A wee while ago I read Haruki Murakami’s inspiring memoir ‘What I talk about when I talk about running‘ for a number of reasons. The first being I am a fan of Murakami’s novels, but I am also a runner and a writer and I was intrigued to see how he linked the two.
In the book he talks about his motives for running. This man is a serious athlete competing in marathons, ultra marathons and triathlons so I was surprised that his motives were not competitive. He explains that he started running about the same time he became a writer and it was a lifestyle choice. He realised that writing is a sedentary profession and if he wanted to be in it for the long haul he would need to maintain his body in ways he had never considered before. This got me thinking about my own well-being story.
As humans we are not designed to sit all day. It wasn’t long ago we were hunter gatherers. In the last fifty years or so, with the decline of industrialisation in the western world, our employment and our leisure time is increasingly spent sitting, usually in front of a keyboard, screen or smart device. The news reports rises in cases of obesity, heart disease and poor circulation as a result but there is never a mention of how our poor joints and muscles are coping with the changing trend.
Even before I became a full time writer I had pain issues. Life in the Corporateland, years of lugging a laptop around, heaving cases in and out of aircraft overhead lockers had left me with shoulder, back and arm pain. I hoped that slowing down and working in one space might help; a weekly Pilates class would sort out little niggles, time to run short distances would shake out those tight shoulders. It did for a while, but after long periods typing I found my shoulders creping up to almost touch my ears. After days of editing, needle pains began to shoot down my left arm (even though I am right handed). Like Mr M I want to keep writing as long as I can. Something had to change.
As years passed I began to notice my mother’s mobility decreased exponentially. Just before she died at the age of eighty six, she had shrunk to the size of a child and had all but seized up, her bones and tendons cracking audibly when she did dare to rise to her feet. And in her I saw myself thirty years down the line.
A few years ago I began myofascial release treatment with the added benefit of a therapist who is also my Pilates teacher. She knew my weak points and from day one gave me homework and one simple tip which was to change my working arrangement regularly. The body doesn’t tell you when you are in the wrong position until it is too late and it has sneakily learned to adapt. This puts strain on other parts of the body. By changing position the body doesn’t get a chance to adapt. The pattern is being constantly broken.
I don’t claim to understand the full meaning of myofascial, but the treatment is a cross between stretching, massage and torture. When my muscles are knotted tighter than a clenched fist she performs a treatment called ‘stripping out’ which is more painful than child birth (I’m not kidding, it is!) It is no surprise then that I do my homework.
The latest piece of homework involves a roller. This is to prevent the back spasms which occur when I spend too much time sitting and reading which leaves me debilitated for weeks. Holidays used to be a time when I could curl up on a sofa and read a book from cover to cover. Not anymore. We (my therapist and I) have come to the conclusion that I need to be in perpetual motion. That is a tough call for a writer and layabout, and much as I love The Wizard of Oz movie, I have no desire to be Tinman. And I am not the only one afflicted, a Google search threw out a number of blogs about the same subject. Here is one.
I now need to walk about a bit folks.