Reading & running for a clear head

How often do you take time out? Not enough I’m sure. I’m fascinated in how people moderate their work/life balance; in how they take time out.

I’m fascinated because I struggle with the time out concept. My suburban commuting lifestyle is not one that I had planned, but it works – as long as I have that vital time off. As long as I somehow get the headspace to recover. I used to read to do this. I love magazines, I love reading and I love writing; I spend hours reading and tweeting and liking and sharing. But I realised that I never really switched off.  Luckily, I took up sport.

I recently took up triathlon. It was in no way related to my desire for headspace – simply the desire to win a dare. Yet I, couch potato, became a novice triathlete. I feel I must caveat the couch potato statement with the fact that I do have three children – a mother rarely sits down. We swim, we cycle, we do that stuff. But it’s fair to say my predilection for an ‘80s rom-com and glass of wine far outweighed any desire to hit the gym, or pound the streets in lycra after a day at work. But a challenge had been set and it was time to put down the reading matter and head for the fresh air.

Hundreds of miles and hours later, I now realise that the only time I genuinely switch off is when out training. I had no idea that my head would feel so clear, when all I can do is concentrate on breathing in and on breathing out. What a pleasure this is to turn my brain off and to simply exist as a human, concentrating on breathing, on moving forward – whether it be running, swimming or cycling.

Yet as my interests moved to triathlon I kept finding myself reading blog feeds and newsletters. The more kit I bought, the more I read – content marketing at its best. I subscribed to Triathlon Plus and Cyclist magazine. This is how content marketing works – following consumer habits. This is also – thankfully – why I have a job.  But, ah, yes, here we are again, back to the job. What ever happened to me broadening my horizons? Will I ever think outside of the (digital) box? Will I constantly be directed towards things that I know, or that Google thinks I might like? Where will I stumble across the new?

I was pleased to discover one such way, after subscribing to Stack Magazines. Every month I receive a fabulous, high quality, magazine that I would have certainly never come across without Stack. Gourmet magazines, film magazines, specialised travel tomes. All interesting and all allow me to switch off my brain again. Each magazine is crammed with content, creatively fascinating and offers a paperback glimpse of another culture, life or opinion. My mind starts to wander and wonder… about the writers, the crowd-funding, of a pricey emboss on the cover. Ooh… A lovely die cut page. And inside! Where was this printed?

Perhaps you never really switch off. Maybe it just is not possible. Is that why I still smell the print and check the paper stock with every magazine or catalogue that I touch? Am I forever destined to pour over the masthead detail and review the ad quality? Online, will I permanently click the read more, related articles and more like this links? Perhaps I will. Perhaps I cannot stop. Perhaps I should go for another run.