I can’t begin to remember how many years my New Year’s Resolution has been to diet and exercise. Every year, I start out gung ho. I create my weekly diet menu, I get on my exercise bicycle, and then. . .kerpoof! Life gets in the way. You know what I’m talking about. Most of us have been there—done that, and will do it again next year.
If we writers were to compare our lives to that of pioneer women, we might conclude we shared many similarities. The one difference many writers might see is weight and exercise. Pioneer women didn’t need to exercise. Hard work and a daily grind kept them lean and muscled. It’s not to say that pioneer women were buffed with sculpted bodies, but think about their lives—lonely; living miles from the nearest town, and often a day or more ride from a neighbor. The pioneer woman lacked from companionship of other women.
The pioneer woman washed clothes, baked bread, and often birthed children without the aid of a doctor, fought snakes, pest and Indians. Her biggest battle was loneliness.
Writers live lonely lives, too. Unlike the pioneer woman (who had no other choice), we writers choose to be writers, because we love what we do. We enjoy the challenge of creating a great plot, creating characters our readers will love, and we even enjoy the stomach-clenching tension of meeting deadlines. Unlike the pioneer woman, writers spend long hours—sitting. Our middles expand from lack of exercise. And while the food pioneer women ate might not have been the most nutritious with fried fatback, bread made with lard, can we writers claim to eat healthy—grabbing a slice of cold pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches or whatever else we can manage while at the computer?
So while spending hours pounding away at the keyboard may be great for our writing careers, it can be tough on our bodies. Here are a few simple stretches to get on the path to a more limber, more alert and more productive writing year. You don’t have to leave your office (or writing place) to perform these, and most can be done while sitting in your typing chair.
Standing stretch: with hands on your hips, gently turn your torso at the waist and look over your shoulder. When you feel the stretch, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
For wrists: Place hands palm to palm in front of you. Keeping elbows even, push one hand gently to the side until you feel a mild stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Neck: Sit or stand with arms hanging loosely at your sides. Then tilt your head first to one side and hold for five seconds, keeping your shoulders relaxed downward. Repeat on the other side and hold for five seconds.
Back: Sitting in your typing chair, slowly lean forward over your lap, keeping your head down and your neck relaxed. Hold for 20 seconds. Use your hands to help push yourself back to a sitting position.
Arms: (Sitting) Interlace your fingers and straighten arms above your head with palms facing upward. Breathe deeply and think of elongating your arms as you feel a stretch through your arms and the upper sides of your rib cage. Hold for 10 seconds.
Shoulders: (Standing) With right hand, gently pull your left arm down and across behind your back. Then lean your head sideways toward the right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat stretch on opposite side.
While it may seem like an interruption at first, regular stretching will, with practice, become as much a part of your writing routine as that morning cup of coffee.
While the pioneer woman fought Indians, snakes and braved in climate weather, now, you the writer, can doe the same—except it’ll be with your imagination and a happier, healthy body.