by Scott Adlerberg
With my 54th birthday approaching and the Olympics on every night, I'm reminded each time I watch an event that sadly I will never be one of the people who gets to stand on a medal podium. In the realm of fantasy, if there's one thing I've always wanted to do as much write a novel that lasts forever, it's win a gold medal at the Olympics, preferably in a track event, let's say the marathon or the 1500 meters. But even I have to admit that the window for that glorious possibility has closed. Not that it was a window ever actually open.
Still, since childhood, I've been an active person, either playing competitive sports - everything when I was a kid, mainly tennis as an adult - or engaging in lots of straight exercise (bicycling, swimming, running). I rarely got sick as a child and hardly ever come down with so much as a cold now. I love to eat, but I've never had to worry at all about my weight. Maintaining energy has never been something I gave much thought to because energy and health have been constants, and I have to say that I don't feel my energy or health flagging now. But there's no getting around the fact that as the years creep by, the aches and pains flare up and back stiffness prevails in the morning. To my astonishment, my metabolism has slowed a little. I find that if I let days go by without doing aerobic exercise, I start to feel less energetic. And if I feel less energetic, writing becomes that much harder. I have to push more to get my self-allotted work done, and that sense of having to push so hard to do what I like to do is not something I enjoy.
Of course, like with most people I know, my energy gets sapped on a daily basis by all things that are not writing. You have to work full time, bring your kid to and from school, take care of your house, and so on and so forth. Writing might be the last thing you do at the end of a long day. And with that work and school schedule, writing till 1 or 2 in the morning will inevitably be followed by waking up at 6 or 7. I've gotten to where I can function well on 5 to 6 hours sleep most nights, but it is a pace I can only keep up if I'm physically fit. It helps to get the endorphins working several times a week. Then the energy's there and the eagerness to write is there no matter how much else is going on and how many other things I've done during the day.
So...training. I approach writing now much like an athlete preparing for a sport. Everything's geared to optimizing performance. Get the exercise in, I tell myself. Be careful about what's going into your body. I'm more picky now than I ever was about what I eat. I'm even kidded about it at work. "Mr. Salad," I'm called. "Mr. Fruits and Veggies." Though, granted, I'll never be a total health fanatic because I like ice cream too much. Same goes for wine, and to a lesser extent, rum and vodka. But ridiculous as it may sound, I've found a regimen that works for me and keeps my energy level where I need it. And I do really need it at that level - high, strong - or the writing suffers. Is there any better motivation for getting on the exercise bike for an hour or going for a run?
For myself, there's not, though I still wish I'd been good enough in something to go to the Olympics.