As writers, we spend long hours pounding away at the keyboard. While this may be great for our writing career, it's tough on our body. For those who haven't worked into the wee hours of the night slaving to meet a deadline, writing may not seem like a physically demanding ocupation. Ironically, the biggest threat to a writer's health may be in lack of movement, making them especially prone to repetitive strain injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome, or a weakened lower spine.
Regular stretching, however, can head off hazardous conditions at the writer's desk. Aside from the physical benefits like improved circulation and reduction in muscle tension, stretching can enhance mental alertness, minimize stress and even help cut fatigue.
Bob Anderson, author of Stretching at Your Computer or Desk, recommends taking a one-minute break every 10-15 minutes or a five-minute break every half hour to get your body moving.
While it may seem like an interruption at first, regular stretching will, with practice, become as much a part of your writing routine as that morning cup of coffee (or hot tea).
I've posted these few simple stretches on the wall over my computer to keep me on the path to a more limber, more alert and (hopefully) a more productive writing year.
Note: no special clothing is required for these stretches, so if you write in your jammies, it's perfectly okay.
*Standing stretch--with hands on your hips, gently turn your torso at the waist and love over your shoulder. When you feel the stretch, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
*For wrists--place hands palm to palm in front of you. Keeping elbows even, push one hand gently to the side until you feel a mild stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the other hand.
*Neck--sit or stand with arms hanging loosely at your sides. then titlt your head first to one side and hold for five seconds, keeping your shoulders relaxed downward. Repeat on the other side and hold for five seconds.
*Back--sitting in your typing chair, slowly lean forward over your lap, keeping your head down and your neck relaxed. Rest your fingers or palms on top of your toes. Hold for 20 seconds. Use your hands to help push yourself back to a sitting position.
*Arms--remain sitting in your typing chair. Interlace fingers and straighten arms out above your head with palms facing upward. Breathe deeply and think of elongating your arms as you feel a stretch strough your arms and the upper sides of your rib cage. Hold for 10 seconds.
*Shoulders--standing next to your typing chair or your desk, reach your hands behind your back. With right hand, gently pull your left arm down and across behind your back. Then lean your head sideways toward the right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat stretch on opposite.
Writers are nuturers. We create our characters, we watch them grow, we anguish over their needs, we see them through their black moments, and we sigh with relief when we've helped them reach that happily-ever-after ending. Then what do we do? We nurture our families, take care of them just as we do the characters we create. And all the while, writers neglect themselves.
Hopefully these simple stretches will help you get on the path to a more limber, more alert and more productive writing year. Now, go forth and S-t-r-e-t-c-h!