Monday, February 8, 2016

The Write Balance

We all know that the writer's life is largely sedentary. While brainstorming and sorting out ideas can be done with a measure of physical activity, actual typing or writing longhand has us parked in one place. Writing gives our brains a workout, but it doesn't offer much in the way of burning calories.

Activity of some kind is essential for good circulation. Even short bursts of movement get the blood flowing, which provides a double bonus - for mind and body. We think and feel better, and have more to offer our loved ones. That said, what can be done to offset the less active times while at the keyboard?

Here's what tops my list. See if you agree. 

  • Get ample rest. We know this, but how many of us heed this advice? I don't always, but aim to make it a priority.
  • Eat right. This is another given. Poor eating habits will catch up with us. You know, like Mom always said, "You are what you eat."
  • Exercise. Given #3! From hitting the gym, to walking or running, to the exercise DVD, light weights, etc. there are a myriad of options from which to choose.
  • Maintain a "motion mindset". Our best writing results often come when we are healthy and alert.

To take this "motion mindset" a step further, I look for ways to stay loose and relieve tension. Perhaps you do some of the following too.

  • Take regular breaks. A trip to the laundry room or mailbox can stretch muscles and get the blood moving. Sometimes I'll take a brief walk around the house or yard, march in place, or scale the stairs a few times.
  • Stand up. You've probably read the articles about how standing (versus sitting) is better for circulation. I don't have a standing desk, but occasionally I'll take my laptop or pen and paper and work while standing at the kitchen island. When possible, I pace while on the phone.
  • Keep moving, even when sitting. Stretch or rotate your arms, flex your legs, stomp your feet, scrunch your shoulders up and down, or turn your head from left to right.
  • Lift weights. Stash 1 or 2 pound weights under your desk. Sit/stand and do a few bicep curls or overhead arm lifts. Even light weights provide resistance benefits.
  • Be your own masseuse/masseur. Massage your scalp, forehead or temples, neck, and/or shoulders, using gentle pressure or kneading in a circular motion to relieve tension and increase blood flow.
  • Stay hydrated. Did you know that dehydration can cause headaches? Keeping a healthy beverage handy, whether writing or not, is an easy preventative measure. 

Whether exercising our bodies or minds, it doesn't take much to reap helpful benefits.

How do you balance activity with the sedentary writing life?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Free Images


  1. Such great tips, Karen. Exercise is so important to me for mental health as well as physical health. Most days I take my dog for a walk twice. And I love standing while working. I stand for 6-8 hours a day and my metabolism changed and I've lost weight I never thought would come off.

  2. How opportune this pst, thank you Karen. I too need to re-set my physical self. With not having a job and having to leave the house, it is so much more difficult to get enough exercise in. I need to 'take the time' not wait for the right moment... and sitting is indeed a hazard to my health. I will print out your suggestions and attempt to alter my daily routines more. All advice kindly accepted....

  3. Excellent tips! I'm always drinking water, writing or not.

  4. Great advice! I needed this right now, since I'm trying to write fast...but that means a lot of time in a chair. I exercise, but I need to take more breaks when I'm writing. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Thanks so much for this, Karen. I like to think about my writing while I take walks around the park or the neighborhood. I open my day with a 40 minute [or so] aerobics DVD or core training DVD at least 5 times per week. And I try some of your stretches during my writing time, except the standing while I'm typing. I didn't know about dehydration causing headaches. You didn't mention eye strain from staring at the computer. I try to walk to a window and focus on something outside for a while. Thanks again for helping writers everywhere. I've shared this article on social media.

  6. Karen, while reading this I stretched and sat up straight in my chair. LOL Thanks for reminding us how important these points are! Off to the laundry. No kidding.

  7. Drinking too much water. And not enough coffee. *gulp* Thanks, amigo. We all need reminders. I would climb our mountain and/or ride the horses up the mountain. IF ONLY the rain would stop. ACK. Not complaining. BUT. I have an elliptical downstairs in my office. I'll have to use it or the stationary bike today. XOXOXO

  8. Natalie,
    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. I guess having a dog can be a built in exercise program, right? Standing and losing weight - yay! I'm going to have to stand more! lol :)

    It's so easy to just get out of the exercise habit, isn't it? I know I have certain stretches where I have to push myself harder. So glad you liked the post. :) Cheering you on in your active endeavors!

    Thank you! I am too - drinking water is a good habit to get into. Thanks for tweeting the post! :)

    I needed this now too! lol :) Well, you've got a cheering section here, both for writing and taking a few breaks!

    You are most welcome. Glad you found it helpful. You make a good point about the eye strain. That is something we need to be aware of too. Appreciate you sharing on social media! :)

    Good posture is another thing - glad you brought that up! :) I often find myself slumping when at my desk. Just came back from the laundry room myself, actually. :)

    Yes, we all need reminders, that's for sure! Who do you think this post is mostly for? Yup, me! The winter finds me getting a little lazier than usual. Hope you get a break in the rain and see a little sunshine soon! Hugs to you!

    Happy writing,

  9. I've been lifting more weights, exercising, drinking more water, and eating healthier this year. I feel the change. I need to sleep more, though.

  10. I like the idea of having free weights at your desk to grab. I do have to take breaks and get moving, as I get restless. But a goal I still need to achieve is to follow the gym schedule I have in my calendar, and make it a priority that cannot get overtaken!

  11. I don't sit still for very long anyway. I'm constantly taking a break. As for drinking more water, I am really trying. Flavor it and I can handle it.

  12. Medeia,
    Those are great changes. Working on them here too. Yeah, sleep is where I slack up too. Need to make that change as well. :)

    I know, I have stuff on my calendar or to-do list that seems to get lost in the shuffle too. I guess we need to treat them like the big rocks and put them in the jar first, right? :)

    Flavored water helps many I know drink more water. :) I'm like you, I'm up and down a lot from my desk. Which is good for circulation but not always to stay on task. lol

    Happy writing,

  13. Hi, Karen -

    This is such a timely message. For two weeks, I didn't get to the gym, and the difference was obvious. My muscles cramped, lethargy dulled my mind, and I was downright cranky.

    I'm getting back into the swing of things and feeling better. If we want our brains in creative mode, we have to give them what they need.

    Susan :)

  14. Great reminders and tips. I have been trying to get more sleep and have been doing a pretty good job with it most days Definitely making progress. I like the idea of being our own massage thereapist and the reminders to stretch are important. I need to add more exercise to my routine for sure. :)


  15. As I was clicking publish I noticed thereapist- should be therapist. :)

  16. You're right, you're right...I know you are. It's so tough to put all of those things into action, even when I know I MUST for maximum health. Thanks for the reminder.

  17. Lift weights. That's a great idea. I don't understand why I didn't think of that. I could use cans of corns.

  18. Around the kids, I don't think I ever sit still for longer than 5 minutes. Someone needs help, attention, or a kind reminder to get back to work. *sigh* I know I'll miss these days, but it's tough writing to distraction.

  19. Excellent tips, Karen. And ones that we need to be reminded of often, so thanks!
    I have a standing desk that helps relieve stress on certain muscles and body parts. I simply unplug my laptop and take a couple steps across the room to set it up.

  20. Hi Karen! You are so right about writing being sedentary. I do belong to a gym, so I work out 5 days a week. I prefer to get outside to walk, but it's just too darn cold these days.
    I like the idea of the weights by the desk. That's inspired. Gets the blood moving! And the thoughts about good sleep are well taken. I am TERRIBLE about going to bed at night. But when I get sleep, I get more thoughts and ideas. Gotta keep working on that for sure.

  21. Susan,
    The snow will do a number on your routine, won't it? Glad to hear you are getting back into the swing of things! :)

    Glad you are doing well in the sleep department. I need to follow your example! :) I say we get a massage therapist to do the circuit between us writers. Sort of like those old time traveling preachers. :)

    You are welcome. And don't feel bad, I have to push myself too. Especially when it comes to getting good sleep. :)

    Canned foods are a good way to add a little resistance. I remember Richard Simmons talking about adding them to your workout (I'm dating myself here, lol.). Soup, corn, beans, it doesn't matter, right? :)

    Ah, see you have a built in system to keep moving. The littlest one will be one soon, won't she? We should just refer to them as little calorie burners, right?:)

    Thank you! You should post a pic of you and your standing desk on your blog. :) Would like to get one to burn some more calories during the day.

    I prefer walking outside too, but winter isn't always friendly in that respect, is it? Somehow we need to corral and harness those ideas when we are trying to sleep! :)

    Happy writing,

  22. Hi Karen - exercise is essential .. and I really must do more of it. I'm getting my head clear and that's important, other things seem to be slotting into place ... as Joylene said 'cans of corn' ... I was thinking 'tins of baked beans' .. for lifting weights.

    It is keeping a balance and drinking water - I've always done that thankfully ... cheers and have a good weekend - Hilary

  23. Hilary,
    It really is, isn't it? I have an exercise DVD where the instructor says, "The more you sit, the more you want to sit. The more you move, the more you want to move." A lot of truth in that - it's a matter of getting up and moving! :) You're right, balance is a good thing!


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