You’ve heard the jokes about having a “writer’s body.” Maybe you’ve made them yourself. It’s not about weight. Instead, it’s usually about our fitness and health. We’re sedentary as a rule, and there are dozens of studies out there that show that a sedentary lifestyle can be damaging to our health.
It’s so easy to get sucked into a story and forget about eating, exercising, and just about everything else. Maybe you have a deadline, and you just can’t get up for long. We’ve all got excuses. In fact, as writers, we’re really good at coming up with new ones for every situation. It’s an occupational hazard.
Forget all of that for a moment. Making excuses for yourself is pretty defeating. You might not have time for a full-on workout or a class (not that we can really take those in person at the moment), but you do have 10 minutes in your day somewhere. You know you do. Very often, we as writers can feel that it’s either all or nothing in terms of exercise. It’s time to change that mindset. Even a 10-15-minute workout can help your productivity and your health.
Let’s start with the mental benefits. Dr. Janina Scarlet, Psychologist and award-winning author of “Superhero Therapy” explains, “Exercise can allow you to release the built-up, stagnant energy that stress creates. More than that, exercise can build up dopamine and endorphins, “feel good” chemicals that can allow you to be more resilient, have more endurance to do your work and can help you to be better at problem-solving.”
Exercise is going to improve your mood and help you focus on what you’re doing. It’s not just the endorphins. Many of us have that nagging feeling that we should take care of ourselves better. It slips in while you’re writing, and it can be another distraction.
So, what do you do about this? Think about it for a moment. Where in your day could you take 10 or 15 minutes to do something? Could it be in the morning before you sit down to write? Could it be mid-day before you have lunch? Maybe a 10-minute yoga session at the end of the day?
You don’t have to lift weights or do a hardcore, hour-long HIIT class. There are benefits from just walking outside. (Wear your mask!) Just a 10-minute brisk walk can help you focus, get your blood moving, and give you a different perspective in terms of what you’re writing. One writer we spoke to told us that moving is the best cure for writer’s block out there. It’s particularly helpful, she said, if you do it outside. Just seeing different things, getting some Vitamin D from the sun, and breathing in some fresh air allows you to attack a problem from a different angle.
Yoga is another idea. There are a ton of online classes right now. Some of them are even free or ask for a small donation. Yoga – even a bit of stretching – can calm down your mind. It takes practice to clear out the chattering monkeys in your head, but the breathing techniques that yoga teaches can help focus you on something other than your story for a while. Taking a mental break can help you see your next step clearly.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said that one of yoga’s benefits is that the movements that your muscles are making allow you to meditate better. Basically, that means that you’re “getting the ants out of your pants” and burning off nervous energy so that you can sit. You know, the same way you take dogs and kids to the park to run off their energy so they will be able to sit through dinner and homework. It works for them, and it works for us as adults.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious, a 10-15 minute run can really burn off that energy and help you focus when you’re done. It doesn’t have to be fast. In fact, who cares how fast you go? No one, that’s who. A quick jog around the block is worth it.
Here are a few ideas in terms of exercise, just to get you started.
A 10-15-minute walk at a brisk pace will help you get down to the business of writing. You should be able to speak but perhaps be a bit out of breath. The idea is to elevate your heart rate for the full walk. If you feel yourself breaking into a job, the same should be true of your breath. If you like, a podcast will really help here. One idea is the Biographics podcast, which has short episodes. You get a bit of history in quick, entertaining bites, which might even help inspire you. Or pick 4 or 5 songs that you love that will get your pulse going. Spotify has searchable playlists that will raise your heart rate if you need a few ideas.
If you feel like you need more heart rate elevation, a quick run is a great idea. Make sure you have proper shoes on, of course, but you don’t need much other than that for a quick run like this. (Well, a good sports bra, if you’re a breast-owner.) Do check with your doctor to make sure you’re up for it. If you feel inspired by the idea of running, there are a ton of virtual races out there for both runs and walks that you can do at your own pace. They even send you a medal! Having a goal with a shiny, pretty thing at the end can really help with motivation.
As we mentioned, there are a ton of virtual classes that you can take of all different lengths. The big thing to remember here is that it’s not a stretching competition. It’s even easier now to keep from comparing your flexibility to everyone else since no one can see you. It’s about practicing (it’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason) pushing your limits. There are classes for relaxation, for warming up, for specific injuries, and so much more. It’s limited only by how your ability to Google!
That deadline is looming, and you really don’t have time for much. Okay, we get that! Can you get up for a full 60 seconds and do jumping jacks next to your desk? Even that heart rate elevation can be beneficial. Set your alarm for a quick break at the end of each hour and do 10 jacks.
There are so many options for you. Just give it a try. Happy writing!