Friday, 1 August 2014


The fifth in an alphabetical series of blog posts: A-Z: An alphabetical journal through the doctoral experience. 

Twice a week, for my sins, I attend a spin class where I sit on a stationary bike and pedal hard for 45 minutes.  Someone very fit shouts instructions over loud music: stand up, sit down, resistance up, resistance down!  I travel nowhere but boy do I feel like I've covered some ground!  But of those 45 minutes at least 10 are spent 'in recovery' and that's before we stop pedalling at the end of the class. Recovery doesn't mean stopping.  We keep pedalling but the resistance is lowered and the muscles recover before the next, more challenging spurt.  This is, of course, a useful principle to apply to other areas of my life.

Such as my PhD!  I am working to a tight, three-year schedule.  I'm two years in and my third and final year is looming large on the horizon!  I didn't quite manage to complete my empirical research in the time I'd allotted; there's a few transcriptions outstanding; I know there's a mountain to climb in terms of data analysis and writing up.  Time to grit your teeth, buckle down and start climbing that hill you might say. 

But instead, I'm about to immerse myself in Lake District scenery and fresh air. There won't be an academic book, article or work email in sight for a few weeks. Don't be fooled though - I'm slowing not stopping and it's temporary.  My relationship with my research is maturing, more interesting than ever and as one of the Guardian's Anonymous Academics (also a mature doctoral student) has recently written the doctoral work is always running as a background programme throughout the day.  But over the next few weeks, just as in my spin class, I'm going to be significantly reducing the obvious effort in order to allow my PhD muscles to 'recover'.  Slower pedalling equals - I hope! - reinvigorating, creative thinking time.  And useful practice for next year too.  I have a strong feeling that knowing when, how and for how long to ease off is going to be an essential survival skill!

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