Working Out is Writing

I always feel like I need to preface any discussion of fitness and/or working out with disclaimers about not having kids, about how I do this for my mental and physical health, and so on. Fitness has become a very touchy subject for folks, so I often feel like I have to whisper about it in the shadows and see who else perks up with interest before I talk too loudly.

So here it is, my usual preface: I’m not a doctor or a wellness coach or any kind of professional. I hated gym class in school, but loved dance. I eventually started lifting weights in high school. Found pilates and yoga in college. And then in my mid-twenties was told that even working out I was border-line high cholesterol. I don’t have great genetics, y’all. All kinds of stuff runs in my family, except running. So I changed my diet–which I later had to change again because my body is the worst and became allergic to legumes (beans, soy, peanuts, which aren’t actually a nut. All other nuts are cool according to my immune system)–and I started trying to incorporate some dread cardio. Another thing that happened in my mid-twenties: I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety.

I have many tools in my mental health toolbelt, but my go-to, especially during the pandemic, is working out. When I go hard on cardio, my brain can’t think about literally anything. Except trying to breathe. And maybe ‘oh man, this is hard’. When I’m lifting weights, I’m thinking about form and technique, and not hurting myself by doing something dumb with a ton of weight over my head.

None of that sounds like writing, right?

Very rarely do I write when doing intense cardio or when power-lifting. But when walking around my neighborhood? When rowing? When resting between sets? That’s when I write. That’s when my brain mulls over plot holes, or character development, or world-building. That’s when at 7:10 am I realize I need to move an entire scene to another chapter and change the POV.

I’ve talked to so many wonderful writers who struggle to find the time to write. I have been very intentional with getting to this point in my life. I have very different priorities than a lot of people. I recognize that gives me more time to get my butt in the chair. It has also has given me 7:10 am as a time to have my butt on the rowing machine instead of ushering children to school. (I don’t have kids, and when I’m not WFH, I have to get up earlier so my butt is on that seat around 6:10 instead to allow me to drive at 7:10). But writing isn’t always my number one priority. I have day job, a spouse, friends, family, other hobbies. Other responsibilities. It’s taken me a decade and advice from others to figure out ways to get that precious writing time.

Which is why I’m saying working out is writing.

I could go on and on about working out and why it’s good for you, and I’d begin to sound like one of those fitness cult people who everyone dislikes. I need to workout. My body isn’t super great at producing serotonin on its own. So I help it out by forcing it to (you’re welcome brain). I also have a host of family health problems that I’m trying to avoid for as long as I can by keeping my body as healthy as I can. Lifting weights is great for women because we begin to lose bone density in our 30s (woohoo us) and lifting weights creates stronger bones. Potential heart disease – cardio (boo, but I still do it….a little). I could go on. I won’t.

I will say that walking just 30 minutes a day is great for your body, and if you take that 30 minutes for yourself, you can use it however you want–like discovering a new short story idea. Or creating new characters. New worlds. New scenes. Anything. It’s your time. Use it to create something you love, in yourself and on the page.

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