Recently, I’ve been trying to get back into running. I haven’t ran properly since about 6 months ago, so I’m finding it hard. Surprisingly hard, much harder than when I’ve returned to running from a break before.
What’s this got to do with writing, you might ask. Well, I realised that the reason I’m finding it so hard to get back into it is that when I stopped running last year, I had a very active full-time job and wrote in my spare time, so I was actually a lot fitter than I am now. Writing is now my full-time job, which has made my lifestyle considerably less active than it previously was. Consequently my fitness has suffered without me even realising it.
This is a problem for many writer. We often don’t think about the amount of time that we spend sat at our desks, and so here is a few tips to stay active and healthy when writing.
A fairly obvious one, but I feel it needs stating. Clearly, taking up any major physically activity is going to help improve your health, but running is an excellent hobby for writers. Pretty much wherever you live and write, there will be an area nearby where you can go out for a run, even if you live in the city (although please do be careful if running near any traffic). You can run alone, which makes it easy to do whenever you wish to take a break from your work, or when you find a space to squeeze a run into your schedule. This having been said, running with a partner can also be very rewarding, and can be the perfect opportunity for a writer to escape the solitary confines of his desk and to enjoy the company of a friend while also improving their health.
Bonus points: running can be incredible beneficial for a writer in ways other than improving health. I wrote about some of these benefits previously on FYW here. The points I make in that article are adapted from Haruki Murakami’s inspiring memoir ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’, which I implore everyone to read.
Again, sounds obvious, but they are more important than we realise, especially for our physical health and not just for helping us work better. It’s far to easy, sometimes, to end up buried in work and to put off breaks because we see the work as more important, or we completely forget to take a break altogether. There are several options for making sure you take sufficient breaks. Using an online timer is a good way, and they range from incredibly simple to more complex.
Perhaps the simplest is E.ggTimer, which uses a clever URL-based system to create timers of any length you wish. Mac users can use the very slick Time Out program. This fully-featured break software greys out your screen when it’s time for you to take a break (at intervals you can customise), and can be integrated with iTunes to start playing music while you’re on your break (or just while you’re working, if you prefer!). It also includes Micro Breaks, excellent for giving your tired eyes a break and shifting your posture, small things that can make a big difference, before diving straight back into your writing.
This isn’t such an obvious one, but something that I have seen discussed online increasingly over the past year. The idea is, quite simply, to working standing instead of sitting. This seems like such an alien concept, but the more I read about it the more it makes sense to me. There are all sorts of health benefits, including better posture and reduced neck strain thanks to better monitor placement. Unfortunately I can’t tell you from personal experience the benefits of a standing desk, as I have yet to try it, but I would love to hear from anyone who has tried it or does it at the moment! For those wishing to know more and for tips on how to set up your own standing desk, the websites Boing Boing and Lifehacker regularly cover this topic. Lifehacker founder Gina Trapani has a particularly good article on why she switched to a standing desk here.
If you work from home, one of the major benefits is that your daily commute tends to be measured in feet rather than miles (okay, metres rather than kilometres…), and isn’t slowed down with huge queues of traffic. Full-time writers can roll out of bed, stumble over to their desks and start work. Hey, we can even work in bed if we want (I know I’ve done this before!). However, this really isn’t very good for our health.
One way to combat this is to create a commute for ourselves. I know not everyone likes to write in public, but if you can find somewhere that you like to work, perhaps in a local coffee shop or a library, then getting out of the house can be very beneficial. Try and find somewhere you can walk or maybe cycle to. This way you can give yourself some physical exercise travelling to and from “work”.
Seriously, this is the best break from writing I’ve found – both in terms of physical exertion and of allowing an escape from work so that you can get back into it focused and productive. Physically, it’s surprisingly demanding – I don’t know how my little sisters can keep bouncing when I’m completely shattered! Mentally, it’s almost impossible to think about work while bouncing, flipping and falling over. It’s easy to do, can be done anywhere, even inside (with a small, single-person trampoline) and, most importantly, it’s ridiculous fun.
Hopefully these have given you some ideas on how to stay fit and healthy while writing, or at least have reminded you how important it is to exercise to combat our somewhat sedentary writer’s lifestyle.
Please share your ideas for keeping fit while working in the comments section below!