Since I left high school (50 years ago!) I have been up and down with my physical exercising. I’ve had periods where I’ve been waaaay too sedate and gluttonous and ballooned drastically. I’ve been a tri-athlete, running ten miles a day in an hour, biking long distances, swimming back-and-forth and back-and-forth, lifting, stretching, and over-doing, but, boy, did I look good!
Retirement has been good for me in that I have become an habitué of my local fitness center. I’m probably there six days a week for at least an hour and usually two. Although I can’t run anymore (no cartilage in my right knee), I am a fast walker on the treadmill and I have always loved lifting weights. I prefer free weights, but the machines are kinder to my back. My wife and I like to walk and hike, and I ski any time I can find snow.
So…what has this to do with writing?
It doesn’t take too much of your own research to find the vast amounts of scientific/medical research that support physical health as a boon to mental health. The best drug in the world is endorphins! We just finished a Great Courses class on “The Aging Brain.” Exercise not only keeps the body together longer but it helps prevent mental deterioration. Some research exists that even shows that a healthy brain grows new brain cells. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the new grey matter I can get!
The one thing I’ve noticed from my own experience is that I write better and write more when I’m getting some exercise–even a good walk around the neighborhood helps, and I’ve written “drafts” while mowing the lawn. I do lots of planning and contemplating ideas while on the treadmill. I can do the same when I’m swimming. Weightlifting requires more concentration on form for me to think much about my writing then, but the recovery periods, especially after a good long workout, seem to be quite productively creative for me. Many times I’ve jotted down ideas in my phone while I’m catching my breath or relaxing in the sauna.
The “runner’s high” is not a myth, and I can have the same heightened consciousness after any kind of workout. I can find solutions to all sorts of problems with the sweat streaming and my heart pounding. It’s rewarding to take that effort and put it into my writing. I just have to remember to not sweat too much on my keyboard!