Avoiding the Busy “Bonk”

It was Friday afternoon, and I. was. DONE. After several miscommunications with another department on campus, a seemingly unending stream of visitors to my office, and a few very frank conversations with coworkers about some frustrations on the job, I couldn’t do it anymore. I went to my boss’ office, he looked at me, and said “Do you have any meetings?” I shook my head no, and he waved at me. “Go home. Go for a run.”

Off I went. After (not ashamed) wine with lunch, a movie, and a nap, I took that run. It ended up being nine and a half miles of fatigue free, fueled by bullshit, running. If not for a lack of reflective clothing in complete darkness, I could have kept going.

So what happened? At the office, I bonked.

What’s a bonk? You may have seen one before. Years ago, there was a triathlete named Chris Legh who hit a wall of dehydration and fatigue in the last 50 meters of an Ironman triathlon. Most non-athletes know his story because of the Gatorade commercial that told it:

Simply put, he crashed. He needed something to keep him going in the form of fuel; when he didn’t get it, he fell apart.

That was my life last week. Running full speed without concern for the fuel that could keep me going led to my collapse. I was negative, angry, exhausted, and practically on my knees at my own finish line of the week.

As Chris Legh found out after his collapse, there were steps he could take to get the fuel needed to power him through his full race. I needed that too. We all do. So as we move through our busy weeks (and while we turn this into a competition at time, we ALL have busy weeks- no getting around it!), how do we make sure that we don’t bonk on Friday afternoon?

Don’t pass up the water stops. We all have points in the week where we can slow down, if only for an hour or so. Don’t blow by them, vowing to stop at the next one. Take the opportunity when it’s given.

Find your fuel of choice. When I do my own races, I train with the same fuels and make sure I carry those with me to races. Life’s races should be the same way. Have a few favorite leisure activities? Stick with those, and turn to them when you need a boost. Mine are running (oddly enough, my emotional exhaustion was cured by some serious physical exertion), writing, and reading. What are yours?

Take in the scenery. Don’t lose sight of why we do the things we do. While the processes we have to take care of business drive me nuts, I tend to forget that when I’m meeting with students. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Immerse yourselves in the reasons that you started this work in the first place. To that end, extend that to the people around you. If you see fellow “runners” who are struggling, help them up. You’d be surprised at the boost it gives you. See what causes they’re running for. Let their successes inspire you, and let their struggles normalize your own.

What other tips do you have to avoid getting bonked by busy (or, let’s be real, the bullshit)?

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