Physical Fitness and the Pains of being a WriterThe Dead Lift
You sit and Write. You create something good and you create something bad.
The cursor is blinking at the end of a block of 2000 words of good writing and you’re ready to pat yourself on the back and drink your favourite tea.
When you stand up the Bad presents itself. You deal with this problem after every good writing session.
Your body aches. Your legs are stiff and when you walk you feel like you are a small child learning to balance all over again. Without thinking you place a hand on your back and it feels like a rock. A little twist of the body and you’re sure you heard it creaking. It’s the sound of a body that hasn’t been moving all day or night.
Getting fit seems like a task that can never be properly slotted into our schedules. We all know how important it is. Building the habit without fitness training becoming a major chunk of our precious time is always a problem. So we avoid the issue. We pretend that it is the curse of writers to have to deal with a bad back or stiff legs everyday – so long as those words get written, everything is black and white and Okay.
But it’s not Okay. Our level of physical fitness will affect our ability to write, to sit for a long time and hammer at the keyboard requires fitness of body and mind. We shouldn’t allow the mind to get in the way and kid us into believing that our thoughts and our mental processes are the only thing that matters.
Good news, all is not lost. If you’ve been avoiding fitness training – even the minimal amount – then you’re probably not up to speed on the latest news.
You can get fit and stay healthy without it cutting into hours of your writing time. There are new ideas out there – proven ideas – that will boost your health and your physical fitness level in a short time, and only ask for a couple of hours a week. You just need to get your head around the idea. Mental fitness is part of a healthy body, too. I’ve never met a person who is physically fit and has a negative mental attitude. And I’ve never met a person who is fit who isn’t full of energy and ideas.
The first problem isn’t the aches and pains in your body. Those are the symptoms of using the avoidance techniques that ensure you stay away from the gym, you know, that place where you can hear the sound of heavy metal hitting the racks and feel the sweat rolling off your ripped body. Or the road, that gorgeously long grey ribbon where just you and your mind listen to the meditative pat of rubber against tarmac. The calm thoughts of nothingness drifting through your mind.
There are times when it’s much better to get away from the keyboard and writing so that the writing mind can let everything sift down into the unconscious and do its work alone.
Not allowing the body to do some work like lifting a weight or using the lungs and heart to put it through its paces, affects the mind.
The nourishment of the mind comes from the world of actions. We have to experience things to be able to write about things. Those things can be mental experience, too, but are mostly the healthy exercise of running or long walks, of being with friends or whatever your body and mind screams out for. If you spend too much time sitting and writing and then sitting and reading or watching films, then for sure, your body is screaming for action.
Mental attitude will create physical aptitude for action.
Getting fit isn’t all in the body
We always find time to do things. If somebody tells you about a great book that has just been published, as a writer, I’m sure you’ll want to check it out. If you like it you’ll find time to read it.
What if you thought about going for a run?
What happens in your mind when you have those thoughts?
You plant a seed, right? If you let it keep growing from one thought to the next, it’ll turn into a powerful thought that causes the juices to flow, you’ll begin to feel it in your body. Muscles start to shift and flex, the idea of moving seems like a cool thing to do and before you know it you’re changing into your running kit and heading for the door.
You can already see yourself in the gym, smiling and enjoying yourself.
It’s okay if you only manage one mile. Just do it a couple of times a week and you’ll begin to want more.
Spending thirty minutes in the gym is great.
Mike Mentzer and How You Save Time to write more.
Mike Mentzer was a great body builder who took his passion seriously. He figured out that those body builders who were spending six to eight hours in the gym pumping iron weren’t doing themselves any good. They were harming themselves, actually.
The Proof’s in the Pudding
He proved it, too.
Mike Mentzer started working out for fifteen minutes a session and then he went home and got on with writing his books and studying his theories.
He was able to compete professionally and reach the finals. He just missed Mr Universe by the hair of Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the day.
He never worked out for more than 25-35 minutes a session and he looked like a professional. You can see him here, he looked like a pro body builder but worked out like a man who had better things to do than waste time in the gym. He often only worked out every ten days instead of the usual split routines of twice everyday like many pro-body builders do.
Mike Mentzer was smart. He stopped and thought about what he wanted and the best way to get it. He wanted to become a champion , not to spend all his days as a gym-rat.
He studied every method of body building he could and discovered that most of the methods were built on myths and suppositions that had no logical basis behind them. So he thought, I might as well figure it out for myself and do it the right way.
He came to the conclusion that intensity was the key. Most trainers and gym users believed that if you do six repetitions of a weight it’ll help you to get fit and a little stronger. Logically, if you do twenty-two reps, you’ll get even fitter. Mike Mentzer realised that this seemed like the rear end of a Bull talking.
So, if you do one hundred reps with a weight for each body part, and rinse and repeat, then you’ll become a body building champion in one summer? Yeh, like I said, BS.
Intensity of intention is the key. How much body and mind you put into it makes the difference. Not quantity of time and reps.
“What the hell has this got to do with me writing and my fitness?” You may ask.
1. You getting fit by Running or Going to the Gym is easier than you think
2. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to see fantastic results in a short time.
3. You will benefit physically, mentally and by proxy so will your writing.
4. A fit body, a fit mind, both together produce great writing results.
5. Living intensely is great fun and good for the soul.
6. You use the HIT routine and methods you will see and feel quick results.
Being a great writer who gets the job done
When you are a writer you know that you have a task and a half on your hands. You have committed yourself to being a consistent person. You are the person who you can rely on to get the job done. There’s no room for slackers in the world of writing, so you made sure that you have enough stickevidity to stay the course and see the storms through without losing courage or faith.
Part of that courage and faith is supported by being tough and resilient enough to bounce back from those tired times when it all seems like too much. Tiredness and a feeling of being overwhelmed is the number one cause of quitting writing.
Most people who quit never stop thinking about the time they quit. The carry it in their soul, years later still being plagued by the inkling of “what if I hadn’t quit that book?”. When the mind and body are fit resilience is easier. Staying the course and avoiding those deep moments of doubt that threaten to sway the mind are easier to push aside when your body is as sharp and fit as your writing mind.
You sacrifice nights out with friends. No longer the happy-go-lucky wanna-be who loves hanging in the bars and talking about art and writing, now you are doing it. And you accept the sacrifices of some of your social life going down the tubes and the long hours banging fingers into the keyboards is worth every moment. But, the aches and pains of the body are really something. That’s serious, like doctor serious, if you don’t deal with it. Imagine that feeling inside of you. When you know that your body isn’t the self-servicing package that you want it to be. When in reality it’s a sitting, running, walking and lifting tool that you have to look after. If you don’t feed it, you body will rapidly fall apart and get sick, hitting the keyboard will be an enormously difficult task that hurts.
If you don’t exercise the body, it’ll get sick more often, you will lack the staying power and resilience that a writer really needs to survive.
When you apply the HIT method of training to your fitness you only need about thirty minutes training time. Then, don’t go back to the gym for at least a week, maybe a few days longer.
1. Plan your workout or run in advance. Focus on main muscle groups if you are working out.
2. Each exercise must be carried out with a heavy weight. That means a weight that you can safely lift at least three times/reps, or work a muscle group with maximum intensity when running or cycling. Don’t forget your mind is part of your workout, it’ll help you put the maximum into working on that muscle.
3. When you exercise the muscle it must be done with maximum effort – this is key to your success. All of your strength and force go into the exercise.
4. Control the movement and keep your form as perfect as possible. This means let the body move freely and according to its natural line of movement. Don’t allow the weight to wobble or the body to get off-balance.
5. With weights, go for three repetitions. The first two are to exhaust the muscle and the third repetition is the one which will bring the benefits of growth and strength.
6. Do the three reps for each group of muscles and then finish and go home.
7. Eat a good meal with clean nutrients. Proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and drink water – even if you didn’t see any sweat in the gym.
8. Go back to your exercise routine a week later and do the same again, or vary the muscle groups.
9. The week away from exercise is the time when your body is replenishing its resources first and then developing new strength in the muscles. It must replenish before it can develop new muscle tissue. This takes time. It does not replenish and grow in 24-48 hours as some people like to suggest.
You will see results if you follow the above steps. You can adapt the method of HIT to most training – including the mind – and within a couple of weeks, depending on your starting point physically, you will see and feel results.
You will find that the results of getting fit using the High Intensity Training method will make you feel more comfortable and less tired when you want to sit and write for a long time.
If you have any good tips or advice on fitness for writers please let us know. Use the comments box below to write your ideas or suggest a Guest Post by contacting me, Sean, with your ideas.
The information given here is considered “tips and advice” from personal experiences. It is not the advice of a sports and fitness trainer or medical doctor.