I confess I’m a bit of a couch potato. Both my day job (web development) and my passion (writing) require spending long hours in front of a monitor. Since I work from home, there are days I don’t even get out of the house. So, I was particularly intrigued by the notion that running can make me a better writer. Sounds crazy, right? And yet, Sadi Khan, a research analyst and writer at RunRepeat.com, makes a compelling case for running. Read on to see what I mean while I dust off my running shoes.
7 ways running can make you a better writer (backed by science)
Writing is a passion. And becoming a good writer takes a lot of effort. You get a lot of great advice on how to improve your writing. But here, I present scientific proof that starting a running routine can make you a better writer.
1. It helps you come up with great ideas
Imagination is one of the main tools of the writer. But sometimes the lines look painfully plain, and paragraphs end up bland and dry. Good old tricks of taking a break for pie, tea or a walk are no help. That’s where running can be a push for some fresh thoughts. Researchers from Great Britain studied the effect of aerobic exercises on creativity. Their conclusion? To get an upsurge of inspiration, lace your trainers up and head for the nearest park to let some fresh air in your mind.
2. Discipline and Productivity
Spending many hours in front of the laptop is not only harmful to your eyesight but also to your mental well-being. Day after day you spend most of your time in one position, and soon enough the quality of your writing deteriorates.
You start crossing out line after line until the cloud of self-doubt descends upon you. Sounds familiar? It is perfectly explicable by the sedentary lifestyle that the writer’s routine forces you to take. Keeping things as is will most likely result in anxiety or even depression, according to this study.
On top of things, sedentary lifestyle provokes laziness, so here’s a nod to the slow days when you do nothing but stare blankly at the display. A solid running plan will help you beat these problems. At first, it will help you adjust your everyday schedule. Later on, your energy levels will stay at a steady high, in addition to compensating for the otherwise immobile hours of your work.
3. Dealing with rejection
Rejection is the harsh reality of a writer’s life. The showers of “no” will challenge your willpower, even though they may ultimately be the most effective learning tool for becoming a better writer. Modern-day masterpieces were rejected bluntly. It was the perseverance and inner strength of their authors that helped them become widely honored pieces.
Nabokov’s “Lolita” was rejected 5 times, “The diary of a young girl” by Anne Frank received 15 negative responses, and “Gone with the wind” went through 38 rejections to finally get its Pulitzer prize. However, building strength to endure repeated rejection takes time and training. Running can help you learn to push back and not give up halfway down the road to success.
Researchers found that running reduces biological response to stress and increases norepinephrine production in the brain. In addition, it will help you prevent depressive thoughts and anxiety. Finally, a boost of self-esteem will help you fight phobias and second thoughts about the quality of your writing, as scientists conclude.
4. Get better at research
If you are writing a sci-fi or a historical novel, you will probably need to do some research. To stay at your best at data investigation you will need to develop certain cognitive skills. UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, Los Angeles, California found that running, among other aerobic exercises, is a strong promoter of cognitive abilities.
Memory, attention, perception, ability to learn languages — all these skills that help you experience the world, will likewise aid you in becoming a good author. And the cherry at the top: running will make you smarter by pushing your brain to build fresh neuron connections and speeding up the communication between the cells.
5. More focus and concentration
Staying focused and ignoring the nasty phone notifications and an itching urge to procrastinate is a tough one to get through, no matter how passionate you are about your work. Running can help you yet another time: keeping to a regular jogging schedule improves focus.
Scientists from Brazil took 28 volunteers and gave them a task that required undivided attention. Among the enlisted, 14 people had ADHD (the other half showed no symptoms of attention disorders). The experiment participants worked on the same task before and after exercising. Although the people with ADHD showed better results compared to the pre-exercise indicators, all participants noted an improvement in focus. Turn it to your benefit and use some active time to become more productive in writing.
6. Meet new characters
“All around me are familiar faces. Worn out places, worn out faces” – do the lyrics from “Mad World,” the famous Gary Jules’s song, ring a bell with you? Often, life seems not inspiring enough and searching for some fresh ideas becomes a real struggle. There’s a way to get through the all-too-familiar network of people around you. Step one, take up running. Step two, do it long enough to achieve something significant for you, like beating the clock on a 10k track. Step three, find some people to impress with your achievements.
This new group of people can be found in sports clubs, at running competitions and marathons, or just running beside you in your favorite park. Fresh blood in your surroundings will bring new life stories, fascinating discoveries about the world from their perspective, and maybe they will even impress you enough to base a character or two on them.
In addition to the above benefits, Spanish and American scientists have proven that socialization is crucial for coping with symptoms of anxiety and depression. So you will be switching from lonely and fed-up to a happier, more inspired self by making new sports pals.
7. Better health for bigger achievements
There is plenty of fish in the sea but it takes some catching to get it. When your writing is driven by passion, you are bound to succeed. However, only a few great authors lived long enough to see the impact of their art. To be among people like Ray Bradbury, take care of your health to stick around and see your hard work pay off. Running comes with a long list of health benefits.
It will compensate for the hours spent in the writer’s chair, hunched over the notebook. It will strengthen your intervertebral discs and prevent backaches. Your cardiovascular health will be taken care of. And running will prolong your time on earth and slow down the mental decline. The sooner you can start taking care of your body, the more extra time you’ll win.
There is no simple formula for becoming a good writer. Some advice will work and some will fail. However, taking care of your mental and physical health will surely help. Writing is hard work, so get ready to face the challenges and achieve greatness. The best thing is, it takes no more than lacing up your shoes and going out to run!
For an ultimate guide on no-gym workout methods to get in shape, continue reading here!
No question about it, a regular routine of physical activity is great for physical and mental well-being, and I wouldn’t argue against running, but it does have drawbacks. Wear and tear on hip and knee joints and feet, not to mention muscle pulls and tears. Running, like writing and web design are solitary activities. You need to add in some socializing with your exercise, and pickleball is a great way to combine both. Pickleball has elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, but you really need to see it being played and try it out to really appreciate what it’s about. I started three years ago, and I’m hooked! I won’t go into detail here. Just Google it – there are lots of videos – and/or check the article on my website. http://www.johnrpaterson.com
Pickleball?! Intriguing… Thanks for sharing 🙂
I agree with the value of “fun” in a physical activity and pickleball looks like a fun activity for sure. But it’s worth mentioning that running doesn’t really hurt your knees. It’s actually the opposite. And you can get pretty much the same benefits from brisk walk. The important thing is to do it on a regular basis.
Thank you, Sadi! I, too, have heard about running potentially hurting your knees, so it was interesting to hear you contradict this.
Good to know, thanks! I liked this in particular: “running will make you smarter by pushing your brain to build fresh neuron connections and speeding up the communication between the cells.”
She does make a compelling case, but I’m still on the fence on this one, I confess. I think I’ll stick to walking for now 😀
I have to agree with Sadi. Although I don’t run, walking for 2-3 hours a day with Ollie definitely sharpens my ‘writing brain’, and allows me to think up stories in a peaceful environment.
However, I must add one very important correction.
‘Mad World’ is NOT a Gary Jules song. It was written and originally recorded by the wonderful British duo, Tears for Fears, namely Roland Orzibal and Curt Smith.
“Mad World” is a 1982 song by the British band Tears for Fears. Written by Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith, it was the band’s third single release and first chart hit, reaching number 3 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982. Both “Mad World” and its B-side, “Ideas as Opiates”, appeared on the band’s debut LP The Hurting (1983).
Sorry to be pedantic, but I love that band and I am really fed up with hearing it described as a ‘Gary Jules’ song. He just recorded a cover version, for the soundtrack of the film ‘Donnie Darko’, released in 2001, many years after it was written.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thanks for the welcome correction, Pete (I, too, enjoy Tears for Fears but had forgotten they’d written Mad World), and for sharing your own experience. Like you, I enjoy walking but never did take up running.