I started working out regularly in high school because it seemed like that’s what everyone else did. Nearly all of my kids did a sport of some kind, and both of my parents have always been super active, so I fell in line.
What used to be an activity I did out of fear, I now do it out of fun and fulfillment. Can you say the same? I’m writing this post because I imagine each of you have one good habit nailed down and you wish you could add more good habits. For me, I am much more diligent with exercising than writing. Going without movement for a week sounds terrible to me, but pretty normal in regards to writing.
So while I’m reading your posts about setting a good writing regimen, I’ve got some ideas for how to add more exercise into your life. This goes out to anyone who feels like they have zero time for exercise—or they do make time for it and hate it.
Set your own expectations
As you might’ve guessed, every body is different. Thus everyone should have their own unique expectations for what is considered “healthy” for your body and your schedule. I want you to think about your expectations down to the bare basics: what do you want exercise to do for you? Try to eliminate as much outside bias as possible. Don’t work out because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do or you have to be a certain weight. Scratch all of that; otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time and money reaching someone else’s goals.
Here are some examples of some goals my friends have in regards to exercise:
- The ability to do a head stand
- Do a proper plank
- Live longer
- Have more gratitude
- Be strong enough for pole dancing
- Eat whatever they want
- To have more fun with their kids
- Participate in competitions
- Avoid hereditary setbacks
- Have a moment for themselves
- Be more flexible
Ultimately, your goals and expectations should be exciting and motivating. What’s a form of movement that you would actually look forward to: swimming, martial arts, dancing, yoga, playing Pokemon Go? Could you see yourself doing any of these activities for the rest of your life and feel happy?
Follow your own definition of health
Once you have a goal, it’s time to change more than just your schedule. Exercise may come with a lot of baggage. We all have different ideas of what constitutes “health” and for a long time I tried desperately to fit into other people’s ideas and definitions of “healthy.” Can anyone else relate? After working with a personal trainer for the past six months, I’ve learned better, correct, and healthy ways of gauging my progress. It took a lot of unlearning stuff that I just assumed about working out.
I hope the same for you. If you’ve avoided exercise because of bullying, negative body image, or whatever life has thrown at you, it’s possible to give yourself a fresh start by having a healthy outlook on health.
Still, don’t be surprised that it’s still hard and frustrating. I have good gym days and rotten ones. Some days I feel like I’m putting out the maximum effort and yet I still feel bad about myself. Some days I just hug my body and think the best things and other days I can’t look at myself. Just like writing, you’ll have your ups and downs but if you remember why you wanted to exercise, it could motivate you to keep going and keep trying.
Use the same drive you have to write to exercise
If you already have a good writing schedule, then you likely already know how hard it is to consistently do an activity that no one is making you do. Writing and exercising are both activities that I plan on doing for the rest of my life regardless of the outcome. Since they’re both a lifestyle for me, I use my prioritizing skills for writing and exercising to ensure they both get adequate attention in my weekly schedule.
As a refresher, here are a few tips to help you fit exercise in your week without pushing other things out:
- Work out on the days/hours of the day that you have energy
- Don’t let other things take away from your exercise time
- Exercise with other friends—specifically friends that have similar lifestyle goals
- Let your body rest when you’re sick
I’m not sure if you use guilt or shame as a motivation to write (“I’m not a good writer if I skip a day”) but I’m just gonna go ahead and say that guilt and shame will get you in the gym but you won’t love it. Thus, I’d strongly recommend that you ease into your lifestyle goals rather than have the mentality of “starting Monday I’m going to do XYZ.” If you’re only exercising because you feel unnecessary and unsound pressure, then don’t. Only exercise if you enjoy it or you know you have the drive to reach a certain goal.
Let exercise help your writing
I know it’s probably unwise to suggest multitasking, but if you are strapped for time in a day, then you might be able to fit in some writing or researching time as you workout. Depending on what you do, you could use the time to think about a scene.
For example, if you’re on a treadmill, you can sort of let your mind wander and fill that time with some thoughts about your novel. If you bring paper and a pencil, you can record your thoughts. This is kind of like getting really good writing ideas while you’re in the shower except hopefully you’re not too wet from working out.
Exercise could also indirectly help you ensure your writing is realistic. Even if your character is in a fantasy setting, they’ll eventually break a sweat, right? Consider weightlifting. After a while, you’ll recognize how heavy 20, 50, or 70 pounds will feel. That might come in handy for something in any novel. You naturally learn a lot about the human body as you take care of yours, so you could learn other things such as what it feels like to pull a muscle, sustain an injury, or push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Well, I hope you don’t injure yourself in the gym for novel research!
But most importantly, let exercise free your brain. Your writing can often encompass a lot of your bandwidth. For me, I spend all day on a computer. After a full day of writing and editing, I often would rather do just about anything than write or read another word. That’s probably why I love exercising so much; it gives my brain a break and I genuinely feel happy after a good workout.
Satisfy your budget and schedule
Depending on your weekly schedule, exercise will likely only take up 3-5 extra hours in your week. I’d like to help you figure out how to make exercise work as much as possible with your budget or lifestyle.
If you don’t know where to begin, you can always get a trainer at a local gym. Like a therapist, you should pair up with someone who understands your goals and has an agreeable personality. I use a Health Savings Account (HSA) to cover my costs. If you have this kind of budget, it’s totally appropriate to use it to pay for personal training!
If you prefer to work out at your own pace, then you have a ton of resources online—anything from YouTube videos, workout videos, Just Dance, Pokemon Go, workout apps, and more.
You can even try one of those TV/movie workouts where you do a certain exercise every time a character does a very typical thing. An example would be doing 5 pushups anytime someone performs a spell in a Harry Potter movie, or 10 crunches anytime Malfoy uses the word “Mudblood.” That way you’re multitasking during an upcoming binge fest! You can find a lot of these on Pinterest if you’re not feeling particularly creative.
So that’s what I’ve got for today! I hope these tips help my fellow writers get more excited about exercise. If you have personal questions for me, hop over into the comments or on Instagram and I’ll help however I can.
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