Unplugging while plugging along

The World's Strongest Man by professor evil

Some of my best thinking comes when I’m the least plugged in, like when I’m hoisting a 300 pound barbell above my head. In a recent post at the ACRLog, Stephen Bell writes of the importance of unplugging as a way to calm down a bit and maintain balance.  I was particularly interested in his comments about going to the gym:

I do get the value of unplugging – if not for days on end – at least for specific periods of time during the day. I set aside several periods where I unplug. Any time I go to the gym, usually two or three times during the work week, I leave my cell phone behind so I’m not checking email or keeping up with social networks. I do listen to music which helps me contemplate. During this time I often find myself coming up with solutions to work challenges or ideas for new blog posts or essays – or they come in the post-workout shower – which is actually a fairly common phenomena. Studies have found that when we free our minds from any complex thought activity, some of our best ideas will emerge from the ether.

I try to go to the gym during my lunch break  most days of the week. I can get down to the gym, work out for 30 minutes, get a quick shower, and be back at my desk in an hour.  Going to the gym really relaxes me, and I find that if I don’t go, I’m not as pleasant to be around later in the day.  I appreciate the challenge of exercise to clear my head.  The duties of the day, the stress, your emails, your tasks, none of that matters while you’re trying to squat 400 pounds.  You’re just trying to concentrate on the issue at hand, or in this case, what is on your shoulders.

I find that on days that I do cardio I get some of my best thinking done.  The Cross Trainer can get really boring despite cranking up Social Distortion while watching close-captioned Days of Our Lives.  (Just so you know, Bo Brady is still sleeping around, and Stephano is still a bad guy, just like they were 25 years ago.)  After a few minutes of cardio, music, and soap operas,  my mind tends to wonder all over the place.  I get ideas about projects, videos, blog posts, gift ideas, goals, dreams, and much more.   Since our gym discourages cell phones, I don’t have my Palm Pre with me to immediately write memos to remind myself of the sweat-and-fatigue-induced ideas at a later time.  I usually have to fetch a pen from one of the workers and right the idea down, before the next hill interval leads me to another epiphany.  If I can write the idea down quick enough, I can usually expand upon my notes while eating my usual turkey sandwich in my office.  If I don’t write the ideas down, it’s likely I’ll forget them before I get back to my office.

Now every day doesn’t lead to new ideas, so don’t get the impression that I’m full of inspiration all the time.   But finding a way to unplug on a regular basis can definitely helps me with my thinking.  Do you unplug on a regular basis?  What is your favorite way to unplug?  Fell free to leave an idea for others in the comments.

Oh, and for the record.  I can’t bench 300 or squat 400…..yet. That must have been one of those lofty goals that came to me in a fit of exhaustion on the treadmill.  ;-)

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2 Responses to Unplugging while plugging along

  1. stevenb says:

    Hi Chad. Thanks for mentioning the ACRLog post and pointing to DBL. Good to know of a fellow librarian who makes a physical workout a part of their workweek routine. It’s not only good for you, but as we both have found it can be a great way to stimulate new ideas that result from unplugging all the regular distractions. I too have sometimes grabbed a pen and some paper from the front desk of the fitness center to jot down an idea before I forget it (as famously portrayed during an episode of Mad Men’s 3rd season). I hope this encourages others to share their experiences.

  2. Chad says:

    @stevenb
    Yep, make sure you grab a pen and paper. I’ve tried to write a quick note on my watch hand, only to forget about it and scrub the note off during the post-workout shower. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Steven.