Are you a healthy author?

I’ve noticed quite a lot of posts on this topic this year, and I think the subject deserves plenty of attention.

Being an author is, for the most part, a sedentary occupation (not to mention solitary!) which can cause plenty of health issues.

I chose today to talk about this because I was prompted by the arrival of my new ‘healthy living’ toy.

This is a ‘spinal mobiliser’.

Now of course most of you know I’m pretty active – in fact, I’m still a sports professional as well as author – and this, in itself, can cause added problems. I only ride 2 horses a day these days, where it used to be up to 7, but I’m getting older, and over the years of doing such a risk sport (yes, even dressage horses dump their riders on the ground, as well as treading on them and knocking them around) we rack up any number of injuries.

As sports people do, we deal with the injury at the time and put off the long term effects ‘for the future’.

Well, for me, the future is now here, and I’m paying for all those injuries in back and hip problems. I’m still working, but with chronic low level pain, which is only exacerbated by sitting still to write after an active day. Hence, this post.

I’ve been getting physio very regularly for a couple of years, but that isn’t cheap, and while I wouldn’t dream of stopping because of the cost, anything I can do to reduce the need seems sensible.

I’ve hired the mobiliser for a month’s trial at £199 for the month. To buy it is over £3K, so I thought a trial sensible. I tried it out at a show recently and was impressed with how much looser I felt afterward. It has a pair of notched rollers that move up and down the back in a pre-programmed sequence, opening the gaps between the vertebra to promote blood flow and break down adhesions. Not overly comfortable at first, but I’m assured it will get easier. The MOD (Ministry of Defence) is their biggest user, and if they consider it worth employing in their rehab centres, I think it worth the trial.

Now not everyone needs such an expensive piece of kit. One of the most important things for a writer to remember is to TAKE A BREAK! It’s really easy to get ‘in the groove’ and sit for hours typing away. You may have your work station set up ergonomically (and if not, why not?) with a good chair at the right height and angle, foot rests, wrist rests etc., but your body will still seize up if you don’t move regularly.

One of the best things that happened to me over the last year was discovering the POMODORO TECHNIQUE, which tells you to write in 25 minute bursts, then do something else. For me, this was mostly about time management, but it has also improved the physical side of things for me, so that, as instructed, every 25 minutes I get up and do something else! That might just be make a cup of coffee, or it might be anything else around the house (like housework, oh dear), but I would advise you to make your something else a physical action, rather than another computer-based activity.

The 25 minutes is based around how long the human mind can concentrate efficiently on one topic (actually more like 20 minutes in reality), so you could write for 25 minutes and then switch to marketing/social media/emails etc.

I would like to suggest to you that the healthier option is to get up and do something physical.

After all, if we become unhealthy, everything suffers along with that, including our ability to write. Muscles and joints need to move to maintain health – don’t sit there allowing yourself to stiffen up unnecessarily.

At the 20 Books London conference I reported on earlier this year, an alarming number of people put up their hands when asked if they woke up in the morning with pins and needles in their hands and arms. Please, don’t join them!

Obviously weight gain is another issue for writers (one that can be addressed a little by taking more exercise), and then, of course, mental health issues are a huge topic too, though I’m not going into either of those today

What I will suggest in addition to scheduling regular activity breaks into your writing day, is that you check out Joanna Penn’s recent book, THE HEALTHY AUTHOR – she was also at the 20 Book conference and as appalled as I was to see that response. You can find her book HERE.

How do you address your writing-associated health issues? Or are you fortunate enough not to have developed any? Yet.

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14 comments

  1. Thirteen years ago, I weighed 240 pounds. I lost my first 40 within that first year. Since then, I slimmed down from a size 18/20 to a size 6/8. 🙂 I didn’t have surgery. I just made some changes and exercise is one of the main ones. After three sons, breastfeeding, and stretchmarks galore, and a list full of stories, novels, poems — I’m satisfied. I love writing and exercises such as H.I.I.T., Tabata, Pilates, Piloxing, Zumba Fitness, weight lifting, and even belly dance has kept me in shape physically and mentally. This is a great post Deborah! 🙂

    1. Wow, you are an inspiration Monique!
      I thought I was doing well, losing 20 pounds last year, but that’s nothing compared to you – what a great role model you are to prove it CAN be done by will power and lifestyle changes.
      Thanks for commenting and for the reblog 😀

      1. Hello again. Thank you for the kind words and you’re most welcome for the reblog. My philosophy is simple and I tell myself “fit in your clothes for as long as possible”! Lol. I hate shopping and the less I have to do that — the better! 🙂

      2. Lol, that was my incentive to drop weight – it was either that or buy a whole new wardrobe, and I don’t have time for shopping!

  2. Reblogged this on adaratrosclair and commented:
    Exercise is a writer’s best friend. The work is often done in a sedentary position. I love writing and exercises such as H.I.I.T., Tabata, Pilates, Piloxing, Zumba Fitness, weight lifting, and even belly dance has kept me in shape physically and mentally. This is a great post, Deborah! 🙂

  3. When I moved from teaching in a physical school to online teaching, it was a huge change in my exercise levels. Now I sit to do much of what I used to do by walking around. It’s a struggle to stay healthy!

    1. The curse of the new age…
      So much ‘convenience’, so little about health.

  4. Excellent post Deb! I’ve never heard of that machine, but do give us an update after you’ve used it for awhile.
    I do my best to watch my posture, and thankfully the ants in my pants has me getting up frequently through the day. I’ve also been loyal to my 3 times a week at the gym now again for these past few months. As much as I hate dragging my ass there, I always feel invigorated after working out for an hour. It’s a battle keeping the old metabolism up so I find my gym visits help. Plus it also helps flabby arms look better in sleeveless tops LOL 🙂 ❤

    1. I think the machine is probably only available in the UK, though that’s just a guess. I’m eager to see if it makes a positive difference; I’ll keep you posted.
      Ants in the pants are a good thing in this case, and, surprise, surprise, I have those too!
      With my job I don’t have time to take on anything like gym work outs, but I am definitely not short of exercise, which does help keep the metabolism going, thank goodness. We will continue to defy the ageing process!

      1. Right on sister. Yes, I should think you get your share of exercise! I look forward to hearing about the progress with your stretching machine lol. 🙂 xc

  5. Sorry to hear about your back problems. Excellent advice about getting up and moving every 25 minutes or so. Like you, I try to do bits of boring housework in my break times. Oddly enough, it does clear the mind. 🙂

    1. And stops the house from disappearing beneath layers of crap! 😉

      1. lol – that too, but /we/ know why we’re really doing it. 😉

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