push it

At the gym yesterday I pondered the similarities between writing and exercise.

When you first start working out it’s difficult. You need to take advice from people who know how the body works, learn the basics of how to operate the gym equipment, and you need to ease into it. An early injury might put a stop to all exercise.

After a while you know what you’re doing and you see results. You’ve toned up a bit, lost some weight, and you’re comfortable with your routine.

You’ve plateaued.

The body is funny that way. It improves with challenge.

So, last night as I kicked up my game in the gym, and huffed and puffed and pushed myself to complete the cardio cycles, I thought this is too hard.

I could have knocked it down a level, or shortened my time on the equipment. Yet, I moved through my frustration, my body’s stress (which was within safe limits), and ran out of my comfort zone.

To improve physically you need a routine, you have to change your programme as your body adapts, you need to eat well, hydrate properly, and you require dedication.

It’s the same with writing. Stamina and quality only improve through challenge. That means setting goals, experimenting, and working harder and longer.

Jay Lake posted a link on his journal to an article entitled What it takes to be great. Here’s a salient quote:

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call “deliberate practice.” It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

The reason I keep working out is the reason that I keep writing.

I love it.

You have to love it. It’s the love that gets you through the hard slog. The days when the session at the gym seems tedious and a waste of time, and you feel like your limbs belong to someone else because they just won’t do what you want them to do.

But there are days when you fly through your programme, and you experience a wild ecstatic joy in the pure physicality of exercise.

Those are the days that keep me going to the gym.

And the love. You gotta have the love.


  • gordsellar

    I wish that love came in pills, just for the starting out part. Going on the treadmill, what a horror. The out of breath, vaguely hinting-of-puking-feeling, the weird aches in places I didn’t know existed… it’s all a little disconcerting. But yeah, I’ve also been at that other place you speak of, where it gets easy and joyful. Swimming (in a pool, not in Greg Bear’s scary lake) used to be like that for me sometimes. It just takes a lot of time to get there.Good on you, in any case. And thanks for the article link. I’ll follow it up soon…

    • Maura

      I think it’s the second time you go to the Gym after an extended absence that’s the hardest. The first time emphasises all the hard work in front of you, and it’s only willpower that gets you in the door after that.It’s hard. My hat’s off to you for doing it. Your body will thank you… eventually. Best of luck!

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