Keeping fit is positively the last topic about writing conditions before we get onto the writing itself. This one is important, because one’s state of fitness affects one’s creative state of mind HUGELY. It’s very easy for writers to let their obsession with the work and their sedentary lifestyle gradually affect their health, which then affects their creativity.
Keeping fit is surprisingly easy once one gets into the routine, and it takes very little time out of the day. All it requires is a modicum of self-discipline, and the desire to (a) write better, and (b) live longer.
Everyone will find their own way to do it, so I will simply outline my own method.
Vital! I write in various parts of the world, so the circumstances change, but on average I spend only 15 minutes a day on the process. I usually break off mid-morning, and if I am somewhere warm and within easy reach of water, I will swim ten lengths of the pool or a hundred metres in the sea, fairly fast. Takes 5 minutes. If I can’t swim I will fast walk (not run after age 50 – a strain on the knees), or go on an exercise bike. Anything to get the heart and lungs working.
Then I go through a routine of old army exercises that I learnt at school – limb stretching, press-ups, knees bends, etc – traditional, but very effective at keeping one supple. And only takes another 10 minutes.
It works. I notice, if I don’t do this for a few days for whatever reason, that both my body and my brain start to stiffen up slightly. And my state of mind isn’t nearly as positive.
Also I often find that I’ve subconsciously solved a writing problem whilst doing this stuff. Keeping fit has multiple benefits.
Keeping fit includes diet. Most of us in the Western world eat FAR too much, with FAR too many carbs (look at the obesity around you). One only needs one proper meal a day. My personal routine is a light breakfast – orange juice, fruit, piece of wholegrain toast.
Coffee mid-morning (after the exercise) with half a muesli bar. Lunch is an apple with cheddar cheese, or if it’s cold then a bowl of soup (wonderful supermarket soups these days) with cheese and crackers (NOT bread – sends me to sleep).
Mug of tea in the afternoon (OK, cheating with a biscuit or small piece of cake). Then a proper meal in the evening, but pretty restrained whether at home or in a restaurant (no chips!). Only two glasses of wine (or sometimes three, but I regret it in the night). If I’m hungry any time I’ll have a banana – great for filling the void in a good way.
For those who find this fare impossibly meagre, I can only say that, if you can stick with it for a week or two, your whole metabolism will change, and your body will then start to rebel against over-eating. You will have won the battle.
One can always help the keep fit process by utilising the actions one has to do anyway.
Don’t use lifts when you can use the stairs. And if you can, take them two at a time, breathing deeply.
Walk up escalators (isn’t it odd that even young people always stand on escalators? Is energy really in such short supply?)
Walk or cycle rather than drive or bus if it’s not far. And do so briskly whilst deep breathing. As you can see, keeping fit is rather easy.
Drink water rather than coffee when thirsty (except for the obligatory mid-morning one). Also water with dinner, rather than the extra glass of wine. Wine is for complementing food, not for quenching thirst.
Rise, stretch and breathe every half hour or so whilst working at your computer.
Manage all this, and ‘War And Peace’ will be within your grasp!