Thursday, April 24, 2014

Soapbox: Writers and Exercise

There seems to be some evidence that people sit too much.

Well, that's some low-hanging fruit there, but it's true and it's something that we don't think about. When we're in the car we don't think "I'm sitting down", we think "I'm heading somewhere". Or something like that.

I'm here to tell you that I spent the summer of 2012 essentially on my butt. The entire summer. This matters because I didn't think I was just sitting around. No, I was writing. Creating new stories, revising others and surfing the Internet. Watching TV. Visiting with friends. Worse, I'd broken the habit of walking every morning for 2.5 - 3 miles. A habit I'd acquired over five years. Every morning out for a walk. Unless it was too cold (under 45*F) or there was lightning or I had to be somewhere before 8 AM.

I fooled myself into believing I was being creative, learning, vegging out, whatever. I never considered that it would cause me problems. My knees started hurting. There were little aches and pains that developed. I thought nothing of them. Come fall when I became more active, much more active, I didn't notice that I was having troubles.

My knees got worse. I didn't notice that I was actually slowing down when I walked places. I failed to see that I had begun to have trouble breathing.

That was the beginning of the trouble that would eventually land me in the hospital with massive bilateral pulmonary embolism. The trouble that nearly killed me.

I was living with untreated (and at that point undiagnosed) ulcerative colitis. My failure to move about I'm sure contributed to the problem. It had to. Thankfully it appears the colitis is heading towards remission. I'm walking regularly and things are much, much better. Doesn't mean I don't worry, that I don't take note of every little ache and pain that pops up but I keep track of the ones that don't exist any more, too. There are more of the latter than the former.

But when I'm writing, when I get in The Zone, it's hard to remember that I need to get up and walk around. I mean, I don't want to lose the roll I'm on and I don't want to have to come back in fifteen or twenty minutes and remember where I was. I'm sure the same thing applies to you.

My own experience tells me that I do need to do that, though. That's why I modified my old drawing table and turned it into a standing desk. At first I didn't think it would be for me but it turns out one of the benefits of standing is that when I get frustrated and need a break from the screen I can walk away instead of leaning back in my chair.

Sounds simple but it's effective. I don't lose The Zone and I move around for a couple of minutes. It rests my eyes, gets the blood flowing and burns a couple of calories. Another side benefit is that I tend not to snack when I'm standing. I still drink coffee or whisky, let's not be silly, but the not snacking and the moving around are good for me.

This may not be for you. I exhort you to consider, though, the report I linked to above. What can it hurt?

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