Friday, March 03, 2006


Exercise. I can imagine some of you making signs to ward off the evil eye when you see that word! Does it sound like a strange topic for writers? It’s actually something that comes up fairly often when I’m coaching writers. Our physical health profoundly affects our ability to focus on the writing and it profoundly affects our emotional state. The problem is that we tend to and need to spend a lot of time sitting in a chair to write. And if we are on deadline, we don’t want to or feel we can’t take the time to exercise.

The standard advice is to find exercise you love. Well, that works fine for me in summer when I can go swimming (if I have the time) and worked when I used an exercise bike in front of the television set while I played video games. But....both of these require large blocks of time and sometimes I don’t have large blocks of time. Nor do I have room for that exercise bike in my current home. So...

I have found something that is painless, easy, and gradual. At the same time, it can make a profound difference in our health. What I would suggest to every fellow writer (and anyone who wants to get more exercise but knows, bottom-line, that it’s not likely to happen) is to get a pedometer. It can be a fancy one or it can come from the dollar store—as my current one did.

1) Wear the pedometer every day, all day. For the first week, simply note how many steps a day you are taking.
2) Week 2: Add 100 steps each day. This simply means walking a few extra steps here and there.
3) Week 3: Keep adding 100 more steps each day. This is surprisingly easy to do. It does not stress the body and the body is able to adapt.
4) Keep adding 100 steps a day.

10,000 steps a day is what is suggested as an ultimate goal. If you try to start with 10,000 steps a day, odds are you won’t keep it up. Odds are your body will object unless you are in good shape to start with. But if you simply add 100 steps more each day, your body gradually adapts and it’s not that hard to do. Of course there will be days you do fewer steps and that’s okay.

You are also likely to find that as you increase the number of steps to above 6000 a day, you feel so much better that you want to do other forms of exercise as well. But even if you didn’t, you would be in better shape—without ever stressing your body. (If your average stride is a little over 2 feet then 10,000 steps is the equivalent of walking 4 miles.)

The good thing about this system is that you will find yourself moving all day long. It isn’t simply one burst and then sitting all the rest of the day.

In a way, I think of this like dieting. Every study shows that dieting is not as effective or good for the body as making life long changes in how we eat. It’s the little changes, at every meal, that make the difference that one can maintain without ever feeling deprived. This is the same principle with the pedometer. It’s little changes all day long. Nothing that stresses the body, nothing that requires big chunks of time, nothing that feels like punishment.

(Incidentally, my philosophy about losing weight is to make a list of foods you absolutely love that are healthy and good for you and make sure you include some in every meal as you eat a little less of everything. You will be associating pleasure with being healthy and eating well instead of with pain.)

Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time knows that I believe that when we are experiencing success, we are more likely to keep doing something. Well, it’s possible to fail to lift weights, it’s possible to fail to be able to do certain positions in yoga, but for most people, walking a little bit more each day is something they will find easy to achieve.

So...if you are a sedentary person or if you want to lose weight or if you simply want to be healthier and work more exercise into your day, get a pedometer. Just wearing it will remind you to move and odds are you will find yourself adding more steps to your path just to see those numbers go up! And it won’t take big blocks of time away from your writing or any other priority in your life.