This is a guest post from Ruth Bleakley.
I’m going to share with you a “secret” I’ve discovered over the past year and a half of being a self-employed stationery and wedding invitation designer: Daily exercise is more important than I thought!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ok, here’s one of those people who went couch-to-5K, who is now totally addicted to the endorphin rush of working out, blah blah blah.” NO! Well, actually I did train for a road race a few years ago because it’s in my town and pretty famous, but once I ran it, I thought to myself, “Alright! 10K race! I can cross that off my list: running ever again (except to flee a burning building).” I don’t love exercise. But I need it, and chances are so do you, regardless of your current shape or activity level.
I think those of us in the creative fields are too quick to separate ourselves from the “jocks” who work out – it’s like high school, isn’t it? (Says the girl who got a “C” in gym because she never “dressed out.”) “Yeah,” I thought to myself, “exercise? Not for me, thanks! I’m going to go down to the art room during study hall, enjoy climbing that rope, meatheads!”
But here’s the thing: Your human body was meant to move around – like, arms flailing, legs jumping, heart pumping! Have you ever seen that parody comic that shows man evolving from our ape-like ancestor carrying a bone, to the upright homo-sapien carrying a spear, back down to a crouched over guy sitting in front of a computer? Yep. Just substitute computer for craft table!
I also think that we creative-types have a tendency to live inside our own brains – we’re coming up with ideas, we’re taking in lots of sensory information, we might be stressing out about the job we’re working on currently. I’ve found that daily exercise takes me out of my brain and into my body. I realize, “Here I am, I’m a body in space, I occupy this very moment where I wish that I could stop doing lunges because omg-I’m-gonna-die.”
Ok that might not inspire you to start working out, so let me try again: I find that exercise is like a “reset” button for my brain, which has a tendency to dwell on small problems and blow them out of proportion sometimes, causing anxiety and in turn causing me to think, “Why do I feel anxious? SOMETHING ELSE MUST BE WRONG!” and so on.
Here’s the good news: Based on my own anecdotal, non scientific experience, you only need about twenty minutes of exercise a day about 6 days a week.
Twenty minutes! That’s about 5 songs on iTunes – that’s about the time it takes to make pasta, from start to finish – that’s how long you THINK you need to get ready before a party, only to find that you’re running 10 minutes late already! Also where are your nice shoes, anyway?!
This is my schedule, your requirements may vary: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I ride my bike at a moderate pace (faster than the tourists on the bike path, but slower than the super road bikers) to my part time job 4 miles away, about a 15-20 minute ride each way, mostly flat.
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning around 9:30 or 10 AM I do a workout tape, because I am too poor/miserly to get a gym membership. PLUS, everytime I do go to the gym I feel obligated to work out or at least pretend to work out (hey recumbent bike!) for an hour, instead of twenty minutes, to “get my money’s worth.” I’m not a paid affiliate, but I really like Jillian Michael’s “Thirty Day Shred” tape (I think I found it because it was top rated, and was “just 20 minutes!”). There are three levels, each level is twenty minutes from start to finish, and they only cost $1.99 each on Amazon. She’s pretty funny, and you don’t need any special stuff to start with (although…you should probably get a sports bra…like, for the jumping jacks. Trust me). I just use a mat on the floor when I do crunches, and two water bottles or soup cans (did I mention my miserly ways?) as weights. Also, once I do the work out a couple times and know what’s coming, I like to play my own music on top of the video, it makes it more fun, and you can pretend you’re in some kind of surreal music video.
Now here’s a caveat – you gotta sweat.
Yeah, I know it’s kinda gross (says the girl with the C in gym class), but after a few times, you may start not to mind (and/or you can get a fan and blast it on yourself), and you MIGHT even get to the point where you’re like, “Wow, my body actually knows how to do this stuff, neat!” But if not, that’s ok too. Don’t try to stop the sweat. In fact, if you aren’t sweating, you probably aren’t working hard enough to get out of your own mind. You want to make it hard enough that ALL you can think about is the exercise, but I promise it isn’t for very long. Also, at first you might be really sore the day or two after, so rest until you’re not sore – after all, we’re not training to run a marathon here!
Am I going to tell you now about “eating right” and drinking enough water and all that jazz? No, because the point of all of this is really about moving your body. Don’t feel motivated to exercise? Try drinking a big cup of coffee! Tell yourself you’ll just put on your workout clothes and you’ll just do ten minutes. (I usually do the workout tapes barefoot because I don’t even OWN running shoes anymore.)
My results after three months: I’m pretty sure I haven’t really lost weight, if that’s what you’re wondering, but I’m definitely stronger – I store a lot of cardstock on high shelves and it used to be kind of challenging to lift up the big boxes, and now it’s easy! Also I really notice that in weeks where I don’t get a chance to work out, like if I’m sick or on vacation, I can get pretty moody. Working out in the morning sets the stage for a productive day and I feel more “awake.” Your results may vary, but give it a try.
*I’d like to also add that of course I am not suggesting you reduce any anti-anxiety medication you may be currently taking, or saying anything as flippant as “working out is all you need!” Absolutely not! You need to take care of yourself however your doctor suggests – no shame.
Do you fuel your creativity with exercise? What do you do to work out?
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Ruth loves paper and uses it in a variety of crafty ways; she has a bookbinding blog and also designs nautical wedding invitations and stationery. You can find her on Facebook and Pinterest, too.