3 min read

Writing #8 : Want to be a writer? Get fit

Want to be a writer? Get fit

I know what you're thinking.

Writers, as a lot, don't inspire the word "fit." We spend uninterrupted hours sitting in front of a computer, typewriter, or notepad. For variation, we spent the rest of our time doing "research," which usually means reading books and articles while sitting.

It doesn't take a lot of fitness to sit all day.

That's the point.

If you watch the fantastic video above,  Alya Titarenko and Gael Ouisse trust each other. They are willing to rest against each other, while continuing to hold themselves up.

To my mind, writing is like that.

The story must trust you to be able to support it. Just as Alya must trust Gael to hold her up and vice versa.

If you are unfit, you simply do not have the strength to write for hours at a time, let alone recover from writing for hours at a time.  Faced with this strength and energy deficit, many authors resort to drugs, alcohol, and caffeine in various quantities to give them the energy to keep going.

Stephen King, in On Writing, talks about a time when he was doing so much cocaine fueled writing that he had to stick Q-tips in his nose to keep the liquid off the typewriter.

That's a lovely image, isn't it?

How the hell am I going to get fit when my job requires that I sit??

Of course you have to want to get fit, first. In an effort to scare the crap out of you, I share the following articles:

  • Sitting is the new smoking (Runner's world): "Up until very recently, if you exercised for 60 minutes or more a day, you were considered physically active, case closed," says Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. "Now a consistent body of emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity. It's a bit like smoking. Smoking is bad for you even if you get lots of exercise. So is sitting too much." Takeaway: Even if you run for an hour, if you sit for more than 2 hours at a time, your health is compromised.

  • Get up. Get out. Don't sit (New York Times): "Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said." Takeaway: You need to get moving. Now.

  • Sitting is the smoking of our generation (Harvard Business Review): "We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay." Takeaway: Some good ideas on how to get moving.

What's the point? Stop sitting for more than two hours at a time.

How the hell is an author supposed to pull that off?

Easily. Here are a few strategies I use:

  1. The 7-minute workout: The 7-minute workout was deemed by the New York Times to be the scientifically the best workout. Period. To make it easier, there's even a 7-minute workout site that takes you through the entire thing. I set a timer for 10 am and workout for 7-minutes. This gets my heart pumping and increases my metabolism for a few hours. The results are actually pretty great.

  2. Set a timer: Productivity research shows that human beings are only capable of paying attention to a project for an hour and a half. After that time, attention and productivity decline. If I'm trying to get something done, I set a timer for an hour and a half. (Timers I use? Windows 8.1 has an awesome timer app. I also use an old fashioned egg timer and my Gymboss.)

  3. Walking station/Standing station: Because of my back injury, I'm unable to stand for any length of time. However, a standing station is a great and easy way to get out of the chair. I have a walking station. We purchased an inexpensive treadmill from Costco and added shelves. The monitor is on the top shelf. I use the station for at least a 1/2 hour a day. I truly love walking and writing or editing.

  4. I get two high intensity workouts per week: At the end of last year, I was released from PT to workout. I was able to talk, cajole, and mostly beg Chris Lindley to work with me. I meet him twice a week for high intensity training. Because of my back injury, I need to see a trainer (over taking a class). He's able to keep my injuries in mind while we create workouts. I'd recommend at least taking a high intensity class once a week. What's a high intensity class? Spin classes, aerobics, even water aerobics works. There are plenty of inexpensive classes through city rec programs. I like seeing Chris and have taken spin classes at Endorphin.

I'd love to hear your strategies or how you overcome the strain of sitting all the time. What works? What doesn't? If you try these, let me know how it goes. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.