To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first ~ William Shakespeare

When I read this quote this morning in one of my daily meditation books, I thought it to be quite appropriate as it applied perfectly to the slow, but steady strides I take in writing. I habitually write and/or edit every day to produce content, to become a better writer as well as to keep my mind sharp. Missing a day of writing is like skipping a day of physical activity: It knocks me off my game. I feel out of kilter; odd. I thrive on routine activities.

The quote also aptly applies to my near-daily participation in hiking the many magnificent trails in my neighborhood. While the highest peak in the area is just under 900 feet, some of the connecting trails are quite steep, requiring stamina gained by continuous, routine preparation. If I miss even a week of hiking these steep trails, my stamina suffers significantly, and it’ll take several days, if not a week, to regain the required endurance.   

Not all physical activity is the same. Each one demands a different type of training regimen. Weight training in the gym is vital for developing musculature and strong bones, but it will not afford anyone the energy needed for hiking. Walking the beach path in San Clemente for five miles offers out-of-this-world views, but it will do nothing to build stamina for climbing hills. Only hiking steep slopes on a regular basis will afford anyone the physical endurance necessary to traverse steep hills.

Fun fact: When I returned this past July from a week of summer hiking at a ski resort in Idaho—whose summit sits at 6,400 feet—I was thrilled at how easy it was to then traverse the measly 860-foot hills in San Clemente! Amazing what a week of hiking at that elevation adds to one’s stamina! Too bad the extra burst of energy lasted only a few days. (Someone needs to trap this energy boost in a drink. They’d make a fortune!)

Routines and Regimens

Life is comprised of daily routines, many of which are mundane and boring but ones that build character, a strong work ethic and loyalty. People often talk about the tediousness of routines, how they feel stuck in the rut of the daily grind—go to work, eat, do the dishes, do the laundry, eat, go to sleep, do it again. But without routines, life would be erratic, unfocused and chaotic. Human beings would succumb to laziness and the motivation to produce quality things would fall by the wayside. We’d end up seeking unhealthy alternatives to fill our bleary days and nights.

Daily routines—whether mental or physical, like my writing and hiking—create muscle memory. Muscle memory reorganizes and rewires our nerves to make the brain/body connection stronger, faster and more accurate. So, when we practice movements repeatedly, we literally groove a new neural pathway within our central nervous systems. In time, we can produce better widgets, write better novels, and hike longer and steeper hills.

Be not afraid of moving slowly. Be afraid of standing still Chinese Proverb

So, while I am not racing to see how fast I can write a novel or climb a hill, I am preparing my brain and myself to go farther each time to eventually reach higher literary and terrestrial plateaus. I want to find new and more complex stories to write about; find steeper mountains to climb. All of which will carve new pathways in my brain to make me a better and more compassionate person with an endless supply of stamina to boot.

While you mull over my musings, keep in mind another Chinese Proverb as you go about your day: Habits are cobwebs at first; cables at last.