by Amanda Jakle
Medical Disclaimer: This article contains anecdotes and recommendations based on the author’s own personal health routine. The author is not a medical professional, and her recommendations should not be taken as medical advice. Please seek professional medical help prior to starting any new exercise routine or taking any new medications or supplements, as improper use of these can cause harm, injury, or death.
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If you like to stay up late and sit on your bum all day, you’re not going to like this article.
Because this article is all about how, as a writer, it’s really important that you get enough rest and exercise.
And this is coming from somebody who, for many years, hated exercise with a passion and usually only got around four to six hours of sleep per night.
As I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve started taking writing (and life in general) more seriously, I’ve come to realize that my brain works better and my thoughts come smoother when I have regular exercise and enough sleep at night. Scientific studies have also shown that your brain works faster when it gets oxygen to it more efficiently.
How do you make it work faster, then?
If you’re anything like me, you’d rather eat a worm sandwich before trudging to the gym for a long, drawn-out session on the treadmill just to get gawked at by the buff jocks pumping iron on the other side of the room… but the good news is that even adding 5 to 10 minutes of exercise during a morning routine will help you keep your thoughts focused and flowing all day long. Not to mention that, once you start getting used to it, it actually can start feeling good.
It doesn’t even take that long to start noticing the benefits!
Now, if you have any physical limitations, I do recommend that you talk with your doctor before you start any new exercise habit. If you’re like me and you’re overweight and out of shape, then if you think that jumping right into an exercise habit could hurt you, you should definitely start with something that’s easier. Personally, I’ve found that even just taking a brisk walk every morning, doing some kettlebell exercises, or playing with my dog for half an hour has a positive effect on both my mood and my brainpower. If you have access to a pool or a gym, then swimming and using the elliptical machine are both zero-impact ways to exercise so that it’s easier on your joints.
The exercise that I found takes up relatively little time or space, doesn’t require much special equipment, and gives you the most benefit for your time? Kettlebell swings.
Kettlebell swings are a full-body workout. You get strength training, aerobic exercise, and balance exercise all in one simple motion. You work out your arms, your legs, and your core all at the same time. In as little as five minutes per day, you get the same benefits as you would from a full hour on the treadmill, and more, since you’re also getting strength training at the same time. It’s a great way to burn calories, get your blood moving, get extra oxygen to your brain so that you think faster and better, boost your energy in general, and the longer you do it, the better you feel overall.
You start easy, with a light weight and low repetitions, until you get used to the motions and the weight. Then you increase your repetitions and your weight little by little.
Not only is exercise essential to function better as a writer, but so is good rest.
I know you’ve heard this a million times. Who hasn’t? If you watch television, every commercial that comes on for mattresses has some spiel about getting a good night’s sleep.
You’ve probably also heard it said that writers should have the strange ability to write all night and work all day, and then get about two hours of sleep and get up and do it all again the next day.
I’m here to tell you that this? This right here? ^^^
Is a myth.
Writers are human, too. Just like every other human, your body and brain need quality rest for a certain amount of time in order for them to repair themselves and work at their best.
To get the most bang for your buck, you need to have anywhere between six and nine hours of sleep per night. Now, this will vary depending on the person, and you can function on less sleep than that. But you will function better, be sharper, and be able to organize your thoughts better for your writing when you’ve had enough restful sleep per night.
Now, I’ve never been one to have a steady sleep schedule- I was always one who thought I had to write at night to escape the demands of family and other distractions that came during the day- but I found that by guarding my “Me Am Writing Time”, I can get more writing done during the day, which leaves more time for good rest at night.
But what if you’re like me, and you sometimes wake up three times a night because of noises or light?
Here are some things that I’ve found help me to get enough restful sleep at night:
- Have a bedtime routine. When you have a bedtime routine, you start telling your brain ahead of time that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. This trains your brain to start quieting down. This lets you fall asleep more deeply and quickly.
- Avoid technology for one hour before bedtime. This means cell phones, computers, LED lights, and anything else that has a backlit screen. (If you have a Kindle Paperwhite or a Nook that doesn’t give off light, those are safe to use.) Backlit screens give off blue light, which the brain sees and interprets as a signal to wake up. Having too much blue light before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Talk to your doctor about using natural supplements that help with sleep. Natural supplements such as melatonin, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, valerian root, lavender, and more have relaxing and sleep-inducing properties, often without the laundry list of side effects that most commercial sleep aids have.
There are many things that you can do to help optimize your sleep so that you get better rest and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to write.
For more information about making a morning routine that will improve your life almost instantly, check out The Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod, Steve Scott, and Honorée Corder.
For more information about optimizing your sleep, check out this article from the popular wellnessmama.com blog.
So what do you do to exercise, and how do you optimize your sleep? What will you start doing?
If any of this has helped you, drop a comment below and tell me about it!
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About the Author:
Amanda Jakle wears many hats, but she is mostly a writer, blogger, and entrepreneur. She loves traveling, seeing new sights, finding new nooks and crannies of the world, and meeting interesting people along the way, most of whom make it into her stories in some form or another. She currently lives in Missoula, Montana. She plans to be in Scotland by November 1st, 2022 for a genealogical research project.