Writing and Exercise

A few days ago, I caught Terry Gross interviewing evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman on his new book, the Story of the Human Body.  It was absolutely fascinating, one of the best interviews I’ve listened to, and I listen to a lot of interviews. Among the many points he raised is that humans are not made for sitting.  Sitting is bad for us; it weakens our back muscles, raises our blood pressure, our risk of diabetes and propels us to an early grave (albeit in a comfortable, seated position).  This is, of course, bad news for most of us, but for writers in particular. So I was glad when my client Beth Hahn sent along this article from Ploughshares, “Exercising Your Craft: 3 Writers Who Get Physical.” Beth is a novelist and a yoga instructor, and she speaks quite convincingly about the relationship between yoga and writing.

What do you do when your “position” is not “hunched over your desk”?

Do you find any particular form of exercise useful to your writing process?

I’m not a writer per se, but I do find physical activity helpful in my own work. I also practice yoga, chase my kids, bike, and vacuum*,  but my favorite form of exercise is probably kickboxing (not be confused with any legitimate martial art) but rather an activity in which participants throw punches and kicks at our own red-faced reflections, and pose little threat to anyone but ourselves.

 It is not all meditative, but instead cathartic.

*with vigor

4 Responses to Writing and Exercise

  1. D. C. DaCosta says:

    I can write/type/word-process for ten hours a day…but I do feel it later, even when I switch between sitting on the couch or at a desk or at the dining room table…or standing at the kitchen counter.

    I believe P.G. Wodehouse would work at his typewriter until lunch, then play golf. Maybe that’s the way to go.

  2. Andrea says:

    I do hapkido (Korean martial art) twice a week, plus the occasional team competition. Apart from exercising every single muscle in my body, stretching (I’ve never been so flexible in my life) and letting off steam/stress, it helps me with writing sometimes because it gives me an understanding of violence, control of violence, and trust. And it’s just good fun. Highly recommended :-)

  3. Bill says:

    The rhythm, structure and time of marathon training while working on my book proposal — especially with inspiration from Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” — did wonders to get me through sticking points in my writing. But, as the linked article suggests, one doesn’t have to run marathons or kickbox. I believe very strongly in the important role that a walk around the block can play. This is especially true for those of us who work from home. Sometimes I’ll force a false “commute” around the block in the morning (or whenever I’m looking) just to transition from being “at home” to writnig. The added bonus beyond the movement is the stimulation of different scenery, sounds, smells and temperatures to help shake up your brain.

  4. Lynn says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Jessica! Today I was going out for a walk (great exercise that I try to do at least 4 times a week) but I really wanted to finish the chapters I’d been working on and so I ended up spending the day sitting for hours in front of my computer. This evening I felt anxious for no reason and my back and neck hurt from sitting all day. Tomorrow is new day and I will definitely go out for a nice long walk before I write anything!

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