May 23, 2024

Don’t Skip Leg Day

I’ve got a big birthday coming up—a double number birthday—so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health and exercise. We’ve turned about half our garage into an exercise area, and I try to get out there at least three times a week (preferably four, but at least three) to stretch and do weights for 30 or 40 minutes. I’m also trying to be better about doing at least an hour on the treadmill. And if that fails, we also live right on a canyon, so there’s always a good hike right there.

Seems like a lot for an old guy, right? Well, part of this is my ongoing desire to see the 22nd century, but that’s a whole other story. A lot of it, though is just a general desire to exercise, well… everything. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember me talking about working with a physical trainer named Jerzy. He was really big on balance with his workouts. Some days were more reps, others were more about weight. Some days favored arms and shoulders, others favored legs and core.

He was big on working the body as a whole, because focusing too much usually meant getting kind of out of proportion. You’ve seen guys like that, right? The ones who over-work their arms and shoulders and usually end up, well, skipping leg day.

And a lot of time, this sort of partial exercise actually interferes with their actual goals. They want to look good, but they twist up their posture. They try to build stamina, but they actually end up weaker and slower because they’ve only worked out one or two parts of the bigger, overall system.

So what does all this exercise stuff have to do with writing?

I’ve met some people who do nothing but write. Write, write, write, write. I’ve seen pro writers brag about never taking vacations or even just a day off. Hell, years back I had one aspiring writer excuse their lack of familiarity with a popular book series by saying “real writers don’t have time to read.”

And I can’t help but notice that a lot of the time these folks… aren’t actually producing that much. For all their non-stop work, their output is… kind of average. In frequency and, well, quality.

Now, this is just my personal opinion, but I think in a lot of ways the brain works a lot like the rest of my body. I can exercise it and train it. Repetition can build good habits and reflexes.

But I can’t over-focus on just one aspect of it. Because that’s when things get off balance and grow… well, distorted. The exercise doesn’t help as much as it could because I’ve overworked that one element without working anything else.

You know what most of the other successful, prolific writers I know have in common? They’ve got other interests. I know writers who are into painting and photography and drawing. I know some who run, do martial arts, play basketball, box, and fence. A few of them are musicians. A bunch of them cook—like serious prep time, multiple-burners cook. And sooo many of them play games– video, tabletop, and miniature.

Me? I make a point to take at least one day off every week. A day to do something different. Something that lets me. I make my brain solve completely different types of problems than the ones it gets during the week. I tend to start the day with lawn and garden work, and then I build model robots and LEGO sets and paint little toy soldiers. I focus on shape and color and spatial relations

Plus, during lockdown, I got really into cooking. Italian food. Korean food. Pizza. I like making dinner for my beloved. I like that it requires actual prep and usually more than one pan. That happens several times during the week.

And yeah, I’m trying to squeeze in some exercise, too.

Take a moment. Take a breath. Try doing something else—anything else—and exercise a few different mental muscles. It’ll help your writing in the long run. Honest. And maybe try some actual exercise, too. Increasing blood flow is never a bad thing. That’ll help your writing, too.

Next time… well, like I said, I’ve got a birthday coming up, so I’ll probably bore you with some deep thoughts of some kind.

Oh! And StokerCon is a week from today. I’m not actually attending, but it’s right here in my city, barely ten minutes away. So I may lurk at the bar and say hi to some folks. Maybe you’ll be one of them.

Until then… go write.

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