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I have a concept I like to call “recovery in motion”.

It started out with running.

Running is a rather paradoxical thing—it’s basically pure, nonstop physical suffering, but yet there’s nothing else that provides me with such a good feeling and a clear head. And, there’s no freedom quite like being able to go from point A to point B with nothing but your legs to propel you.

But basically every time that I run, there’s a point where it would be nice to stop running and just walk for a minute. (Many people would probably agree and say “Yeah, that point is any point that I find myself running.”) Maybe I just finished a fast, sprinty section. Maybe I’m hitting a wall and feel like I don’t have enough energy. Maybe my legs are sore, or I’m tired, or out of breath. Maybe it’s too hot or cold outside.

This is where “recovery in motion” comes in.

I’ve learned that instead of stopping when my body says stop, I don’t actually have to stop—instead, I can play with the pace at which I run. I can slow down a little, or I can slow down drastically to just a little faster than a walk. I can run more efficiently, trying not to waste energy by bouncing up and down too much or letting my shoes drag on the pavement. I can focus on deep inhales, full exhales.

This does two things. First, it helps me recover, even if it’s a little slower than I might recover from stopping completely. Second, it shows me that I can keep going—I can persevere. When my first thought is “stop”, I can instead say “no—just slow down enough to recover.”

Although I discovered this concept while running, I’ve realized that it applies directly to many other areas of life, especially those areas where endurance in the long run is what counts—such as our work for animals.

Like many other people, I go through cycles of working extremely hard and then feeling rather burned out. “This problem is so big,” I think, “that I need to completely ignore everything else in my life, including my own health, to keep working.” It only takes a few weeks or months of this kind of pace before things deteriorate quickly. Your emotional resiliency fades, and you find yourself unable to control your anger or sadness. Your mind is slow and fuzzy. You’re tired, irritable. The quality of your work decreases, or you work increasingly on irrelevant matters.

At the point where your mind and body are telling you “stop”, you have two options: You can quit, or you can recover in motion.

Quitting is saying, “You know what, this is too much. I’m going to put this down and I don’t know if I’ll come back to it. I’m going to focus on other things—maybe nothing at all.” It’s stopping, with no plan to start again.

Recovery in motion is saying, “You know what, I’m really tired and burned out. I’m going to cut back on the hours I work, cut back on the projects I’m doing. I’m going to add back in some of those restorative activities I’ve been neglecting for a while—exercise, meditation, a regular sleep schedule, good food, spending time with friends. And in a week, I’ll see if I feel a little better, and I’ll adjust a little more if needed. And maybe I’ll slow down too much, and I’ll feel like I can work harder, and so I’ll readjust back up if that happens. And that’s okay.”

Recovery in motion is all about sustainable pushing and resting habits. You can push yourself hard—and I think challenging ourselves is great—but then you need to know how to back off and let yourself breathe for a minute. You can focus simply on putting one foot in front of the other, on keeping yourself moving forward while you rest.

Not only that, but each time you do this cycle of pushing and recovering, you learn a little more about how hard you can push. You actually grow your capacity to push harder the next time and to have a better sense of where your limits are.

So keep this concept tucked in your back pocket for one of those future times when you’re tired and thinking about quitting, when you’ve pushed yourself a little too hard or when your work habits have gotten unsustainable. Keep the concept in mind for when your friend or colleague is burned out and asking you for advice—“How do you manage to keep going?”

You can say, “You don’t have to quit—you can recover in motion.”

One last note. There’s a lot of talk about sustainable activism in our movement these days, thanks in large part to the efforts of In Defense of Animals and their Sustainable Activism campaign, and I believe this focus is very needed. Make sure to take care of yourself and find resources to help if needed.

The Animal Movement Project (AMP) is a platform dedicated to building the movement for animals.

We share thoughts and ideas that can take the movement for animals from x to 10x. Our focus is predominantly on animals exploited for food since they account for more than 99% of the animals exploited by humans. The topics covered are often about ways to tie the pieces of the movement together or to fill in the gaps. We focus on connecting people, ideas, and resources to each other.

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