Writing Healthy

Dana MermaidI’m a writer and let me be the first to say I have a ton of horrible habits. I sit for hours, hunched over my laptop, drinking way too much diet coke and not getting nearly enough exercise. As a result of all my bad habits and years of abusing my body I currently have a love-hate relationship with my massage therapist.

Rachel’s great. She’s wonderful. She’s one of the nicest people on the planet… until she gets me on her massage table. And then she turns into a demon hell bent on making me cry. (Generally, because I ask her to).

The first time I ever stepped into her studio she keyed in on all of the things I do wrong, saying things like, “You sit with your leg tucked under you, don’t you?”  Or, “Is there any way you can raise the height of you computer monitor? All of that looking down has abnormally lengthened the muscles at the back of your neck and shortened the ones at the front.” Or, “Feel that tightness in your neck and shoulders? You get lots of headaches, don’t you? That’s because of restricted blood flow.” Oooookay… Who knew someone could glean so much just from giving you a massage???

I don’t want you to think that all of my ills come from writing, because they don’t. A good many of my issues come from playing lots of sports, a car accident in the mid-1990’s, a dislocated shoulder from a fall down the stairs and a hang gliding incident a couple of years ago. Moral of the story—I believe in living life to it’s fullest but all of the mileage and abuse on my body has taken it’s toll. Enter Rachel, the magical, wonderful (and sometimes demonic) massage therapist.

According to Rachel, writers, or anyone else who spends hours upon hours behind a computer, are prone to certain types of problems like neck and back strain, headaches, shortening of muscle ligature and a hunched back when we get older. So, now is the time to change your behaviors to avoid unattractive hunchbacks and necks that jut forward like a turkey.

Some of Rachel’s suggestions:

First, make sure that your computer monitor is at a height that does not force you to look down at it. You want to be able to see it while keeping your head in a neutral position.

Additionally, she suggests writing for no more than forty-five minutes at a time and then taking a ten to fifteen minute break where you move around. According to Rachel, movement is the key. Get on a treadmill, take your dog for a walk, turn on music and dance around your living room like a crazy person… it doesn’t matter what you do—just move. And if you are chained to a desk at your day job, every hour or so get up and file something, go to the restroom, get a drink of water, go ask your boss that question you’ve been meaning to all morning.

Next, lots of stretching. Several times a day stretch your neck, your back, your shoulders and your legs. There are lots of stretches that can be done while sitting if you are stuck behind a desk at your day job, so don’t let that stop you.

And finally, drink plenty of water because water (apparently not diet coke) flushes away impurities from the body and keeps us hydrated.

So, what tricks do you use to keep yourself healthy and writing?