Writers are not known for living healthful lives. Drinking, smoking, working (or partying) into the wee hours of the evening—these are all more typically attributed to writers than strict diets and exercise regimens.
But while those qualities might seem sexier than eating veggies and running a 10K, they don’t do much for a writer’s productivity—or longevity.
While I won’t go into healthy eating or other good lifestyle choices (you can read some of my health writing here), I will talk about exercise. More specifically, running.
I’m currently training for a marathon, which is by far one of the most challenging physical feats I’ve attempted (unless you count child birth). While I’m doing it to stay healthy and push my physical limits, I’ve also found it benefits my profession in a number of ways. Interestingly enough, I believe that running—or exercising of any kind—makes me a better writer.
And I’m convinced that every writer should run. Here are 10 reasons why:
#1 Running is creative
When else can you be so focused on the moment, without the distraction of e-mail, text messages, or crying children? Running allows my mind the space to create. Of course, it usually takes me a couple of miles to get in the “flow” of the run. The only downside is that it can be hard to remember the great ideas I came up with while running.
#2 Running boosts brainpower
Yes, it even makes your brain work better! One study of older adults found that aerobic exercise improves memory and brain function. What writer couldn’t use a better-working brain?
#3 Running is productive
I sometimes have trouble relaxing because I know I could be doing something useful with my time. But, when I run, I feel productive and get the opportunity to do something I enjoy.
#4 Running reduces stress levels
The Mayo Clinic describes exercise as “meditation in motion.” Running gives you the opportunity to think through challenges—whether it’s with a client, novel plot, or even spouse. Less stress also means you can be more focused on tackling that blog post or sorting through character issues in your YA zombie-vampire-werewolf thriller.
#5 Running gives you much-needed “me” time
Especially for writers with kids, running is a great way to enjoy time for yourself—and that precious time can refresh you for even the hairiest of writing projects.
#6 Running helps you live longer
The research is in: running may increase life span. And a longer life means you’ll get the opportunity to write more articles, books, poems, or whatever it is you write. And hey, maybe a few extra years on this planet will increase the likelihood of winning a Pulitzer?
#7 Running can cure writer’s block
Staring at the computer doesn’t do any good, and neither does washing the laundry or watching Netflix. Sometimes, however, you can run the writer’s block right out of you.
#8 Running makes you happier
There’s no reason to be a tortured artist. Running boosts endorphins, which improves mood. One laboratory study found that people who are happy tend to be 12 percent more productive at work. If you normally write 30 magazine articles per year, that’s nearly four additional articles annually!
#9 Running is inexpensive
Even if you’re still awaiting your big break as a writer, you can still afford this sport. A good pair of running shoes is the biggest investment you’ll make. (Now, if only I could find a tax loophole that would let me write off my running gear and GPS watch…)
#10 Running is social
Writers aren’t typically social butterflies. Finding a running partner gives you the opportunity to socialize—which may also make you smarter. That’s because social interaction may increase cognitive performance, according to one study. Sure, you could sit at a coffee shop and chat, but why not enjoy the great outdoors, get in some friend time, and make yourself smarter, all at once?
If running hasn’t been your thing in the past, I encourage you to give it another go (assuming you are injury-free and don’t have health issues). Or, at the very least, find something active you enjoy: mountain biking, swimming, hiking, yoga…whatever gets your blood pumping.
And when you’re done exercising, go write something fantastic.
What are some activities that make you a better writer?
(Image courtesy Nan Palmero | flikr)