Thursday, 10 February 2011

Keep Fit for Writers

Anybody in a sedentary occupation should consider exercise options for a healthy lifestyle. For writers, however, I would suggest that it is even more important.
How many of us get so immersed in our writing that time passes without us noticing and we can be sitting at a desk/ computer for hours without even moving? I know I can.
At least in an office environment, one is more likely to take regular breaks, but often we have to consciously remind ourselves to do so. It is not always an easy feat, particularly when we are ‘in the zone’ and just want to carry on.
Routine is clearly the answer. Yet, although I have a writing routine, everything else comes second and I might set a target for exercise, but I am neglectful of keeping to it.
Motivation and discipline are key. If one cannot stick to a routine, perhaps a class or a gym is the answer. The downside, however, is that it is likely to eat into one’s precious time even more.
I am a lapsed Pilates class attendee, yet I used to go regularly one evening every week. Initially, it suited my routine well and the fact that most of the exercises were lying down was heaven! However, things started to go wrong for me when an ultra fit ex Forces couple joined the class and the tempo upped several notches. Competitive Pilates is a contradiction of everything it should be, yet this couple switched a button in the instructor and she seemed compelled to show them what she was made of. I groaned valiantly through the exercises, suffered weeks of backlash in the form of aching limbs, then finally conceded defeat. Surely I could do the exercises at home...
In theory, this is quite possible. However, at the time, my dog was still a puppy and seeing me lying on the floor was a cue for playtime, so I ended up with it jumping all over me, weaving in and out of my legs and... well, I suppose playtime was more appealing to me, too.
I subsequently retrieved my exercise bike from the garage. After all, I reasoned, cardio vascular exercise is probably more beneficial to me. Having dusted it down, I placed it in a discreet corner, dusted it again and generally cast it admiring glances, as if its very presence was an act of virtue. When I finally ventured on board, it took some time to establish a daily routine, but I did succeed. I set aside an exercise half hour at 3.30pm and I developed quite an effective technique of cycling to music. I found the music enabled me to focus on something pleasurable, lifting me to a higher plane where I could ignore the physical discomfort. The bike is situated by a large window with views over the garden, so that I can visualise myself cycling along country lanes with the wind blowing through my hair. An added benefit was that I found it conducive to creative thinking in that, by clearing my head of all the clutter, spontaneous ideas would occur without any conscious effort.
So why did I lapse?
Pre Christmas preparations are very time consuming
Post Christmas lethargy takes its toll and who feels like exercising in January, anyway?
I am preoccupied by writing etc etc

Currently, the bike has resumed furniture status, although I am gazing at it guiltily as I type.
Even the newspapers, which are full of ‘get fit’ tips at the moment, have not swayed me. It’s like having someone nagging in your ear - the more they persist, the more you switch off.
Yet,one should make attempts to keep fit and there are alternatives to formal exercise. A dog, for example, is a perfect reason for taking short walks , even walking up and down stairs is helpful and (wait for it) I have read that a half hour of strenuous housework can be as beneficial as formal exercise. Housework? The very word is enough to propel me towards the exercise bike.
Phew! That spark of enthusiasm died as quickly as it ignited. I am logging on to Amazon now ... hmm... perhaps I should get a Pilates dvd instead...

So, what do you do to keep fit?
Megan Johns
The Path of Innocence BUY'
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  1. Excellent post, Megan, and it's a shame the Pilates class became competitive and that is the fault of the instructor. Hope you ordered the Pilates DVD and that you have the inspiration to give it a good workout.

    Oh, may I ask what breed of dog you have?

  2. It's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Michael. They are an affectionate breed, slightly mad and very entertaining. They are not good guard dogs, however, unless you count lickiing a potential intruder to death!

  3. I'll stick with my ferocious Yorkie. As for workouts,I set aside an hour in the morning on weekdays. i think it's important to dedicate the same time period each day. Chasing after my six year old granddaughter helps too.

  4. I run. A lot. It's the only thing that keeps me sane most days. Great advice, Megan!

  5. I think you're right, Mike, to set aside a regular time and stick to it.
    And, Liz, I'm sure running must really help to clear the head.