Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Budget-Friendly Benefits of a Depth Year

A few weeks ago I came across a new-to-me blog, Raptitude, thanks to a post titled "Go Deeper, Not Wider." The thesis is that humans are flighty creatures who love novelty. To combat this tendency, the author, David Cain, suggests a "Depth Year," in which you turn away from new experiences and possessions, and instead "find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started." Instead of becoming a Jill-of-all-trades or spreading yourself thin, you commit to one passion or pursuit and go as deep as you can.

I liked this idea immediately. It echoes a lot of what I said in my 2018 Resolutions post, which boiled down to doing more, going further, digging deeper. I decided to make the Depth Year my unofficial theme for the next twelve months. If you're still searching for a goal or focus for the coming year, give it try - especially if any of your goals are financial.

Because the Depth Year is essentially another way to embrace frugality and live within our means. You choose to give up new possessions in favor of what you already have and learn to appreciate what you already own. There are plenty of examples of ways to do this in the original blog post, and there's even a Facebook group devoted to the endeavor where folks share what deep things they're pursuing.

As for me, my two Depth Year activities shouldn't come as a surprise. Finish all my writing projects (but mostly the novel) and get better at running. Both of these things take time, but not money. I have my fingers and my legs, and I don't need much else. Plus, the time I spent on these pursuits is time I'm not spending on things that cost money. I achieve my goals and preserve my budget - what could better?

Writing is pretty self-explanatory, so I won't focus on that right now. Instead, I'll talk a bit about running.

I started running in 2010, after my roller derby league fell apart. It was a fun and healthy way to kill time, and I found I really enjoyed long distances - especially the time to unplug and think. (I never run with music or podcasts or books on tape - running is one of the few times in my life that I am not actively consuming something.) I got so into running that I even completed two full marathons - Austin (in 4:45) and Houston (in 4:20).

Then I moved to North Carolina. I still run and continue to race an annual half marathon, but I don't really train or challenge myself. As a result, I haven't gotten faster - for the last few years, each half marathon I've run has actually been slower than the last.

This year, as part of my exercise in Depth, I'm actually trying. My yearly half marathon is on March 17th, and I'd like to run it in 1:55, which would be a new PR by a cool minute and a half. To that end, I've committed to running three times a week - a tempo run, a speed workout, and a long, slow run. While I like other workouts and am often distracted by shiny, new things like spin, yoga, and kettlebell, I'm putting running first until the race is over. I'm focusing, and committing, and going deeper. Or longer, as the case may be.

So far, it seems to be working. Each Sunday I add a mile to my long run, and each week, despite the increased distance, my overall pace-per-mile is slightly faster. This morning I headed out early, in an effort to beat the rain. I ran a misty 8 miles at a 9:32 pace, and my legs feel fine. Just three weeks ago, I could barely walk after 6 miles at 9:47. Progress is happening, step by step. The trick, I've learned, is to keep going.