Friday, April 9, 2010

Push Back: Walk or Run and Improve Your Writing

Keri Mikulski

When someone asks me, "What do you do when you’re suffering from a block or stuck?", my answer is and always has been, "Take off for a run." But, what happens when a writer’s method for inspiration goes kaput?

We’ve all been there. A point in our lives where we can decide to either throw in the towel or push back. Two years ago, it happened to me. During the toughest two years personally of my life, every time I went out for a run a feeling of heaviness crept over me like a suffocating shadow, exhausting me until I stopped. And for the first time in my life, I quit running.

Eventually, the storm in my life settled and the athlete inside me spoke up. And after some major physical, emotional, and mental soul searching, the day came when I pushed back. I signed up for my first 5K in over two years, strapped on my sneaks and took off again, vowing not to stop for twenty minutes. I didn’t. And ironically, my first run was one of the strongest I’ve had in a long time, even stronger and better than two years ago.

Now I’m back. And whenever I’m stuck with my writing or feeling ‘blah’, I take off for my run and brainstorm. Something about the warm sun, fresh salt air, taking a life break, the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, and the feeling afterward always gets me going.

In fact, running isn’t the only way one can receive the same benefits. A brisk walk can provide the same amazing advantages like decreased body fat, reduced blood pressure, decreased risk of breast cancer, improved circulation, and much, much more.

I cannot control my genetics or what happens, but I can control what I do. And I can control how I keep myself fresh and inspired. So, take off with me. Grab the dog’s leash, find a walking partner, and/or drive to a track near you. And have fun feeling inspired.

Thanks for having me, Healthy Writer!

Before the writing bug bit her, Keri Mikulski coached high school soccer and softball, taught seventh grade, worked as a personal trainer, and a pediatric registered nurse. Today, Keri is the author of HEAD GAMES (Razorbill/Penguin, 2011), teaches writing at Rowan University, and resides at the Jersey Shore with her family.


Keri Mikulski on April 9, 2010 at 7:20 AM said...

Thanks again for having me!!! Love this site. :)

I'm curious and meant to add to this post - What does everyone else do to stay inspired? Or what do you do when you're stuck?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on April 9, 2010 at 8:52 AM said...

Thanks for being with us today, Keri. Your enthusiasm is always so infectious. :)

Inspiration for writing -- like you said, a good walk can knock things loose in my brain, as can a long drive, especially when there is beautiful scenery. I've gotten story ideas out of the blue while on a road trip. I also find inspiration in watching good TV shows and movies.

Keri Mikulski on April 9, 2010 at 9:13 AM said...

Hey, Trish!! :)

Awe, thanks.. :) So true... I think our environment is so important for inspiration. :)

Have a great weekend!! :)

Michelle Butler on April 9, 2010 at 10:20 AM said...

Keri, it's so great to see you back!!!! I love your enthusiasm for ongoing exercise, and it's contagious.

What do I do to stay inspired? In terms of healthy living, I try to stay aware and appreciative of all the benefits I'm experiencing from my healthy living choices. I try to be aware of how much better I'm feeling from the healthy eating/exercise choices and equally aware of how I don't feel as well when I let some of my healthy eating/exercise choices slide. Really, a stretch of insomnia gets me back to the gym faster than anything else. I also try to keep the exercise and eating fun - even when it's super healthy. I also try to stay aware of/appreciate how much smaller I'm getting, the new clothes I'm in, etc.

This may be dorky, but I went to Zumba classes last night and the night before and watching the instructors was so inspirational. I want to love my body as much as they seemed to love theirs. I want to glory in what it can do the way they seem to glory in what theirs can do. I'm getting there. I've always been more of a value the mind than value the body type person, and that led to me to abuse the body in some ways. I'm learning to value both and appreciate the connection between the two.

In terms of writing, I'm an awful person to talk about this. One of my goals for the year is to become a more disciplined writer (aka writing consistently day-to-day) and that is very much still a work in progress. Snort. I could also say I'm not doing so well right now with that. In the past what has worked the best for my writing productivity is either club 100 or going on writing retreats. They're very different approaches but both work well for me.

Being a disciplined/productive writer is probably different from being an inspired writer. In some ways, I need to learn how to write daily when I'm NOT inspired. What increases my inspiration is exposure to other creative accomplishments and stories - e.g. - reading great books, going to great plays, interaction/brainstorming with some of my best writing buddies, etc. I'm going to a chapter retreat/conference next weekend, and I know that will be inspiring. :)

Keri Mikulski on April 9, 2010 at 10:52 AM said...


Wow, Michelle!!! I love it!! And it's not dorky - Zumba instructors (and fitness instructors in general) are sooo inspirational. :) BTW, how was Zumba? I've heard so much about it lately and I want to check it out. :)

Me too on the disciplined writer. The more I talk to successful writers, the more I hear about their scheduled writing time. :)

Have fun at your retreat/conference!! Hugs. :)

Michelle Butler on April 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM said...

I love, love, love Zumba. I often go because it's fun and I enjoy it (at least 2-3 times a week) - not because I feel duty bound to work out. It's also awesome stress relief. Actually, my love for Zumba has what keep me going to they gym even when I feel like I'm kind of backsliding on my healthy living efforts.

The folks around me (mostly women, but of all sizes) in the classes seem to feel the joy as much as I do because Zumba classes are often the classes with the most interaction (between the "audience" and the instructor and among the attendees), the most smiles, applause, shouts of joy, etc. (I'm a real afficianada of gym classes - esp. step, zumba and body step now but also many others through the years.)

Zumba is a mix of latin dance, other international dance, american dance (think back to the jazz classes you may have taken as a kid) and hip hop dance. It may appeal to the folks who used to love dance aerobics in the 80's and 90's.

What a Zumba class is like really varies by the instructor. I've gone to Zumba classes at at least 4 different locations and taken classes from at least 15 different instructors now. The music may be similiar but it seems like there are at least three different choreographies for each song, and it may be the instructors' choice. For example, last night's instructor was much stonger on the hip hop element. There were many times when I felt like we could be the background dancers in the latest music video. The instructor the night before before seemed a little more dancier with less of the poses/stances/moves that scream hip hop in my mind. I found her class more fun than the hip hop one, but that's a personal choice. Some instructors are very latina/latino and very into the latin dance moves. The "audience" provides much commentary in spanish in those classes. Some instructors are very conscientious about showing what the low impact move choice is. I try to find the instructors that will push you more. Some are a little slower than others.

I do think it's a really good workout. Step is probably a tougher workout still, but you can really get a good workout from Zumba - particularly if you push yourself. You should give it a try at least once. I really love it!

Keri Mikulski on April 10, 2010 at 8:09 AM said...

Thanks for the info!! I'll definitely give Zumba a try. It sounds like a blast. :) Have a fabulous weekend!

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