Wake Up… Run for Your Life with Me

Or just for your word count. (And sorry, the Foo Fighters are my favorite band so you’ll see them referenced often throughout the year.)

Back in 2015, I took up running. I had to lose weight and as much as I loved P90X3 and all of that, there was something freeing about lacing up the shoes and just leaving. One foot after the other, out the door, no one to bother me. What started with a run/walk 5K those years ago has lead to multiple marathons and triathlons. It’s rare when I’m not doing some sort of running every weekend, even if my weekday running schedule has been adjusted post-child.

But I digress. This isn’t about what I’ve done but how I use running to help me with my writing.

I will say, when I took up running, it was for mental health reasons as well. Times were dark. I wasn’t writing much. Work was overly stressful. I was planning on moving out to live with the spouse (unwed then but together ten-ish years). Everything had piled up and things except for running, spouse and dog were unimportant.

I really missed an opportunity to combine some of the things I loved together to try and help myself out.

Running, for me, is the perfect complement to writing. It’s me, the pavement, and my mind. Thirty minutes to four hours (depending on what my training run is for the day) of music and working through problems. And lately, these problems are all fictional.

That sort of solitude, even during public races, allows my brain to wander into realms it normally wouldn’t. With my left brain focus mostly on moving one foot in front of the other, breathing correctly, and why-are-my-hands-clenched-again, that right side of my brain can pick through the snarls in my plot and go, “Hey, stop thinking of how you’re dying. What about if we did XYZ?”

Most of the time, it’s some ingenious solution to problems I either didn’t know where there or didn’t know were causing bigger issues down the line. The Notes function on the phone has been a lifesaver for breakthrough moments like this, where I can jot down a few key words or phrases and continue my pavement pounding.

So I’ve started to take advantage. Frustrated with editing? Go run 5K and slam those words into submission. Not sure how to solve the weird plot hole that I hadn’t noticed developing? Hit the trails (I am an avid trail runner). Too sad to kill a darling? Speed workouts on the track because they’re painful and you’ll start to hate that darling by the end.

My suggestion? Find some sort of exercise you can safely do, whether it’s outside, inside or whathaveyou. When things get tough, put the physical body through some work and let the creative mind do its thing. The ideas that come out might surprise you.