Stretching It Out: Keeping Your Body Healthy
Hemingway was known for putting his typewriter on top of a dresser and writing while standing. He was the exception to the rule. Normally, writers sit a great deal. I can sit for hours hooked into my writing but that isn’t healthy. Extended time in a seated position can create circulation issues in the legs, pain in the lower back and shoulders, reduced core strength, and possible weight gain which carries a whole new set of problems.
I know ALL the reasons/excuses for not exercising, walking, or going to the gym. I do not like to sweat, hence the reason I do not live in Florida anymore. But exercise for writers is more stretching than sweating. I’ll leave the jogging to those more able than me.
I am fully aware that when you are on a roll with a story, the very idea of breaking away is distasteful. The characters might be down-right bossy about not wanting to stop, threatening to break concentration and story line, or even just walk off and pout leaving you with abandonment issues and a colossal writer’s block. They simply must accept that for the writer’s comfort and health, which will assure a longer overall lifespan for all, care of the writer’s body is essential.
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This graphic, which was on Pinterest, (with credits) illustrates twelve basic stretches which shouldn’t take up more than a few minutes. Stretches are not quick, jerky movements. They should be done slowly and deliberately, making sure to get a good extension on the particular muscle group they are focused on at the time.
Let’s take them one at a time, examining the muscle group as we go.
- We all do this one. Scoot back from the desk. Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you. Hold 10-15 seconds and repeat. This is often accompanied by a yawn in my case. The shoulders and arms are the workhorses of the writer.
- Now stand, keep your fingers interlaced, and stretched upward with both arms for 10-15 seconds. If, like me, you have to do this one with hands apart, do so. The idea is to stretch, not choke yourself or cut off circulation.
- Cross your arms over your head and stretch to each side 6-10 seconds. If it feels good, do it again.
- Return to position two and repeat.
- Drop your arms to your side and shrug up and down. 3-5 seconds with 3 repeats. (I also suggest you do a series of three shoulder rolls to the front and three to the back.
- Clasp your hands behind your back. Gently tilt your head to the left then to the right for 10-12 seconds. GENTLY. Nothing with the neck should ever be snappy. A muscle pull in the neck is, well, a pain in the neck.
- Next, put your hands in front of you, about mid-chest, palms together and press down (see graphic). Hold ten seconds. Relax but maintain the position.
- Now roll your wrist to where your fingers are pointed away from you. This is working on your forearms, a part we often underestimate until you fall down your back steps and kill off your left forearm and wrist. Yes, ouch!
- Before you sit again, try a little walking in place or around the house. Shake out those legs. Now sit down and reach for the sky, 8-10 minutes on each side.
- Number ten needs the graphic but it is basically a twist to one side with the top half of your body and the opposite side with the lower. Repeat on the other side.
- Scoot forward a bit, hands on small of back, and pull your elbows toward each other like your are trying to make them meet.
- Lastly, shake out your hands. Maybe put some lotion on them and rub in like a massage.
There you are: relaxed, refreshed, renewed. Ready to take on the world. So, get back to work.