Lots of artists hate it. It takes time away from our creative sessions.
But does it really?
Exercise is surrounded by completely unhelpful social implications. Do you work out for a number on a scale, or for a size of pants? Do you work out because people tell you that, “you should do it for you – to make you feel better.” – but that’s always sounded like BS, right?
I used to work out (or not) for all these reasons, and it was very hard to stay motivated. Then I thought, Wait, you’re an artist, you’re not trying to be a body builder or athlete. Why are you working out like that?
This realization was huge for me. I don’t work out for a number or clothing size, or what someone says it should feel like. I stopped worrying about PR’s. I work out because it makes me a better artist.
Exercise burns off the stress from the day so that I can create better.
After an awful, and I mean awful, day at work sit down at your desk and draw or write something. It probably won’t go so well. Maybe you can’t even bring yourself to sit at the desk and start?
Take that same day, and add a quick 20 min walk or 10 min run (and stretch/shower after) before your creative session. It always goes better for me — 100% of the time. Believe me, I’ve tried to skip the exercise and hide in a drawing; it never works as well. It’s because my mind and body are not ready to create; they’re still in awful day at work mode.
But how to add exercise into an already full schedule? If you’re like me and have a day job, then it’s hard to add both exercise and art into the evening.
I switch between exercise days and creative days.
Mon, Wed, and Fri – to do very little exercise, most likely a quick walk at lunch (20 – 40mins). These are the days that I create more. I can usually fit 3+ hours of art in.
Tues, Thurs, and Sat – I do a lot of exercise; I run, lift weights, and do some yoga. My workout is about 60-90 mins. Stretch after every workout. I make less art on these days about 1+ hours.
Stretch every day if you can, if not, every other day will start to make a difference too. My favorite time to stretch is right after a shower or while I’m watching TV.
On Sun, I rest. Seriously, rest. Your body needs rest days.
It might look like I’m wasting valuable art time here, but I’m certain that I’m not. Having a regular exercise schedule has: decreased my anxiety, eliminated lower back pain, eliminated the tendonitis pain in my knees, eliminated the nerve pain in my elbow and wrist, increased my productivity, made me a better friend, and made me far more creative. Working out gives me the ability to endure the long periods of sitting or standing that being an artist entails.
Besides, I want to do this for a very long time. I want to be that 95 year old lady with grey and purple hair who is still sharp and can get around on her own. I’ll probably draw hyenas with purple and grey mohawks. Who knows? However, I do want to hedge my bets towards living to that point. 😀
Has exercise helped you become a more creative and productive person? How did you add it into your routine?
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It’s hard to suggest workout equipment because everyone routines are so varied. However, I do firmly recommend stretching out with a foam roller (IT bands, quads, hips, upper back, calves, hams, etc.) and massage balls (piriformis, hips, feet, IT bands, etc). I use these after every workout. They will hurt if you aren’t used to it, that’s all the nasty adhesions in your muscles being very upset that you’re getting rid of them.
Additional Info – 4.13.16
I just got back from a hiking and paddling trip at Conagree National Park. The month leading up to that was a bit hellish. Pets died and got sick. Family members got hurt and sick. I hurt my arm, again. Despite all this, I had made a goal to get a certain amount of writing done before I left, so I skipped about 50% my workouts. (Definitely fell off the wagon in March – What can I say, the old habits die hard.) Digging deep into discipline habits that I’ve developed over years, I did reach the writing goal, which was awesome, but I felt physically awful. I was stressed all the time and I was eating poorly. I felt like I needed to smash my face against my keyboard over and over until something, came out. Now that I’ve gone, hiked, paddled, and learned some very cool new things, I feel like a new person.
I can’t help wondering – Would the writing have come easier if I had maintained my workout schedule and was in a better state of mind?
…and I can answer with confidence, Yes, definitely.
*All images are my own or public domain.