How to Live Longer and be a Better Writer/Librarian/Whatever

It’s about that time of year when all those New Years resolutions start to fall apart. The diets, the workouts, the promises to take better care of yourself. Maybe you tried a fad diet or workout program and after a few weeks, when the promised results didn’t happen, you felt like a loser and chose to give up. Or you paid for a gym membership and all the regulars sneered at you or made comments about you being a “resolutioner crowding the gym.” Whatever the reason is that you gave up, I want to encourage you to try again.

Last semester, I took a class where the instructor had us read articles that he’d written throughout his career as a librarian. His views on library work are inspiring, but what I really noticed were the snide comments he made about himself in terms of being out of shape and how that was expected because of his chosen profession. I grew tired of his body shaming, and at one point I wrote a paper on why staying in good health was actually a health and safety issue for a librarian. Putting yourself at risk for a heart attack or Diabetes isn’t comedic, it’s disrespectful to both yourself and to those who love you.

Writers also tend to put themselves down for having out of shape bodies, and pass it off as though that were the most natural thing. But honestly, you’ll be a better writer if you’re healthy and you’ll have the chance of a longer lifespan and a bigger body of work to leave behind. Some of my favourite authors and illustrators have found ingenious ways of staying in shape. Arthur Slade and kc dyer use a treadmill desk. Don Tate swims and does yoga, while Tyner Gilles lifts weights.

We don’t have to look like a Hollywood A-lister with bulging biceps and a six-pack. We’re all different sizes and shapes, and “healthy” is going to look different for all of us. What’s more, is that you should understand that to some people, no matter how healthy you get, you’re always going to be the overweight, short, skinny, wiry, individual that they’ve always seen you as. I’ve come to understand that no matter how long I work out for, strangers will always start conversations with me by saying, “I knew a guy once who was even shorter/thinner/smaller than you.” Makes me want to gasp and say, “Impossible!”

But I don’t, because now it no longer bothers me. I know what I’m capable of and what my goals are. I’m meeting my goals, and that feels amazing. I once got through an entire workout with a guy (stranger, never met before) constantly smirking and rolling his eyes at me as I walked on the treadmill because I wasn’t going fast enough. When he got off the bench press and I increased the weight by 20 lbs for my workout, he stopped sneering. I thought I’d won his respect. But later in my workout when I started doing abs, he made a rude comment to me — twice to make sure I heard it over my headphones. If anything, my being able to lift more than him just made him dislike me more. These people exist for one reason and one reason only: to shame you into not trying so that they can feel better about themselves. Don’t let them win.

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January 2016. (Yes, that is a Tardis t-shirt.)

From last June until this year I didn’t work out regularly. I was sporadic, mostly because I had started a new job and was adjusting to a new schedule. It would have been easy to just never go back to the gym and to quit altogether. But this is the most important thing I have learned: You are allowed to fail. You are allowed to miss a day, and start again. You are allowed to miss a week, and start again. You are allowed to get back up every time you fall down.

There are no fads that are going to offer you a real quick fix. No 30 day diets are going to change your life forever. No shortcuts that are going to make the world notice what an amazing person you are. Only one thing is going to change your perception of yourself and your life and it is believing this: I have value. You know that exercise is the greatest factor in stress relief and disease prevention, no one is going to dispute that. Find the program that works best for your goals, and you can’t lose except if you quit for good.

And if you are on the verge of quitting for good after attempting to go to the gym or start a diet I want you to join me in this challenge: Three days a week, we’re going to exercise for 30-minutes a day. I don’t care what you do: walk, do pushups, sit-ups, leg lifts, yoga, whatever. At this point, don’t change your diet. Don’t do a cleanse. Just concentrate on that three days a week for 30-minutes exercise.  Make it low-impact. Don’t concentrate on results, just on that 30-minutes.

In a month, we’ll check in with each other. But at this point, if you’re just starting, or if you’re starting out, what I want you to keep in mind is that your goal is to create consistency. To create a habit. It’s going to be hard for the first few weeks. Your mind, your psyche, and maybe even the people in your life, will discourage you. But you need to push past that, because once the habit is formed it’ll feel strange not to do it.

One last time because it is worth repeating: there are no 30-days to a better you programs that will work. But maintaining a consistent workout schedule with realistic goals will change your life in unexpected ways.

You can do it. So go do it!

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