Walking is well known as a valuable part of many writers’ routine, offering a calming balance to the often intense nature of writing, along with fresh air, physical movement and space – but what about running?
For some, it’s impossible due to health issues or practical factors. But for those lucky enough to be able to make running part of their week it can be a revelation as I found when, with encouragement from my daughter, I embarked on the ‘couch to 5k’ programme.
I’m not naturally sporty but it was being made to take part in cross country running at school, without training or preparation, that really put me off. I can still recall the dread I felt when faced with that hill…
So perhaps it is no surprise that, as an adult, I’d frequently say words to the effect, ‘I can cycle, I can do yoga, but I’m not a runner’. I believed that running was not something I could ever do, still less enjoy. But I was wrong.
“Build stamina and assemble support – every
writer needs a bit of both!”
So what changed? It is all to do with the coaching aspect of the couch to 5k programme, which encourages you to build your stamina steadily, week by week; recognise your achievements; look towards the horizon; and, importantly, train your mind as much as your body. The message that comes through is, ‘keep going to the end: you can do this’.
You can choose your coach – I chose Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson. There’s practical advice about fluid intake and running technique, too, so new runners can build their knowledge and ‘skills toolkit’.
While the programme is designed to build over nine weeks, there’s no pressure for it to be linear. Tired one week? Go back to an earlier, easier run. There’s no rush, and there’s everything to gain by listening to your needs.
The parallels to the writer’s life are easy to see. Whatever the ultimate goal may be, writers usually face rejection(s), periods of writer’s block, setbacks and lulls in confidence. Self-belief can be a particular issue. A novel may take years to write, and dozens of drafts before it’s ready to be sent out into the world. So, just like athletes, writers need stamina, resilience – and support.
“Your support system will be unique,
just as your writing is.”
As a mentor and editor, I value the opportunity to offer encouragement as well as ‘nuts and bolts’ feedback on a work-in-progress. As a writer, I have found my own support system – a combination of wise, supportive writer friends, skilled and enthusiastic beta readers, who are also published authors, through the wonderful New Writing South and the very best non-writer friends who shore me up and celebrate with me in equal measure. I find that being part of the #WritingCommunity on Twitter is beneficial, too.
Now, as a runner as well as a writer (see what’s changed?) I am acquiring ‘stamina habits’ that boost my confidence as well as my fitness. And that feels like a really positive step.
My pavement playlist
I’m aiming for stamina rather than speed, so I listen to Jack Savoretti, The Feeling and Tom Odell. Your playlist might be very different…