How Writers Keep Fit (Suggestions Welcome)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
It’s hard to believe that the ridiculously adorable eight-pound dog you see there can do so much damage.

She’s ruined a (very nice upholstered) chair, the (somewhat nice) carpet and the (sorta nice) skin on my husband’s arms. Basically, there’s ample reason why she’s called The Reign of Terror.

However, there is one redeeming grace to The Reign of Terror. She gets my husband up and out of his office about 27 times a day. For a fellow who used to sit for hours on end, this movement strikes me as a heart-healthy alternative.

I, on the other hand, have found myself sitting for longer and longer periods every day. And I’ve also found that by the end of the day, I’m stiff and sore and my bones and back are creakin’.

For years, I’ve managed to fit exercise into my daily routine. Running after three kids? Check. Up and down in teeny-tiny chairs, caring for preschoolers? Check. Walking miles of halls, patrolling middle schoolers? Check. I’ve pretty much had running, walking, bending, stretching and twisting covered for most of my life. Until now.

Now, I sit.

Oh, occasionally I’ll get in walking when I’m running errands. And I climb the stairs to get to my office. But honestly, if I could find a way to install a dumbwaiter, I wouldn’t have to go ALL THE WAY DOWNSTAIRS to eat lunch.

And before you think, geez, Cathy, how lazy can you get? It’s not laziness (Okay, it’s a little bit of laziness). But mostly, it’s writing. It’s getting into the zone and not wanting to stop. It’s the drive to keep going because I know that if I lose the plot thread now, I may never get it back. It’s the primal need to feed the writing beast. More, more, more, my brain shouts and my fingers take off with a mind of their own. By the time I come up for air, it's time for supper. A very late supper.

I cannot be the only one out there who struggles with fitting exercise into the writing lifestyle. It’s a necessary part of the business, this butt-in-chair discipline. But I’m betting that there are writers who’ve come up with solutions to this problem. Unfortunately, short of taking over the duties of the Reign of Terror (and really, I couldn’t possibly deny my husband that pleasure), I’m at a loss.

So I thought I’d ask you to share your exercise advice. Do you set a timer? Do you drink a ton of water? Do you train puppies? What? What do you do?

My aching back wants to know your tips. And I might even stop writing long enough to try a few.

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

I thought I was the only one who drank lots of water so I would have to get up frequently and pee. I thought it was my secret strategy, but since you mentioned it, I guess someone "stole" my patented procedure and is spreading it around far and wide.

But now that you also mentioned puppies, having one DOES get you up frequently. Are there any writers out there who would like to rent Radar (our golden retriever puppy) for a day? A weekend? A few months?

When the writing is going well, we do have a tendency to not break the spell and continue to sit and our butt gets wider and wider. I will be interested in what other writers have to say.

Unknown said...

stationary exercise bike-- you can hop on for 10, 15, 20 minute sprints.
sandy gardner

Renee Roberson said...

Oh, my goodness, Cathy, my daughter got a long-haired, mini doxie puppy on Memorial Day weekend as a birthday gift and I feel like I should have lost 10 pounds by now (which of course I haven't). I am constantly sprinting to catch her before she has an accident and running up the stairs after her (she is so proud to have mastered those already). I keep asking myself how someone so tiny can have so much energy!

We have one other dog, a chiweenie, who also has a lot of energy so I've always counted on his need for two walks a day to squeeze in some exercise, but it's tough when you get in writing/editing zone. I have a gym membership which gets neglected in the summer when my kids are home.

In the past few months, I've started doing the "Just Sweat" program on Just Dance Wii with my 8-year-old competitive son and, believe it or not, it seems to be boosting my energy levels and helping me tone up a bit. That's all I've got!

Anonymous said...

I do drink lots of water which does get me out of the chair to go to the bathroom frequently, but if I'm in the zone, I've found I can wait quite a long time for that bathroom break.

Someone suggested a stationary bike, which I have, but I again find myself giving into the muse and my thread of words. So I stay put!

It is the bane of my existence how to fit exercise into the writing life! HELP, somebody! HELP us!

Amber Polo said...

Yes, the old rule of butt in chair as a writing tip needs revising.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Stationary bike, huh? I have a treadmill (but as I keep it downstairs, I've found out of sight, out of mind is generally the case!).

Renee, I'm convinced those tiny dogs are like kids: we fall in love with them when they're itty-bitties so that when they hit their wildness, we can't help keeping 'em. :-)

As for our exercise dilemma...sigh. Maybe we just need to take off for the summer?? Give our butts a break...:-)

Robyn Chausse said...

Ugh! Sore back, sore butt, and a tremendous loss in muscle tone...not to mention getting winded just walking across a parking lot.
This week I started setting my alarm earlier so I can go outside (while it is somewhat cool) to do some yard work. I like to think I can continue this early morning bit and use it to paint the house/clean the house/get some exercise--but I probably won't. But here are some things I came up with to help us out (other suggestions much appreciated):
1) Every time I take a bathroom break I can take a few minutes to stretch (and still be thinking of my project).
2) Every time I take a kitchen break I can dance my way down the hall.
3) While waiting for my computer to boot up I can do jumping jacks or run in place.
Whew! Okay, that's enough to start with--I'm tired just thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a natural fidgeter, which helps. I keep a yoga mat in plain sight of my work area as a reminder/shaming implement, so that when I hit the end of a scene or chapter, I can take twenty minutes to do a short routine. And I'll make myself do crunches before I'm allowed to recaffeinate myself. ;)

I've also been considering a standing desk (or Ikea-hacking a convertible desk) to combat some of that "my butt has been in the same place for literally hours" problem.

Abby said...

I like to power through 1,000 words and then go for a walk--both the word count and the promise of stretching my legs get me to focus (most of the time)!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks for all the suggestions, y'all! I suppose I won't take the summer off after all. Now to decide which trick, er, exercise, will work for me! :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm in double trouble, because I work part time as a medical transcriptionist, so I go from sitting at home writing to sitting at work transcribing. My whole day is literally spent at the keyboard, cheeks parked. My strategy is that I get up early (between 5 & 6) and do two miles on the treadmill, so that gets me rolling. Then I watch the clock and force myself to get up every 30 minutes, even if it is just to stretch. Sometimes I'll glance at the clock and realize it's been a lot longer--a couple hours sometimes!--but I give my best effort to move around every 30 minutes or so. And the first-of-the-morning exercise is a necessity. Without it, my joints ache and I don't sleep well at night, so when I say "I just can't miss my two mile walk" I'm not bragging about having a routine. If I don't do it I pay the price in a big way.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah---have to say your doxie is adorable. She may be a terror, but she's a cute terror. :)

Lynn said...

After reading all the suggestions, I have a stationery bike that sits real close to the chair I write in... guess I'll set a timer and make myself spin the fake wheels every now and then.

Anonymous said...

Reading is part of writing, and I have found it's not that hard to read on my stationary bike if I'm only pedaling moderately.

I have a passion for bicycling, and I often find that if I don't get road time, I don't get much motivation to do anything, including writing. I also don't get the alone, clear-head time that I need to write. So, it eventually becomes a priority. I'm blessed that I only live a mile from my office and can bike-commute, so I often leave the house 30-45 minutes early and get a few miles in.

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