photo credit: John F Hark via photopin cc
If you ask a freelance writer for the top five reasons that he/she chose to go independent, you’d likely hear “to have the freedom to set my own schedule” in that list. The ability to work when you want, with hours that are flexible enough to give you more time for family, recreation and other pursuits makes freelancing ideal.
But if you’re like me, being able to work “whenever” can be a two-edged sword. How often do you work more hours than you did when you were punching a clock?
Are you pulling all-day sessions for days in a row to meet multiple deadlines?
If so, it’s likely that you are spending a lot of that time in conditions that are perfect for writer’s bulge–sitting for long hours, hunched over a desk or computer, so focused on your work that you don’t realize you aren’t moving enough or eating right.
What’s the point of a flexible career when your body is becoming all the more INflexible and you’re gaining weight?
There are lots of small changes that you can make throughout the day that will add up to big returns!
What Are You Wearing?
At the risk of sounding like someone at the end of a 900# phone call, you need to ask yourself this. Are you wearing loose fitting clothes that will not bind you at the waist, hips or knees? The idea here is that sitting constricts your blood flow already, so you don’t want to cut off your circulation any more with something too tight. I definitely subscribe to the notion that if you want to feel professional, it helps to look professional. I’m not suggesting wearing dirty sweatpants, only that you need to wear something that allows for proper blood flow.
How Often Are You Getting Up?
In the same vein as the previous question, I’m talking circulation here. You’ve likely heard that when you fly, you should get up every couple of hours to reduce the risk of blood clots. Granted, altitude and pressure make conditions all the more critical for movement, but the practice is a great idea for a freelance writer as well. Better yet, make a point to get up and move around every hour. That’s what I do. At first I would set an alarm, but then I just became accustomed to knowing when I had been immobile for about 60 minutes and would get out of the chair for at least 5-10 minutes.
Are You a Distracted Eater?
Freelance writers are successful because they can be extremely focused on the task at hand. The problem is that it’s easy to just grab something to eat so that we don’t have to stop working. I found it extremely helpful to put together healthy snacks for the day and stash them in the desk so that I’m not tempted to mindlessly grab for something when my blood sugar plummets. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, grapes, apple slices, Clementines, even half a Clif Bar keep me going without sabotaging my weight maintenance goals. Don’t think you’re too busy to spend 5-10 minutes prepping some snacks before you get down to work. Doesn’t it usually take longer to forage for something good when you’re starving and crabby?
Are You Hydrated?
No one wants to get up 20 times to go to the bathroom during a writing session. Yet you do need to consider how you are sabotaging your career by not drinking enough water. Sound extreme? Consider that 55-78% of the body is water depending on age, weight and gender. You lose water just by breathing, sweating and eliminating waste, so even if you’re not working out, you are losing water. The brain itself is 76% water and that studies have shown that chronic dehydration affect executive functions like planning and visuo-spatial processing, and reduces your ability to concentrate. So perhaps that writer’s block is really dehydration?
Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, in his book, Your Bodies Many Cries for Water, believes that dehydration actually produces pain and many degenerative diseases, including asthma, arthritis, hypertension, angina, adult-onset diabetes, lupus and multiple sclerosis. His message is, “You are not sick, you are thirsty. Don’t treat thirst with medication.”
How much is enough? Most agree that at least 8-8 oz. glasses of water a day is sufficient for your brain and body to function optimally. Please don’t con yourself into believing that the Diet Coke you are drinking can be counted in this total. Your body needs water not a combination of artificial ingredients that it doesn’t know how to process.
How Is Your Posture?
Photo by portorikan
I just pulled my shoulders up, back and down as I typed this. Poor posture is every freelance writer’s nemesis. Even if you’ve set up your workstation to be ergonomically correct, you still need to check yourself often to make sure that you are sitting up straight. This means space between your ears and shoulders, concentrating on steering your shoulder blades towards your back pockets, keeping your head from falling forward and your back from overarching. Taking the time to stretch your neck throughout the day (moving your head to the left and right, and down toward your chest) helps keep these muscles limber.
Is Your Core Serving You Well?
The muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen work together to create balance and stability for the rest of your body. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you how sitting for long periods can wreak havoc on your back and make your abdomen feel like mush. Some choose to sit on a stability ball which passively engages the core muscles. I like to do Knee Ups while I am sitting, which involves sitting tall towards the end of my chair, extending my arms so that my palms of my hands are touching the edge of the desk and “marching” my knees up and down in the air. Or a simple Leg Lift that involves sitting tall toward the edge of the chair, extending your legs straight and lifting one at a time slowly, holding for 10 seconds and then lowering (alternating legs).
Are You Working Out During Your Writing Sessions?
I do. I’ve learned to take those 10 minute breaks every hour (or two if I have to stretch it) to complete my entire day’s workout. I’ve put together a list of cardio, strength training and core moves that break out into several 10-minute sessions a day. More and more studies are showing that, while we want to get 30-40 minutes of movement in each day, we can benefit from splitting up those minutes into shorter sections. I found that I not only have more energy after these sessions, but I can think more clearly. Little wonder since exercise has been proven to improve brain function. In 1999, scientists at the Salk Institute in California found that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells, and further research shows that aerobic exercise is the most beneficial in this regard. Stringing exercises together with little break in between can bring your heart rate into a good aerobic range, making even strength training similar to cardio exercises for strengthening the heart and promoting fat loss. (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a copy of my workout plan).
More free time is one of your goals as a freelance writer. Will you have the energy to enjoy that time if you don’t pay attention to what your brain and body need while you’re writing?
Let me know what you do to stay fit!