Can Exercise Make Me a Better Writer and Mom?

I’ve always been a walker. And a runner.

I’ve run in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, on cold mornings visiting my family. I’ve run around icy ponds in New England (and, yes, once fell and got a serious concussion). I walked or run every day after work during my years of teaching, setting down my bags and changing into sweats immediately upon entering the door in the afternoon. I walked miles every day from Cambridge across the river to Boston during grad school to get to my classes. Even nine months pregnant I walked all around Boston and Cambridge. And when I went weeks past my due date I kept walking and walking and walking, hoping to jump start labor.

On one of our first days of graduate school, our department head talked to my doctoral program cohort about how to be successful in the program. His first piece of advice for us to become serious scholars and thinkers:

“Walk. Walk by the river. And walk some more.”

He told us to get off the computer sometimes and to think about all of the ideas that are important to us, what we’re learning and what we’re planning to write about. He told us that in his experience the best writers and scholars do their most productive thinking outside of the office, in the outdoors, connecting with the world outside and with their own physical bodies and spirits. For him, bicycling and walking had always been a way to feed his mind and heart.

And I took his advice to heart. When I was about to write a big paper, I would read what I needed. I would write an outline. And then I’d walk. I’d think about everything that I’d learned, and I could feel the panic about writing a paper lifting away. I would relax and feel rejuvenated.

Now I don’t walk, at all. I exercise barely at all, if ever. Part of this I can blame on the climate of Buffalo, New York, where I now live. If New England winters can be unpredictable and harsh, Buffalo winters are brutal. Right now it’s 0 degrees outside and about -15 with windchill with falling snow blowing all over the place.

So, yes, the climate is not conducive to meandering, peaceful walks.

But the real reason is that I’m a mom now. And I blog. And for the first time in my life I can officially say that I’m completely, entirely out of shape. In my almost year of blogging and life with a toddler, I have gained about ten pounds, but weight isn’t the issue at all. It’s that I am tense, I am sometimes anxious. I miss processing my ideas outside on long walks. I miss the feeling of peace and relaxation. And I was a better writer.

My body needs exercise and my writing does too. But it’s so easy to make excuses not to exercise after a long night with a toddler, when there are piles of laundry, or when there are endless numbers of blog posts to read and write. There is always something more pressing, more urgent (often right in front of you on the computer screen) to do than listen to what your body needs.

So my main goal this year as a writer, blogger, and mom is to prioritize myself. Exercise will make me a better blogger, a better friend, a better mother. It’s where my best ideas originate. I feel healthier, I sleep better, and I get sick less. But it’s just so hard to put on those shoes and make a commitment to do it every day. And to stick with it. According to this infographic from OTCSafety, only 46% of moms make it past six months with their New Year’s resolutions.

OTC-New-Years-Resolution-Infographic-Final (1)

How long do your resolutions last? Which ones have sticked for you? Do you think there’s a connection between your blogging and your other resolutions or goals?

Thank you to my FTSF friends — Stephanie, Janine, Kate, and Kristi — for this prompt!

I received compensation for this post as part of the CHPA OTC Safety Ambassador Program. Images courtesy of


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28 thoughts on “Can Exercise Make Me a Better Writer and Mom?”

  1. I’ve often thought that being fitter would make me a better writer … but I need motivation, like a walking buddy or something 🙂 Those stats are really interesting. I like the term ‘digital diet’ 🙂

  2. That sounds like a wonderful goal. I can see how having time away from all the distractions would help a lot of things, especially writing. I think I’ll try it, too.

  3. Sigh. Thanks for this much-needed reminder, Jessica. I so need to walk, and to pay attention to my body. Seriously, I’m sitting here catching up on my favorite blogs while waiting to go to the bathroom! UGH! I love your goal, and the statistics you used. And yeah, blogging takes too much of my time. Must. Be. Better. Happy 2014, my friend!!

  4. Yesterday I took the girls out sledding. This is usually my husband’s arena, as it allows me time to write and fold laundry. We trekked up and down our hill over and over. I hossed snow and kids, I ran and dove. We all laughed. Later they were tired and I folded laundry as they slept. Today as I write my muscles are aching in the most exquisite way. I feel more alive than I have in weeks. I wish this for all moms.

  5. I fully believe that exercise is the only reason I can write a word and parent without heavy drugs. It’s a lifesaver for me. I love that your professor said to walk. It’s so hard to fit it all in. When I am exercising, I feel like I should be writing; when writing, I should be sweating it out somewhere. I support your new year vision.

    1. Thanks, Christie! Isn’t that the greatest advice from a professor? I had never heard anything like that from a professor or adviser before. And it really made a difference for me!

  6. It’s easier for me with older kids – I exercise when they leave for school, before I start doing anything else (including blogging). I have to, or I won’t do it. But blogging has negatively affected my reading (novels), and I’d love to remedy that this year.

    1. Yes, Dana! I wrote about that too. I still read a lot of nonfiction (because I try to review it on my blog), but novels are my true love and I miss them so much!

  7. I sooo agree. I have to do something everyday. In fact my husband will suggest I go outside for a walk or run if I’m too crabby. When my mind is relaxed ideas do flow in and out. I need to learn to take notes somehow.

    1. My husband does that too. Sometimes he has literally almost pushed me out the door. When my son was a baby with serious colic, I was so tired and frazzled at the end of the day but I tried so hard to make time for exercise, and it made all the difference!

  8. LOL – Don’t look now, but you’re being followed … I grew up in (around) Boston and now live between Albany and Syracuse. I complain about the winters on this end but dang, out in your neck of the woods?!?! No thank you! It’s no wonder you don’t walk/run – you’d end up with frostbite! I definitely miss the ocean on the Cape but can’t really say I miss the Charles! 😉

    1. So excited to hear from another upstate New Yorker! Yes, there is so much snow in Buffalo. During my first two winters I guess I had been lucky. This winter seems to be a whole other ballgame. It’s so brutal, cold, and just always, always snowing!

  9. I am a runner, and some days I think that it’s the absolute only reason I am not medicated in some way. Running for me is better than any drugs or any therapy. It makes me a better person, and a better writer for sure. I don’t know exactly what the connection is between exercise and creativity, but all I do know is that when I am running early in the morning as the sun is coming up, my mind feels open and clear, and I feel like I could do damn near anything.

  10. This really spoke to me today! Ironically, it is sunny and nearly sixty at the moment (not for long, snow coming) but I decided my girls and I should go out into the backyard for the first time in a long time this morning. I did a little yoga in my bare feet, and being in the fresh air, with the sunshine on my pasty, lazy body, I really felt a difference. Even in just ten minutes. I could probably make this happen more often if I wanted to… it’s nice to have a reminder that there are more than just weight benefits to getting outside and moving a little!

  11. Oh I so relate to this. I am certain that running flat-out keeps me sane. I hadn’t considered it specifically in terms of how it aids my writing but surely sanity is positive, right?

  12. I really loved reading this, because I’m a big fan of walks. After becoming a mom, I really don’t have the luxury of talking walks on my own and now that I think about it, I don’t think I could! #FTSF

  13. I completely agree, exercise, especially in the fresh, open air, is essential. Yesterday, I made a point of going out with the kids to run through the snow, despite the frigid temperatures. I felt so much better after. But, yes, it is often hard to put on those shoes!

  14. All good goals! I think exercise is great for the body AND for the break it forces from the computer. Good for everything!

  15. A little exercise goes a LONG way! Went running in 10 degree weather the other day. It was GREAT! Blogged last night for the first time in months…hmm…maybe there’s a connection 🙂

  16. I, like you, used to exercise a lot – dance classes, yoga, running. And then I had kids. Exercise is so not a priority for me and my body tells that story. I am 10-15 pounds overweight and it’s killing me. I hate looking in the mirror, shopping for clothes, doing anything that reminds me I am not in shape anymore. But I also hate to give up the little free time I have to do yet another chore – exercising. I don’t like it getting on a treadmill. It’s boring. Wah wah wahhhhhhh.

    So I’m trying to find other ways to get moving. Going to yoga on Wednesday. Did 30 minutes of Just Dance tonight. And I’m tracking calories with the Lose It app. I’m trying – because I know I have to for my physical and mental health!

  17. I have heard very similar advice for writers before, about getting out in nature, and taking a walk. And I remember thinking – how in the heck am I supposed to do that as a mom, home with kids all day? But it’s so true and so necessary. If I can’t get out then I can at least sit quietly before my kids wake up, looking out the window at the birds searching for seed in the snow. That really relaxes me and helps me ponder life.

  18. Amen to taking care of yourself! I had that wake up call last year via a health scare and it’s totally changed my outlook on my life – not to mention increased my energy and made me a more productive writer and, I think, a better mother. Making time for running and yoga a few times a week is the most important thing I do for myself. Good for you, Jessica!

  19. I actually came home one day, years ago, in a rush of inspiration, and started my blog…after a run.
    And most of my best blog posts are written after exercise (or red wine or amazing music, but still…).
    Yes, I agree: it’s when I clear my head that I can think more clearly and write best.
    As for the resolutions: I try not to make any too seriously, because by the second week of January I am stressed out.

  20. I don’t make resolutions 🙂
    I do think though that it is so important to take care of you. When we take care of ourselves we improve our performance in every aspect of our lives.
    Yes, it is a bit nipple-y out there eh?

  21. Jessica, happy to hear that you want to move yourself up on your priority list, even though it is hard to do sometimes. I know for me, if I go too long without a yoga class or a walk with a friend, I am not a happy camper, but I have also had times when I neglected to take care of myself in this way and I found it hard to get the “healthy” pattern going again. The first step is what you just did by posting this blog. Way to go!

  22. I love this so much! On all levels. Thank you for sharing so honestly. I am very committed to fitness and exercise, but I know how hard it is to make it part of my life. I also know that sometimes it feels like a flat out chore to me while my husband calls it my “me” time. It is a struggle. I can’t wait to share and follow your journey here throughout the year!

  23. Running is my drug. I don’t check my phone or turn on my computer until I’ve taken my run. It gets my mind going and calms my body. Really. I cannot imagine not running. Running kills blogger butt. xoxo

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