5 Authors Who Make Time for Exercise

July 6, 2015

Writing is a sedentary activity. But some authors draw inspiration from more heart-pounding activities. Read our exclusive interviews to find out how these five scribes fit some fitness into their lives.

We hear a lot about writing exercises, but not much about exercising writers. Time to change that.

Although writing means sitting for long periods, prolific authors needn’t be couch potatoes. Charles Dickens is known for his awesome output on the page, but he is also said to have walked up to 20 miles per day. In the modern age, more people sit for work and everyone wants to know how to find time to exercise. Maybe it’s time to take a cue from the literary set. From walking and talking after midnight, to riding horses — we found five hard-working authors who have found health, happiness and inspiration from their commitment to move more than just their fingers. Get to know them and their work/workout habits below.

Susan Shapiro

Location: New York City
Brags: New York Times bestselling author of ten books is also an award-winning professor at The New School and NYU.
Books: Shapiro’s new novel What’s Never Said comes out August 3rd from Heliotrope books.
Time spent writing per day: “From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at least six or seven days a week.”
Activity: “In my book Speed Shrinking, I write about my real-life practice of doing walking/talking office hours speed walking around Washington Square Park for an hour at night with a student where they get to pick my brain. Several have actually talked out their book outlines with me with a tape recorder this way. My student Aspen Matis finished her upcoming book about hiking the Pacific Coast trail. She lives in the Village and we walked together for an hour at least once a week — sometimes at midnight — since we’re both night owls. She dedicated the book to me.
I have one former student Sarah who is a yoga teacher. So two nights a week we do a yoga/work session where she does 45 minutes of yoga with me, then hands me a piece of hers to read/edit. Another student Jessica is a personal trainer — same routine once a week. And at one point I over-exercised, tore two ligaments in my lower back and saw a Bosnian physical therapist, Kenan Trebincevic. The exercises were so boring, I asked him a million questions about himself. He took my writing seminar and we wound up coauthoring a book together. We still do private PT once a week. Hilariously all the young students who help me work out get published like mad. Because I’m so bored by exercise I ask them a million questions about their work and give advice. ”
Related: Shapiro wrote a piece about how swimming saved her from addiction. Follow her on Twitter @Susanshapironet

Joan Wolf

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Location: Connecticut
Brags: As of July 1st, Wolf had a #1 best-selling book on Amazon and was ranked #2 for all historical romance authors.
Books: Wolf has published over 47 novels in many different genres and time periods, from prehistoric to regency to contemporary.
Time spent writing per day: “If I get in two hours, I’m happy”
Activity: “As a kid I was a huge Yankee fan and I still am. I played varsity basketball in high school and did all the New York City things – punch ball, rollerskating, jump rope, etc. I am happiest when I am outside being active.
Presently two activities keep me busy – both involving my animals. I walk my darling little rat terrier through the woods for an hour every morning. It’s a good workout for the both of us. I used to own horses and ride every day, but I’m down to riding a friend’s horse two times a week these days. Romeo is a gem and we understand each other very well. I don’t just plop along on a trail ride, we do dressage in the ring and man, that is a work-out. But my hours in the saddle are the absolute highlight of my week – even though I go home and take a nap when I’m finished!”
Related: Wolf doesn’t just ride horses, she often puts them in her books. Follow the Joan Wolf Facebook page for updates.

Edie Meidav

Location: Massachusetts​
Brags: Kafka Award for Best Novel by an American Woman, Bard Fiction Prize for writer under 40, ​teaches in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst MFA Program.
Books: She is the author of three books, the most recent of which is Lola, California.
Time spent writing per day: “One to ten hours.”
Activity: “I need to balance the sedentary nature of the writing life with movement; exercise has been my daily mood medicine for years.​
If I do yoga, if I dance, swim, run, hike or bike or walk with a friend, I am a better person to myself, my mind and heart, not to mention to my kids, mate, friends, students and my writing, all of these equally — if I have moved enough, I can sit for hours, capable of the microscopic focus and yet macroscopic vision a long-endurance sport like a novel requires.
Great yogis did their Asana practice so they could sit for hours in meditation. If we consider writing as requiring a focus akin to meditation, any movement helps one sit with insight.”
Related: Follow her on Twitter @lolacalifornia

Leigh Stein

Location: Connecticut
Brags: Stein’s novel The Fallback Plan made the “highbrow brilliant” quadrant in New York magazine’s approval matrix.
Books: Stein is the author of three books
Time spent writing per day: “If we define ‘writing’ broadly as ‘sitting hunched over my laptop’ I’d say 10 hours a day.”
Activity: “I played softball and dreamed of being the first female catcher for the Chicago White Sox. I also did competitive gymnastics.
I go to the gym in my apartment building every day and follow routines I tear from magazines to keep it interesting. To prevent boredom, I listen to podcasts while I work out.”
Related: “I used to play for the New Yorker softball team. We got crushed by Vanity Fair every time, it sucked.” Follow Stein on Twitter @rhymeswithbee

Marivi Soliven

Location: California
Brags: The Mango Bride won the Grand Prize for the Novel in the 2011 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. The Palanca Awards are the Philippine counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize. The same novel also won Best Contemporary Fiction at the 2014 San Diego Book Awards
Books: Soliven is the author of 17 books.
Time spent writing per day: “Two to three hours. I have a day job, so I begin writing at 6 a.m., take a yoga class usually around 8 a.m. then move on to the day job.”
Activity: “I took up yoga six years ago. Shortly before Penguin published my book, I prepped for the 17-city, 3 country book tour by doing a 2-week daily yoga challenge. It literally changed my life.
The carpal tunnel I’d suffered for years eased up. My posture finally improved. If I hit a wall while drafting a scene in the novel, I would take a yoga class and leave the plot knot alone for an hour. By the end of class, an answer to that plot predicament would present itself and I could go on writing.
Regular yoga practice provided me with the focus and perseverance I needed to finish the novel. It became such a vital part of my life that I wove it into a scene in the novel and thanked all my teachers in the Acknowledgements section. I’m more fit and flexible now than I was at 18! I recently celebrated World Yoga Day and raised funds for UNICEF’s earthquake relief efforts in Nepal by doing 108 sun salutations.”
Related: Follow her on Twitter @marivisoliven
Thanks to all the authors who shared their personal stories. Do you sit for long periods but also keep to a regular fitness regime? Please share your tips and activities in the comments!

Susie Felber

Susie is a writer and producer who has worked in nearly every medium. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is proud that she continues to lower her 5k time as she ages.
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