Aerobic Exercise On My Mind

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” – Anais Nincropped-rite2run.jpg

Many times I’ve written about the positive effects running has on my writing, for instance an hour run helps cure my writer’s block, like when I can’t work out a scene in a story or come to an impasse concerning plot or a character. But that’s just me talking. Now I  have evidence that literary luminaries used aerobic exercise to help them write the same way this  obscure little fish in big literary sea does.

Quill-Pen MiniAn article int the January/February issue of Poets & Writers, Celia Johnson discusses how aerobic exercise was crucial to the productivity and creativity of many literary icons. Of Charles Dickens, Johnson writes that he typically wrote from 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m., when he would step outside onto the streets of London or wherever he was staying and “walk as much as twenty miles in an afternoon. He relied on his walks not only for creative stimulus but also for stress relief.” Dickens walked briskly, as fast as four and a half miles per hour. She goes on to say that walking was one of the most common quirks of many great writers.

Quill & InkThe English essayist Thomas De Quincey estimated that by William Wordsworth’s late sixties he had “traversed a distance of 175,000 to 180,000 English miles.” Other walking enthusiast who were literary greats included Victor Hugo, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry David Thoreau, to name a few.

That aerobic exercise boosts creativity is no secrete, many studies have been published on the topic. One such study is Aerobic Exercise and Creative Potential: Immediate and Residual Effects. But the effects don’t pertain solely to running. Walking, gardening, and housework are all activities that are both good for your health and simulate the brain as well. It’s all about living an active lifestyle.

It’s January 3rd, the opportune time to choose to be more active in 2014. It will not only improve  your physical health, it will stimulate your brain, whatever your interests may be.Mighty Writers

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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7 Responses to Aerobic Exercise On My Mind

  1. I’m a swimmer, and when I was younger I used to get lots of migraines. If I jumped in the pool (which felt AWFUL) for a workout, the headache would go away after about a half hour. For me, red wine!

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Hi Susan! Yes, swimming is another great aerobic alternative. I posted a blog a year or two ago about what runners and swimmers have in common (if you google rite2run + runners and swimmers share a high you can read it.) As I age and do more and more cycling, I have similar experiences with freeing my mind. For me though, nothing replaces the hour run. With an injury I’m currently recovering from, it’s a little unsettling wondering what would happen if I had to give it up. Actually, it’s a daunting thought considering I’ve been running forever. But hey, that’s life and I’d have to deal with it, and swimming and cycling would have to move up in the pecking order. Thanks for writing. Jim

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  2. PaulSmuts says:

    Very true Jim! Before a big test or exam I’ve found it a great stress reliever to go for a run after a few hours of studying. Running is wonderful in so many ways.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      I believe all of us runners have similar experiences, and then someone writes those experiences down and other runners say, “Oh yeah, that’s the way I feel.” I remember when I read George Sheehan’s Running & Being many years ago, it was the first time I’d read what I’d been feeling my entire life. It was like an epiphany. Thanks for checking in, Paul, and good luck in 2014.

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  3. In the same way that running “cures” your writer’s block, running actually helps me fend off physical ailments as well. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if I’m starting to get a headache I’ll run and it’ll disappear. If I’m starting to catch a cold, I’ll head out. It seems to quiet it once I’m done. As for writer’s block, I find that Jack Daniels helps. LOL.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Agree 100%, Chuck. In fact, I write in my memoir exactly what you wrote, that a runner’s mindset is counter-intuitive; that running is the cure-all. So I suppose us runners are on the same wavelength. Regarding your cure for writer’s block, I’m a Guinness man myself. Ha!

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