Fit to Write

SusanScottShelley~ By Susan Scott Shelley

Writing requires large chunks of time huddled over a computer. All that time devoted to producing your novel can also give you hunched shoulders, lower back pain, weakened core muscles, bad posture and poor circulation. Whether you prefer writing in bed, curled up in a chair, seated at a desk, or standing at your workstation, it’s time to stretch and take a lap around the room. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The human body was made for movement but most of us spend a lot of time sitting. Taking frequent breaks to stretch and move around is beneficial to your health.

Many writers have fitness routines, but many do not. No matter where you are on the daily-activity spectrum, periodically taking stock of how you feel, and seeing if changes are necessary, is important. You know yourself better than anyone. If you have illnesses or chronic conditions that make exercising difficult, talk to your doctor about designing a fitness and nutrition plan that will work for you.

My family’s health history makes exercising and eating healthy top priorities for me. I encourage everyone to know their numbers, ask about family history and take a proactive approach to keep yourself healthy. I know one of my friends has scoliosis. It’s believed that scoliosis can be hereditary, so it wasn’t a surprise to her when she was diagnosed with it. Having scoliosis makes it difficult for her to sit down for a long amount of time, so she tries to participate in certain exercises to help relieve her spine of any unnecessary pain or tension. She also said something about going to discuss some treatment options with a specialist (click here) the other day. She hopes that will make it easier for her to sit down properly and start taking part in more exercises. It’s always good to know about any family health problems so you can prepare yourself for the diagnosis.

Experts agree that exercise increases sleep quality and energy levels, decreases stress levels, and improves your immune system and your mood. When I’m exercising and eating right, I experience all of the above, which leads to better writing.

I’ve learned a lot about fitness and nutrition and developed a plan that works best for me. I strive to exercise for thirty to sixty minutes a day, most days a week. Timing depends on whether I’m doing a cardio, strength training, or flexibility workout. The body adapts fairly quickly so changing up your workouts is important. Varying workouts also keeps me from getting bored. Try a new class at your gym, slip in a new exercise DVD or make up your own routine. You’re never too old to resume an activity you loved as a child or to try something new.

Deadlines, evil-day-jobs, families, and friends…with so many commitments, finding time to exercise can be challenging. I’m a professional voice over artist. Depending on the job, I may be recording and editing for one hour or several. My schedule varies every day so flexibility with when and how I work out and write is key. Breaking both into smaller increments spread throughout the day works best for me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You just have to be creative.

Ideas for extremely tight-on-time days: Do lunges, squats, or jumping jacks while making dinner or waiting for your morning coffee to brew. Unpacking groceries or unloading the dish washer? Great, you have weights! Squat, lunge, and overhead press your way through it. When watching TV, exercise during the commercials. When talking on the phone, walk around instead of sitting.

None of us wants to be pulled out of the writing zone. When you do come up for air, step away from the keyboard, take a few minutes to stretch, then jog, bear-crawl, or dance your way across the room.

If you look for opportunities to exercise, you’ll find several occasions throughout your day. Make it a game, not a chore. Think Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun…”

I love hearing new ideas for workouts. What do you do? What tips and tricks work best for you? Share!

Susan Scott Shelley is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She is a member of several RWA chapters and has served as VFRW’s Secretary and Co-Chairperson of The Sheila Contest. A professional voice over artist, she resides outside of Philadelphia with her very own Superhero and spends her days writing about tough heroes, smart heroines and love being the strongest magic there is.

Please visit Susan at www.susanscottshelley.com.

14 thoughts on “Fit to Write”

  1. Great ideas! It’s about this time of the year that my New Years resolution falls by the wayside…or I should say waist side! 🙂 I will definitely try some of these and I’m also looking into getting a standing work station. I think that would help too! Thanks for the tips and the great blog!

    1. Thanks Nicky! It IS hard to keep New Years resolutions. And, yep, it’s about this time of year that I look to others for inspiration. Pinterest has lots of good workout/diet ideas too.
      A standing workstation is a great idea to help break up the hours spent sitting!

  2. Terrific and very timely article, Susan! It’s easy for writers to get so absorbed in their story that they can forget to step away from the keyboard for some exercise. Thanks for the great tips!

  3. It’s a constant struggle to stay physically active while writing. I agree with Carla…whenever I’m stuck in a scene, exercise always provides a terrific plot twist. Thanks for the tips, Susan!! 🙂

    1. Lynn, it’s true. It is hard to find time, when scenes suck you in and you realize you’ve been at the keyboard for hours, not minutes. I’m glad to see exercise provides you with plot twists. I think we allow our subconscious to take over and work on it and poof! You suddenly know where you’re going and it’s brilliant! 🙂

  4. Thanks Tack! So glad to hear you have a supportive partner! Motivating and it’s nice to work out with a buddy. You’re so right about the dog too 🙂
    I can’t walk and type at the same time either. I love the imagery you created of being out in nature. You are so right!

  5. Having a supportive partner really helps. We goad each other into exercising when the TV or PC would otherwise win our attention. Having a dog helps too, especially when you walk her at the same time every day. She will not let you forget your special time together.
    As for exercising while working, I’ve tried having the laptop on a sturdy music stand next to the bike-trainer and the treadmill, but I can’t type & exercise simultaneous, nor can I stand and type for any long time. What works best for me is to get the problem in my head, and then to get outside, on foot, on skis, or on the bicycle, and let the sunshine, fresh air, elevated pulse, and passing scenery work their magic while the idea-stew simmers on the back burner.

  6. Not even kidding, I’m reading and writing this through the head hole of a massage chair as a masseuse tried to knead out some of the tension on my rock-hard shoulders. I recently had my hubs move my treadmill into my office, but I need to be more diligent about using it. Good reminders, Susan.Fabulous article.

    1. Thanks Katy! Massage to work out the writing kinks is such a good idea! And such a nice reward for you for all of your hard work!
      I recently started doing Tai Chi in the mornings to help with the energy flow. I definitely think better.
      Office treadmill, I love it! Maybe hop on for a few minutes while your computer warms up, or as Carla said, when stuck on a scene. If you print out scenes, can you read through them while treadmill walking? I can’t. I’ve fallen off too many times doing that! 🙂

  7. Well done! I’m with you, exercise is essential to keeping my blood flowing through my brain so I keep getting new ideas (or fixing plot knots). No motion for me means the story stands still too.

    Recently I was struggling with a scene so I decided to go run it off and see what happened. I put my music on high, brought a notepad and pencil to the treadmill, cleared my head and started moving. Nothing for the first two miles, but after that I started finding answers to my questions. From there I took four pages of notes. Not all of it worked out, but it helped clear the logjam in my head. I went home, cleaned up, and got back to the keyboard.

    Just wait ’til spring when I bring my phone with me on park runs. As if I don’t look nutty enough now, imagine how I’ll look when I’m talking to my phone about where my characters are going next.

    1. Carla, that is awesome! I’m so glad your session on the treadmill helped! It’s the best way for me to work out a stuck scene too.
      I’m with you, on outside runs, I take my phone and call myself with plot ideas…”Hi Susan, it’s Susan. For chapter three, when the hero…” 🙂

  8. Nice article. I need to make more time to exercise. My best time is first thing in the morning. Otherwise, my other obligations take over and I’m left at the end of the day with nothing done but sitting on my rear for hours.

    I’ll have to try the grocery lunges. A little exercise fit around my schedule would be better than none.
    -Veronica

    1. Veronica, grocery lunges are great! Makes putting them away a less of a chore for me anyway 🙂
      Whenever exercise fits into your schedule is a great time, but mornings are good because you get it done, can check it off your to-do list and move on with the rest of your day.

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