LSR #5: Groovy Moving

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…

Leave a comment

64 Comments

  1. Great post! I have recently realized that once I get into the routine of going to the gym 4 or 5 days a week my body responds & stay motivated. I like what you said about applying work habits. I am someone who does well with a schedule. I hadn’t thought of that before.

    Reply
  2. I so agree!
    I needed to get more active so I skied for three days and am playing 4 tennis matches this week. I already feel more alert and am accomplishing a lot more. It is weird when I think that I have a lot less time. The bonus is I don’t feel guilty for sitting in front of the computer this week! I just need to go for it one week at a time…
    Great post!

    Reply
    • Wow, Susie. If I skied for three days…well we won’t go there. LOL I’m in awe of your multi-talents!

      I find that taking short breaks from computer work to stretch, clean or walk (well, really, my dog walks ME ;)) helps tremendously. And those days off sure feel amazing after active spurts!

      Reply
  3. BoJo Photo

     /  February 1, 2012

    Awesome points and well written. I love your writing style!

    Reply
  4. Kourtney Heintz

     /  February 1, 2012

    Working in financial institutions, it was a given you sit 10-12 hours a day. But I’ve had back problems so I alternated kneeling, standing, sitting, sitting in a kneeling chair, and laying throughout the day. Deciding to not stay in a chair and finding alternatives helped. I also took a walking break every hour to grab a snack, water, go to the bathroom, etc. That helped to break up my sedentariness.

    Goal setting is essential. I would do an hour of some sort of exercise a night. Dusting, bellydancing, weights, elliptical. Something every night helps. Then I’d aim for a couple hours a few days a week, especially on the weekends.

    Reply
    • You’re a prime example of making it work, Kourtney! It’s understandable why many feel too exhausted or incapable when it comes to activity, but even the smallest gestures help. One leads to another, leads to another, leads to another… That standing up and walking throughout a desk job-day did so much for your wellness. It probably also motivated you to move more in the evening. Nicely done!

      And you’re SO right. It takes firm decision-making, goal setting and commitment to a routine.

      Reply
  5. I do best with a workout partner and I DON’T HAVE ONE RIGHT NOW.

    My second biggest motivation is my daughter. I had her late enough that if I don’t take care of myself, she’s not going to be very happy with me.

    Last of all, I have a history of blood clots and obesity is one of the 4 main causes of blood clots. Extra weigh can literally kill me, so I’m working off the baby weight as we speak. 🙂

    I hate it, but I’m hoping with a workout partner it will get better.

    Reply
    • Wow, Jenny. You are definitely set in the motivation category! I wish more people considered the risks as you do… Not fun to think about, but important.

      Hmm… Anyone out there need a fabulous, funny, go-getter workout partner?? 😉 Maybe I should start a workout series for writers via YouTube or Skype. Hmm…

      Reply
      • If I lived closer I’d totally be there. We could work something out a couple times a month, though. I’m up for it, how about you, Jenny? We could walk or do that nasty hot yoga thing.

      • Tameri, surely we could get this one worked out via phone, no? With a beach walk or beach yoga at our mid-point periodically??

  6. Great Post August! I love the TV triathlon idea. I can work out and still watch TV at the same time, that’s so cool! I can see the term ‘coach potato’ being a thing of the past…

    Reply
    • So glad this resonated with you, Nisha. TV workouts are awesome. I’m not one of those “Must FEEL the BURN” people. I’ll take distraction any time! LOL

      When I first started working out, Oprah was my “partner.” Anyone remember the “Get moving with Oprah” days? If you were in Minnesota and heard an exhausted woman screaming it, yep… Guilty.

      Reply
  7. I need to do more exercise especially when I stop working to focus on writing. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Exercise breaks are so key while working and writing from home. It helps wellness AND writing-wise. You come back to your writing refreshed and sharper minded.

      Best of luck through your exciting transition!

      Reply
  8. GREAT POST! You have provided some excellent tips for exercise veterans and rookies alike!
    This week has been a particularly challenging one for me and the ONLY way I have been able to power through it is to make that commitment to exercise. I have NOT wanted to get out of bed each day (especially after being up half the night administering breathing treatments to my sick kiddos), but I know that if I take that extra 10-40 minutes to get my blood moving, everything looks a little better.
    And although my husband doesn’t have the time each morning to workout formally like I do, he walks or bikes to work most every day of the year – even in a blizzard! We have found that incorporating exercise into everyday living (buying groceries, running errands, getting to school or work) is one of the very best ways
    to stay healthy… and if you get to enjoy some sunshine (a rarity in Ohio) it’s all the better!

    Reply
    • <>

      So true, Jana! One reason many people lack vitamin D—the “sunshine” vitamin—is the fact that we stay in so often. I’m thrilled to know that you and your hubby prioritize activity. Once we’ve experienced the benefits, it’s tough to consider life any other way.

      Reply
  9. As much as I could sit on my hiney and read and write all day, I know that most of my inspiration strikes when I’m out and about and moving:) Just started running. I have NEVER been a runner and I”ve never been in super shape. But, I’ve started slowly and it’s helping me to stick to my goals. So much great information in this post, I could go on and on… 🙂

    Reply
    • I relate to everything you said, Kara. I’ve written entire short stories while running at the park, and encountered more “a HA”/break through moments mid-work out than I can count.

      Good luck with your writing and fitness goals. Slow and steady really does win the race. 🙂

      Reply
  10. mgmillerbooks

     /  February 2, 2012

    100% agreement. I always feel so much better after a workout. Having a tough time lately, though, because my day job has become so stressful, and there’s nothing left of me at the end of the day. I even wake up already tired the next morning. Something’s got to give, though, and I refuse to let it be me. I WILL start applying some of these great tips, however, and get it where I can. Thanks, August. Yet another great post.

    Reply
    • I bet many of us have been there at some point, MG, me included.

      Addressing the real reasons we feel unable to exercise is so important. It often has little to with the actual fitness or time deficit and more to do with lack of personal fulfillment and too much stress.

      Sounds like you’re aware and determined—key ingredients. That “something’s gotta give” frustration is great fuel for positive change. 😉

      Reply
  11. Great post August! I love how you associated the need to move with writing – great connection for the writerly minds out there like me!
    I’ve been slack on the workout part, but I’m slowly getting better. And cleaning house is definitely exercise – mopping and vacuuming to some fun tunes.. oh yeah! lol!
    Also, if you have a flower or vegetable garden, or any type of yard work, can be a good workout as well and it provides another opportunity to do some pondering on your WIP.
    All this exercise talk is making me want to get up and move!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Jennifer

    Reply
    • Gardening as exercise—great idea! My version would entail jogging to the fake plant store or running circles around a gardener with skills I lack. LOL

      Glad you’re inspired!

      Reply
  12. Creative atrophy! I love that and I have a good visual–well, not pretty but I think it might be a helpful reminder when I feel stuck with my writing.
    Oh and I haven’t won any awards, but I am pretty good at the TV triathalon–I am always marching,jogging or stretching in front of it 🙂

    Reply
  13. Ha… Thanks, Coleen! I actually looked for a creative atrophy-like photo to post, to no avail. Guessing our imaginations can do better anyway. 😉 I’ll think of you during my next tele-workout!

    Reply
  14. EllieAnn

     /  February 2, 2012

    HI August!
    Awesome post, once again. When I was just starting getting into running, my goal was to run a half marathon in 6 months with my best friend. Honestly, if I hadn’t been running with my friend I would have given up, it’s so hard . . . especially starting out. But that pressure of “she’s waiting at the park for me, I’d better go,” was all I needed. And now that my muscles are developed for long distance running, and I have a groove, I love going out running so it doesn’t matter anymore that I don’t have a partner because I love running.
    But…at the beginning, I can’t stress how important it was for me to have an exercise partner.
    And that park tip–love it! 🙂

    Reply
  15. I’m a big believer in treating the only body we have with respect, so I loved this post, along with its writing analogy. So, although my boys call me a dork, I will continue to write while I walk using my treadmill shelf, a topic I blogged on not too long ago. If we want to become octogenarians, we must. keep. moving.

    Thanks for another great post 🙂

    Reply
    • Woah, you do that, too?! (One person’s “dorky” is another’s view of brilliance. ;)) I take printed pages of what I’ve last written to the gym and scribble/revise away while on the elliptical. I can’t always read what I wrote…but doing so etches it in my mind.

      100+, here we come!

      Reply
  16. What a great post! Thanks. I’m floundering a bit right now. It’s a cyclical phase for me — between books, waiting on galleys, the middle of dark winter.
    This was just the kick-in-the-rapidly-spreading butt I needed!

    Reply
  17. I totally agree, August!

    Reply
  18. August, this was awesome information. We won’t groove, if we don’t move!

    I, like Coleen, like your creative atrophy comment. When our bodies go to mush, so do our brains. And especially if we don’t eat right. Forget about it.

    And isn’t Dr. Oz amazing. I’m into organic foods, homeopathy, chinese medicine; all that good stuff. But I have CFS so I have to exercise in small doses.

    Between you and Ginger Calem, none of us have any excuse to have a #writtersbutt anymore! LOL!

    Thanks August. I always find your posts informative! 🙂

    Reply
    • Glad to hear that, Karen! I’m definitely a Dr. Oz fan, too. He covers all aspects of health with great focus on lifestyle remedies and preventative care.

      Good for you for taking CFS in stride and moving in appropriate amounts rather than using it as an “excuse” not to. (Not that I’d ever expect you to.) You’re an inspiration!

      Reply
  19. Wonderful post August with absolutely amazing tips and tricks. I love the ways you’ve described in which we can work fitness and a healthy lifestyle into our every day lives and in fun ways.
    Hubby and I aren’t gym people and we like fun and variety so we try skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, golfing, swimming etc. The variety makes it so it doesn’t feel like exercise at all!

    Reply
    • A woman after my own heart! LOL I do enjoy the gym, but only because I love reading on the elliptical. My hubby has introduced me to the incredible outdoor opportunities throughout southern California. We love hiking up in the mountains, jogging on the beach…sometimes both in the same day. 😉 Keep rocking it, Natalie. You two are a power-pair for sure.

      Reply
  20. gingercalem

     /  February 2, 2012

    You’re speaking my language here, August. Fantastic post and as you know, I agree 100%!

    Reply
  21. Another awesome post, August. Good advice and suggestions. I tried the dog walking thing, but mine gets the urge to pee every 15 seconds so we’re constantly stopping. And I tried the horse riding routine, but my horse is no more motivated than me so we plodded along. Neither one of us was getting proper exercise. My exercise now does not involve an animal.

    I do however go to zumba 2 nights a week and the gym a few times a week. This is new to me and I’m liking it, especially the zumba.

    And I love, love, love to swing on the swings. I can’t get my husband to swing beside me (he’s afraid the chains’ll break under his bulk), but he usually lets me indulge for a few minutes while he sits on a bench and laughs at my glee.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
    • Ha… Oh, Patricia. I’m sure it was frustrating at the time, trying to get a workout while your animals move at a snail’s pace and frequently pause to relieve themselves, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

      Zumba sounds like a blast. And you know I love swinging. 🙂 So glad you’ve found activities you enjoy and benefit from!

      Reply
  22. Amazing post! I love to cycle, so I finally bought a spinning bike so I can keep it up during the cold winter months up here in Canada.

    Sometimes I get in tune with my inner child, grab my skipping rope and go outside. I think “play” is so important as adults. It really releases stress.

    Reply
    • Thrilled you enjoyed it! Kudos for not letting the cold keep you stoic. 😉 And I couldn’t agree with you more… Play is so important physically and emotionally.

      Reply
  23. I really do love this, August. Exercise isn’t the issue for me, it’s food. I can walk six miles every day for the rest of my life and still be the same weight I am because I’ll eat more calories than I’m burning off. I’m working on it, though. Your question up there really resonates with me, with a slight twist ~ I keep asking myself why I want to lose weight and I can’t come up with an answer that is as powerful as Jodie Foster’s need to know what Hannibal has in his head. I’m overweight, but all my tests come back amazing. I don’t have high blood pressure, cholesterol, no diabetes, nothing to cause alarm, but there’s a little voice in the back of my head that say, ‘not today, but tomorrow maybe’. Even that isn’t enough to motivate me to stick to healthy eating. I purposefully sabotage myself and I need to understand why.

    Wow! How’s that for a maxi-pad tossing moment? (that’s my new catch phrase for TMI. I love it!)

    Anyway, I’m working on it and I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’m loving your LSR posts!

    Reply
    • Maxi-pad tossing moment?!? LOVE it, Tameri. I may need to slip that into everyday conversation. 😉 For the record, TMI doesn’t exist around here. So please, feel free to speak your heart and mind.

      Toward that end, here’s what mine says! (ha) You said you’ll “still be the same weight I am because I’ll eat more calories than I’m burning off.” To me, this shows an expectation you have of yourself—expecting we’ll overeat lends itself to, yep, overeating. Changing your thinking and imagining yourself as an even healthier person can help you determine why you want to change in the first place and increase your odds of doing so.

      Second, it seems to me that when you think of losing excess pounds, your next thought is, essentially, ‘I eat too much.’ If this is the case, I’d suggest switching your focus. Eating more healthy foods, for example, is a much better option than thinking “I should eat less” (the latter just makes most of us hungry! ;)).

      Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are rich in fiber, which promotes appetite control, so people with whole foods-based diets typically eat fewer overall calories than those who don’t. Do you eat at least 2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables and 3 1-oz. servings of whole grains daily? If not, try starting there. (If you do, I’d really question whether weight loss is necessary.)

      Learning to eat mindfully (with awareness) and intuitively (respecting the body, eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full…) also promote a healthy weight. And remember, muscle mass, bone density, genes, hormones, time of day and fluid levels all affect the number on the scale. Think healthy weight and body composition instead of weight loss.

      See? Never TMI. LOL! Please let me know if I can support your efforts in any way. I’ll never judge and have your best interests at heart.

      Reply
  24. Great post, August. After a month off with the injured ankle, I’m back on the treadmill this week … And I love it. 🙂 all those hours of sitting in front of a computer really take their tole on the back and the leg muscles, so I appreciate getting up and moving.

    Reply
  25. I agree with your post 100%. I’ve experienced it! I loved the way my story would come to life during my workouts. I would workout 6 days a week and I was still making great strides on my story. But all that was before I introduced social media. I have since fallen off that wagon. I need to jump back on again and find a groove that works. I miss it and am starting to notice the difference. *cringes* Your posts keep inspiring!

    Reply
  26. Go, Debra, go! I’m totally picturing a spinning class filled with writers… All of us pedaling away while typing on laptops propped on the handlebars. LOL! (A girl can dream…)

    Here’s the great thing about getting back on the fitness wagon. Our muscles have memory. You’ll be back in the full swing soon!

    Reply
  27. I am glad my wife is not reading your posts … she is a health freak (herself being in health care profession) and your well organized list is just an endorsement of the things she rants day in day out. You task list for Un-Athletically-Enthused seems more fitting to my lifestyle. At least you have presented in a way that it sounds fun. Few things I do in that category are, I park my car at the farthest end of lot at work, and it’s a long walk. I work at corporate HQ which is nine storied building. I do never take elevators at work. I meditate and our boys keep me active outdoors; weather permitting. “Sweatin’ to the Moldies” is something she would be happy to see in me. My favorite is the TV triathlon. That’s a great idea!

    Reply
  28. Love the photos! Makes me miss hiking in the bluffs. Can’t wait until spring again.

    Reply
  29. GREAT point to explore, August!
    Most artists abuse their body therough alcohol or other means in the name of “creating art”, but you’re right, we have to care for the WHOLE package, so to speak.

    Reply
  30. snagglewordz

     /  February 4, 2012

    Eek – will get on to this right away. Good reminder!

    Reply
  31. Hey August,

    Great post. My blogging partner over at Romance & Beyond, Carole St-Laurent, posted about writers and depression this week, a statistical downer.

    Carole’s post ties in with your advice here. Moving is key to good health, yet as a writer, I do a LOT of sitting. (Yet I object to long car rides. Weird.)

    Your post is a reminder to work harder at weaving exercise into my daily routine. A nap is a good rest. If change is as good as a rest, then exercise (change from sitting to walking) should be as good as a nap, right?

    Reply
    • I’ll have to pop over and check that post out, Sherry. I’d say that yes, exercise can be as helpful as napping. Without proper rest, exercise is less beneficial. I’m actually planning a post on healthy sleep, so stay tuned… 😉

      Reply
  32. Another fabulous post, August. thanks for all the links.

    Reply
  33. Hi August. Good adice for finding new ways to exercise. You’re right that cleaning house can be pretty good exercise. Maybe you should patent the 50lb vacuum cleaner. I like to walk on a treadmill for 30mins first thing in the morning, otherwise I get grumpy during the day (ok, more grumpy). I wakes me up as well. I hate the first few moments but I quickly forget.

    This is a good series, thanks.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  34. You’re so right on all apsects, August. One of the best decisions I ever made was hiring a personal trainer right after I turned 30. I didn’t want to pack on the dreaded 25 lb gut like so many men do. Little did I know the path I was undertaking. Once I noticed the physical changes in my body, that set off a chain reaction. My self esteem improved which led to more confidence which led to more confidence around women which led to an improved dating life which led to committed relationships which finally led me to Lauren, my soul mate. We got married this past July. Even now when I find myself feeling down or blah, I know what the remedy is: exercise. Nothing stirs the old endorphin pot like weights and cardio.

    Reply
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