The Fit Writer by Rochelle Melander
All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. —Friedrich Nietzsche
Last week, I received my 2012 year-end report from Daily Mile. I learned that I’d walked and biked well over 600 miles. With all that exercise, Daily Mile reported that I’d lost ten pounds. Yeah, not so much. No doubt Daily Mile has some sort of computer program that calculates the amount of weight a person should lose if they do x amount of exercise. But the program did not take into account the fact that as a writer, I sit all day.
If you’ve been reading my newsletter for a few years, you know I’ve been troubled by all of the research on how sitting affects life expectancy. In an October blog post for the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds reported that even four hours of sitting a day can be detrimental to our health. Yowsa! As a writing coach, I advise aspiring writers to get their butts in the chair and write. I still believe that we become writers by writing but perhaps we need to toss the chair?
In a recent blog post, Gretchen Reynolds suggested that the little things we do (good and bad) add up. According to Reynolds, exercising moderately for a brief period each week brings the most health benefits. (Yeah! That means you don’t have to run a marathon this year.) In addition, we need to move more throughout the day. (I’m guessing that walking to the kitchen to get the M&Ms was not what the experts had in mind!)
Writers, this year I encourage you to get up at least once an hour to do something. To help you do that, I’ve collected five small ways you can move more during the day so that you can write more, stay fit, and live longer.
1. 30-second Dance Party. Last fall on the “Beautiful Doom” episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith Grey declared a “thirty second dance party” in the middle of a tricky surgery. When my kids were little, we often had dance parties in the living room. I remember how fun it was to crank up the music and let loose like a teenager. A 30-second dance party seems like the perfect way to add movement to a writing day!
2. Tree Pose. Last week, I started taking yoga again. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t hold the tree pose for very long. I’ve read in several books and articles about the importance of being able to balance. Since my wiggly tree pose last week, I’ve decided that practicing this yoga move will help me improve my balance and get off my derriere. If you’re not into yoga, during your next writing break try standing on each foot for 30-60 seconds. Then do it with your eyes closed. Warning: do this exercise next to a wall or table, so that you don’t fall over!
3. The kitchen counter. I don’t have a standing or treadmill desk (heck, I don’t even own a treadmill). Plus, I doubt I could work and walk at the same time without falling off the treadmill. Instead, when I need to brainstorm, write by hand, or read—I take my work to the kitchen counter. Find a place in your house that you can work standing up—the dining room table, the back of the piano, or a music stand. (If you use the kitchen counter, check for sticky spills before setting down your fancy computer or one-of-a-kind leather journal.)
4. Clean up! When we cleaned for Thanksgiving, I noticed a gazillion little things I wanted to clean but didn’t have time to take care of. You know, like cleaning out junk drawers (yeah, I have more than one) or washing the baseboards. This year, I’m planning to make a list of these little chores and tackle them during work breaks. By next Thanksgiving, the house will be cleaner (I can dream) and I’ll be in better shape! I encourage you to keep a list of small chores next to your computer and use your breaks to tackle them.
5. Take a stroll. At this time of year, I tend to walk outside only when I absolutely have to (brrr). But when I do walk, I notice that I feel happier and have more ideas for my writing. At least once a day, take a short walk down the driveway, to the mailbox, or around the block. After watching the snow fall or the squirrels scurry, you’ll be refreshed and ready to get back to work.
Bonus Tip. If none of these tools work for you, you could try this: last week my husband used an online tool to explore refinancing our house. The minute he clicked submit, the phone started ringing and has not stopped. Our once silent phone now rings 15-20 times a day. When the kids are in school, I feel like I need to at least check it to make sure they aren’t calling with a crisis. Although I’ve been frustrated by the constant interruptions, I am happy to report that I get up from my desk more than ever before!
Your turn: how do you work movement into your writing day? Leave a comment below.
For more ideas on how to stay fit as a writer, visit:
“Is Writing Making Me Fat?” by Rochelle Melander
“Is Writing Making Me Fat? Part 2” by Rochelle Melander
“Want to Be More Productive this Month? Move Your Butt” by Kelly James-Enger
I love your suggestions Rochelle. Thank you. I work movement into my day by having dogs in my life. I walk them 30 minutes twice a day, rain or shine. The time is a discipline of delight (well, except when it is sub zero and the sidewalks are icy). I also swim three times a week in the early dawn before the rest of the world awakens (our park and recreation department opens the high school pool for “early bird swim”). Like Rochelle, I also practice yoga as often as possible (usually once a week). I find making time for all this movement, and the discipline and spirituality of it, actually provides me great insight into what I am supposed to be writing about–opens up space, awakens deeper metaphor, and, for heaven’s sake, lightens me up a bit–all around. I think I’m going to try the 30 second dance party followed by the walk to the counter for m and m’s. Peace writer friends.
Great minds think alike! Reading (lying in bed, not sitting) old newspaper clippings my mother-in-love had saved, I found a variation on this idea as a suggestion for effective housekeeping. As you notice little things that can’t be done at the moment, write them down so you can look, and not need to remember, what you can do when you do have not-yet-committed minutes. I have a guest book stand in my basement that I’d be happy to donate to a church, but meanwhile it could hold my proofreading-break activity list. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thanks for this series, Rochelle. I will be adding 30-second dance parties and mid-day chores to my list and yes, I think I’ll replace the chair with a balance ball. All while I keep myself stuck to the chair to write. Happy new year!
Sounds like fun! I need a balance ball, too. Happy New Year!
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