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Writers Write: The Importance of Exercise

A pen needs movement against paper. Have you ever found a ballpoint in the drawer and had to scribble for 5 minutes before the blue or black appears? Circles, scrawls, lines that rip through the fibers and onto the desk. It doesn’t really matter what you draw, so long as the pen is moving. Then, eventually, things start to flow again.

You don’t have to think too much about it. You just scratch. How else will you get it going, after all? This is no different than actually writing. Or exercising. Or picking up the phone and calling your mother. You know the actual act has to be done, period. But it is so easy to talk yourself out of it. Because there are consequences. Time commitments. Agonies, perhaps. Maybe Mom will remind you, again, that you need to go get that weird lump checked out, and when do you have the time for that (or the courage, for that matter)?

You know these things have to be done, and its easy to remember that the last time you exercised your hamstrings hurt so much you couldn’t wear heels for a week. It’s natural to recollect the nonsense you typed on the page last month that a toddler could have written, and the undeniable urge that followed to hurdle your computer through the window. These details are pacing in the wings, eager to take front stage in your consciousness. They want to warn you, to keep you from wasting your time, from hurting you, from humiliating you.

But what the retrieval part of our brain is slower to access is the good, slightly delayed rewards – the juicy rush of adrenaline that comes from a great workout, the calming sense of resolution when you hang up the phone and know you’ve “checked in” for the week, or the bliss you feel when you write that one brilliant sentence at the end of a ridiculous rant that says things exactly as you wanted them to.

We need to exercise. Exercise keeps the “blood flowing”, both figuratively and literally. We need to move, to act, to do. We need to sit our butts in the chair and write. We need to tie our shoelaces and run. And that’s it, really. No debate. No analyzing. Just movement. Because once you are moving, once the words and the limbs and the juices are flowing, it’s no longer the same kind of challenge. Sure, burpies are tough. Sometimes we are stiff. Sometimes the words just aren’t there. But keep moving and suddenly you are in it. You aren’t worrying about the challenge. You are enjoying it.

Each and every time it surprises me. I exercise ever single morning, sore or not. Sleep deprived or not. And I write. And let me tell you, it’s not all quality. Most of it isn’t. But that’s not the point. I do it, and I feel great afterward every time. Because then it’s on the page. On the mat. On the trail. Whatever. I’m a little bit stronger, a little bit lighter. And I’ve gotten the crap out, so to speak. Because you have to do that – cleanse out the crap to get at the good stuff.

Exercise gets at the good stuff, but it also gets you engaged, period. And that’s what life is meant to be – engagement. So write. Run. And call your mother. She’d appreciate it.

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