Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Exercise for Writers

I like to exercise.

There, I said it.

In addition to all the usual reasons why it's important to get a good workout in every now and then -- heart health, quality of life, etc. -- I think there are three reasons why writers should get their sweat on. In no particular order:

Healthy Body = Healthy Mind

I don't do any kind of regular workout. That is, I don't do the same workout all the time. I exercise based on the class schedule at my nearby YMCA cross-referenced with the Duke of Juban's nap schedule: Mondays I do step aerobics; Wednesdays I do power yoga (like regular yoga, but with a lot of sweating and grunting and grimacing and swearing); Thursdays I pound away at an elliptical machine for 45 minutes; and Saturdays I go spinning with the hubby.

All the workouts I do are very cardio-intensive. I sweat a LOT. Like, buckets. Like, if I am not hoopy and forget my towel, I probably shouldn't do the class because I will leave a small pond of sweat on the floor. And with all that heart-pounding sweat comes some wonderful endorphins, endorphins which make me feel reallllllly good, y'all. So good that I am a better mother for them, and a better writer. I come home, put the little one down for his nap, shower, and then pound out an easy one thousand words. They aren't necessarily good words, but they come easy, and once they are there and written I can always go back and revise.

Our Brains Need Downtime

Writing is sedentary for my body, active for my brain. Working out is the opposite of writing. With all those classes I take, and the one day of strapping myself to a cardio machine, comes some serious downtime for my brain. Not watching TV and letting my brain go all mushy; not sleeping to recharge. But doing something active without really thinking about much more than "Sweat good! Keep going! Sweat good! Keep going!" When pop music is blasting in my ears, my heart is about to burst out of my chest, and my body feels like I-just-can't-anymore, it's hard to stress about things like character motivation or plot points. Unlike watching TV, where I shut my brain off for a while, during exercise I still have to think -- only I am extremely focused on the task at hand and on getting through jump squats/lizard pose/that elliptical hill/that spinning hill until I can breathe like a normal person again and grab some water. And I think my brain kind of likes that.

Writing is Solitary; Going to the Gym is (Kind of) Social

As I said, I go to my nearby YMCA, and I do three classes a week. The babysitting there is free, and the little one loves it. He gets to socialize with other toddlers (he's very popular because he brings the colorful Cheerios) and have some time of his own, while I go get my sweat on. My step and yoga classes are almost always full and I enjoy the comraderie that comes with the shared misery of pushing our physical limitations together. On Saturdays the husband and I put both kids into Child Watch and have a sort of modified date together, side by side on our spinning bikes.

But even outside the classes, I live in a very small community within a much larger neighborhood, which itself is part of the big bad city called New York. I know a lot of people who go to my gym, and often see them coming and going: one of the regulars in the step class is a women I've been on friendly speaking terms with for 4 years now because our sons both have the same name and used to go to Child Watch together. Another mom I'm friends with has spotted me in the cardio room while our older kids played together. On days when I feel like writing is so solitary, and so isolating, it's nice to have that bit of human interaction in the mornings.

What about you? How do you find a good mind/body balance as a writer or other creative type?

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