10 Tips for Staying Active When Your Work Is Sedentary

Written by A Guest Author | December 15, 2016

Written By Jean Knight Pace

For most of my married life, my primary job was to be an at-home mother. I played with my kids and managed our household, working on my writing at night and in the quiet crevices of my days. My first novel, Grey Stone, was written like this. And then, last year, the youngest of my four children went off to school

For the first time in thirteen years I had a solid six-hour stretch in which to write. And it almost killed me. I hadn’t realized how active caring for my children and doing simple housekeeping work (aka picking up the same mess seventy times) had kept me. As a full-time writer, I still exercised in the morning, but I found that my legs got jittery and achy from sitting for long stretches. My eyes would even hurt and throb from staring at the screen when I had a big project. I felt sluggish, yet tight most of the time. Something needed to change.

Below are a few of the things I began to do to feel like my body and mind could work better together instead of getting in each other’s way (and in the way of productive writing).

  1. Move your body first thing in the morning. Even if you’re not a morning exerciser. Even if it’s just five minutes of yoga, a walk to the bus stop with your kids, a quick ten-minute bike ride, or a minute of jumping jacks. Moving in the morning gets the heart pumping and the blood moving to the brain (which can be pretty useful to your writing). It also gives your metabolism a boost that is helpful throughout the day.
  2. Try to exercise for real for thirty to sixty minutes a day. Find something active you like to do and do it. It doesn’t matter when. Just do it. You’ll feel better. Mind and body will both thank you.
  3. Take a walk when you feel jittery or stumped (you can even do this in rain or snow if you plan for the weather). Every artist benefits from some fresh air and a little time to let the mind wander or feed his muse. Also, during a simple walk you don’t have to get sweaty or change into special exercise clothes.
  4. Stretch every couple of hours. You probably want to choose a few stretches that you can do to counter some of the effects of sitting at a desk. Then do them every time you take a bathroom break (or get stumped, or feel those legs jittering). Pinterest and YouTube are full of suggestions and 5-10 minute workouts. You don’t even have to think. Just open YouTube, type in “5-minute stretches for legs (or shoulders or desk dwellers),” then do the workout. Done.
  5. Do a few stretches right before bed. We’re talking five minutes. But it will feel good and help you sleep.

Tips for Multi-Tasking:

  1. Use the exercise bike, treadmill, or Stairmaster while reading. Even if it’s not intense exercise, it keeps you moving.
  2. Sit on the floor and stretch your legs out while you edit (or if you draft by hand). This isn’t intense yoga-type stretching. It’s just a different position to work and a release for all those sitting-at-your-desk muscles and tension.
  3. Bike to the library or your favorite nook to write.
  4. Keep a small weight by your desk that you lift overhead or use to do a few simple exercises as you read at your desk; or use it to stretch your shoulders every so often.
  5. Use a yoga ball instead of a chair at the desk. It’s a small change, but it makes a difference. The yoga ball is supposed to be good for your core. Even more than that, I notice that my legs ache less when using a yoga ball than when I sit on a standard chair.

Since I started letting my body move in a way that benefits my mind, I’ve found that I feel better, my writing life has improved, and I’ve been able to work more efficiently.


Bio:
Jean Knight Pace is the author of the YA fantasy Grey Stone. She has also work published in Puerto del Sol, The Lakeview Review, and other literary magazines. She lives in Indiana with her husband, four children, six ducks, and a cat. You can find more about her at jeanknightpace.com.