It’s May of 2000 and I’m running up the hill during my first triathlon. The Wildflower Triathlon in California, which claims to be the hardest one in the country.
I have completed the cycling and swimming part of the race, which are my favorites and have come upon my nemesis. The run. I hate running. I hate that it’s so boring. I hate that it’s the last part of the race. If I had my druthers, I’d do the run first, then the bike and then cool off with the swim. That makes waaaaay more sense to me, but alas, that’s not how they’re designed.
As I drag my ass up this 45 degree hill in what can be described as more of a jog (I’m barely picking my feet up off the ground), I see a 78-year-old man pass me on my left. I know he’s 78 because it’s written on his arm and on his calf in black magic marker. It may as well say, “Hey, girlfriend, I’m almost 50 years older than you and I am kicking your ass.”
And he’d be right. My age is written on my pale (I like to say I’m the fairest of them all) body as well and I am crawling.
This hill is about half the distance of the 6.2 miles and one smart way I can get through it is to stop and walk, but I’m afraid to. I don’t like to take breaks and I’m afraid if I stop, then I won’t start again. So I don’t. I keep trudging up the hill, I never catch up to the old man and I eventually finish the race.
That approach has carried over to other parts of my life like not taking breaks when I work. For the last 20-something years I have spent the majority of my time at a desk. When you work in advertising, the hours can be grueling and taking breaks can be frowned upon. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying it happens all the time.
One of the reasons I got tendonitis in my wrists is from working different freelance jobs with terrible desk setups and not taking breaks. Plus, I always felt like I’d be more productive if I just kept going - just like my running and we know where that got me. Not very far.
Lately I’ve been working from home, so I have more flexibility and yesterday I decided to take a couple of breaks. Not only in general, but when I ate. Eating your lunch at your desk is such a part of American culture. It’s a badge of honor and I’m just as guilty of it.
Luckily, I had made my lunch the night before, so I took the 10 minutes it took to eat my lunch and then got back to work. I also did a couple of Pomodoros (great productivity technique) with a friend and called her in between to catch up quickly.
It felt good. It helped break up my day between sitting at my computer and work calls. And I got just as far as I would have if I hadn’t stopped to take a break.
I think Nell Carter would be proud.
Are you good about taking breaks? Not eating at your desk? Tell me your tips below. I’d love to hear them.