Monday, September 19, 2011

Reading, Writing and Staying Fit

Please don't groan. I promise, I'm not going to tell you to give up your dark chocolate M&M's, nor am I going to suggest you aim to run a marathon next spring. This Superromance blog is a place where real authors meet real readers and guess what? We're all human. And many of us are facing stiff odds to stay fit and trim through our lifetime. This concerns me because I love my life. Not every moment, not everyday. And while I have little control over how long I'll be here, I do have a say in my quality of life today. I've found that when I make small, manageable changes in my nutrition/fitness/mental serenity routine, they prove more lasting and overall increase the chances of sticking.
As first a reader and then a writer I spend a lot of time sitting. Many writers have adopted a standing desk, or even a treadmill desk. Readers can do the same. But I think that anything done too long isn't as beneficial as movement. I get up from my desk or chair several times in an hour. I'm more efficient if I've done a quick walk about, whether it's to throw in a load of laundry or put a pot of soup on to simmer so that my family won't starve because of my workload. This is especially handy around deadlines!
There's a dearth of information on health and fitness and since we are all readers, most of us have read the medical and scientific studies--many of them contradicting. What's a story-lover to do?
I've learned that for me, as much as I love chocolate, it's a no-go if I'm going to keep my energy up. I treat myself to really good chocolate (or okay, a chocolate kiss or two) when I want to, but it's no longer a major nutritional category for me for one simple reason: I feel incredibly tired after the rush of the chocolate has abated. This invariably happens when I have two hours left in my writing day and energy is prone to drop, anyhow. Instead I have an apple and a cup of tea. I can hear the no-caffeine readers gasping. But a cup of tea along with either fruit or veggies or a handful of nuts carries me further along my story without feeling like I need to put my head down and take a quick nap.
If and when I exercise, no matter what it is, I feel enormously better. Plus, more story ideas and characters show up on my mental dry-erase board (I really wanted to write "chalkboard" but that would really date me). The simple act of walking releases the right kind of brain waves that help creativity.
The other fitness that I feel is probably most important is mental and spiritual. Whatever your beliefs try to spend a bit of time alone with them each day. Journal, sketch, sit in nature. My favorite is to knit outside. The air is finally cool enough to do this in the Northeastern U.S. and I relish it. It's hard not to feel guilty for sitting and seemingly doing "nothing" productive in terms of story and writing, but indeed I'm contributing to my story arsenal. So many ideas have shown up in the middle of a row of a lace shawl.
I'm not perfect and I struggle with taking care of myself, finding the time, making the effort when I feel like the demands of this writing life and life in general are too many and too heavy to take "frivolous" time to do something for me. My heroines struggle and juggle with this, too. It's what makes all of us, fictional or real, human.
What do you do to stay healthy, be it physical, mental or spiritual?

23 comments:

Sonya said...

I’m weird.
Having grown up in a professional ballet school, I’ve had fitness drilled into me since kindergarten. So I actually do quite a bit of exercise. My fitness routine these days has developed mostly out of various exercises I’ve had over the years to fix ballet injuries. So I have an exercise bike (have no idea what they’re called in the US) – easy to read while I ride it! I’ve also got a bunch of Pilates (which actually was invented for dancers) exercises to strengthen various things.

Even though I stopped dancing years ago, I find the extra training I used to have to do really works, and because it’s so drilled into me it’s not usually too hard to get motivated!

It also helps that chocolate is about my least favourite food!

Kristina Mathews said...

I needed this post today. I was debating whether or not to go to Jazzercise or stay home and try to get closer to THE END.

I guess I will go work out, and probably work out a few plot details in my head.

Geri Krotow said...

Oh Sonya, I wish I could say chocolate wasn't one of my faves, but alas, it is. Thanks for the motivation and keep doing what you're doing! By the way, they are called 'exercise bikes' here, too.

Geri Krotow said...

Yeah Kristina!

Debra Salonen said...

Hi, Geri. A great reminder. I think most people underestimate what a toll sitting all day can have on the body. Do you use a timer on your computer to remind you to get up and move around? I haven't found one I like. And I've found the sound of my stomach growling when I've forgotten to have lunch is very unreliable. LOL.

My healthful tips:
#1 = eat. Three regular meals works for me. If I miss lunch, my afternoon is an absolute bust. Took me years to figure that out.
#2 = yoga. It isn't just the movement--it's the breathing, which pumps oxygen-rich blood to your brain.
# 3 = walk. I have a new puppy I'm training and our mantra is: "walk, walk, walk." Even though the exercise is great for me, I'm better about doing it when I tell myself my puppy needs this. Sigh.

Hope you're settling into your new home.

Best always,
Deb

JV said...

My three biggest nods to health lately are keeping a more careful watch over what the hubby and I eat (not much in the way of restriction but smaller portions and more emphasis on veggies), wearing a pedometer to track how many steps I take in a day and trying to increase that, and taking occasional naps to insure that I get more sleep.

The last one may be the hardest but it's probably also one of the most beneficial, as I've been operating on a serious sleep deficit for years and years. It's hard because I've never been a "nap person". While my husband can take a 20 minute nap and wake up feeling refreshed, I feel groggy for hours if I take anything less than a complete sleep cycle of about 1.5 hours. Nonetheless and despite having so much to do that sleep doesn't seem like an option, when I've been getting too little sleep, I do lie back down in the morning and sleep for that 1.5 hours, and I've felt much better for it. I hate frittering away my daylight, but I have to do something to combat my night owl tendencies.

So, it's baby steps toward better health and fitness (unlike in my 30s when I undertook a major fitness regimen and was in the best shape of my life). Still, it's a move in the right direction.

Virginia said...

I used to walk all the time but this year the weather has been bad. So I try doing some exercise in the house,also mow the lawn every week.

Geri Krotow said...

Hi Debra--yes, my dog keeps me active, for sure. He just turned a year and needs a lot of exercise, which is good for me, too. I don't have a timer I like that much, I just get up when my body starts to hurt, lol. I also find that three meals and a few snacks keep me from going hog-wild during my 4-9pm danger zone for overeating. I'm settling in well, thank you for your support! I love this blog.

Geri Krotow said...

Hi JV--thank you for bringing up sleep! I've read that if someone trying to lose weight gets 7 hrs or more of sleep per night, they have a better chance of success. I am a napper. Sometimes it's just a quick shut-eye to relax and get my story and characters to "settle down." I also don't believe in diets. I've recently gone back to Weight Watchers (not a commercial plug, just what works for me) to help me take care of my nutrition and fitness. Nothing, no food, is off-limits. It's a matter of whether it's worth it to me at that particular time that I want something.

Geri Krotow said...

Hi Virginia--bad weather is indeed a bummer when it comes to walking. But as you've pointed out, household chores can have many benefits. I'll bet you burn at least a candy bar's worth of calories mowing your lawn! Plus I always count housework as part of my workout--I break a sweat, and that's what matters. Thanks for the insight.

Rogenna Brewer said...

I have yet to find this balance while on deadline. The rest of the time I manage pretty well.

Kaelee said...

I'm at a bad point right now. I used to take a daily walk and then things happened. I need to start doing that again as I felt so much better when I did walk.

I do have a fairly wholesome diet but probably could cut down on the amount of food I eat. I try very hard to get 7 hours of sleep but it's not always there for me.
Code to post this comment is exesses ~Really

Joan Kilby said...

I find I'm so much more productive when I'm doing three things right - eating, exercise and sleeping. I do Body Balance at my local gym three times a week. It's a combination of tai chi, yoga and pilates with a meditation at the end. Love it! I also walk every day with my dog. I still struggle with my weight but I can only imagine how much worse off I'd be if I did nothing. great post, Geri. it's always good to be reminded of the benefits of making an effort.

liztalley said...

I feel better when I excercise...just all around better. So I'm really trying hard to fit it back into my schedule.

Another thing I have to force myself not to do -stop eating in front of the TV or computer. That's mindless eating and you usually always eat more than you would if you weren't distracted.

I'd really love to do the 4-6 small meals in the day but that hasn't worked out as well. If I can get that going, I think I'd feel better too.

Jane said...

I walk as much as I can and take the stairs when possible. I try not to snack so much throughout the day.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Geri--The key for me is to not start something I can't keep doing. I used to plan out elaborate programs I couldn't keep up with because they were hard. Now I do a few pushups and the plank four mornings a week--Monday through Thursday. When I don't feel like doing it, I tell myself that it's only four mornings. That helps me not let the habit fall by the wayside. Having an exercise buddy really helps, too. My husband is not allowed in the room when I do my alleged pushups, but he and I run together. When I don't want to run, he gets tough with me and vice versa. That helps a lot.
Great topic!

Mary Brady said...

Hi Geri, great post. I'm with Jeannie. The complicated stuff has come and gone. but it all seems so much more important now, so I do moderation to keep me on track. I use my exercise bike and free weights. I also use meditation, energy work, essential oils and friends to keep me mentally and spiritually toned. Hubby is in great shape and that helps a lot.

Snookie said...

I'm walking in a pool since I can no longer do the walking I used to do. It feels good to just be out in the sunshine in the middle of the day! I also get up from my desk chair a lot during the day. I can't just sit there. By bad habit though, is that I don't eat regular meals and I do snack a lot because there is always all kinds of snack foods at the office.

marybelle said...

I also knit & find it very rewarding & relaxing. My long walks each day help to keep me strong in every sense.

Donya P said...

This is a great blog and I so needed to read these posts. I need to loose at least a 100 pounds and have been trying to find ways to do this without killing myself. So thank you for the blog and thank everyone else for the great hints to health.. It is hard for me to do a lot though, because I have a bad knee... any suggestions from others who might suffer like myself?

JV said...

Donya,

I could stand to lose a lot of weight myself. My best advice is to take it slow for a couple of reasons. First, I think you're more likely to stick with it if you don't just in too hard and then suffer severely for it or feel like a failure while trying to do too much. Second, weight lost gradually stays off much more permanently than weight lost quickly, which is often a combination of fat, water, and, unfortunately, muscle mass.

So, just do some form of exercise that isn't too painful, like walk as far as you comfortably can at a moderate pace. Build it up slowly. (I think the knee will feel better as the weight comes off, too. My knee kicks up sometimes, too.)

For me, it works better to try to moderate how much I eat rather than doing a drastic diet or eliminating certain foods altogether. I know I can't or won't continue to deprive myself of foods that I love while replacing all the "good" stuff with grass-like stuff. Again, moderation is the key. If you can reduce portion sizes a bit (asking for a to-go box immediately when food arrives when eating out and putting half the food in it immediately helps), reduce the number of times you eat the less healthy foods per week or month, and try to eat a bit healthier and to encourage yourself to enjoy any healthy foods in place of less healthy foods.

It all adds up, but don't give up on yourself.

Donya P said...

JV Thank you so much for the tips. I have already started to monitor my eating by picking better options most of the time. I just didn't feel like it was enough, but you make a great point moderation does tend to last the longest in the final. Thank you again...

Carol Coughlin said...

WOW Geri what a blog! It feels like you're right in the room with me. As far as life changes go
(losing weight, being more active) I'm working on it. I do walk a lot since I don't have a car so I have to walk to bus stops or MBTA Stations
and then walk to stores or whereever I have to go. But there are far too many DD'S around. And
if I sit too long at the computer table or sofa I pay for it. I do get out with the dog, but in the backyard. She is too strong for me to walk so I walk around the yard and pick up after her.

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