How Exercise Made Me a Better Writer

We’ve all seen them. Guys strutting around the gym, stuffed full of muscle like a balloon ready to pop. Some are the nice guys, happy to see everyone and ready anytime you need a spot. Others put on a ‘bad’ persona and look like, if anything, working out makes them angry.

As a young guy, I bounced back and forth between these two. What kind of gym rat I would become depended on how I thought I could get the most respect from peers. 

Working out was going to be my life and I was going to have to build more shelf space for all of my bodybuilding trophies.

It didn’t turn out that way.

But my love for fitness and for the gym never stopped. It’s just different. Now, instead of using fitness just to feel, I use it to feel and to think. The following are three ways 

I’ve learned to become a better writer from fitness. 

Number One:Meeting People

Starting in my junior year of college, I had this divine revelation. I wasn’t struck by a white bolt of lightning with an angel floating down to me. But it still was an epiphany.

Simply put: everything is connected. It may sound weird and your mind may try and argue with it, but it’s true. Everything is connected to everything, somehow.

I’ve seen this in the relationship of writing and fitness. As I’m going through the gym, nothing but the sound of grunts, dropped weights, and the blender up front making protein shakes, my mind zones out and I’ll make it home without remembering much of my workout.

But what I do remember are the interactions with people I’ve known at the gym—sometimes people I’ve known for several years. 

Tie this back to writing. What is writing? I don’t want to offer up some blanket idea. But I will say that, in a way, writing is a relationship. 

Think about it. I relate to the pen, which relates to the page, which ultimately, relates back to you as the reader. Put some flavor on those words and you have a form of communication that can bring out emotion, which is often writing’s whole point. 

Number Two:It Helps build structure. 

I hesitated to include this one because it seemed too simplistic. But since structure is something both writing and fitness have a need for, I thought it necessary. 

Let me back up and talk about how I got into lifting weights. I joined Gold’s Gym Missoula when I was fifteen. I was probably the youngest guy in there. The owner had done my parents a favor since I had nowhere to go, after school. I wasn’t into sports, music, or chess club, and was dying to fit in. Gold’s Gym gave me a way to do this and I was starting to put in my time. 

School came easy for me—at least, in a way. I was the child computer who could download massive amounts of data onto my hard drive and then spit them out on command. Teachers were impressed at my aptitude for learning, but my aptitude for social, not so much.

I was a lopsided child genius. But working out gave me a way of evening out.

I learned quickly that good results in the gym must go along with good structure. If I came into Gold’s every day for ten years but only did squats, I would have enormous quads at the expense of everything else.

Seeing this carried over to my writing. I’m a firm believer that anyone can become a fantastic writer. But most of us need a formula and a way to map and direct our progress in order to do this.

I’ll continue to go to the gym as long as I am able. The principles of working out carry over to far more than just the physical. 

Number Three: Self-Confidence

For the entirety of my young years, the concept of ‘confidence’ eluded me. What was it? Why did some kids have it and some kids just didn’t? It’s only in recent years through becoming a teacher myself and watching kids go through their natural phases that I’ve gained some perspective.

As a youngster, I used to figure that confidence was something only attainable by the gifted. After all, you have to have something to be confident in. Now as an adult, I see that’s not always the case.

I’m an interesting study in fitness. I worked with a personal trainer in college for several years and he always told me how fast I got both in and out of shape. According to him, of all his clients, I built muscle and strength the fastest. But by the same token, I lost it just as fast.

Let’s say we live in a different dimension where no matter how hard a person works, they never get any better. I could work out ten hours a week, every week, but not gain a pound on my max lift.

How many people do you think would go to the gym?

Not many.

You have to base your self-worth on the work in progress you are. I’m a pretty big guy. I’ve got some decent lifts on the floor. But I’ll never be top dog at my gym and that’s alright. I’m okay because I continue to try and refuse to stop.

It’s a lesson that can be carried over to writing.

I’m a licensed English teacher and have always enjoyed mapping my ideas out on paper. But I’ll never be Earnest Hemingway and they’ll probably never teach my writing at a college level.

I don’t care! 

Fortunately, we live in a universe where we can get better and that’s what we should continuously strive to do. Through these three methods, going to the gym and working on my body has taught me things that can carry over into all facets of life. Life isn’t about what we do or how good we are. It’s not about having the mentality of always being the best. Life is about loving yourself and challenging yourself to become the best you are capable of being.

This attitude can spill off onto the page. 

Assisted pull-ups I did at the gym at the encouragement of my personal trainer.

Assisted pull-ups I did at the gym at the encouragement of my personal trainer.