In a perfect world, we’d all crave kale + spirulina smoothies & when given the choice of Netflix or a 45 minute cardio sesh, we’d pick SoulCycle every time. You are concerned about your health and want to stay reasonably fit, but don’t want to get a gym membership. What do you do to stay healthy and focus on writing?
Here’s my thoughts, and let me remind you, I’m not a doctor or a physical trainer, so these are just my own experiments and tips I’ve learned from fellow writers.
This is #4 in a 5-part series on the 5 areas of chaos you need to conquer for your most brilliant life. Start at the beginning.
Your body houses the brain you use to write, so you’d better take care of it
Now, I’m no Crossfitter, and I dare anyone to try to make me do box jumps, but I do know the value of keeping your body healthy. Don’t roll your eyes at me saying, “I hate exercise!” because, Writer, you are not the only person who hates exercise.
Everyone but children under 10 hates exercise… even Jillian Michaels. Probably especially her because she must be bored after doing that all day for so many years.
No one loves exercise and if they say they do, then write them into your next novel as the villain.
You don’t have to be a Marathoner to stay reasonably fit and healthy. You don’t even have to break a sweat.
You just have to make a little bit of regular movement + good food choices part of your lifestyle.
Can you Min/Max your health so you can focus on more important things…like writing?
Min/Max (v): A role-playing/video game term that means to create the “best” character possible by way of minimizing undesired or unimportant traits and maximizing desired ones.
So, how the Faulkner can you stay reasonably fit and healthy without going to the gym?
Here’s the strategy that’s kept me at a desirable weight and energy level for several years.
Move a little bit throughout the day
After lunch, I’ll take a walk around the grassy area at work, or a walk in the evening with my husband. I also get up to pee more than I strictly need to, purposefully fill my water cup only 1/2 way so I have to refill it more often.
Sometimes, I’ll take a few coffee/tea breaks to step outside and breathe the fresh air—or even just step outside to check my text messages instead of doing it at my desk.
You don’t have to run a mile every day, but do try to walk several over the course of it.
Do 3-15 minutes of strengthening or maintenance exercise for your muscles each day
Your muscles need to be worked to avoid atrophy, but it doesn’t take much to maintain them. For me, this is usually a minute or 2 each of planking, wall-sits, and Supermans. Stomach vacuums, bridges, and glute squeezes are also good ‘least you can do’ choices.
I also go up and down 20-30 flights of stairs per day, just because of the layout of my job and house, so I take those at a run. I do a couple Sun Salutation yoga flows 3-5 times a week.
And I stretch my back, neck, legs, and arms every night to keep my muscles long and limber—with the side benefit that it’s really relaxing and feels great. I didn’t always do this last part, and the result was 3 years of agonizing neck pain, so learn from my mistake and stretch your whole body every day!
Eat as clean as you can afford
I skip the drive-through and frozen/pre-packaged meals as much as possible. Though the taste of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, fries, and fountain Coke (so much better than bottle!) is something I’ll always love, I don’t eat it.
We’ll grab something maybe once a year, but otherwise skip sodas 100%, and make our own burgers and fries so we can control the ingredients that go in them (and therefore in us).
Practice removing just one unclean habit from your dietary routine at a time. My first change was dropping the Coke Zero (and other sodas) about 8 years ago. I remember the day I decided I was done. It wasn’t as hard of a change as I expected it to be, but other things have been, so focus on the small wins.
Stop fumbling the dreaded “What’s your book about?” question!
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Drink water like it’s going out of style
Getting enough clean, pH-balanced water every day is THE most essential thing to good health.
You need it to flush out the junk you’ve been eating, to keep your intestines moving along, and to rebalance your body’s pH when you’ve been eating too much sugar, starch, or other acidic things (cough, soda, cough).
In the morning, chug a huge glass to get your digestive system moving and move out all the toxins your body spent the whole night collecting. BUT throughout the rest of the day, take little sips. If you drink too fast, you literally flood your system and instead of the water going to good use in your flesh and organs, your kidneys send it straight to your bladder, which is a total waste.
Get your annual check ups
This means both your general practitioner doctor AND your lady doctor, if applicable. Don’t skip that pap! It also means you need to go to the dentist twice a year.
Just because you don’t have an unusual rash or a toothache doesn’t mean you can put it off until next year.
Do something every day that quiets your mind for 10 minutes
This could be a meditation session, breathing exercises, painting, working on your car, yoga, running, staring at a Magic Eye, knitting, or even standing in front of the fridge with the door open while you stare at nothing and think about nothing.
The point is just to let your brain waves cool off for a few minutes. It keeps your neural pathways strong and lowers your chances of mental degenerative diseases later on.
Do something every day that reminds you life is valuable
If we can’t remember that there’s a point to this whole life thing, then it’s not so easy to do a good job at life-ing, is it? We all need SOMETHING that reminds us that life (both our own and others’) is valuable.
That something could be volunteering at the women’s shelter or animal shelter, teaching kids how to paint at the community center, or (what luck!) working on your WIP novel.
Whatever you do, make sure that every day you’re living, you give back to yourself and the rest of the world in some way.
Don’t ever phone it in with your life. Don’t get up, go to work, come home, Netflix, sleep, repeat. You weren’t put here for that and your body knows it.
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder, but you need to do the minimum.