Monday, June 27, 2011

FITNESS TIPS FOR WRITERS (And, well, anyone for that matter.)

Darrell James

Throughout the eighties, I was a bit of a fitness fanatic. I spent, quite typically, an hour-and-a-half to two-hours a day in the gym, six and sometimes seven days a week. I ran perhaps another twenty miles a week. I thought at one point I might even want to compete in bodybuilding competitions. Not the steroid-enhanced Mr. Olympic competitions but in the more realistic, natural competitions that rewarded symmetry over size and mass.

(A beach in Mexico, age 50.)

I never did compete, but the idea of it (the goal of it) did drive me to an exceptional level of fitness, for which, I believe, I’m still reaping the healthful rewards.

When I began writing seriously in the mid-nineties, the additional requirements of it soon took its toll on my workout routines. I was still working a fulltime job and disciplining myself to 25 hours a week of writing time. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. And, so, my daily trips to the gym began to suffer.

Something had to be done. I was slowly giving back all the hours and hard effort that I had put into staying fit and healthy.

An early mentor of mine once said, “Our habits either make us or break us.”

Though I’m not a rigid disciplinarian (I know how to have fun too), I do believe this credo is mostly true. So, with that in mind, I set about developing some new habits that would help me stay in shape.

Here are a few:

1. Spare the handicappers. (At malls, restaurants, theatres, meeting places, I park as far from the entrance as possible and walk.) It’s a habit! (And tends to minimize dings in my car doors.)

2. Make haste. (My wife can tell you I walk fast everywhere I go. Makes window shopping difficult and I sometimes have to slow down to accommodate my wife’s shoes, but…) It’s a habit!

3. Don’t just sit there. (Even when I’m relaxing with a cold beer on the patio, I drop down and do twenty push-ups. Then go back to enjoying the beer and the leisure.) It’s a habit!

4. Charge the stairs. (I never meet a set of steps that I don’t run up or run down. I sometimes take them two at a time.) It’s a habit.

5. Flee the scene. (When I do the grocery shopping I run with the cart back to my vehicle. *Which remember is parked in the farthest space from the door.* Okay, this one does seem to elicit stares, as if I’d just robbed the place. But…) It’s a habit!

6. Make life difficult. (It’s common to lighten the load. But, whatever the job, I seek to make the work just a little more difficult. That means instead of two grocery bags at a time, I make it three. Instead of cradling the liter bottles of Coke, I carry them at arms-length… you get the idea. ) It’s a habit.

These are just a few of the many things I do to create worthwhile physical effort. There are a million other ways.

I am a fulltime writer now, no longer having to go off to a job. Which means I can again schedule workouts in the gym. And I do, two to three times a week. But the habits I’ve built stay with me. After the gym, I stop by the grocery, park in the farthest spot from the door, walk to the entrance, and race my cart all the way to the corner of the lot.

What about you? As a writer or as an avid reader, what things do you do to stay in shape?

Darrell James is the author of Nazareth Child: A Del Shannon Novel, forthcoming from Midnight Ink in September. It is currently available for pre-order on


Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

Damn... you're in good shape for 50! I'm trying to get fit too!

Lois Winston said...

Darrell, have you seen those new treadmill computer contraptions? You can now walk while you type. No more butt in chair while fingers fly across the keyboard.

Robin Allen said...

I teach yoga nine times a week and two of those classes are advanced. I also have a stand-up desk, but am not so diligent about using it.

Alan Orloff said...

I shuffle--quickly--from the couch to the refrigerator during commercials.

Actually, I go for a midday run a few times a week, and damn, if I don't come up with some good ideas for my WIP along the way.

Darrell James said...

Matt- I'm well over 50 now and wondering if I can still have abs of steel.

Lois- I've thought about writing on a tread mill. But can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Robin- I had a boss once who worked at a stand-up desk all day. I've thought about it.

Alan- I get my better ideas driving. (Not very thigh shaping.)

Unknown said...

Darrell, nice post with great ideas! Congrats in your continued workout success. I have lower back issues, and I know when I'm working out regularly, I'm able to keep my butt in a chair in front of my laptop longer, thus more words on the page. I have managed to get in the habit of parking further away (need to work up to the farthest LOL) from the door to shops, but with our mn winters, sometimes it winds up being as close to the door as possible. I started doing a bootcamp team workout at my gym a few months ago, but have been so busy with stuff for the last three weeks I haven't had a chance to get back. It's always a challenge to think of our bodies like cars... Maintenance is needed to run the most effectively. And those Girl Scout cookies i have in the freezer dont help matters! So I'm going to start running my cart from the grocery store and hope I don't get arrested! And, as in drinking and dropping for pushups, the same can be done as we write, and wall pushups work too for those of us who want to remain on the ground afterwards and take a nap. Wow this post wore me out! I think it's time for a cookie.

Darrell James said...

Jessie- It helps if you run really fast with your cart. It discourages grocery store clerks from chasing you.

(Nice post. Thanks.)

Jessica Lourey said...

Mostly for exercise, I laugh at people who run with shopping carts. ;) Great for the abs.

Terri Bischoff said...

Push-ups between beers? Not for me Darrell! I am sure I would injure myself - LOL. But since I haven't been to the gym in months and my beer consumption has gone up, perhaps I ought to try it :D

Beth Groundwater said...

My goal is an hour of exercise a day, and I usually get 5-6 hours a week. I change it up, depending on the season and my schedule. Since I'm in Breckenridge now, it's easy. I swam a half mile at the rec center today, took two 1/2 hour brisk walks yesterday, rode my bike for 2 hrs on the Summit County rec path two days before, etc.

Cher'ley said...

I just started Yoga recently and it's great. Really limbers me up and then I do belly dancing. I also lift weights, ride my bike, walk/jog and other dances. Like Beth, I mix it up.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I try to squeeze in walks, swimming, yoga...but lots of deadlines does = too much butt in chair time.

Swati said...

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