prickle at the word purposeless? I know, that's capitalism. It’ll fade in time. But here’s the deal with Play: when we engage in it we relax AND we create new neural pathways. Guess what relaxed bodies and new neural pathways are susceptible too? Yup, NEW IDEAS!!! HOLY SHIT!!!! Creativity loves new ideas! It thrives off of it! Ayeeeee!
Back to that project. What if, instead of grinding harder when you feel stuck, you got up out of your chair and made a mess with some paint or threw on a tune and danced like your Aunt Linda after one too many sangrias? What if you tried something new just for the fuck of it with zero intention of monetizing it and with the sole intention of having a good ass time? Do you think it would help your process? Do you think you would have more fun and therefore your work might even get easier and better? YES IT WILL. How do I know? Because science. But also, I actually got blocked writing this lil blog post so I took a break, bedazzled a face mask just for the hell of it, came back and wrote this ending like a gentle lake breeze. That is why Play is the Cross Training of Creativity .
If you’d like to test my theory join me Saturday, August 1st at 11:00 am central for Creative Power Hour-An Online Creative Salon Where There Are No Mistakes. THIS IS YOUR YOGA CLASS BB! Except, you don’t have to wear pants if you don’t want to and it’s free. Sign up here if you want to make some major gains!
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