Of the countless available writing guidelines, I believe that one applies to all of us. We hafta write. Sure, we might daydream up some doozies of stories, but without sitting our butts down to the page consistently, the world’s greatest tales might never take flight. A sedentary writing lifestyle leads to one thing: creative atrophy. (Ah… You see where I’m going with this. ;)) Welcome to Lifesaving Resolution #5.
As writers, failure to care for our bodies is like a big time business exec building his or her office out of rotted wood. (What good are our minds if the casing wears out?)
Inactivity runs so rampant in the U.S., researchers have coined the term sedentary death syndrome (SDS): an expanding list of medical conditions exacerbated by a lack of physical activity that causes premature disability and death in millions of Americans each year. The less we move, the greater our chances become for developing arthritis, obesity, breathing problems, depression, gallstones, hypertension, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, memory loss and sudden death.
WOW. That was happy! Why don’t we all pause to do a few jumping jacks?
Yes, the stats are depressing. But I’m guessing they’re not exactly news to most of you. You probably also know the common reasons exercise gets missed—too little time, exhaustion, lack of motivation, strong-hold habits, pain or difficulty, allergic reactions to sweat… (That last one might be emotional. ;)) Here’s the irony: regular physical activity can improve or rectify these hurdles and guard against SDS—once we’re on track.
Groovy Moving Guidelines
Getting and staying fit isn’t as hard, boring or horrible as it seems. (I’m not speaking of the Svens in the room!) With experience at all parts of the exercise spectrum personally and professionally, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. If a girl who wrote papers to get out gym class can do it, so can you.
1. Set realistic, positive goals. Signing up for a marathon when you haven’t run since high school is like aiming to churn out a novel per month. It may seem like a fantastic goal, but for most of us, it’s a setup for failure. And fixating on weight or calories is a bit like striving toward a specific word count, rather than your best quality work. Realistic goals promote steady, gradual change. They also support your wellness and happiness.
2. Consider your motivation. You know how important it is for our main characters to have intense motivation? The same applies to physical fitness. How boring would “Silence of the Lambs” be if Jodi Foster’s character met Hannibal Lector and said, “I’d stay and chat but I could really use a pedicure. Think I’ll hit up Google from the salon.” No. She has to WANT the information in his head as desperately as he wants to withhold it, taunt her and manipulate. We must feel moved, in order to more. Why do you want to exercise?
3. Apply your work style. Personality, worth ethic and overall style play an important role in fitness success. Are you a super independent writer? You may not need much handholding regarding fitness either. If you work best with an agent or mentor, seek the support of a personal trainer or fitness-savvy friend. Do you rely upon schedules and meticulous outlines? Apply similar techniques to your exercise routine. Bore easily and use your calendar for scratch paper? Try something new each week or month. Dig critique groups? Join an aerobics class or boot camp.
4. Savor the path. While there’s nothing wrong with envisioning your book at the airport shop or rolling in so much dough you use twenties as wallpaper, the real prize is the process. Losing ourselves in our stories. Experiencing them as they grow and change. Writing most every day because, even if we hit a rough patch, we’d feel sad if we didn’t. Fitness is similar—or, at least, it should be.
By choosing activities we enjoy, seeking ways to add pleasure and focusing on the positives, fitness success isn’t about a finish line or simple calories in/calories out. It’s about cherishing our bodies, recognizing the miraculous work they do for us and dancing around in our boosted creativity, better sex lives, sounder sleep and kick-butt yippee-hoo moods. (Got your attention there, didn’t I? ;))
5. Rest. As with most things, too much exercise causes damage. Breaks and days off enhance our creative work, emotional well-being and physical fitness. Out tissues repair themselves and strengthen and we’re less likely to get bored. Unless you’re a professional athlete, exercising 60 minutes or longer seven days a week is generally considered excessive. (Getting enough good-quality sleep, water and nutritious food is also important.)
Groovy Moves for the Un-Athletically-Enthused
Walk your story. Ever have an epiphany smack in the middle of a workout? There’s a reason. Movement naturally boosts brain function. (More on this below.) The moment you feel stuck or your eyes feel computer-buggied-out, slip on your sneakers and go.
Walk your dog. One of my favorites! And according to a study featured in TIME magazine, dog walkers are more likely to reach their fitness goals versus their non-pooch-walker counterparts.
Sweatin’ to the Moldies: Okay, kind of gross. But the idea rocks IMHO. Actively cleaning your house is exercise! In other words, you need not make like a hamster at the gym. Pump tunes if you like, preferably with a peppy beat. Wear workout attire. (This is also an awesome time to contemplate your WIP.)
TV Triathalon: Pick a show, any show. Choose three activities you can do on the spot, such as crunches, lunges and jumping jacks. Each time the program moves to a commercial, switch to another activity.
Play! I still love swinging on the big metal and rubber swings at parks. Play with your kids, your nieces and nephews, your best friend, your spouse. Throw a football or frisbee. Remember, the key is finding something you enjoy and doing it.
For more information, check out these fabulous links:
Research Journal: Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Potential: Immediate and Residual Results (2005) That’s right, folks! Exercise immediately increases brain sharpness and creativity. Nothing kicks “writer’s block” like a little tae bo…
MayoClinic.com: Seven Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Key Fitness Guidelines for Active Adults
Dr. Weil: Making Aerobic Exercise Simple and Fun
Dr. Oz Show: 10-Minute Exercise Ideas
Gary W. Small, MD: Keep Walking to Stay Mentally Sharp (via JaneFonda.com)
Jenny Hansen: Fear of the Week: Hot Yoga Might Kill Me. While not a fan of sweaty yoga myself, I highly condone the kind of laughter Jenny inspires.
What groovy moving tip resonates with you? Any you’d like to add? Challenges or goals we can support you toward? If leading a healthy lifestyle helps you feel beautiful, visit The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest—just 9 days away! Spread the word or enter as a blogger for a chance at a Kindle and more…